At the very beginning of the semester I told them that they were wonderful god-fearing kids because they were taking my speech class. Just by virtue of their sitting in those chairs God was taking great delight in them. They thought I was a little looney at first, but they came around quickly. Once I told them that my class was mandated by God, they began to understand.
You might think that it’s a little pompous to say that. But as you think about the verses of Scripture that are before us today I hope that you’ll see what I mean. In this passage we find the Biblical mandate for the discipline of rhetoric, or what we typically call public speaking.
The passage says that we must be ready “to give a defense for the hope that is within us.” In other words, we have to be ready to publicly articulate our faith at the drop of a hat.
You see, there may be times in our lives when we are faced with gospel opportunities. At some point in your life you might be in a position where you are confronted about your faith. Someone may ask you a serious question about what you believe. Or you may find yourself having to give a public testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. And when that time comes, the Bible says that you need to be able to articulate a sound response.
So what this passage is telling us is that we need to have gospel eloquence. We need to be people who are able to communicate to other people what we believe in a coherent way and without a great deal of jibber jabber that’s going to destroy the opportunity.
And if you are going to be ready to do this, you need to do some time to get ready. You need to spend some time preparing for this confrontation. And that is why I said that my speech class was mandated by God. In that class I helped these young people to prepare by giving them some instruction on the key principles of public speaking.
But I want you to understand that what I’m saying here isn’t just a really bad plug for my speech classes. This has a great deal of significance for you too. Each of you must be ready for such situations as well. You may one day be in a position where you need to demonstrate some gospel eloquence. It may even be in a conversation this afternoon. So there’s no time to waste in getting ready.
So what I want to do is give you a crash course in public speaking. Today, you are going to sit in on Mr. Timmons’ Speech class, and we are going to listen to what Peter tells us we must to do to prepare for these conversations.
Peter says that if we are going to be ready for this confrontation with the world we must prepare. And there are 3 things we need to prepare. We must prepare our attitude, our answer, and our approach.
The first thing we must do is prepare our personal disposition. I’m talking about getting our attitudes in order.
I. Prepare our attitude [14b-15a]
That’s what Peter deals with in the latter half of verse 14 and on into verse 15. He says, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”
You’ll notice that there’s two parts to this. There’s your attitude towards your fellow man, and there’s your attitude towards the Lord. When it comes to your attitude towards mankind, Peter says, “have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”
When you have to stand up and face the world, that can be a pretty intimidating thing. As a matter of fact, statistics tell us that having to speak in front of other people in a public setting is the number one fear that people have. If you go out and ask people, “What is the one thing that you fear most?” most likely the response you will get the most is that they are terrified of having to stand up and speak in front of others.
Now add to that the horror of having to talk about your faith. You’re all of a sudden faced with the possibility of being thought of as an idiot or as a religious fool. That’s so unnerving. And when you’re in that kind of situation, you can be tempted to shy away from what you need to say.
I know of situations where young people were sitting in college classrooms and their professors who were spouting all sorts of crazy stuff. I forget who I was talking to, but one person relayed a story about a young lady whose professor on the very first day of class asked, “Which of you actually believes that abortion is wrong?” She was the only one in the entire class who raised her hand and was willing to speak up. Others came up to her afterwards and said they were pro-life too. But they didn’t want to speak up for fear that they may be ridiculed by this professor who was obviously ready to attack and poke fun at any moron who might admit that they were pro-life.
In those situations we need to have our minds straight. Peter says, “Have no fear of them.” The one you need to fear is God. As Jesus even said, “Do not fear him who can kill the body only. But fear him who can destroy both the body and soul.”
In those situations you need to remember that you that you are safe in the hands of God. You don’t need to worry about your reputation. You don’t need to worry about your life. Neither do you need to be concerned about any of their rage. For God is on your side. The Lord is the one in whom you trust. Therefore you need not fear them.
That’s the other side of this too. When it comes to man, your attitude is to be fearless. But when it comes to God, your attitude is to be fearful.
That’s the essence of what Peter means when he says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” The Bible talks a lot about the fear of God. When it does it’s talking about that deep seated reverence for God that you ought to have. It is that recognition that he is awesome, that he is holy and worthy of honor. And that’s what this is saying here. You are to honor Christ as holy. You are to fear God and see to it that Christ is revered above all things in your life. You need to recognize that he is the Lord and, and put him distinctly above all other things in your life. Once you do, then (and only then) will you be ready to speak for the Lord.
If you flip through the Bible you’ll see this happen on a number of occasions. Before Moses has his confrontation with Pharaoh, what happened? He was confronted by the Lord in the burning bush. It was his preparation. God was getting his attitude in order, reminding him that He was the God who was holy and Lord over all, even Moses’ bumbling tongue.
