Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Without a Word & With a Reason

This is my follow up to last week’s post “If Necessary, Use Words?”. I mentioned that I could only think of one text that might even come close conceptually to the slanderously attributed quote, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” That text is found in 1 Peter 3 where Peter instructs a believing wife to live in such a godly way that, per chance, her unbelieving husband might be won to Christ.

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, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2 ESV)
So, how could the pure conduct of a woman possibly lead to the conversion of her husband? First, let me note that a woman’s pure conduct is no guarantee of her husband’s salvation. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says,

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16 ESV)

God has not promised to save everyone in a family once one individual is saved. Even so, when he does save a spouse of a believer, it is often through means. In this case that Peter mentions the means is that of an obedient wife. When a disobedient man (note: the text says, “some [who] do not obey the word”) finds that his wife is obedient, contend, and joyful, it may cause him to pause and consider why she is so different than he is.

One last thought, at some point, the disobedient husband will need to hear the word, not just see it lived out. A well lived life will never express the gospel in any meaningful way in relation to salvation. At best, this will lead to the husband’s inquiring about why his wife is so wonderful and how he can attain such a godly life.

Thus, it is no surprise that we find Peter stating just a few verses later,

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV, modified)
At first glance, it may look like I’ve taken this verse out of context. It is true that Peter has moved on from the husband and wife relationship to suffering in general. However, I am convinced that this section is acting as a summary to the various sections on submission to proper authority (even to those who are abusive in their authority) beginning at 1 Peter 2:13.

So, those who are in a subservient position to any authority, even abusive ones, should 1) live out the gospel in such a pure way that the abusive party might possibly be enticed to enquire about the hope within us, and 2) when they do ask, speak we are to speak in a gentle and respectful manner. As for those who are witnessing outside of any hierarchical relationships, there is more freedom proclaim boldly, though even there, a pure life and respectful tongue are required.

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