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An Uncommon Love in Relationships
1 Peter 1 and 2, introducing 1 Peter 3
What’s your favorite love story? Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility–all love stories–romantic tales, stories about relationships and uncommon love. Some say love is biological, it’s chemical, or some try to dissect love into a Darwinian survival of the fittest. But something in all of us knows that is not true–there exists genuine relationship, and there exists genuine love. God has told us in His Word that He Himself has enjoyed an eternal relationship saturated with uncommon love before time. Father, Son and Spirit lived in perfect, loving oneness, three persons yet one God, and created us in His image, male and female, to reflect that relationship and to taste His uncommon love.
This is why Peter calls marriage the grace of life. God-designed marriage reflects God’s character of grace, God’s intimate relationship, and God’s uncommon love. Yet most often, our marriage relationships and friendships fall short of God’s design. Maybe you’ve experienced this–one half of the relationship is pursuing Christ, and the other half is pursuing self. One partner is in the Spirit and the other is in the flesh. One spouse is saved and the other spouse is lost.
Many of Peter’s readers found themselves in this exact situation in 1 Peter 3. Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 3 and look at your outline as we return to our verse-by-verse study of this great letter and get up to speed with what has been happening. 1 Peter 3 is not merely about unequally yoked marriages, where the wife is saved and the husband is not. It is also about marriage, the roles of women and men, submission, rebellion, evangelism, modeling, modesty, internal character qualities, the mission of a husband, men serving women in general, honoring your wife, and responsibility before God.
It is about God’s love for us, Christ’s sacrifice for us, the Holy Spirit empowering us to share and enjoy an uncommon love–a love the world knows nothing about. Read this passage silently as I read aloud–1 Peter 3:1-7:
1 “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Over the next three months, we’re going to work our way through this passage word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, asking God to work on us in several crucial areas:
#1 As we look at marriage in these verses, it should impassion us as a church to be the bride to Christ
#2 To transform marriages into testimonies of God’s grace, no matter what your situation, God can transform a disaster into a delight–He can and will
#3 To fire up all men and women to fill out their God-given roles
#4 And, to help all singles and marrieds pursue Godly relationships
This passage should help singles develop healthy relationships and encourage young men and women as they court or date, or become boyfriend and girlfriend, to follow God’s design. I am praying for all of you to become super diligent to be here every week as we work our way through this passage, because God’s Word here is going to dramatically change our lives. But in order for us to embrace 1 Peter 3, we have to recall what Peter has already said in 1 Peter 1 and 2. So let’s set the stage, and remember what it takes to enjoy an uncommon love.
The theme of 1 Peter is about standing firm–but God’s answer to accomplish a firm standing is crazy different than you’d think. It involves 4 S’s:
First Peter 1 and 2 say to daily live your salvation. Don’t merely think about it, live it, remember it, let it impact your actions, your emotions, your conversations and all your decisions.
First Peter 2 and 3 tell us to submit to the authorities God has placed over us–no matter who it is or what they ask, as long as it is not direct disobedience to the Word of God–submission is standing firm.
First Peter 3 and 4 say you must be willing to suffer, even when the suffering is unfair or it comes from people who were supposed to be on your team–to willingly suffer is standing firm.
And 1 Peter 4 and 5 will tell us to serve Christ in and through the church–there is a shocker. To actually stand firm, you must do so together with other Christians. You were never meant to stand firm alone. And it’s not God who meets your needs so you can serve, it is God who meets your needs as you serve and give yourself away.
And all of this is the grace of God. Peter makes that clear as he tells us why he wrote in 1 Peter 5:12, “Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. [then the theme] Stand firm in it!”
Are you standing firm? Not here at church–at church we’re in the huddle. I like the huddle, cause this is where we love each other, listen to our coach, follow His instructions, and thank Him for making us a part of the team. I love the huddle. But standing firm is not the huddle–after we huddle, we break and run the plays our coach gives us . . . when you’re at home discipling those kids, at work, serving and sharing with integrity at school, reaching out to the students who are rejected by others so you can demonstrate the gospel in all you do. Today is the huddle–but out there is where we run the plays–out there is where we stand firm. Standing firm is what you do while you are in the world.