You may remember when Isaiah was called to be a prophet. He had that stellar vision of the angels and was overwhelmed by the presence of God. It was only after that event that he was prepared to confront Israel as a prophet.
I came across another just this week. It was the calling of Ezekiel. The book of Ezekiel starts off with this amazing vision of God’s grandeur. Then God says to Ezekiel, I’m sending you to a people who are not going to listen to you.
How can you speak to a people who are going to hate you and not going to listen to a single word you say? The only way you can do that is if you have the right attitude. Having no fear of man and having a great fear of God.
In a very real sense, when you confront the world, and are called to stand up and speak on behalf of the Lord, you are acting in the role of a prophet. You are doing the work of a Moses and an Isaiah. And if that’s going to happen, then you need to be equipped with the same attitude of Moses and Isaiah.
But if you are going to be ready for this kind of confrontation, you must not only prepare your attitude, you must also prepare your answer.
II. Prepare our answer [15b]
That’s what Peter goes on to say in the next part of verse 15. Peter says you need always to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;”
Or, as your version might say, you must be ready to “answer every man who asks for a reason concerning the hope in you.”
So when someone puts the question to you, you need to have content ready. This is the moment for your words.
In my speech class, the last speech that we did was a debate. And one of the distinctive features of the debate was this thing we call “the rebuttal.” The kids were required to give an answer to the speech that their opponent had just given. So after Joe gave his speech (Let’s say he talked about why dogs are better than cats), Mary would have to stand up and give an answer. She would have to articulate why cats are better than dogs (obviously, we feel bad for Marry. It is a lost cause and she’d probably do better just to remain seated and not say anything.).
And I told my students that they needed to be ready to give these rebuttals. They needed to study their topics thoroughly. They couldn’t just go out and do a quick internet search, because they would get burned by their opponent. They had to look at the issue intently. They had to study both sides. They had to try and anticipate what their opponent was going to say.
And that’s exactly what Peter is telling you. You need to have that sort of readiness with your response. You need to be anticipating the kinds of things that your friends or family members are going to be asking you. You need to be studying the faith in an intent manner so that you can give an adequate answer when they ask.
Now, I will say that you won’t be able to anticipate everything. There are going to be times when you get asked a question that you won’t be able to answer. And in those times you’ll have to do the humble thing and say, “I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.” But you shouldn’t be in a position where you do this all the time. You need to know something about what you believe and why you believe it so that you can fire these bullets at the appropriate times.
You understand what is Peter trying to prevent here, don’t you? He doesn’t want you to be caught off guard. He doesn’t want you to be caught in a situation where you have an opportunity to speak for him and come off as a bumbling idiot. He wants us to utilize every opportunity possible in the most beneficial way.
I’ll never forget the time my family and I went to Wendy’s and we happened to see one of my co-workers there. He was eating dinner with one of his buddies and he introduced me to his buddy. I have the unique privilege of being introduced as “the minister”, and that typically gives rise to one of two responses. The person slinks back and wants to avoid me or they get excited and want to engage me. My co-worker’s buddy was the kind who got excited. He immediately started asking me questions. He was very up front about it. His first question was, “Hey, what do you believe?” I was a caught a little off guard because I was about to bite into my burger, but here was an opportunity. What was I going to say? I had at the most 2 minutes. How could I give an answer? But I was ready. My church at the time recited the Apostle’s Creed every Lord’s Day. We always began the Creed by asking the congregation, “Christian, what is it you believe?” Here was a guy asking me, “Christian, what is it you believe?” So, by God’s grace, I was able to take him through the main points of our faith in just a matter of minutes.
I don’t know if that conversation had a big influence in his life. Moments later we were both back to eating our burgers. But at least he had heard. He had the gospel explained to him and he got at least a bare bones sketch of Christianity.
The point is, I was able to give an answer. I had belonged to a good church that was dedicated to sound teaching, and they had helped me prepare for that very moment.
Your being here is one step in the right direction. Your being here at this service is helping you to prepare your answer. And I want to encourage you to keep at it. Be in the Word all through the week. Dedicate yourself to studying the faith. As you do, you will be able to give an answer when the opportunity presents itself.
But along with our attitudes and our answer, notice that Peter says we need to prepare our approach.
III. Prepare our approach [16-17]
What Peter says in verse 16 is very important. It’s something that we often overlook. He says that when you give this answer, “do it with gentleness and respect.”
Again, this is the one we often overlook. Especially brainy people like us. A lot of the times we like to engage the conversation. We like to jump into the debate. And we’ll pull out all the stops so that we can win the argument. But as we do so, we don’t do it with gentleness and respect because it’s not so much about sharing the faith and winning the person over as it is winning the argument.
