Dear Radio Friends,
We begin today a short series of messages on Christian marriage. They are going to be taken from the Word of God in I Peter 3. We will begin today with verses 3 and 4: “Whose adorning (that is referring to the Christian woman) let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
As we come under this Word of God today and in the coming weeks, I do not need to prove to you that women and girls naturally seek to be attractive. From the time a little girl plays dress-up, to the first application of make-up, to shopping for clothes, it becomes very plain that God has made the woman to want to be attractive. I am not talking about the sinful abuse of that desire in the world. I am not talking about seduction or immodest dress. But I speak of the fact that girls, young ladies, women, ordinarily seek to be attractive. The Bible assumes that this is so. Jeremiah 2:32, “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” The prophet believes that it would be an unlikely thing for a maid or a bride to be unmindful of her appearance. And in contrast he bemoans the fact that God’s people in that day were not mindful of God.
But the question is this: What is beauty? How do you make yourself attractive? The Word of God will give the answer. Beauty is not found in perfect measurements. You do not get it in a gym or beauty salon. It is not given by plastic surgery. Beauty is not the form and contour of the face. Beauty is not to be found hanging on the racks at Kohl’s, JC Penney, or Marshal Field’s. It is not found in all the unrelenting pressure of the world to be skinnier and skinnier. It is found in God’s school of cosmetology. It is something that God gives to you. It is something that never fades. It never gets wrinkles. It is the beauty of Jesus Christ within. It is the hidden man or woman of the heart, or a meek and quiet spirit.
In the context of I Peter 3 we should see that the apostle Peter has issued a call to a life of godliness. In chapter 2:11 and 12, we read: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, … having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works” be reproved. Reminding us of our fundamental identity as pilgrim strangers, the apostle Peter has called us to an honest conversation among the Gentiles, that is, to live a life that will validate the gospel to unbelievers. He focuses upon one area: submission, submission to authority. In verse 13 of the second chapter we read: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Then he begins to work out that submission in specifics. He says, first of all, submit yourselves to the state, to the governor as to supreme or to those who are sent by him. Secondly, he says, submit yourself in the area of work to your employer: servants, be subject to your master. Then he says, submit yourself in the realm of marriage: wives to your husbands.
Thus he begins by exhorting wives to their fundamental calling in chapter 3:1, 2: “Be in subjection to your own husbands.” And he deals with the great question in connection with that calling: What if my husband does not believe? What if my husband does not obey the Word? He says, even in that extreme situation, live a godly life before your husband. God, if so be His will, may by your good conversation work grace in your husband’s heart.
Now in our text, he begins to deal with a woman’s fundamental beauty. The calling of a woman in marriage, fundamentally, is submission to her own husband. The fundamental beauty of a woman is the adorning of a meek and quiet spirit.
That, in general, then, as an overview of the whole passage. Before we delve into some of the particulars today, I want to emphasize that this is an important truth for all of us to listen to. Every husband ought to listen, as well as every young man — as well as every man. What kind of beauty do you look for? In what direction do you nudge your wife? As men, and young men, we put pressure upon women as to what we conceive to be beauty. What are your standards of beauty? Are they God’s? You need to know what God says is beauty. You do not need to go to the world or to yourself. That is deformed.
Still more. This is a word to the unmarried young men. What do you look for in a girl and what do you set your affection upon? Girls, how do you seek to adorn yourself to be attractive? It applies to each and every one of us.
The central issue of verses 3 and 4 is the issue of adornment: “Whose adorning,” we read, “let it not be that outward adorning … but a meek and quiet spirit.” The word “adorning” is, in the Greek, kosmos, from which we get our word “cosmetology.” It refers to an attractiveness or beauty: what one puts on, what one arranges so as to be attractive. Again, there is nothing wrong with seeking to present oneself attractively. The Word of God does not cast suspicion on and call carnal the desire to have a pleasing appearance. We will come, in verses 5 and 6, to the examples of women in the Old Testament: Rebecca, Hannah, Sarah, Abigail, all of whom were attractive women. We read in Proverbs 31:22 of the godly woman who dresses herself in purple and in silk. Proper care for our appearance is not carnal. The desire to have a pleasing appearance is the expression of our Christianity. The outward so often does express the heart.
But rather, the apostle Peter is saying to us, “Your preoccupation must not be with the outward but with the heart.” And in the text there is a very strong contrast: Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of the plaiting of the hair, etc., but let it be the hidden man of the heart. Peter emphasizes the outward. He says, “Do not let it be your preoccupation — merely the outward, the form, the skin, the dress.” Today, that has the emphasis. And it even takes a sick and a morbid twist. There is almost, in dress today, with the colors in style, a preoccupation with death. If you miss everything else in this Word of God, you must not miss this: The principle that must be deeply embedded in your own soul, the principle that in God’s beauty school is fundamental, is that your attention must begin and must be occupied with the heart.
We read in I Samuel 16:7 of the Lord’s estimation of men. He says, “The LORD said unto Samuel (who is in the house of Jesse to anoint the next king over Israel, and the very handsome sons of Jesse have passed before Samuel and the Lord has not chosen them), Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” Did you hear that? Did you really hear that, young girl, young man? Did you hear it? The Lord looketh not as a man, on the outward appearance, but on the heart. Are you attractive there? Do you give time to the beauty of the heart?
