The Witness of True Beauty

The sermon text provided below is derived from the sermon audio recording making use of generative tools. It has not been manually edited. While transcription tools have a high degree of accuracy, the output may include generative textual, punctuation, and/or formatting errors.

Please remain standing for the reading of God’s Word as we continue to make our way
through 1st Peter, the Apostle Peter’s first epistle, and we find ourselves this
evening in 1st Peter chapter 3 verses 1 through 7. I’m going to read verses 1
through 5 to kind of fill out the context a little bit. Let us hear God’s
Holy Word as as Peter is addressing the subject of how believers are to relate
to those outside of the church, and that includes not only the civil
magistrates and relationships between servants and their masters, but also
relationships within the household. So let us hear God’s Word. Likewise, wives, be
subject to your own husbands so that even if some do not obey the word, they
may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your
respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external, the braiding
of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, and the clothing you wear, but
let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty
of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious, for this is
how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by submitting to
their own husbands as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him Lord, and you are her
children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise,
husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the
woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life
so that your prayers may not be hindered. Finally, all of you have unity of mind,
sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for
evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were
called, that you may obtain a blessing. The grass withers and the flower fades,
but the word of our God endures forever. Let’s pray. Our Lord and Father in heaven,
once again we pray that by your spirit you would give us insight into this
portion of Scripture, help us Lord to understand this passage in its context
and to understand how it applies to the church and to your people today, and we
ask that you would set a guard over my lips that I might speak only that which
is faithful to your word, edifying to your people, and in a way that brings
glory to your holy name. In Jesus name we pray, and all of God’s people said. Amen.
You may be seated.
The title of my sermon this evening is The Witness of True Beauty, and if you’re
following along in your sermon outline, if you find this helpful, especially
commend this to the children. I encourage you to listen for the keywords that are
listed in your sermon outline to help you follow along with this sermon. Well,
my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Word of God teaches about the
responsibilities of the wife and of the husband within the marriage relationship
is a tremendously important topic, and it’s sadly a tremendously misunderstood
topic as well. As I’m sure many of you know, there is a great deal of confusion
today on topics related to marriage, family life, and especially the topic of
the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife within the marriage
relationship. Just to give a few examples of the confusion that is out
there, I first of all would present to you the confusion produced by, for
example, radical feminism. I know that’s a term that is kind of an umbrella
term that can include many things, and I’ll just lay my cards on the table and
say I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on the topic of feminism, but based
on what I’ve read or what I’ve seen, based on my understanding, it’s my
understanding that some radical feminists are highly critical and even
opposed to the very institution of marriage itself, viewing marriage as a
tool of an oppressive patriarchy that pushes women down instead of building
them up. However, insofar as radical feminists are willing to allow for the
institution of marriage, they would no doubt advocate for the complete
obliteration of any distinctive gender roles for husband and wife within the
marriage relationship, and that’s one extreme. But then the pendulum swings to
the other side, and on the other extreme of the ideological spectrum, there are
what we might describe as hypermasculinist or hyperpatriarchal ideologies that in
effect end up promoting the complete and the unquestioned domination of the
husband over the wife and the complete and unquestioned subjugation of the wife
within the marriage relationship. And I think in our own circles that there are,
this would be more of a problem potentially than the other side of the
ideological spectrum with radical feminism. And so in effect, my friends, some
advocates of this position end up basically patronizing and even
infantilizing the wife to the point where she is not allowed to think or
speak for herself and must unquestioningly cater to her husband’s
every wish and whim, no matter how unreasonable, demeaning, or even abusive.