When we get into the conversation things can become heated. And perhaps that may be a good thing now and again. Maybe the conversation will call for some strong language. That very well might be. In my speech class I had my students give a speech that was purely emotional. We called it the passion speech because they had to give a speech that was purely energized with strong feelings.
Sometimes public speaking or interpersonal conversations need some spice to them. But this isn’t always the case. I would say that most of the time, when you speak about your faith, it requires a much more mild spirit.
Some of you know Greg Bahnsen. Greg Bahnsen was perhaps the best apologist of our time. He used to debate a lot of atheists. If you ever have a chance to listen to his debates, please do. They are some of the most informative things in the world.
But there was a time when he was debating a certain man, and Bahnsen had him cornered. Everyone knew that he could have slaughtered his opponent, and perhaps even made him look rather silly in the process. But Bahnsen didn’t do that. As a matter of fact, he skipped right over that line of argumentation. After the debate everyone asked him, “Why did you do that? You could have destroyed him!” Bahnsen responded by saying yes, he could have thrown his opponent down. But he wasn’t out there to do that. He didn’t just want to win the debate or simply defeat his opponent. What he really wanted was to win the man over to Christ. And so he chose to go in a direction that was much more gentle.
Most of us are not going to be on a platform doing a debate. But when we write our friends that letter or when we speak with them on the street, we need to remember what Peter says here. Don’t dehumanize your opponent and just make it about your answer. Remember your approach is just as important, and it needs to be like Christ himself. Remember what the Bible says about him. He was meek and mild. So gentle was he that “a bruised reed he would not break, and a faintly burning wick he would not snuff out.” That’s to be our approach.
And you see why too. Peter gives us a good reason for this kind of approach. He says that you need to do this as a means of protecting yourself. Verse 16 goes on to say that if you do this, “When you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
You may remember the story about Stephen in the book of Acts. He was the first martyr of the church. He was stoned after he gave a great testimony. As his attackers came to stone him the text says that “his face shown like that of an angel.” That’s how clear his conscience had been and it was a disgrace to those who came after him.
That’s what Peter is talking about here. When someone verbally insults you, they will be the ones who will look bad if you have maintained this kind of approach.
Well, your time in my class has come to an end. But I want you to remember the some of the keys to the art of divine eloquence. I have spoken to you today because I want you to be prepared. I wouldn’t doubt that even before the week is out some of you will have a conversation or two about spiritual things. Someone will inquire about the things you believe or you will have an opportunity to speak up for the truth.
I hope that this message has proven beneficial to some degree. But remember listening to what I have said is not enough. Every week my public speaking students had to give a speech. And they couldn’t just walk into class without having done any work beforehand. They had to think through everything that they were going to say and how they were going to say it long before they stood before the class.
The same is true for you. Class is now done, but your work has just begun. As you look to the Lord and seek to fear him, I pray that your answer will be used in tremendous ways.
In that moment I looked at the girl and did my best to suppress my laughter. I was so surprised to hear this kind of answer. I tried to muster up some sympathy and I said, with all my tactless candor, “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, my dear, but Christ isn’t going to make anything easier for you. If anything, life’s going to get much more difficult for you now that Christ is in your life.”
This young lady thought that Jesus was going to make life all hunky-dory for her. It might have been that she was seeing all her friends do the “get-religious” thing and she saw how much fun it could be since we were all having a great time at camp. Whatever the causes might have been, she thought that Jesus was going to make life nothing but a bed of roses.
If you are here today, I want to make it clear that this is by no means the case. When Jesus enters your life, life can get very messy. Life can even become quite difficult.
Becoming a Christian does not mean getting ahead start on the American dream. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that your life is going to perk up or take a turn for the better. There are certainly many up-sides to being a Christian, but Christianity is not a short cut to “Your Best Life Now.”
And certainly that is the case that we find in the book of first Peter. This book is dedicated to people who are experiencing hardship. It contains teaching for people who are being afflicted and hassled for their faith.
When Christ enters your life, I want you to understand it can really muss up your life quite a bit. You can be sure that is true for virtually anyone who becomes a Christian in a Muslim dominated country. Life for them becomes extremely difficult. They can lose their jobs. They can lose all their social connections: their friends and families can turn them out—and that would be the nicest thing they could do. For honor killings are possible in such circumstances too.
Christ is hated by the world. And because of that sometimes the world ends up hating us. And that can be most certainly true for us as well. In this secular and humanistic society, there can be times when we find ourselves ostracized. We can become the objects of scorn.
Certainly you can see this in the Tebow craze that is going on now. If you live under a rock and don’t know what’s going on, let me give you a little heads up: Tebow is a kid that plays for the Denver Broncos. After a good play he takes the posture of prayer as a way to pay homage to the Lord. And he has been broiled for it by every newscaster, blog and twitter account.
