1 Peter 3:1-6 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- 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing- 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
This morning we’re on our fourth of four sermons on this passage. The main reason that I’ve chosen to spend so many weeks on these few verses is because they are so contrary to so much of what our culture believes. As pervasive as it is, we’d be foolish to believe that none of the world’s wrong thinking on these matters has crept into our minds. We need to read God’s word carefully every time we come to it. But we need to be especially careful in matters with such loud opposing voices.
Once again, in our passage for this morning Peter (1) issued the straight-forward command, “wives, be subject to your own husbands,” (2) offered the straight-forward reason for the command (“so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won [they may be led to trust in Jesus]”), (3) gave the straight-forward means of fulfilling the reason for the command in a God-honoring fashion (“without a word by the conduct of their wives”), (4) was clear on the straight-forward nature of the evangelistic conduct (“respectful and pure”), and (5) was explicit about the straight-forward application of the conduct both negatively (“do not let your adorning be external”) and positively (“but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart”).
Last week we considered the negative side of the fifth point (avoiding focusing on external adornment, v.3). This morning we’re going to look at the positive side of the fourth point (focusing on internal adornment, v.4). This seems like an appropriate message for Mother’s Day and conclusion to this sermon series. Let’s pray that Peter’s message would be clear and, consequently, that our minds and hearts would be stirred to act.
MINISTRY THROUGH INTERNAL ADORNMENT
Christian, our aim in all of life is to use every aspect of our lives to point to the good news that the whole world can be reconciled to God by grace, through faith in Jesus. The bible is filled with commands for all Christians to do this. It is also filled with examples of what it looks like in practice.
What’s more, the bible is also filled with commands and examples for how specific groups of Christians are to point to Jesus in specific ways and under specific circumstances.
This is primarily what 1 Peter is. It was written to explain to persecuted Christians how they are best able to point people to the gospel in the midst of their persecution. More specifically still, in our passage for this morning, we find gospel-pointing instructions for Christian wives who are experiencing a kind of persecution through the effects of the disobedience of their husbands.
In other words, wives, if your husband isn’t honoring God with his life, Peter provides help for you to know what to do. As I mentioned in the introduction his answer is to minister to your husband through your respectful and pure conduct, particularly through your adornment—the things you put on. If you are to honor God in this ministry, Peter wrote, you will not focus on external adornment (hair and jewelry and clothing), but internal adornment. But what is internal adornment and what does it look like?
To help us all understand the answers to these question we’ll consider Peter’s definition, description and display of the internal adornment he calls for.
Internal Adornment Defined
What, then, is internal adornment? Adornment, once again, is anything you add to something else in an attempt to make it more beautiful. You could adorn your kitchen table with fresh cut flowers. You could adorn your den by adding an elk mount. You could adorn your table with a picture of your grandkids. You could adorn your office with a scale model of Spartan Stadium.
Likewise, wives, you can adorn yourself on the outside with makeup, trendy clothing, cosmetic surgery, expensive hair cuts, styles, colors, products and clips. Those are the things Peter calls external adornment. And that, he says, are no good as a means of gospel-pointing or ministering to your disobedient husband.
On the other hand, there is a kind of adornment, internal adornment, that makes for a powerful tool for highlighting the gospel and husband-ministry. Internal adornment means putting certain things on your inside—or what Peter calls, “the hidden person of the heart”—to make it more beautiful.
Have you ever thought in those terms—of being able to adorn (or put things on) your inside to enhance your beauty? If I were to ask you to name five things that you might add to your outside to make it more beautiful, I bet you could come up with a list fairly quickly (like the one Peter gave in v.3 or the one I gave above). On the other hand, if I were to ask you to make a similar list or adornments designed to make your inside more beautiful, could you do it as easily? Although Peter says internal adornment is more important, my guess is that you’d find it at least a bit more challenging. Thankfully he’s here to help.
You’d be right to ask what kinds of things might we add to our inside that would make it more beautiful? That leads us to the next point.
Internal Adornment Described
Peter names two items which women may put on to adorn the hidden person of the heart. That is, Peter writes of two things that will make Christian women more beautiful on the inside. Before we get there, however, I want to highlight the two descriptions he gives concerning the women who put those things on.
It is my hope that hearing these descriptions will motivate you, ladies, to earnestly seek after the internal adornments mentioned by Peter. It is my hope that you’ll prize the praise of God for women who adorn themselves in these ways highly enough to really go after them.