Just to give you kind of an illustration of this, and again I’m not an expert on
the modern trends of patriarchalism either, but I recently watched a sermon
clip of a particular pastor, and I believe this gentleman was a Baptist
pastor, and in his sermon he was giving an illustration. He was
talking about how one evening he walks into his living room and he sees his
wife reading a book, a book on the subject of infant baptism. It was a book
that was favorable towards infant baptism, and this particular pastor said
in his sermon that he went over to his wife and he said, oh no, you can’t read
that. No, no, no, you’re not going to get ahead of me on this. At the proper time we
can read this together, but let me read it first, and then we can sit down and
read it together. Basically saying, no, I won’t let you study theology or study
the scriptures on your own without my micromanaging oversight. And maybe
this is unkind of me as I watched this sermon clip, but I remember thinking to
myself at the time, what a pathetic man, what a sad man who is so intimidated
that his wife wants to study the word and to read theology without his
micromanaging oversight. Friends, just as radical feminists might point to passages
like this one as an example of how supposedly outdated and backwards the
Bible is, on the other extreme no doubt there are abusive husbands who profess
to be Christians who might appeal to passages like this one in order to
justify or excuse their abusive behavior and in order to emotionally
manipulate and beat down their battered wives into an unquestioning and total
subservience. But friends, I would suggest to you that both of these types
of extremes, whether we’re talking about the extreme of radical feminism or the
opposite extreme of hyper patriarchalism, both of these extremes are a twisting of
scripture and I believe represent a gross mishandling of God’s holy word. And
it is because of such extreme and ungodly scripture twisting that it’s
because of these things that getting a clear understanding of what our passage
for this evening means is so vitally important to rightly handling and
rightly interpreting and applying the word of God. Now let’s remember the
broader context of our passage for this evening. The broader context basically
starts in chapter 2 verse 11 and goes through to chapter 3 verse 12 and the
overall basic theme of this particular section of Peter’s epistle is the theme
of honorable conduct before a watching world. Let’s go back to chapter 2 verse
12 and as you’re turning there, by the way, remember that Peter is writing this
epistle to a group of what were likely mostly Gentile Christians, Gentile
Christians who were facing the possibility of severe persecution for
their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And many of these Gentile
Christians had been converted to Christ from a pagan idol worshipping background.
And so there’s a great concern for the witness of these of these Christians.
Peter is writing to them to encourage them in their faith and to offer them
pastoral guidance and counsel for how to live a godly life in the midst of an
ungodly and often hostile world. And in chapter 2 verse 12 he says keep your
conduct among the Gentiles what? Honorable. Honorable so that when they
speak against you as evildoers they may see your good deeds and glorify God on
the day of visitation. In other words, live in such a manner that God will be
glorified that the gospel of Jesus will be commended to your unbelieving
neighbors so that God may either visit them in grace, the day of visitation may
be referring to God visiting these unbelievers with his saving grace and
bringing them to faith in Christ, or it may be referring to the final day of
judgment when God will judge those who remain impenitent in in their sin. But
either way we are called to honorable conduct and that is the overall context
of this larger section here of 1st Peter. Now this honorable conduct is an
important part of our faithful witness as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the purpose of such conduct is that God may be glorified on the day of
visitation as verse 12 says. Now how is that honorable conduct? What does that
look like on at a practical level? Well one of the ways that we believers
glorify God is by submitting to the various human authorities that God in
his providence places over us and therefore a prominent sub theme in this
particular section of 1st Peter is the theme of submission to various
authorities especially that theme comes to the surface in chapter 2 verse 13
through chapter 3 verse 6. As we saw a number of weeks ago back in chapter 2
verses 13 through 17, Peter urges Christian citizens to submit to the
governing authorities. As followers of Jesus Christ we are not to be political
revolutionaries. We are to submit to the governing authorities at least with