But that’s the kind of culture that we live in. We live in a culture where even a simple little gesture as taking a knee during a football game is vilified. And so we should find it surprising that we will find ourselves in similar situations.
So the question then becomes for us, “What do we do?” How do you live in a society where the threat of persecution looms large? It is not like we can just move away and find another little Christian community to hide in. God has set us where he has set us and the culture is what it is. So the question becomes, what do we do?
Well, in our passage this morning Peter answers that question. He tells us that we must make it our aim to do good. As a matter of fact, he says we should be an enthusiast when it comes to doing good. That’s really what the passage means when it uses the word zealous. Your version may use the word “eager.” But the thrust of it is that when it comes to living in an environment that is hostile to the faith you ought to be fanatical when it comes to doing good.
You might say to me, “Well, why in the world should I do that?” That might sound a bit queer to you because you think, “If I’m being treated ill, why should I go out of my way to do good?”
Our natural reaction is to jump into the fight. To us, the best defense is a good offense. So we think that if they attack us we think we should get right back at them. You know, there’s nothing like a little “shock and awe” to keep somebody off your back. If you show them you are a powerhouse, then they are likely not going to mess with you, right?
But that’s not what Peter tells us to do. He tells us that we must be zealous for good. And He gives us two very good reasons why we ought to be fanatical do-gooders.
The first reason is because doing good reduces the possibility of suffering.
I. It reduces the possibility of suffering 
Look at verse 13. He says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?”
Peter is just using simple logic here. He says, “The chances of you taking heat are significantly reduced when there is no cause for provocation.” Most likely, nobody is going to harm you if you are out doing things that are beneficial to the wider community. If you are out helping your neighbors and showing people you actually care about them, then it’s likely that they are not going to attack you. They will see you as an assent too important to lose.
Listen, if you are in the woods and you come across a wild animal, chances are that it will leave you alone as long as you do nothing to provoke the animal. I checked this out with my very own professional woodsman. I emailed Lyle Becker this week and I asked him that question. For those of you who don’t know Lyle, Lyle is a fellow who used to attend Providence and now he leads hunts up in Alaska. He knows a lot about grizzly bears, brown bears, wolves, mountain lions and all sorts of other wildlife.
Lyle told me that in North America most animals will not pounce upon you if you come across them in the woods. As long as you give them no reason to be provoked, they will leave you alone. The only exceptions he mentioned were the Nile Crocodiles, Tigers, and Sasquatch.
But really, when it comes to human life, Peter tells us that it’s much the same. If you are one who is out doing good with zeal, and you are giving no reason for provocation, then the chances of you being persecuted are going to be diminished.
But if you are not known as one who is a do-gooder, then don’t expect that things are going to go your way. Let’s not be surprised that we experience some hardships if we are renown as someone who is a Christian gripe.
You know that’s a problem we have. We can be rather cynical. When the world around us is falling apart, we can be like the talk show host and sit there and make snide comments about every cotton picking thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good sarcastic comment when it is appropriate. I think that it’s good to mock evil from time to time and make fun of things to show the absurdity of it. But we should never be known as cynical people. We should always be known for what we are for, more than what we are against. If we are not known as activists (in the good sense of the word), then we shouldn’t expect that our sufferings should be lightened.
But when people look at our church, our acts should make them think twice before they carry out any evil plans. When people look at our church, they should think, “I like those Keeners. They are an honest, hard-working bunch.” “That Tobias family, they are really hospitable. It seems like they are friends with everybody. I mean they are always seems like they are having people over.” “And those McFaddens, I have to hand it to them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them break a promise. Even when they got into a pinch, I knew that I could always rely on them.”
Just keep this in mind. As a general rule, people are not harmed for acts of kindness. And if we ever do come to a time where there’s the potential of conflict, then God says we can reduce the possibility of it by being fanatical about doing good.
But you’ll notice that our passage says doing good not only reduces the possibility of suffering, it also enhances the possibility of blessing.
II. It enhances the possibility of blessing [14a]
Look at verse 14. It says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed.”
In other words, even if man doesn’t regard the good things you are doing, your God will. If for some reason you do meet up with a sasquatch—you know, one of those rare occasions where someone does pounce on you despite your being on your best behavior. Even if you do find a person who just wants to lay into you, then don’t worry. God is still on your side. The All-Knowing, All-Seeing God is going to take notice of you, and He will see to it that your works are rewarded. God will bless you for your faithfulness.
Now you are probably wondering, “What kind of blessing do I get?” You might be trying to weigh out your options here. You are thinking, “Is it worth it to undergo this suffering thing? What kind of blessing are we talking about?”
