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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am Svc, 2010-05-09

Text: 1 Peter 3:1-6

The quest for beauty is as old as the human race itself. Cosmetics have been in use for as long as there have been people to use them. Eye shadow was used in Egypt as early as 10,000 BC. Long before lipstick was invented, Queen Cleopatra used crushed carmine beetles to colour her lips red. Lead compounds were commonly used to dye hair during the Greek and Roman periods. Long before nail polish was invented, women were using henna leaves to colour their fingernails orange. And archeological excavations have revealed that golden rings, amulets, armlets, bracelets, pendants and necklaces have been used by both men and women to adorn themselves since ancient times. 

Today people everywhere are still adorning themselves with beauty products, designer clothes, accessories, and jewellery made of gold and precious stones. Every month there seems to be a new product on the market promising either youth for older women or glamour for younger women. Every magazine has huge glossy advertisements for treatments like facials, manicure, fat removal, hair removal or restoration, and packages that promise a perfect figure. In almost every shopping mall you will find that most retail outlets are marketing products and services for outward adorning. 

All this brings out an important observation - outward adorning is extremely valuable in the eyes of the world. Many women believe that it makes them very beautiful and attractive to others. Some use it to give themselves a distinctive look that sets them apart from the crowd. Others think it can effectively win people and get favours from them. But there are some serious flaws about outward adorning - It costs a lot of money and not everyone can afford it. It also doesn't last for long because of old age and outward decay. And it is somewhat deceiving - because the beauty it creates is superficial and artificial. 

In contrast to all that, the Bible speaks of a different kind of adorning - one that gives a person real beauty - a beauty that will last forever and is also affordable to everyone. This kind of adorning is inward, not outward. To learn more about this inward adorning let us look at 1 Peter 3:1-6. 

I. What is this Inward Adorning?

You will notice that the word 'adorn' is mentioned 3 times in this passage - twice in v.3 and once in v.5. And 2 kinds of adorning are mentioned - The first one is outward and is described in v.3 as plaiting the hair, wearing of gold and putting on of apparel. The second kind of adorning is inward because, according to v.4, it is worn by the 'hidden man of the heart,' which refers to the real self or the soul. We all know that every one of us has a soul which will live forever, even after the body is dead, as the physical body is only a temporary home for the human soul. 

The adorning that the soul should put on is described in v.4 as 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.' This is not referring to the Holy Spirit who indwells us, but rather, to the prevailing disposition of the soul. The word 'spirit' refers to the way a person does things - the way he carries himself in the midst of others, the way he works and speaks, all of which reflects his attitude. If we say to someone, 'I like your spirit,' we mean that there is something about his mannerisms, his speech, his attitudes and the way he does things which is pleasing and attractive to us.

Here in this passage wives are being addressed. And two things are mentioned about the spirit that wives should adorn themselves with: It is meek and it is quiet. Let us look at each of them. 

A. The Meek Spirit

A meek spirit describes a person who is mild, soft and gentle. A meek woman is not pushy or assertive and does not insist on her own rights or demand her own way. Meekness is a wonderful virtue that is found in our Lord Jesus Himself, as He said in Matthew 11:29 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' Hence we must never think of meekness as weakness. Meekness is actually power under control. As we learn to moderate our strength for the benefit of others we acquire a meek spirit.

B. The Quiet Spirit

A quiet spirit describes a person who is calm and peaceful but not necessarily silent. A quiet woman speaks out what is in her heart without being agitated, loud, anxious or overly upset when things are not to her liking. She maintains her composure instead of 'flying off the handle' and making an emotional scene. A quiet spirit is born of trust. We cultivate a deep-seated peace in our hearts as we learn to trust God to be in control of every situation we face in life. This is a quiet spirit.