Let me give you a quick example of what I mean. Growing up, beginning at my first elementary school track and field day, it seemed as if I had a certain aptitude for running. However, because my competition was limited for many years I never knew whether or not I was actually any good. At that time, there was a kid in the neighboring high school who was winning every race and smashing every state record. He would eventually go on to become the United States’ top 10,000 runner. Every wannabe distance runner in our area knew the name, Todd Williams. I always imagined Williams watching one of my races, being impressed with my running, and telling me that I was going to be good. Even the thought that he might (which he never did—I never even met him) was powerful motivation for me to train hard.
Likewise, how many little girls walk in confidence because their dads have told them countless times how truly special they are? How many kids went on to earn advanced degrees because a teacher they looked up to believed they could and told them so? How many young entrepreneurs made it through the startup struggles because a mentor saw significant aptitude in them and kept encouraging them to keep at it. How many young Christians have given their lives in missions because their pastor saw a God-given faith and strength in them and reminded them of it regularly.
Having the approval (or, in my case, even the imagined approval) of someone we admire has remarkable motivational power. And here’s the key: if the praise of a runner, dad, teacher, mentor, or pastor can sufficiently motivate us to make great sacrifices in our pursuit of a goal, ought the praise of God himself—which is exactly what God has for Christian wives who seek to minister to their unbelieving husbands through focusing on the hidden person of their heart.
Peter understood this, and that’s why he described God’s perspective on internal adornment—because he knew that properly understood it is the most powerful motivator for Christian women in general, and wives of non-Christian husbands in particular, to pursue internal adornment. What is that praise? How does God think of women who adorn the inner person of the heart? Peter names two things.
First, he describes internal adornment as an “imperishable beauty”. Ladies, please hear this: God is beautiful (Psalm 27:4 – One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…) and, therefore, he loves beauty. Having been created in the image of God, and for the praise of God, you ought to want to be beautiful. But you must realize that true beauty is always first and mainly internal. Godlike beauty will always work its way outward—I truly believe the bible teaches that Christian women will be the most radiant women—but it always begins in the heart.
Notice something else about this beauty. The fact that the beauty of properly, internally adorned women will eventually manifest itself externally means that the imperishable quality isn’t a lack of external beauty. There will be physically beautiful things and people in heaven (including God), and it will be good to do things to highlight that beauty (especially God’s). Again, then, Peter is not saying that internal beauty is imperishable and external beauty is perishable. He is saying that beauty that begins in the heart through proper adornment is imperishable, while external beauty which has bypassed the hidden person of the heart is perishable.
Again, ladies, pause for a moment to imagine God considering you in your heart-adornment and declaring to you that you possess an “imperishable beauty”, that you are undyingly beautiful. That’s a remarkable thought, isn’t it? It makes you want to adorn yourself in this way (which we’ll consider in just a bit), doesn’t it?
The second way Peter describes wives who properly adorn their hearts is that they are “very precious in God’s sight”. What a thing to have said about you by anybody. Now imagine it being said of you by the King of kings. It would be amazing blessing if there were anyone in this room who consistently thought that of you. How much more so is it that the God of the universe considers you very precious?
What makes this already spectacular reality even more amazing is the fact that the God who counts you very precious is the very God you formerly rejected and despised; the very God you were at enmity with; the very God who burned with white-hot wrath against you; the very God who killed his own Son because of your treachery. How remarkable is it that that God not only forgives you, but delights in your value ; it is that God who not only forgives you when you adorn your heart as Peter prescribes.
Again, there is an interesting contrast here. In the first description, the contrast was between imperishable beauty that begins in the heart and works outward, and perishable beauty that skips the heart and goes straight to the exterior. In this second description the term “very precious” is, perhaps, better translated “very costly” or “very valuable”. Here, the contrast is between valuable (expensive) clothes that so many women pursue (external adornment) and the valuable (precious) internal adornment of God’s people (v.4). The former cost women a lot of money but does not honor God or minister to unbelieving husbands. The later is free to us (thought it cost Jesus his life), but it honors God and effectively ministers to husbands.
Ladies, wives, the knowledge that God sees you in these ways (imperishably beautiful and very precious) on account of your ministry-minded, heart-adornment ought to cause you to long to put on whatever items lead to such praise. What, then, might women of God put on their hearts to receive such praise from God?