Well, we are not told in this passage what exactly the blessing is. We do understand that this is a blessing from God and, as such, it is something that will most certainly satisfy our deepest yearnings. After all, God is not scant with his blessings. They are like the clouds of heaven breaking open upon you. When God blesses he always inundates you with joy unspeakable.
But while we do not have it explicitly stated here, we might find a hint at what this blessing is in a parallel passage. When Peter says this he might be alluding to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. You’ll remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When you undergo persecution for your faith, you are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is yours.
Do you know what the persecution proves? It proves that this world, in its current form, is not your home. When you are reviled and people say all kinds of evil against you, then you are blessed in that you receive a bona fide confirmation that the kingdom of man and the kingdom of the devil is not yours. Being turned out by the world is a good thing. It is an affirmation that you belong to the kingdom of God.
There might be other blessings that accompany the persecution. But friends, what greater blessing can we have in times of hardship? I think it has to be pretty nice when our culture tells us, “You don’t belong here.” Because it helps us to remember that we belong to an eternal kingdom, wherein righteousness dwells.
A number of years ago there were some American journalists working over in the Middle East. While they were there they were captured by Muslim extremists. They were treated with the utmost contempt and the conditions of their captivity were quite severe. Everyday they were reminded that they didn’t belong in that region. Their extreme conditions and harsh treatment was a reminder that they were foreigners and that theirs was the kingdom of America.
By God’s grace the reporters were released from their captivity, and they were allowed to return home. They came back to a land where there is freedom. They came back to a land where all their needs would be met. They were given food and clothing. They were treated with respect and dignity. They came back to a land where they could enjoy the presence of their families and friends and Americans who possessed the same mindset. Theirs was the kingdom of America.
That, my friends, is the essence of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. The one difference is that yours is the kingdom of Heaven, a land that far supersedes anything America can offer.
May that then be reason sufficient for you to be fanatical about doing good. Not only will it reduce the possibility of suffering, it will increase the possibility of this kind of blessing.
If you would, please open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter 3. We are going to resume our study in 1 Peter, and we’ll be starting into chapter 3 this morning. When you get there you will find the real reason why Mark had Joe Maggelet come and speak to our joint service a few weeks ago. The passage that you are opening to is that passage that deals with women and their submission to their husbands. I’m pretty sure that Mark looked ahead and thought, “This isn’t one that will make for good unity among our churches. J” So he called in Joe.
I doubt that was really on his mind. But this passage is one that, in theological terms, we call “a real doosie.” It is a passage of scripture that flies in the face of everything our culture declares to be true. No doubt, if I read and preach it correctly, I will be stepping on some toes. If I ever run for political office, this will certainly be dug up and become headline news. I’d be asked all sorts of questions and the world would have a heyday running my name into the mud over what is said here.
At the very least I expect there to be a number of nasty comments to come to my inbox when I post this on my website. I’m sure to be called things like a chauvinist, a patriarchal pig, and woman suppresser. I just know this isn’t going to sit well with a lot of people.
But even among people of our persuasion I’m sure that it is going to be a sensitive issue. The issue that we’re going to be addressing is a delicate one. Being that this is the case let us approach the text remembering that it is the holy and inspired word of God. It is not the whims of a man. And, as we read the passage, let us do so with all reverence and readiness of faith.
Let us read then, 1 Peter 3.1-6.
Maybe it was best that Mark had us take a break from first Peter when we did. Perhaps Providence had his hand in it all. I mean, what a great way to start the New Year. If you are the type that makes New Year’s resolutions, this might be a wonderful place to begin. You ladies may be saying that you want to start that diet or hit that treadmill. Or perhaps you’re making your annual vow to read through the Bible in a year. But how about using this text as the basis of one of your resolutions? That would be great, wouldn’t it? The first resolution can go like this, “Resolved, to call my husband ‘lord’ more this year!”
My wife and I have had fun thinking about this text this week. At different times she would start calling me ‘master’. And I tell you that has affected me. Even though it’s all been in jest, it has given me a different perspective on who I am as her husband. And I want to state that up front. This message is obviously designed to speak primarily to the ladies. But I do think that if we grasp what is said here it will affect the men too. When this principle of submission is practiced rightly—and if you start calling your man ‘lord,’ it will probably affect him greatly. It’s going to help your man recognize his role as the leader in the home.
But of course, all of it starts here. It starts with you ladies and understanding your own role.
Back in the book of Genesis we read that the fall radically skewed the structures of society. Life in the home was going radically changed. God said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” That line is a little difficult to interpret, but when you read it you know that it says life isn’t going to be easy. Where there was once peace and harmony, there’s now going to be a struggle. In that line you see that the battle of the sexes commenced right there.
