Dear radio friends,
If you were with us last time, you will remember that we began a short series of sermons on Christian marriage, specifically on the beauty of a Christian woman. Our messages are being taken from the Word of God in I Peter 3:3, 4. Please refer, once again, to those verses.
I’m not going to repeat or outline all that we said last time, but, very briefly, we saw that the Word of God emphasizes that beauty can be found only in the work of Christ in the heart. Specifically, then, for a Christian woman, beauty is not something that is restored by a plastic surgeon or purchased where the latest styles are sold. It is not if you have a perfect figure. But it is found in the hidden man of the heart, as Peter says, in that place where Christ alone can come by grace and implant His life of resurrection.
Therefore, if we are ever to come to the place where, in God’s estimation, we are beautiful, we must come to this truth, that what is in our hearts as children of God is more important than our hair, jewelry, or clothes.
Now we want to continue our study of this passage today and look more carefully at that beauty — what that beauty is. It is not only that God works in the heart that new life of Jesus Christ, so that living out of that life of Christ is the Christian’s beauty. The apostle goes on to say that it is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price. So the essence of true beauty has to do with a certain kind of spirit.
When Peter refers there to a meek and quiet spirit, he is not referring to the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in us, but Peter is referring rather to the prevailing disposition of the soul of a child of God. The Holy Spirit is in the child of God. And when the Holy Spirit is in the child of God, then a disposition or spirit of a person is created. That is how we use the word. We say, “I don’t like his spirit.” We mean that there is something coming out through a person’s mannerisms, through his way of speaking, all of which indicates a prevailing attitude that we do not like. Or we say, “I like her spirit.” We mean that her mannerisms, her attitudes, her way of speaking — there is something very attractive about them. The inner spirit is leaking out and we are attracted to it. One’s spirit, then, is the inward life, one’s life as it is lived toward God.
Peter, we must remember, is talking about the child of God who has been renewed by the Spirit of life. Renewal in Christ, our relationship to God, how we live toward God — that is always leaking out. That is our spirit. We cannot keep it in. Through our eyes, through facial expression, through body language, through words, through attitudes, it all leaks out. The Word of God says that the essence of beauty is the spirit of a woman. That renewed heart, pervading all of the woman’s relationship to God, as that relationship to God begins to filter through her life, that is beauty in the sight of God.
Peter emphasizes two things about that spirit: it is meek and it is quiet. We must remember that the Word of God is not addressing here personality, temperament. The Word of God is speaking here of graces, gifts, given of God, the gifts or graces of meekness and quietness. A meek and a quiet spirit may be found in a woman who has a bubbly, out-going, vivacious personality. It does not mean that a woman is carnal if she is a bubbly type of person. Or a meek and a quiet spirit may be in a shy and retiring personality. But again we must emphasize that these are graces. The mere fact that a woman is shy and retiring is not proof of the graces of gentleness and meekness in Jesus Christ. Meekness and quietness are a grace. The apostle is not referring to something that comes from a person’s genes. A shy person may know nothing of meekness and quietness. A shy person inside might be filled with all kinds of resentment.
We must, then, get away from all the wooden and plastic notions of how this will express itself in different personality types. God is a God of great variety. God calls to Himself men and women from a broad scope of temperaments. And we must remember that the church is not all walking in lock-step, that is, all one type of personality. That is characteristic of the cults — that we must all conform to one type of personality.
No, this is a reference to the graces of meekness and quietness — a meek or gentle spirit. This word “meek” is used in the beatitudes (Matt. 5:5), “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” And it is used two times in reference to Jesus Christ. In Matthew 11:28-30 the Lord says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my burden upon you, … for I am meek and lowly of heart.” Again, in Matthew 21:5, we read of the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem when He rode upon the colt, the foal of an ass, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” We could translate this word “meek” as “gentle.” We read, for instance, in Galatians 5 that “the fruit of the spirit is love, peace, joy, gentleness.” Again, we read in Galatians 6:1 that if we have an erring brother in our church we are to restore such a one in the spirit of meekness or gentleness.