The real test of a marriage or any relationship is not right now as you’ve gathered as Christ’s Church, but when you’re in the world. As you go to work, keep that house, raise those kids, go to school, live with those parents, hang out with friends, and live hid away in your house–that is where relationships are tested. Then, in the pan of your life, stir in some health issues, a wayward child, an overworked mom, the loss of a job, cutbacks, house repairs, a car wreck, a lazy spouse, or an unforgiving heart–now you have a hot dish. As the heat is turned up, you will know just how strong your character is, and how solid your relationships are.
A most effective test of the true spiritual condition of each one of you is the quality of your relationships. And the most effective sign of your true character is to see what happens to your relationships when they come under the fire of trials. Peter’s original audience was coming under fire, and their relationships and marriages were being severely tested.
Because the city of Rome was growing too large, the government was always inventing new ways to cut the population down. One of the ways was to gather up troublemakers and send them to foreign areas. Peter’s readers were most likely faithful Christians who were witnessing for Christ–but because they were trying to convert Roman citizens from loyalty first to the emperor, they were viewed as subversive. Thousands of believers were kicked out of Rome and sent to a frontier region in Asia Minor near the Black Sea. Picture yourself moving from city to country, from house to tent, from safety to risk, and feel the strain they experienced.
It is almost as though Peter was writing to us–some of you are backward on your house loan, many of you are battling with paying the bills on time, some are struggling with health issues, others are feeling the weight of everyday life and getting it all done. Just remember, as Peter addresses the believers in 1 Peter, he is speaking to Christians who have lost everything, can barely feed their families, find it difficult to gather as a church, and are being viewed with suspicion by the community around them. So as Peter works his way toward chapter 3, what has he told them thus far? How can they actually know an uncommon love, and enjoy deep relationships in the midst of all this difficulty?
How can we live out 1 Peter 3:1-7? First, by seeking to follow by the power of the Spirit the teaching in 1 Peter chapter 1 and 2. What has Peter said? You can experience an uncommon love when you . . .
#1 Rely on your secure position in Christ, so you won’t live insecure in relationships vv.1-5
Insecurity is killing marriages and messing up relationships–insecurity is another word for ingrown eyeballs. When you’re insecure, you are only looking at yourself. It is all about your feelings, your fears, your pains and your pride. Insecurity is the husband that says to himself, “I’m not going to bring that issue up cause she’ll bite my head off”—the wife that says, “I won’t talk to him about that issue, cause he’ll explode”—or with friends, “I won’t tell them what I really think cause they’ll make fun of me, or I’m afraid I will lose him or her if I don’t spend more time, or become more affectionate, or call every day, or text every hour, or twitter every minute.”
Insecurity is the fear of being unsafe, vulnerable or losing respect. It’s the feeling of being unprotected, exposed, uncertain or unsure. Insecurity is the fear of being exposed as the sinner you really are. It’s ingrown eyeballs, where your fears cause you to focus on self, the prevention of hurt and desire of acceptance. Insecurity kills friendships, hurts relationships, and ruins marriages.
So what does Peter say in the beginning verses of 1 Peter 1? You are out here in the middle of nowhere, everyone suspects you cause you’ve been kicked out of Rome as troublemakers. You are all under the strain of starting over in tough conditions. So Peter says, “Don’t turn your eyeballs inward, but turn them upward and remember you are secure in Christ.”
Your God has chosen you–He caused you to be born again. As I read verses 1-5, feel Peter’s encouragement to these Christians experiencing great difficulties–he tells them, don’t be insecure, you are secure in Christ. “1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: may grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
God chose you, Jesus saved you, you are secure in Christ–think about it. It wasn’t up to you to get saved–you were dead, blind, poor and naked, but God in His grace clothed you, made you rich, gave you sight, and caused you to be alive–He chose you. Like getting picked first when choosing up teams, you are the one who is favored by God Himself. You are on His team.
You can never lose that which is most important–you can’t lose your salvation because it was not based upon you, it was not based upon your goodness or badness, whether others like you or not, whether you like others or not, whether you chose God or not. He chose you–you are loved, chosen to have a predetermined love relationship with your Creator and Redeemer forever.