Internal Adornment Displayed
Peter lists two items of internal—”hidden person of the heart”—adornment which the women of God are meant to put on: (1) gentleness and (2) quietness of spirit.
Gentleness points to humbleness and meekness. It means not being pushy or insisting on one’s own “rights”. Likewise, quietness points to stillness or tranquilness. It conveys the idea of inner peace.
The idea behind wives adorning themselves with these things is that they contrast powerfully with the ranting and raving and demanding that makes sense in the world’s economy and which our flesh so easily produces. For the most part as husbands we know when we’re being hurtful to our wives. And when we are, we might not like you to reply in kind, but we certainly understand why you would and generally expect it. Therefore, Peter’s point is that when you respond not according to your mistreatment, but as Christ did in his mistreatment, in gentleness and quietness, we’re caught off guard, shamed, and forced to consider the cause of the contrast.
In other words, responding to the ranting and raving of a disobedient husband with ranting and raving of your own will only serve to further harden his heart. But responding in Christ-like fashion, Peter wrote, is one of God’s means of disarming your husband and causing him to be amazed at God’s transforming power.
So how do you do this, ladies? It’s challenging enough to internally-adorn yourself when your husband is treating you well. How do you overcome the temptation to let your grief over your husband’s disobedience cancel out all desire for adornment of any kind? How do you give yourself to the, at-times, seemingly impossible task of focusing on gentleness and peace in the midst of harshness and anger? Peter gives two answers.
First, you do so by looking to the women of God from the past. The last two verses of this passage suggest that ministry through internal adornment has been God’s call on godly women since the beginning of God’s people. In other words, wives, if you want to see what all of this looks like in practice, and to find help for putting it into practice, look to the mothers of the faith, “for this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves…”. Look specifically, Peter wrote, to Sarah who obeyed her husband, Abraham, and even called him lord.
This is an important point because most of us tend to look first to people who are around us—our contemporaries. That’s certainly good (and even commanded) on one hand. But on the other hand, we are always better off looking first to those who persevered until the end and who have been named as righteous in God’s sight.
What, specifically, are you to look at in them? The answer to that question is the second answer given by Peter. Look at their hope in God (v.5). They hoped that God was sufficient even when their husbands weren’t. They hoped that God would protect them even when their husbands mistreated them. They hoped in God to provide justice for them even when their husbands wouldn’t.
Women of Grace, look to them to see what hoping in God looks like in practice. But do so in the knowledge that the ultimate object of their hope hadn’t even come yet, Jesus Christ. Let your hope be like theirs in looking to God to provide what your husband is lacking, but do so in the knowledge that we are on the other side of him having done so! You are able to look specifically at Jesus and put on the adornment called for by Peter in the power of his Spirit…that’s how you overcome the temptation to abandon adornment in the face of hardship.
Wives, do you want to honor God when your husband is disobeying God? Do you want to hear the praise of God declaring your heart to be imperishably beautiful and very precious? If so, don’t focus on adorning your outside, focus on adorning your inside. Put on gentleness and quietness, which are fruits of the Spirit, and insodoing honor God by demonstrating the fact that your hope is in him above all, and minister to your husband by demonstrating the power of the gospel to transform you (and him).
I love Peter’s last line. It seems like the perfect conclusion to everything he’s just commanded wives to do. Having called on Christian wives to submit to their bad husbands (alongside citizens to their bad governments and servants to their bad masters), Peter knows that this will put some of these women (and citizens and servants) in difficult, dangerous, and even frightening situations. Indeed, as a number of women in this room can attest, the fact that we have better laws and better protections today doesn’t entirely eliminate the difficult, dangerous and frightening situations Christian women seeking to obey this command might find themselves in. And therefore Peter closes with the words, “And you are her [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening”.
His point is this, and I’ll leave you all with this and another happy Mother’s Day: whether you are a wife with a bad husband, an employee with a bad boss, a sister with a bad brother, a single mom with a bad landlord, a son with a bad dad (in other words, no matter who you are), you will face hardship if you follow Jesus’ example and live in such a way to point to his sacrificial death. And when that happens you will be tempted to fear things that would be frightening if not for the promises of God. When that happens, honor God and bless your persecutors by responding not according to your circumstances but according to the unchanging word of God.