respect to all of their lawful requirements. When the governing
authorities tell us to sin against God of course we must disobey. We must obey
God rather than man but in every other case we are to have an attitude of
submission to the governing authorities and then he goes on to the
controversial subject of servants in their relationship to their
masters. In the first century context to which Peter is writing many of
these early Christians were slaves or servants and so he addresses
them and he urges these servants to submit to their masters to translate
that into our contemporary context that would basically mean for us today that
if you’re an employee you are to submit to your employer in his lawful
demands in the workplace. Well then he turns to the household code in chapter
3 verse 1 and he begins addressing wives. Wives are to submit to their husband
and the particular concern here in the context of this passage is Christian
wives who are married to non-Christian or pagan husbands. How are they to relate
to their husbands? Many of these Gentile Christian wives to whom Peter is
writing no doubt had been pagans and when they got married to their husbands
they had been Gentile idol worshipers just like their husbands but then they
hear the gospel and they are saved. They come to faith in Christ. What are they to
do? Are they to leave their husbands? Are they to you know seek to convert their
husbands forcefully by preaching at their husbands? What are they to do? So
Peter is concerned to encourage them to counsel them and to help them as they
try to navigate these troubled waters of living in a mixed marriage situation
and that’s where we find ourselves this evening and so as you can see it is
within the context of addressing these various authority relationships that
St. Peter mentions the responsibilities of wives and husbands in the marriage
relationship. First he addresses wives and we’ll focus first of all we’ll
zero in first of all on the first two verses of chapter 3 and I want you to
notice first of all the call to submission. This is the first point in
your sermon outline the call to submission. Peter writes under the spirits
inspiration likewise wives be subject to your own husbands. Why? So that even if
some do not obey the word which is another way of saying even if some of
them are not Christians they’ve not repented and believed in Jesus they’ve
not responded in faith and trust to the gospel call. Even if that’s the case they
may be one without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your
respectful and pure conduct. The general principle of wifely submission in the
marriage relationship it’s important to understand that this principle is rooted
in the divine order of creation itself. It goes all the way back to Adam and
Eve it doesn’t go back to male chauvinism or to oppressive patriarchalism
it goes back to the garden. Now of course human sin has twisted and distorted this
principle of godly submission as it is twisted and distorted the biblical truth
and principle of the husband’s headship and sin messes things up. Sin
distorts and perverts even good things. The principle itself however is not
destroyed by sin. The principle itself the principle of wifely submission is
rooted in God’s good and God’s benevolent order for the marriage
relationship. It’s intended to be a blessing and not to be oppressive. It’s
intended to to contribute to human flourishing. Now I want to make a
qualification here. There’s nothing we need to understand brothers and
sisters there is nothing in this passage nor in the rest of scripture to suggest
that the reason why wives are to submit to their husbands is because they are
somehow inherently inferior to their husbands. The Bible does not teach female
inferiority to the husband. Female submission within the marriage
relationship is not rooted in any kind of notions of female inferiority to men
or male superiority to the women. As Dr. Simon Kistermacher in his commentary on
first Peter comments on Peter’s reference in verse 7 to the woman as the
weaker vessel, which to our ears might sound like an insulting statement. The
weaker vessel? Well he points out that the word weaker refers to physical
stamina and not to intellectual abilities, moral courage, or spiritual
strength. In other words in verse 7 where Peter says likewise husbands
live with your wives in an understanding way showing honor to the woman as the
weaker vessel. He’s not saying that the woman is necessarily is weaker morally
or weaker spiritually or weaker intellectually that she’s not as smart
or not as moral or not as spiritual as the man inherently so. No he’s not saying
that. Instead he is saying he is pointing out a biological reality that on the
whole women are physically weaker than men. Women and men are built differently.