Salvation is so overwhelming, Peter says you were chosen before the foundation of the world, chosen to be the unique set-apart possession of the Spirit and chosen to have a new heart that wants to obey Jesus Christ. That is the source of uncommon love. No one here has the capacity to keep loving when no love is given unless they have been filled with the uncommon love of Christ.
Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We have His love, and because we know His uncommon love, we are actually able to love others in an uncommon way. It’s this simple–if you try to carry on a relationship or marriage in your own strength, your resources will dry up and you’ll get insecure.
If you pursue Christ, live the Gospel, depend upon the Holy Spirit every moment–you’ll be stable in your calling, you will find security in Christ, and resources to give to your marriage and friendships. Genuine Christian, no matter what is going on in your life, your marriage or your relationships–you’re secure in Christ. Turn your eyeballs from inward to upward, and . . .
#2 You have Christ now and heaven later, don’t be afraid of relationship struggles vv. 6-9ff
When we live remembering what we have in Christ–that this life is a blip on the radar of eternity–we would be less prone to get all worked up over the trials we face. So they fired you, or you can’t get the job you want, or buy your dream house . . . or any house . . . or find a Godly gal or a Christian guy. So your marriage takes work, or communication is hard, or you’re lonely, or there is no one to talk to at all. So your husband is unsaved, or your wife is not interested in the church.
Remember what you have in Christ–listen to Peter’s words in verses 6 to 9, “6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
Peter says the struggles we go through, even in relationships, are temporary, necessary, sometimes painful, varied and unique, have a purpose and great value . . . being more precious than gold. This life is not all there is, and all of our relationships and marriages are going to fall short of uncommon love. But Peter says there’s a love that never fails, that is always uncommon and will never disappoint–that’s Christ’s love for you.
Whenever you’re struggling with friendships or marriage, remember who you were without Jesus Christ. You were a defiant sinner who did what you wanted in defiance against God’s will and against God’s perfect character. You were storing up God’s wrath against yourself, and were headed for a well-deserved punishment in hell forever. Then, only because He chose you and caused you to be born again, God forgave you. He put all your sin upon Christ while on the cross, pouring out all His wrath for your sin upon His own Son, Christ. And Christ, the perfect God man, gave you all His righteousness, like a white robe, so you can now be allowed in God’s presence.
God forgave you, cleansed you and gave you a new heart. He made you new–He gave you not a new leaf, but a new life. And though you are not home yet, you can taste what is coming in heaven, and now experience uncommon love from Christ. So whenever this life gets rough, you remember this life is just a tiny bubble of pain floating on an entire ocean of heavenly joy.
Just like the baby overshadows the pain of labor, so what Christ has done for us overshadows the harshness of this life. Marriage is work, relationships are messy, discipleship is tough, but this life is only a short road to what awaits us in the future. Peter tells these disenfranchised saints to remember what they have in Christ now and in the future, and it will actually cause them to greatly rejoice in their struggles now.
As you’re working through communication in marriage, remember someday you will communicate perfectly, and you’ll get better now. As you are trying to discern God’s will in a relationship, remember someday you’ll know exactly what God wants, and you’ll improve now. As you wrestle with trials brought on by other people, remember in heaven you’ll be in perfect harmony with others, and you’ll keep growing now.
No marriage or relationship will ever grow to be what Christ desires without a strong hope in heaven, and remembering you haven’t arrived yet–you’re still in process. No matter how scary the relationship ride gets, God has a plan and purpose for the pain, and a future that will make any hurt in this life seem insignificant to the joy we will have in heaven with Christ. And our salvation is so fantastically overwhelming, vv. 10-13 tell us the prophets, even angels spent their entire lives searching out its wonders.
It is the Spirit of God in us, pointing to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that provides marriage and relationships with uncommon love.