And the fight of sanctification is drawn up along those lines. Your aim is to fight against that inclination. Your job to resist the urge, and—as it says here—to submit yourself to your husband.
And I want to suggest that the way you do this is through humility. I’m going to be talking about godly womanhood today. We’re going to be talking about submitting to your husband. But throughout this message I’m going to be talking about humility too. It is sort of a secondary theme that you’ll find here today. For you can’t have submission without humility. The essence of submission is that of humility. I mean, it should be obvious that you can’t have submission where you have pride. An arrogant person doesn’t submit. So as we talk today, be thinking about that ladies. And be thinking about how you can make that your New Year’s resolution. If you want godliness as a woman, then you’ll have to work on this. Because godly womanhood manifests itself in humble submission.
And as we consider this notion of submitting to your husband, we are going to do so under three headings. Peter begins by talking about the principle of submission. Then in verses 3-4 he talks about the practice of submission. And then he concludes in verses 5-6 by talking about our pattern for submission.
In the first verse Peter states the principle for us in simple and clear terms.
I. The principle [1-2]
He says, “Wives be subject to your husbands.” Now the word submit is the same word used regarding the slaves relations to their masters and citizens relations to their civil magistrates in the earlier verses. And it has the same force. Wives are to take a position of subordinates and they are to yield to their husbands, even as you yield to the governing officials of your state.
Now the rest of the verse makes it clear that Peter is speaking specifically to those ladies who whose husbands had not been converted. He goes on to say that your submission as a wife can be used of God to bring about their conversion.
I certainly do not want to gloss over that truth. This is a wonderful means of evangelism that we ought to take to heart. But what I want you to note here is that the Lord here commands obedience on the part of you ladies. It doesn’t matter what the spiritual estate of your husband is either. If you are married, then you ladies are obligated to fulfill your role as one who is in subjection to your husband.
God is here reminding you that He has established a structural order within the home that is fundamental to society. He has created man as the head of the household. And you, as his lady, are to give all due obedience to him.
Now this is a radical thing that I’m saying. This isn’t something that is common today. In the main, marriage is thought of as an equal partnership. It is considered a radical democracy where he has his vote and she has hers. But as you see here, that isn’t the case at all. The home is not a democracy. It is to be benevolent autocracy. As they used to say, the man is to be the king of his castle. He is to be the ruler in his home. And you ladies are to obey him as you would obey the Lord.
I don’t doubt that some of you even shiver at me using that word. That word, “obey,” is one we’re supposed to use with children, right? We’re not to use that in regards to relations between two adults, right? Oh, but we are! That’s the essence of submission! Submitting to your husband means obeying him and yielding to his authority. It means that when he makes a decision, and you don’t particularly care for it, you consent to follow his will.
And so you see why I say that this passage has to do with humility on the part of you ladies. This can be a tough nut to swallow, especially given our egalitarian day.
I don’t think that it is too much for me to say that your typical, mainstream evangelical home doesn’t acknowledge this to be true. I’m not even talking about the raging forces of feminism that are so prevalent in our culture today.
If you want to see pride, that is a good place to look. The feminist movement says, “I don’t care what God has said in his word. I do not recognize his authority over me. I am a free and autonomous individual. I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR.” If you want to understand pride, there it is. It’s the “What I say is what goes” mentality. I can get a job. I can be just as good as a man. I can exploit myself. Having this baby is my choice. You have that picture of the woman in the jumpsuit with the arms rolled up, flexing her muscles and saying, “We can do it.” There is pride just screaming its autonomy.
And as I said, that prideful feministic spirit that saturates our culture has seeped into most evangelical homes. So in any given Christian household you’ll see a milder, gentler (but no less stark) form of this egalitarian spirit. A wife will typically have no problem rebuffing her husband’s decisions. She may take money and spend it as she pleases. Or she may simply make use of her time in a certain way without the approval of her spouse.
But this is not the way it is to be. The principle that is laid down here say that you are to obey your husband in all matters that are biblically lawful. You are to demonstrate humility by bringing your life under his complete authority. The finances are his responsibility. So how the money is spent is his call. The same is true for the children. The way you raise them is his to determine. That’s the way it is for everything else, all the way down to where you spend your Christmas holiday. Everything that occurs within that house is a decision that is ultimately made by him.
Now certainly I don’t want you to think that his is a tyrannical dictatership. A loving husband is going to consult you on all these matters, and he will no doubt delegate a great deal of the decisions regarding household affairs to you. In other words, he’s going to rule over you with the utmost benevolence. And I think that is why Peter, right after addressing this issue, turns to the men and addresses their role as a husband. He knows that it can go to their head. And so he tempers it with those words. But the principle still stands: He has authority over you as your husband, and you are required to obey him.