God has created us differently and Peter is saying to the husband in the
context of verse 7 look don’t take advantage of the physical weakness of
your wife. Don’t use that as an excuse to abuse her to oppress her or anything
like that. So he’s concerned that they live that the husband live with his wife
in an understanding way in a way that shows honor to the woman recognizing
that she’s physically weaker but also recognizing that women are heirs with
you of the grace of life so that your prayers may not be hindered. And so my
friends the reason why wives are to submit to their husbands is first of
all because God as I mentioned has established different roles for husbands
and wives in his divine ordering of the marriage relationship. Now in our text
for this evening Peter does not mention this divine creation order specifically
although he certainly assumes it in everything he writes. But the reason that
is on his mind in this particular passage as I’ve pointed out he has an
evangelistic concern here. He has a witness bearing concern here in this
passage he says likewise wives be subject to your own husbands why so
that even if some do not obey the word they may be what they may be shamed no
they may be one one to Christ in other words one without a word by the conduct
of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct. In the
context of this particular passage a Christian wife’s submission to her
unbelieving husband carries with it like I said a witness bearing purpose. Peter’s
driving concern here is for the gospel it is to commend the good news of Jesus
it is to commend the gospel to these unbelieving husbands. And in Peter’s
first century context a Christian wife’s willingness to submit to her pagan
husband would do much to overcome her husband’s prejudice against the gospel
and to commend the good news of Jesus to him. Dr. Norman Hillier in his commentary
on 1st Peter gives us a helpful summary of the the situation that Christian
wives who were married to pagan husbands in the first century faced he writes in
Roman Greek and Jewish cultures women were subject to the authority of their
husbands if a husband were converted to Christ it automatically followed that he
brought his wife into the church as well but the other way around posed a very
different situation. For a wife to become a Christian while an unsympathetic
husband remained a pagan threatened the stability of the marriage relationship
as understood in the ancient world permeated as it was with pagan religious
practices in which Christians could not engage. And of course it was a common
understanding among the pagan Greeks and Romans was a common understanding that
one of the ways that a woman shows subjection or submission to her husband
is by following her husband’s religion but of course Christian women who have
who have embraced Christ Christ Christian women cannot do that they cannot submit
in that area so Peter’s basically saying look you can’t submit to your pagan
husbands in their paganism but submit to them in every other way for the sake of
the gospel for the sake of your witness for Christ and of course in that means
that in the first century Gentile context to which Peter was addressing
these instructions a wife’s conversion to Christ would likely create much more
tension and much more difficulty in the marriage if the husband remained a pagan
then it would if it if the situation were reversed which is likely why Peter
spends much more time devotes much more time and space providing guidelines for
the wife here in this context than he does for the husband. Now let me just by
way of bringing this home and applying this brothers and sisters can you
understand and appreciate the difficulties that a Christian wife of a
pagan man would face in the culture of that time. What does Peter suggest as a
solution to these difficulties? Does Peter say to the Christian wife hey
listen you got to get that husband of yours to bow the knee to Jesus so you
need to preach at him you need to pester him you need to argue with him you need
to bring him bring him to his senses hit him over the head with a ten pound Bible
if you need to do so is that what he says? No. Does he say look you got to do
that until your husband either gets so fed up and says you know I’ve had enough
of this Jesus thing you’re out of here I divorce you or until he finally caves
and says okay okay already I’ll convert to Christianity. No. Instead Peter gives
some very simple wise straightforward guidance. He basically says look be a
good wife be respectful towards your husband seek to win your husband
to Christ by your chaste and reverent conduct that’s how it could be verse 2
could be understood as Peter says that they are to submit be subject to your
husbands that they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when
they see when they see how Christ has transformed your life when they see
your respectful and pure conduct. Now that’s not a guarantee that the
unbelieving husband’s going to be saved or going to be converted only the Holy
Spirit can convert the heart but the Holy Spirit uses our faithful witness he
often chooses to use our faithful witness to lead others to Christ and so
what does this engage what does this involve the woman in doing well that
brings us to our next section here of our passage where we learn of the
cultivation of true beauty this is the second point main point in your sermon
outline Peter next discusses the matter of cultivating true beauty beauty as God
would define beauty now verse 3 is kind of controversial it says Peter says do