#3 Guard your mind and emotions in relationships by focusing on God’s character vv. 13-17
Right now, some of you are saying, “This doesn’t work–I’ve tried living secure and rejoicing in trials, but I still yell at my wife or ignore my husband, expect too much from my boyfriend or diss my friends.” And the reason is this–you have not focused your thoughts through the lens of God’s Word, keeping your emotions in check by taking your stand on God’s truth. God says in verse 13, “13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
You can’t run a race in baggie shorts–I’ve tried, and they fall off. You can’t sprint in a prom dress–bad things happen. And you can’t let your mind think about whatever you want, nor can you allow your emotions to run wild in your life. You can’t function as a Christian the way God designed unless you’re willing to supervise your thinking and guard your emotions. This means you can’t be so busy you’re unable to think/dwell on God’s Word.
If you’re driving each kid to their own sport all year long, you cannot saturate your mind with God’s Word. If you’re continually on Facebook, Twitter, texting, and head phoning, God’s Word is not going to be on your mind. If you men are living for your career, you cannot live by God’s Word. Why do many believers battle in their relationships and in life? They busy themselves with lesser things, allow their emotions to run wild . . . so their insecurities and resentments run rampant in their minds, because they will not guard what they dwell on.
“He said ‘Hi!’ to me, that means he loves me–oh, Rupert!”
“My spouse was rude to me last month, so I’m gonna’ be mean!”
This kills relationships. All Christians must maintain their relationships by the truth of God’s Word and not their own ideas and their own emotions. Peter says we must gird our minds for action, which is similar to Paul’s charge in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
Listen, if it isn’t true, or honorable or right, or pure or lovely or good, or the best excellent and worthy of praise to God, then you are not to allow your mind to dwell on it. Animals live by instinct, people live by emotions, but Christians live by the truth of God’s Word. Peter says do not live your life like a soap opera. “Oh, Ramon!” Do not live for your own happiness, but for God’s holiness.
Verse 16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” That means live uniquely different than this world, like God Himself–live by the truth. In this world, you fight for your rights–in Christ, you deny yourself. In fallen society, you manipulate to get what you want–in Christ, you serve others. Relationships are different as a Christian, and you have to continue to saturate your mind and your emotions in the Word of God in order to think and feel differently than this world. Guard your mind and emotions in relationships by focusing on God’s character.
Peter tells us why again, because in verses 18-25 he asks, what did it cost God to redeem you from your slavery in sin? It cost God the precious blood of His only Son for redemption. Before the world was even created, God chose to save you, and the cost He paid to restore you to a relationship with Him was the very death of His own beloved Son–an uncommon love. And in saving us, God caused us to be born again, giving us a new heart that wants to be obedient to Him, wants to follow His Word and not follow our own thinking or our own emotions.
This is why Peter begins chapter two with a charge to saturate your life in God’s Word. Don’t speak the hurtful words of verse 1, but verse 2, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. Babies make a fuss, get angry and scream to be fed. Babies are more passionate than lust, and stronger than idolatry–a baby desires milk as if it had never had milk before. A baby longs for milk as if its life depended on its next feeding.
So instead of speaking harsh words, let’s long for God’s Word in our lives–and in contrast to verse one, let’s speak God’s Word to each other in relationships, which always reflects God’s character. Peter is saying, if God’s Word is not longed for like a baby wants its milk, then you will speak the words of verse 1 to each other and destroy your marriage, friendships and relationships. But if you long for God’s Word like a baby pursues its next feeding, then you will have the Bible on your heart, and His Words which reflect His person will come out of you, as you deal with your spouse and your friends, resulting in an uncommon love. You have to be in God’s Word every day–it’s your food.
#4 Relationships grow best while immersed in the church vv. 4-12
When a young, newly dating couple disappear from church and ministry, that is a bad spiritual indicator. When a newly married couple isolate themselves from older, mature believers, that is a bad spiritual indicator. When a family isolates themselves from the body of Christ, that is a bad spiritual indicator.
