A GENTLE AND QUIET SPIRIT
1 Peter 3. 4 states, ‘the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious’ RSV, NKJV. The scriptures are never vindictive nor unbalanced. This section, 3. 1-6, is addressed to Christian wives and needs to be viewed in the overall context of 2. 11-25, which are addressed to all believers, particularly Christian men, and 3. 8-18, addressed to Christian husbands, and all believers. Note the use of the word likewise, in the same way, in 2. 1, 7. God gave both sexes separate and distinctive roles, but equal status before Him. The tenor of much of Peter’s first letter concerns submission: citizens to the government, 2. 13; slaves (employees) to their masters (employers), 2. 18; wives to their husbands, 3. 1; and younger believers to their elders, 5. 5. Submissiveness is a Christ-like quality and He has set us an example, that we should ‘follow his steps’, 2. 21-24.
At the opening of Chapter 3, Peter is teaching the headship of the husband and the need for Christian wives to be submissive even if the husband is an unbeliever. George Müller used to recount a telling story of the devout wife of a wealthy German, who was a heavy drinker and who spent long nights in the tavern. Although he treated her abominably, she always responded in a kind and courteous manner. Eventually, he became deeply convicted of his sin and wickedness and asked his wife to pray for him. He repented of his sin and surrendered to Christ, becoming a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus. He had been won without a word!
In the succeeding verses Peter indicates that true beauty is not achieved through outward ostentation, but comes from within. Worldly people may consider jewels precious, but God esteems a gentle and quiet spirit as a very precious jewel. Spiritual demeanour will often prove more effective and God-glorifying than many sermons!
The Second Epistle of Peter 1. 1 reads, ‘Simon Peter … to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. The intended readers of this second letter had obtained the same precious faith as Peter himself and his colleagues. They were probably believing gentiles and had obtained the same faith as that of believing Jews. Peter does however regard his audience as the same as received his first letter, 2 Pet. 3. 1. Indeed, all who are saved by grace enjoy equal acceptance with God, regardless of background – Jews or gentiles, male or female, slave or free.
The faith to which Peter refers here is not so much believing faith, which we exercised when we trusted Christ as Saviour, Eph. 2. 8, nor practising faith, which again is personal and is exercised by us on a daily basis, as we look to, and rely on, God to meet all our material and spiritual needs. Rather, it is doctrinal faith, the whole body of truth ‘once for all delivered to the saints’, Jude 3.
This body of doctrine is committed from one generation of faithful men to the next generation. It is vast, comprehensive, contained within the scriptures and precious! It embraces all we need to know about God and man, sin and salvation, past and present and future events. We need to appropriate it for ourselves, delight in it and defend it. It is constantly under attack, both from outside and from within professing Christendom. Satan and his emissaries would tear it apart and destroy it if they could. But ‘he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world’, 1 John 4. 4. We have obtained this precious faith through ‘the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. That is the sole basis. As guilty sinners we deserved the wages of sin, but because of God’s grace and righteousness we have received this gift instead, Rom. 3. 22-26; 6. 23. How precious then is this faith! How we should treasure it, get to know it more thoroughly and defend it with all our God-given powers and resources!
The Second Epistle of Peter 1. 4 reads, ‘by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature’. These promises have been embraced in the ‘all things’ of verse 3, which God’s power has given us for life and godliness. We must not harp on about our incapability, or of God’s standards being unachievable, or of the obstacles being insuperable. God has given us everything necessary! It includes the high-priestly service of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the activity of angelic agencies on our behalf, the new life we received at conversion and the instruction of the word of God. What more can we possibly need?
It has been estimated that there are over 30,000 promises in the Bible. John Bunyan once said, ‘The pathway of life is strewn so thickly with the promises of God that it is impossible to take one step without treading on one of them’! Where can we begin? A whole series of articles would be needed to list and expound a small percentage of these promises! How exceedingly great and precious they are to us. We would undoubtedly find it a joyful and profitable exercise to note down His promises as we come across them in our daily reading of the scriptures.
There are many precious things associated with the Christian life, spiritual life, both in the present and the future. At the very centre is the person of Christ Himself, whom we have seen as the living stone and the corner stone, whose precious blood has redeemed and cleansed us from all our sins. In this final study we have seen something of the preciousness to God of a gentle and quiet spirit, the emphasis on inward beauty rather than the ostentation of outward appearance. We have thought of the value of faith, being the same as that that was enjoyed by the apostles and the early church, the complete body of Christian doctrine. Finally, we have just touched the fringe of the many promises God has given us. May the Lord help us to value them more and more and so apply ourselves that we become increasingly like Him whom we love, and, daily pleasing to Him, live for His glory.
Well might we reiterate David’s exclamation in Psalm 139. 17 which says, ‘How precious are Your thoughts, O God! How great is the sum of them’.
(to be continued)