not let your adorning be external the braiding of hair and the putting on of
gold jewelry or the clothing you wear any of you ladies tonight put some makeup
on before the service you’re wearing any jewelry tonight is Peter saying that
you’re in sin because you’ve done those things how are we to understand this
apparent prohibition in verse 3 is this intended as an absolute prohibition
against all stylish hairdos all jewelry all fine clothing well most scholars say
no and I’m very inclined to agree with them given the context of this passage
Dr. Edwin Blum says many have taken Peter’s words to be an absolute
prohibition of any outward adornment the early fathers and give some examples he
says the early church fathers to Tertullian and Cyprian did this and many
rigorous have followed them but Peter’s emphasis is not on prohibition but on a
proper sense of values and that’s why some translations add as a sort of an
interpretive explanation they add the word merely they say do not let your
adorning be merely external don’t just focus on the externals what focus on
the things that matter the most dr. Norman Hillier writes that the
Apostle is not forbidding Christian women from having hairdos or from wearing
ornaments his language is to be taken as more figurative than literal since
grammatically he means quote gold braided hair after the fashionable and
extravagant hairstyling of the day among the wealthy and which amounted to
virtually submerging the hair in lavish gold spangles surface show aside
elaborate hairdos consumed much time and Christians had more important matters of
the spirit to which to devote themselves so he’s basically saying look don’t focus
on externals don’t be obsessed with extravagantly adorning yourself your
outward appearance be concerned about the hidden person of the heart as he
goes on to say in verse 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the
heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which in God’s
sight is very precious couple points of application here beloved again Peter is
not here advocating for the plain look he is not saying that if you are a
faithful Christian woman you are obligated to look plain to adorn
yourself plainly plainness is not necessarily godliness instead what the
spirit through Peter is instructing Christian wives to avoid is being overly
preoccupied with their external outward appearance to the neglect of nurturing
what verse 4 calls the hidden person of the heart Peter is instructing Christian
wives to avoid adorning themselves in an excessive or an ostentatious manner a
manner which reflects a heart of pride and vanity beloved may we be more
concerned with matters of the inner heart and spirit than we are with
superficial merely external appearances but this passage even though it’s
addressed to Christian wives who find themselves in a mixed marriage and in
the the difficult circumstances that that brings to the surface nevertheless
there’s something that all of us can learn about from this passage this
passage points our focus and directs our attention I should say to the issue of
what is true beauty in the eyes of God believer this true beauty that Peter
speaks of is a beauty that is rooted in your new life in union with Jesus Christ
now notice that Peter says in verse 4 that this beauty is an imperishable
beauty or as the new international version translates it it’s an unfading
beauty as Hillier explains unfading here translates the Greek word of
phartos which could also be translated imperishable and he points out that this
same term is used back in chapter 1 verse 23 in speaking about the new birth
about being born again by the Holy Spirit the inner beauty that Peter is
commending is a fruit of our new life in Christ this beauty is a fruit of the
Holy Spirit which our Lord Jesus Christ by his spirit works within the heart of
his people as they grow in him again as as we are reminded of the fruit of the
spirit in passages like Galatians chapter 5 let me just read the quickly
Galatians 5 19 through 26 the Apostle Paul in this passage says now the works
of the flesh or the sinful nature are evident they’re evident they’re playing
the works of the flesh are evident and he lists some of them sexual immorality
impurity sensuality idolatry sorcery enmity strife jealousy fits of anger
rivalries dissensions divisions envy drunkenness orgies and things like
these I warn you as I warned you before that those who do such things will not
inherit the kingdom of God those who whose lives are characterized by these
sins and are unrepentant in those sins will not inherit the kingdom of God but
in contrast to that he says but the fruit of the spirit the fruit of the
Holy Spirit the fruit which the spirit in the new birth and through
sanctification works in us the fruit of the spirit is what love joy peace
patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control against such
there is no law and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh
with its passions and desires dear ones no matter who you are no matter what
your present station or state in life might be whether you are a wife or a
husband whether you’re married to a believer or an unbeliever whether you
are a man or a woman whether indeed you’re single or married you and I can
only escape the inherent ugliness of our sinful hearts and gain true beauty
before the Lord by being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ robed in his
perfect righteousness and renewed by his Holy Spirit do you know Christ have