Both of these qualities - meekness and quietness - are very helpful to wives. When you are inwardly adorned with a meek and quiet spirit you will find it a lot easier to submit to your husband and to give him due respect as God requires you to do. The meek and quiet spirit is also helpful to mothers. When you have it you will find it easier to keep your cool and love your children at times when you are really stressed with their behaviour, their burdens and their exams. And the meek and quiet spirit is also helpful to women who are praying for a good life partner. When you have it you are likely to attract the right kind of partner - one to whom inward beauty is most important, rather than immature men who judge people only by their looks. And so, whether you are a wife, a mother or an unmarried woman it makes good sense for you to give much greater priority to your inward adorning than to your outward adorning.

C. Its Precedence over Outward Adorning

Some have gone to an extreme here to say that Christian women should give no priority at all to outward adorning. They wrongly interpret v.3 to be an absolute prohibition against plaiting one's hair or wearing any kind of jewellery. But if that is true then we should also not wear any clothes as this is also mentioned in v.3 ('The putting on of apparel'). Actually, this is not a prohibition against plaiting one's hair or wearing gold or any other kind of outward adorning. It is rather a command to regard the inward adorning of your soul as your real adorning. Your outward adorning is only secondary and ought to be of much lesser importance to you than the cultivation of a meek and quiet spirit to adorn your soul. 

Hence it is not wrong for a woman to spend some time on her physical appearance to be neat, well-groomed and presentable. Please don't go around with uncombed hair or an untidy appearance, wearing clothes that are torn, worn out and mouldy. Doing such things will only attract undue attention to yourself. If you use cosmetics please use it sensibly and sparingly to maintain a neat and tidy appearance. Let me say this to our dear sisters in Christ here: There is nothing wrong with putting on some light make up or putting on earrings or a necklace, provided you pay much more attention to your inward adorning. And on very special occasions like your wedding day, it is perfectly legitimate for you to look as presentable as you want to be, for everyone to appreciate the beauty that God has given you. It is clear to everyone that you are doing this not for yourself but to honour the one you are getting married to.

Thus we understand that outward adorning has its proper place and use, but it must never take precedence over the cultivation of a meek and quiet spirit which is the inward adorning that you need. And to ensure that you will always give greater priority and effort to doing this, we shall look at 3 reasons that are found in our passage. The first reason why you should put on a meek and spirit is that it makes you very attractive.

II. Why should you put on this Inward Adorning?

A. It Makes You Attractive (vv.4)

In v.4 the attractiveness of the meek and quiet spirit is highlighted in two phrases. The first phrase is 'that which is not corruptible.' This means that its beauty is not a mere passing beauty, but one that never corrupts or fades. Outward beauty tends to fade with age, but inward beauty tends to grow and increase with age. Why is this so? Because the Christian's source of inward beauty is Jesus Christ. Your meek and quiet spirit comes from Him who has the meek and quiet spirit. As you walk with Christ you will grow into His likeness and become more beautiful. And so even though your outward beauty will fade away as the years go by, your inward beauty will shine brighter and brighter. May all our sisters here aspire to increase in this incorruptible beauty by letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in you. There is a chorus you can sing to keep yourself reminded of this:

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All His wonderful passion and purity 
O Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Because of this, the most beautiful women of God may often be those who are most advanced in age. I have known some elderly Christian women are so full of the beauty of Jesus that it radiates from them. And people love to be with them because of their inward beauty. Even though their hair may be completely white and they may be full of wrinkles, infirmed with old age and bound to a wheelchair they are very attractive people. 

In contrast to that there are young women who are very beautiful by the world's standards, but inwardly they are very corrupt. They exploit their outward beauty and charm to fulfill their sinful desires and selfish ambitions. Last year there was a news report of the 19-year old Miss Singapore World being stripped of her crown because she was convicted of 5 charges of credit card fraud. She had used the credit cards of some patients at the healthcare company where she worked to purchase 2 gold anklets worth almost $1,000, a $700 mobile phone and some expensive meals at a swanky restaurant. Outward beauty is not a blessing if it is conceals a wicked heart. I hope that you are convinced by now that you would rather have inward beauty without outward beauty than outward beauty without inward beauty. And if your heart is set on inward beauty, then you must do everything you can to put on the meek and quiet spirit. 