I might add here that this is something that is supposed to be part and parcel with your wedding vows. It isn’t something you find much anymore because of the prideful influence of feminism. But in a Christian wedding the bride will pledge her humble submission to her husband publicly in the service. When you are married—if it is a distinctly Christian wedding, the minister will ask the bride to be,
"Will you have this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of marriage? And will you love him, comfort him, respect him and submit to him even as the church submits to Christ, and forsaking all others keep yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live?
As I said, you don’t often find this as a part of the wedding service anymore. And that’s because it takes a great deal of humility to accept this teaching. Women today do not want to recognize the fact that men have authority over them. As I said, they want to be autonomous. They want to be equal in every way and a law unto themselves.
But godly women will accept this teaching. They will humble themselves before God by submitting themselves to the plain teaching of the Scriptures regarding their role as women. And, in doing so, they will pledge their undying love for their husbands by yielding to their husband’s authority.
I understand that the details of this need to be fleshed out. It’s important to ask, “What does submission look like in our day?” It is, after all, a rather foreign concept to our culture. I hope that you ladies take time to discuss it among yourselves. I think that it would be quite beneficial for you older ladies to give some examples on how you have come to apply the principle of submission. And the younger women would no doubt find it a good place to talk about where they struggle with submission.
I’d like to go into a lot of specifics, but there is one in particular to which Peter directs us. Peter could have gone in a lot of different directions, but he focuses in on one particular practice. And that is found in verses 3 and 4.
II. The practice
Right after he states this principle of humility and submissiveness in verses 1 and 2, he starts talking about a woman’s adornment in verses 3 and 4. He says that your adornment shouldn’t be consumed with how your hair looks or what you are wearing, but you should be more concerned with meekness and a quiet spirit.
In reading this you might think that Peter is jumping around a bit. First there’s this submission thing. Then he leaps over to deal with the dress code. And you might wonder, what’s the connection? You might not even think there is a connection. But don’t be fooled, these two things are very much interrelated.
It all goes back to the notion of humility and being devoted to your husband. A woman that is devoted to her husband and is lovingly submitting to him isn’t going to be overly consumed with looking all sexy when she is out and about.
This is not to say that she’s going to look like a hag. Obviously a woman who is submitting to her husband is going to try and look attractive for him. As a matter of fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if she doesn’t try to look good for him she’s sinning. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
But Peter’s concern here is that these ladies are trying to bring unwarranted attention to themselves. The way they did their hair and the clothes that they were wearing were designed to put the spotlight on them. So when she walks into a room everyone looks at her. She’s turning heads. She wants to be the envy of the ladies and she wants to be a turn on for other men.
Now you see how this practice opposes the principle of submission. What’s she is doing is relinquishing her man’s authority. She’s trying to show that she’s an individual, and maybe even hint at the fact that she is available. At the very least she’s giving the impression that she is.
And that, my friends, is pride.
Some of you might be waiting for me to say how long the skirt can be or how low the blouse can dip. But I’m not going to do that. What I want you to notice that this passage is about humility and submission. And whatever your practice may be when it comes to the way you look when you stand in front of the mirror is to be governed by that notion. And if it is, then that will certainly affect how you present yourself in public.
Think about the girls today. When they look into their closet in the morning, are they thinking, “What will help give the impression that I have a meek and quiet spirit?” Of course not. The length of their skirts and how tight it fits is governed by their vanity. The way they do their hair and the amount of make-up they put on is driven by their desire to be noticed. It’s all about their pride.
That’s not the way it is to be. Your attire is to be ruled by humility. Really, that’s all that modesty is. Modesty is that outward expression of that internal meekness. Modesty is simply dress that reflects a quiet spirit. And when that is your gauge, then you don’t need to have specific dictates when it comes to how long, how tight, how much, how low, or how little.
I might add that this is why I think that the other extreme of this debate is so silly. Without a regard for the context some go so far as to say, “I’m only concerned with inward beauty.” And they go around refusing anything that has to do with make-up, jewelry, or the styling of one’s hair. But that’s just as arrogant as well. It’s all about you and has nothing to do with your husband’s desires. Such a view doesn’t necessarily reflect humble submission either.
I’m pretty sure that surveys reveal that 99% of men prefer their wives to be physically attractive. So recognizing your husband’s authority means looking good for your husband, and that might mean putting on some make-up or picking out something appropriate to wear.
Again, I’m not going to be the fundamentalist preacher and say, “This is the benchmark and if you cross it you’re going to hell.” You cannot do that. To do so is to bind one’s conscience unlawfully. I’m here to tell you that this passage is helping you to put into place a proper practice of submission and humility. And that submissive humility will point you to, what I might call, elegant modesty. That is to say you are tastefully attractive.