So what is a meek or gentle spirit? A meek or gentle spirit is, negatively, a spirit which is not insistent on one’s own rights. It is not pushy, assertive, demanding one’s own way. Moses was the meekest of all men, we read in the Scriptures. Does that mean that he was not a strong leader? No! He was a strong leader. But Moses’ strength was that he did not insist on himself. He was not stuck on himself. He did not push himself forward. He did not look at his leadership in terms of himself and his own ambitions of glory. He was a meek and gentle man. He sought the will of God and firmly followed it. Meekness, then, is the willing surrender, by the grace of God, of our own rights, our own ease, our own advance, and a willingness to serve the advance of God in others. That is a meek and gentle spirit.
Quiet, a meek and quiet spirit, we read. That word “quiet” is not essentially different. It is used, for instance, in I Thessalonians 4:11, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business.” Quiet is an absence of a turbulent, agitated spirit that shows itself in being mouthy, aggressive, yelling, irate. A quiet, that is, a possessed or peaceful spirit. Both meekness and quietness are to be the expression of a wife’s accepting and embracing her divinely-appointed place of subjection to her husband. We must not forget the context. It is speaking of the duty of the wife to be subject to her husband. That can only be in the way of a meek and quiet spirit. A meek and quiet spirit is a spirit that embraces the will of God for me and, in this case with a married woman, subjection to my husband.
We read, for instance, in I Timothy 2:9-11, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; … Let a woman learn in silence with all subjection.” You see, quietness and submission. Paul does not mean that the Christian woman becomes mute, that she does not speak. Of course not. But he means that the Christian woman embraces the calling, the will of God, given to her in her marriage. She is quiet. She accepts, she finds peace with, the fact that she has been made a woman, made a wife. Meekness and quietness. That results in accepting, subjecting oneself to, the will of God.
You see, subjection, whether that is in marriage or in any other part of life, is not merely the ability to grit your teeth. Sometimes we think that that is subjection: I’ll just grit my teeth. Then it is like the Quaker boy at the meeting on Sunday. He was standing. His mother said to him, “Alright, the meeting has begun. The talking is done. Sit down.” He responded to her, “I sit on the outside, but on the inside I’m still standing.” That is not subjection. A meek and a quiet spirit is a spirit that joyfully embraces the will of God for my life, joyfully embraces the will of God for my place — here, a woman in subjection to her husband. Meekness and quietness consists in this: all that is in Christ is mine, the inheritance of glory, the precious blood of Jesus Christ, salvation (full salvation) in Jesus Christ.
Exactly what women and girls apart from God do not want to hear and cannot have is the calling of the Christian woman and is the beauty of the Christian woman. The beauty of the Christian woman is a meek and a quiet spirit. Apart from Jesus Christ a woman, or a girl, has a turbulent, warlike spirit. That more and more becomes plain in this world. In the world, women apart from Christ feel threatened. They feel that they must assert themselves, they must take a place because they do not have a place. They do not know the satisfaction and fullness that is to be found in Jesus Christ. There is one thing that makes us meek and gentle and self-emptying, whether we are a man or a woman. Meekness and quietness are not graces just for a woman. They are Christian graces. There is one thing that gives us quietness and peace in our hearts, an inward strength and contentment. That is the possession of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. We say, by grace, the Lord is the portion of my soul, the Lord is my Shepherd, I will lay me down in peace.
In verse 4 the apostle tells us that this inward beauty, revealed in a meek and a quiet spirit, is of great price. He tells us that the great price of this beauty is found in two things. 1) It is not a corruptible beauty. In this epistle the apostle has been using that word, incorruptible and corruptible. He has told us in chapter 1:4, for instance, that we have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Then he told us in verse 18 of that chapter that we know that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but by the blood of Christ, and that we are born again, verse 23, of an incorruptible seed in Christ. The beauty that God gives to a Christian woman within her heart is an incorruptible beauty. It is a beauty that death cannot touch, that does not fade, that does not perish. It partakes of the nature of our inheritance in heaven. It is a beauty that does not grow old or lose its luster. It is a beauty that shines more and more. The most beautiful women of God very often are those who are the most advanced in age. The beauty of Christ is an unperishing beauty.