The other phrase in v.4 which highlights the attractiveness of this meek and quiet spirit is 'which is in the sight of God of great price.' Husbands may pay thousands of dollars to adorn their wives with diamond studded rings, necklaces and bracelets and earrings made of pure gold or platinum. But all these assets are worthless in God's sight. The only jewellery that has high value to God is a meek and quiet spirit. To Him, this is a priceless asset! And no one can ever be better qualified than God to assess the true value of all things.

But why does God assess the meek and quiet spirit to be of such great price? It is only because it bears the image of His Son. Awhile ago we saw that our meek and quiet spirit comes from the Lord Jesus who has the meek and quiet spirit. The Father loves His only begotten Son so much that any resemblance of Jesus He can see in you brings Him the greatest delight. When Jesus was baptized He said, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' (Matthew 3:17) And so that meek and quiet spirit that you are putting on is of great price to God because it bears the glorious image of the Lord Jesus.

Now that you know how attractive it makes you, you must make every effort to adorn yourself with it. And then you may discover that the meek and quiet spirit does not only make you attractive, but effective as well.

B. It Makes You Effective (vv.1-2)

This is demonstrated in the first 2 verses, where Peter tells the wives that by being in subjection to their own husbands they may win their husbands to Christ. The situation here is that of a married couple who hears the Gospel but only the wife obeys the word and becomes a Christian while the husband remains an unbeliever. Some husbands are just like that - no amount of preaching or sharing can get the Gospel through to them. They remain firm in their refusal to turn to Christ for salvation. 

However there is a way to win them to Christ, and it is through their wives. But it is not by constant verbal pressure from nagging wives that they are won. This will only strain the marriage with much unhappy disagreement and strife. These husbands are finally won to Christ by their wives' faithful living out of their Christian life before them. And that includes the wives' submitting to them with a meek and quiet spirit. The church father, Augustine, testified that this was how his godly mother, Monica, influenced his pagan father. He wrote, 'She served her husband as her master, and did all she could to win him to [Christ], speaking to him of [Christ] by her conduct, by which [Christ] made her beautiful' Finally, when her husband was at the end of his earthly span, she gained him for [Christ].' (Confessions 9.19-22)

Actions speak louder than words. A man may easily walk away from someone who preaches the Gospel to him and he never gets to hear it again. But he can't walk away from the daily consistent actions of a Christ-filled wife who has a meek and quiet spirit. And thus we see how effective this inward adorning of wives can be to bring unbelieving husbands to Christ.

If you have an unbelieving spouse, the best thing you can do for him is to let him see Christ in you. But in order to do this you must faithfully maintain your close walk with Christ. It is only by abiding in Him constantly that you will bear much fruit (John 15:5), including the ability to be a good wife to your husband and a good mother to your children. And if you wait long enough and keep on praying for his salvation, who knows that the day may come soon when he will tell you, 'You know, my dear, all this time I have been trying hard to put away any thought of believing in your Jesus. But having seen how you have been so good to me and the kids since you became a Christian I now have no doubt in my mind that your Jesus is real. I want to let you know that I have just asked Him to do in me what He has done in you.'

This is something that outward beauty can never achieve. All the outward adorning a woman may put on may only turn a man to desire to marry her and spend the rest of his life with her. But they can never turn a man to desire to accept Christ as his Lord and Saviour and spend the rest of his life serving Him. Only the inward adorning of a Christ-filled life can do that.

Thus we have seen that the meek and quiet spirit makes you effective besides making you attractive. And now we will go on to see that it also makes you distinctive.

C. It Makes You Distinctive (vv.5-6)

This is revealed in vv.5 and 6 where the godly women of the Old Testament are cited by the Apostle Peter as examples of wives who had a meek and quiet spirit. If he had not done this then perhaps some wives would have responded, 'Mr Apostle Sir, it's easy for you to say that we should adorn ourselves with a meek and quiet spirit and be subject to our own husbands. But with all due respect, Sir, you have never been a wife and you cannot possibly understand what we go through everyday at home. This meek and quiet spirit only an ideal and is quite impracticable. Is anyone able to have it?' 