you received and rested upon him he freely offers himself to you and to me
and to all in the gospel will you receive him by the sovereign grace of
God may you turn to Christ from your sin and he will cleanse you from the
ugliness of your sin and clothe you in his perfect everlasting righteousness
the final point and I’ll be very brief because I see the time is is getting
along we see here that Peter counsels the avoidance of fear the avoidance of
fear let’s zero in on verses 5 and 6 now here as he speaks of this hidden person
of the heart and the this inner beauty that is a result of our union with
Christ and the new life in Christ that we have he goes on as he’s addressing
these Christian women he gives them an example he says for this is how the holy
women who hoped in God notice their focus and hope was not in their husbands
not in their circumstances but in God they hoped in God they used to adorn
themselves in this way how by submitting to their own husbands as Sarah obeyed
Abraham calling him Lord now again that was a customary way of expressing
respect for your husband back in Abraham’s day you read about Abraham and
his relationship with Sarah that doesn’t mean that that Sarah never spoke her
mind or never shared her thoughts with Abraham it’s very clear that she did
just read about what it says in Genesis about Hagar what Hagar what Sarah
thought of Hagar and what she asked Abraham to do with respect to that but
Sarah’s practice was to show respect and submission and obedience to Abraham and
so Peter uses that as an example and he says and you are her children if you do
good and do not fear anything that is frightening if you do good that speaks
to actions your outward actions your respect is to be shown by your actions
but also by your attitude an attitude of faith not fear the Christian wives who
were married to pagan husbands were called as all believers are called to
give God their supreme allegiance of course it would be very easy for these
dear sisters in Christ to be fearful of their either their unbelieving husbands
or of the circumstances the difficult circumstances that being married to an
unbeliever would bring into their lives in those days women had no rights
basically at least not in comparison to our day today husbands were basically at
liberty to treat their wives like property and to abuse them at whim if
they chose to do that and women had basically no legal protections against
such such abuse as women do today and women today can be thankful for the
advances that have been made for such legal protections they only the only one
in whom they could trust to protect them from the whims of their unsympathetic
and perhaps even hostile pagan husbands was God himself although the Christian
wives of pagan husbands in Bible times might sometimes find themselves in very
difficult circumstances Peter seeks to comfort and encourage them by directing
their faith and their hope to the faithful and loving God who had redeemed
them and who is able to comfort sustain and preserve them so Peter instructs them
not only to do good in the midst of their less than ideal marital
circumstances but also not to fear anything that is frightening from the
context again it seems clear that what Peter means is that the Christian wives
of pagan husbands were not to fear anything in connection with their less
than ideal marital circumstances not their husbands and not the pressures or
tensions that their faith will inevitably bring into their marriage
relationship to an unbeliever they were instead to continue to do good by being
respectful and submissive toward their unbelieving husbands making the best of
less than ideal circumstances and the point is they are not to fear for God is
faithful after all only God is to be feared and these dear sisters in Christ
are adopted daughters of God they are the apple of his eye beloved in Christ
whatever our circumstances may be let us not live in fear or terror instead let us
trust in God he has redeemed us through Christ he has given us the earnest of our
eternal inheritance the gift of the Holy Spirit if we find ourselves in less than
ideal circumstances as we often do in this fallen sin-cursed world like these
first century Christian wives of pagan husbands found themselves in then let us
do what we can to improve our circumstances as God in his providence
permits and let us do good to others even to our enemies just as Christ loved us
and died for us even when we were his enemies most important of all let us
trust and reverence God casting all of our anxieties upon him and I leave you
again with a brief passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians which should
be very familiar to you Philippians 4 4 through 7 rejoice in the Lord always
again I will say rejoice let your reasonableness be known to everyone the
Lord is at hand do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the
peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus amen let us pray our gracious Lord and Father in
heaven we thank you Lord for the counsel of your word we pray that by your spirit
you would help us to take these truths to heart and to understand how they
apply to our lives and our various circumstances and stations in life and we
would pray Heavenly Father that you would be glorified in our lives and
glorified through what we do in the week ahead we pray all of these things in
Jesus name and all of God’s people said amen as we close our time of worship I’d
invite you to rise and let’s sing together number 245 great is thy
faithfulness 245