Now, dear girls and women, do you want a beauty that does not fade? A beauty that knows no wrinkles? A beauty that does not wash away like mascara, that is not rubbed off with a towel? A beauty that lasts, a beauty that is imperishable? This is the beauty that is to be found in Jesus Christ. This is His life in you, a life of trust and obedience in Him. Death and old age cannot touch it because it is the impression upon your soul of the likeness of Jesus Christ. When you see the beautiful women of the world, and everyone bowing down to them and worshiping at their feet and lusting, do you see the folly, the utter folly? I wish not to be cynical but to bring the truth. The Word of God says, “Dear beautiful woman, perfect figure, if the Lord tarries a short time, you will be old. You might, indeed, be forgotten in a nursing home, wrinkled, no family to visit you. And you shall die. In the grave, worms and maggots will crawl over you.” You say that I am being morbid? No. This is reality. Hear the Word of God: a plastic surgeon and facial cream can go only so far. They cannot overcome the grave. If your life is consumed in the outward beauty, how pathetic! It is vanishing. Stop, stop trying to erase the signs of death. Many women are still pursuing the allusive beauty of youth. They think that that is beauty. Their beauty will be their hair, their jewels, their clothes. This beauty fades away. But not the beauty in Christ.
This beauty is of great price because, in the second place, God places great value on it. This word is used in Mark 14:3 to describe the perfume that Mary used to anoint Christ — it was of great price, it was very valuable, it was expensive. Peter says, When God sees the beauty of Christ in His Christian woman and girl, He says, that’s very valuable, that’s very expensive, that’s of great worth. That’s the beauty of Christ. Oh, it is valuable and expensive. In the sight of God it is valuable. Why is it so valuable? Because God sees His face and His grace, He sees His purpose in Jesus Christ being fulfilled, in you. He knows that, as the fruit of the redemptive work of His Son, He grants to you a beauty of trust and love in Him in your heart. In you, as a woman who of yourself can only be ugly in your sins, He sees the grace of Jesus Christ. He sees coming out of you the confession, “I will be that which God wants me to be.” He sees beauty in you. He sees a heart made by His own hands, which wants to please God.
Is pleasing God important to you? Every child of God wants God’s smile. And every child of God dreads God’s frown. In the sight of God, this beauty is of great price. It is fair and lovely. It is beautiful, and it is beautiful to us, too. It is beautiful to you as a man, is it not? Husband, young man, can you recognize beauty when you see it, or not? Do you see spiritual beauty, do you place a great value on it? Do you? Christian women, that is why we love you in Christ. We love you, not as a man who is enamored by a woman on a magazine cover. Do you want that kind of love? That is not love, that is lust. That is after an object. That is using you. Is that the kind of love you want from your boyfriend, the kind of love that a man shows (love in quotes here), the kind of lust that a man shows when he is looking at a magazine? Is that what you want for yourself? Oh, no! There is dignity in the Christian woman and it is found in Jesus Christ. You are to love that Christian wife and woman with the love that honors and respects and delights in the beauty that God has given to her in her heart. Can you see that?
Christian woman, are you beautiful?
Then remember, once again, women, girls, men, and boys, remember, beauty is not something that you put on. It is not something that you diet to get. It is not something that is shown in low-cut tops exposing the flesh or in shrunken tops exposing the belly button. It is not something seductive. It is not something tight fitting. It is in the heart.
Is that what you want? The Word of God tells us that a woman could have a physical beauty that could turn heads and be attractive, but that apart from Him, there is only the emptiness of sin. Proverbs 11:22, “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” Girls, women, do not fashion yourself after the Barbie doll, after the picture on the magazine Young Sixteen, or Cosmopolitan, or whatever. That is not what beauty is. If that is all that you have, there is emptiness, a horrible emptiness. Beauty is Christ! Beauty is God! Beauty is God’s glory shining out of us. Beauty is being conformed in word, thought, action, desires, attitudes, to Jesus Christ. And it is a beauty that does not fade. It is a beauty that catches the eye, oh, yes! God’s eye. And He rejoices. And we do too. We rejoice. For in Jesus Christ we stand beautiful before God, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that we should be holy and without blemish before Him.
God bless His Word to our hearts.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray, indeed, that that Word may be a great power to our lives. Amen.