What Peter wrote in vv.5,6 would deal very well with this thought, as it shows that it is not impracticable since there have been women in the past who had successfully adorned themselves with a meek and quiet spirit. And that was how they distinguished themselves as holy women who trusted in God. This means that if Christian wives wish to have the distinction of being holy women who trust in God, then they should also do what these godly Old Testament women did - adorn themselves with a meek and quiet spirit.

And in v.6 Peter goes on to say that by doing that they will also have the distinction of being spiritual daughters of Sarah, who was the wife of Abraham. Abraham is very well known in the Bible as the father of Israel and the Jews are his physical descendants. But since we Gentile Christians are justified by faith like Abraham was, we have the distinction of being his spiritual sons (Romans 4:12). 

But we must not forget that his wife Sarah also had great faith in God. It must have taken considerable faith for her to obey her husband and follow him when he left the city of Ur, not knowing where the Lord would lead them to. And Sarah is listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 where she is remembered for believing in God's promise to give her a son in her old age. As Hebrews 11:11 says 'Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.' God even changed her name from Sarai to Sarah to signify that she would become a mother of nations and kings (Genesis 17:15).

Therefore it is a very great distinction for Christian wives to be spiritual daughters of Sarah. But Peter says that this distinction is only reserved for those who persevere in following Sarah's example of submitting to her husband's leadership. Today, it has become harder for wives to follow her example because of the changing role of women in society. Their traditional role as a good wife, and a good mother and housewife is generally perceived today as being too restrictive and perhaps even demeaning for them. There is so much untapped potential in women. A year ago a team of Singaporean women conquered Mt Everest. Last December a team of 8 women including 1 from Singapore skied all the way to the South Pole. It is therefore concluded that women today should be more assertive and willing to take on more challenging roles like that of leadership, and policy-making. There are now 23 women in parliament and that's nearly a quarter of all the seats. 

Christian wives therefore face increasing pressure to abandon their traditional role of submitting to their husbands with a meek and quiet spirit. They are being told, 'Why do you want to be bound to such a restrictive role in your home when you have such wonderful opportunities to aim for the skies and do so much more for yourself?' And now as you think of obeying the Word of God you may perhaps be fearful that by doing this you will miss out on all the great opportunities for women today. If this is your thought, please listen once more to 1 Peter 3:5-6 'after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.' Dearly beloved, even though by being a good wife, a dedicated mother and an excellent home-maker you may seem to miss out a lot and end up being nothing in the eyes of the world, remember this: You are great in God's eyes. You stand in a good heritage of holy women of God. And you can rightly be called a 'Daughter of Sarah.'

May this encourage you to persevere in cultivating a meek and quiet spirit. You have seen from our study of this passage that doing this will make you attractive, effective and distinctive. Perhaps there is one remaining question on your mind.

III. How can you have this Inward Adorning?

'How do I have a meek and quiet spirit when it seems that my blood is boiling from every little thing?' It is true that many wives find it difficult to be meek and quiet consistently. They are impatient and irritable toward their spouse and children and are often unable to overcome their feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment toward them. 

Firstly, if you are not yet saved, you must come to Jesus. Only those who have Christ in them can succeed in having the meek and quiet spirit. And after you are saved you should maintain a close relationship with Christ through reading His Word and praying everyday. Fill your mind with His thoughts and surrender every area of your life to Him - your outlook on life, your values, your hopes, your desires and your family relationships - let Jesus have them all. As you do this, He will work in you and you will find yourself changing gradually. 

It will become easier for you to love people around you and to be forgiving towards them. As Philippians 4:13 says, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' And when things go wrong at home, you will be able to look at the situation differently from before. This should change the way you respond to it. Instead of focusing on yourself and on the personal trials and inconveniences of housework and raising children at home you should focus instead on the good of your spouse - to be a supportive helpmeet to him, and you should focus on the good of your children - for their spiritual and personal growth. This is what a wife and mother with a meek and quiet spirit will be able to do.

And as your inward beauty increases, you will receive the praise of God and of men. If you want to know what praise that is, look at Proverbs 31:28-31 'Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25