Peter tells these suffering saints that in the midst of their painful hardship, they desperately need each other. Not only do individual Christians grow in the midst of a healthy church, but so do our marriages and relationships. You need other people in life, in your marriage, in your friendships, when you get a boyfriend, when you start to date. You need more than Dad and Mom to help you along the way. Sure, some will say things that hurt or are off-center–but you will receive more good than bad from the body of Christ, because the Church is one of the main ways Christ shapes your relationships and brings himself glory–1 Peter 2:5, “You also, as living stones, are being built up [grow] as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The Church is the place for people to encounter the living God. We’re the house–the earthly representation of God’s presence on the planet. Each of us individually is supposed to be a light, but all of us together are supposed to be the sun. Each of us is a representative of an aspect of Christ, but all of us together are meant to be a representative of the whole of Christ. So when people get to know you individually, they are supposed to think something is wonderfully different about you. But when they get to know us, they should be blown away in how we worship Him and care for each other. When people see your marriage, and when they view your relationships, they should see something really attractive. For a marriage or relationship to experience uncommon love, it must function, serve and be immersed in His Body, the Church.
#5 The strength of relationships is a submissive heart
In verses 13-17, Peter commands these wounded Christians to submit to the very government that cast them out of their homes. In verses 18-20, Peter commands all slaves to submit to their masters, even though some masters treat them harshly. In verses 21-25, Peter says we are to submit the way Jesus submitted–even though He was sinless and those who crucified him were sinful, Jesus submitted without grumbling, without retaliating, without threatening and without doubting. Submission is the denial of self, following the will of another.
Submission is not a valued quality in America–can you think of one secular song, or movie, or book that extols submission? I can think of 30 that extol defiance, but not one praising submission. Yet as a genuine Christian who loves God’s Word, you know submission is found in every area of life–children to parents, students to teacher, men to employer, wives to husbands, members to elders, Christian to Christ, and citizen to government.
Peter is blunt–if you are a rebel at heart, you’ll be a terrible friend, because rebels are disloyal, rebels are untrustworthy, rebels will turn on you, rebels fight, and rebels violate agreements. If you’re a rebel, you will make a terrible spouse. All of us are rebels. So should I submit to Pontius Pilot who unjustly had Jesus murdered? Yes, because this was God’s plan in Acts 2:23, “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
Every time you submit, you’re affirming your belief in God’s sovereign control. Every time you rebel, you’re affirming your disbelief in God’s control. We submit to authority in all ways except to sin. God loves submission because submission is one of God’s attributes–you bring God glory when you’re submissive, because God is submissive. Submission is an act which says you are more important than me–it is an act of uncommon love. The Spirit and the Son submit to the Father, yet they are equal and they are one.
“Yeah, but when I submit, I submit as a sinner to sinners.” True, but Peter says to his readers and us, always remember Christ was perfect, yet He submitted to sinners, to the point of suffering, torture and death–the creator submitted to the cruel, unjust, unfair, hateful treatment of His own creation. If Jesus would do all that, then we ought to be willing to submit to those who are unfair, unrighteous, sinful and lost when they are placed by God in authority over us . . . even if that unfair, sinful, lost person is my husband? Wait! And this is how Peter introduces 1 Peter 3:1–read it.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.” That is powerful–what does it mean? You have to come back next week!
1 Relationships are designed to show off our God–He designed relationships to show off the Trinity, to demonstrate the eternal relationship God has had within Himself in the three persons of the Trinity. And our relationships are to reflect the love and joy that are found in God Himself to others.
2 Relationships start with turning to Christ. You don’t have the ability, power, wisdom, or strength to maintain a healthy relationship unless you have come to an end of yourself–humbled yourself, owned up to your pride and selfishness, seen yourself as one who deserves hell and have turned to Christ alone to be saved. Only then will Christ forgive you and the Spirit empower you in order for you to love others with an uncommon love that actually points to the Godhead.
3 Relationships must function by truth. There is only one manual for my car, it was put together by Toyota, and it tells me the proper way to run my vehicle. There is only one manual for your relationships–it was put together by the manufacturer, and it tells me the proper way to run my relationships. We call it God’s Word. You desperately need to rely on truth–not ideas and not emotion. Emotions are not the manual for relationships, the Bible is.
4 Relationships are designed for your growth. They are not designed for your happiness, but your holiness. Yet as they make you holy, you will also live more happy.
5 Relationships are a needed study. We need 1 Peter 3, not just for marriage, but for our hearts, our lives, our character, our example, our care and so much more. Make a commitment to be here every single week. Let’s pray.