Peter first gives the negative. “Let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.” There are three areas of dress there: hair, jewelry, and clothing. The plaiting of the hair. That does not mean that, as a convenient way of wearing long hair, you may not braid your hair. You must not come to this passage and read, “Let it not be the outward adorning of the plaiting or braiding of the hair,” then you go back to your mother and say, “Well, Mom, I can’t have braids.” No. Peter’s readers knew what he meant. Peter was referring to a display of gaudiness, of piling up of the hair in an ostentatious or showy display, wearing hair in such a way that it becomes a symbol of preoccupation with the outside, wearing your hair in such a way that it is very plain that you have spent untold hours upon it. Nor, says the apostle, the wearing of gold. Here the wearing refers to that which surrounds. Again, he is not talking about the modest use of jewelry, of gold chains, a necklace, earrings. Godly women in the Old Testament wore gold jewelry to the glory of God. But, again, a preoccupation with the external — a piling up, a piercing up and down the ear, the nose, and the tongue so that ten yards away you look like a gold vendor. So much attention to gold and ornaments hanging from you, that there is no time for anything else. Then, the putting on of apparel. Again, he is not speaking absolutely. He is not saying, “Don’t put on clothes.” Nor is he condemning changes of apparel, a new dress — that you may not have more than one suit of clothes. No, that is not the Word of God. That is a false piety. The idea is inordinate preoccupation with appearance — fifty pairs of shoes, never being seen in the same dress twice at a similar occasion. Do not become caught up with the outward. Peter is not giving an absolute prohibition to Christian women: Don’t fix your hair, don’t wear gold jewelry, don’t clothe yourself in nice clothes but wear gray flannel. No, that is not the Word of God. Rather it is this: What is in your heart? What are you giving your attention to?
You remember in the Scriptures God says, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” Does that mean that He told the Old Testament people of God to forget about all the sacrificing? No, He meant that He prefers mercy to sacrifice. He prefers the sacrifice to be the expression of a merciful heart to others. The Lord said, “Labor not for the meat that perishes, but for the meat that the Son of God shall give to you.” Does He mean, Quit work, don’t go to work, go on welfare? No! He means, Do not become preoccupied with the earthly things, with your job, with how much money you make. But let your preoccupation be My Word. So also here, the Word of God is not forbidding an attractive arrangement of your hair, a discreet use of jewelry, and different color dresses. But God is saying, “I pay far more attention to the adorning of your mind and heart with the virtues and grace of Jesus Christ than to your body with jewels and apparel.”
Today, this Word of God means this: Let your adorning, let your attractiveness, not be centered in the outward adornment of your figure, of perfect white teeth, of spiking and dying your hair bizarre colors (green and purple), colors God never made for human hair. Let not your adorning be silicone implants, Barbie doll figure, tight skin, no lines on your face. Do not give undue attention to the external. But let your adornment be the hidden man of the heart. That is where beauty is to be found.
Now we know that the Bible does not teach that the human heart is good. The apostle Paul is not saying, “Well, what’s in the heart is what counts.” No, but the hidden man of the heart is the reference to the new man in Jesus Christ. The hidden man of the heart is the work of Jesus Christ within the heart of the child of God. That is beauty. It is the implantation, the granting, the giving of the life of Christ by grace alone embedded into our hearts spiritually.
Now, hear it in the positive sense. As a Christian woman, your emphasis must be upon what God has done in your heart. God, by grace, through Christ, has placed the love and the peace and the joy of the holy gospel in your heart. God has made you righteous in Christ. You are beautiful in Christ. You are lovely to Him in the righteousness of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within you to sanctify you, to create in you purity and love for God. Let that be the preoccupation of your entire life. Set your heart upon those things — the hidden man of the heart.
It is not visible with the eye, necessarily. It is internal, in the heart and the spirit. Beauty is not seen in the mirror. You can stand before a mirror and gaze as long as you want, you will not see the beauty that catches the eye of God there. It is found in the heart. Guard your heart, young girl, for out of it are the issues of life. The heart — there God gives the life of Jesus Christ — a heart that loves and trusts and praises Christ. The life of Christ given in that place where one’s thoughts and motives and attitudes and perspectives are now directed towards Christ. The heart consecrated unto God in Jesus Christ, possessing the beauty of Jesus Christ — that is where true beauty is found. Beauty is not when a woman can turn men’s heads as she walks past and lifts her eyebrows. But beauty is found in a woman in the life of Jesus Christ in her heart, in the love and trust and praise to God that comes out of her life, her faith. Beauty is not found at the counter at JC Penny, Nordstroms, Marshal Field’s, or wherever you go. Beauty is not found at Valley Gym. Beauty is not something you hang on your body, zip up, pierce in, paint on, or put on. Beauty cannot be restored by a plastic surgeon. It cannot be purchased where Calvin Klein jeans are sold or where Adidis footwear or Lora Ashley dresses are sold. It is not yours if you wear Tommy Hill figure clothing or whatever else — designer clothes, 14-carat necklaces. It is found in one place — the hidden man of the heart. If you will ever come to the place where, in God’s estimation, you are beautiful, you must come to this — that what is in your heart is more important than your hair, your jewelry, and your clothes. Do you hear it? What God sees in your heart, not in the fact that you are in style.
If your commitment to Jesus Christ means today that there is much in the stores that you will not buy or wear, and that you will therefore not pass the muster of the world, so be it.
And men, once again, what are you looking for? Your eyes, are they trained by the magazines of this world, by the checkout lanes, Cosmopolitan, the pornographic magazines, the billboards? Or are your eyes trained by the Word of God? Are you encouraging your wife and your sisters in Christ to be beautiful before God? Do you want your wife to make it very evident that the great concern of her heart is how she looks to God?
We will return to this passage next time.
Let us pray.
Father, bless Thy Word to our hearts. Amen.