I think that this is also confirmed by what we find in the last part of our passage for this morning. In verses 5 and 6 Peter outlines for us the pattern of humble submission.
He has stated the principle. He has given some insight into how this ought to be practiced. And in these verses he points us to the matriarchs of old and how they serve as patterns for you ladies today
III. The pattern
He says in verse 5, “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.”
Here you go. I think this solves the whole issue regarding the dress code. You remember that the Bible says that Sarah was a good looking lady. And in the book of Genesis we see how various men found her quite attractive. I’m doing some speculating here, but I don’t think that you get recommended to the Pharaoh’s court by doing your best not to look good. I think it is safe to assume that Sarah wasn’t against being fashionable or applying some perfumes now and then.
What’s more important to notice though, is that she wasn’t attempting to make herself appealing to other men. Whatever her décor might have been, her demeanor was that of humble submission to her man. That’s evidenced by the fact that she called her husband “lord.”
Sarah is a pattern for you in that she acknowledged that her husband had mastery over her. And the beautiful thing about it was that she wasn’t afraid to declare it publicly. She recognized that he was the leader of the household and she chose an apt word to describe him and his relationship to her.
Now ladies, if you want to go home today and follow the example of Sarah, you most certainly can do so. I assure you that this is certainly the way you can make your man feel like a man. When you sit down to dinner you can say, “Would my lord like some potatoes?” “Can I get my lord a drink?” “Is my lord going to take a nap this afternoon?”
I might be jesting a bit, but I do wonder if you are able to do such a thing? Would it be that awkward? If it is, perhaps that might be an indication that you have some work to do in this area of submission. If you cannot openly recognize your husband with that kind of terminology, it might be a sign that you really don’t acknowledge him to be your leader. It might be a signal that you are not submitting to him to the degree that you ought.
Elizabeth and I discussed this this week. I asked her about it and she said that calling me lord would be a little weird. Not that she doesn’t willingly submit, but because we don’t typically talk this way today. The word lord is usually reserved for reference to God. So there might be some semantics why you can’t bring yourself to say it. But think about it though. There might be something to it. It might be that if you can’t call him lord—it might be that it is a sign that you enjoy a bit of autonomy and that you consider yourself superior to Sarah.
After all, that’s what it means when it says that “you are her children if you do good.” If you are doing what the Bible commands you to do—if you are demonstrating the kind of humble submission that Sarah did, then you are one of her children.
We’ve all heard that song, “Father Abraham / Had several sons / Several sons had father Abraham.” Well, how do you get to be a child of Abraham? It is by faith in Jesus Christ. And you show you have faith in Jesus by following his word.
Well, how do you get to be a child of Sarah? It’s the same way. By faith in Jesus Christ. How do you show that faith? You obey his Word. So, when you in faith submit to your husband, you show that you are a Christian and a child of Sarah.
But if you can’t deem your husband as your lord, then obviously you are not her child. You think you are better than Sarah. You think that Sarah was some Neanderthal or a woman who was suppressed by her man. But you’ve risen above. You’ve evolved and cast off the chains of this patriarchal domination.
But let me assure you, my friends, that’s a dangerous place to be. When Paul says that you are her children if you do what is right, he’s saying that anyone who doesn’t do it is not a Christian. If you are not submitting to your husband as is taught by the Scripture—if you are not living by faith and receiving the plain teaching of the Bible, then you are outside the faith.
What Paul is saying here is that you show yourself to be a true Christian when you follow Sarah’s example. You show that true faith lives in you when you submit to your husband.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had opportunity to talk to some of you about this passage. We wondered together where the gospel was in this passage. And I tell you its right here. You have opportunity to become a child of Sarah. This passage shows clearly that God is a forgiving God and he willingly receives those who are repentant. This passage clearly is the antithesis of what you find back in the Garden of Eden. It shows that there is a way to be reconciled to God and a way to be forgiven of your sins. It is by becoming a child of Abraham and Sarah. It is by mimicking their faith. It is by believing what God has said in his word.
And that is where this passage ends. I want to be clear. This passage isn’t so much about submitting to your husband as it is about submitting to God. Submitting to your husband is just the way you show you are submitting to God. And that should be your New Year’s resolution. Resolved, to obey God in all that he says.
That’s where you will get your meek and quiet spirit. It isn’t something that comes naturally. But it begins when you humbly bow before God and say, “Thy will be done.” It comes when you say, “Lord, I understand that my culture says otherwise and my own heart wants to be a renegade individual. But I believe that you want me to be otherwise. You want me to see my husband as my lord and you want me to submit to his leadership. Help me to follow Sarah’s example and to be her child.”
When you make that sort of confession and make it your aim, then you are well on your way. Submission to your man won’t be easy, but you will have made great inroads when you’ve made that sort of submission to God.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.