Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California. * This is the second installment of a sermon preached by Rev. denHartog on the occasion of the public confession of faith by three young women in his congregation.
The Word of God often admonishes the Christian woman to live in submission. We are, of course, first of all to submit ourselves to God and His Word by His grace and Spirit in our hearts. If in the Lord’s providence we marry some day, we are to be subject to our husbands. The role of a woman in marriage is that of obedience to the husband that the Lord has placed over her. In the church the Lord does not want women to insist on having a leadership position but rather to be subject unto men whom God has appointed to rule. This is not easy. It is something that goes against their proud sinful nature. The women of this world are given to self-exaltation and self-promotion. They insist on usurping the role that God has given to men in marriage and the church. This is strongly encouraged by the feminist movement. But the Lord delights in godly submission. This is a virtue honorable in His sight.
You are exhorted specifically also to exercise the virtue of Christian love. All of us must walk in love. Love is the supreme Christian virtue. We are to love God and to love one another. This is not the self-seeking and immoral love of this world. The love spoken of here is not the mindless romance and passion promoted by the novels, songs, and movies of the world. Your calling is to walk in the holy love of God. The love to which Scripture admonishes us is that of self-sacrifice and self-control. It is sanctified love guided by the knowledge and truth of the Word of God. It is the opposite of pride and self-seeking. It is the love of self-denial, obedience, and service. Godly love is absolutely essential for all of our Christian life. Godly love is absolutely essential for Christian marriage. God’s Word exhorts Christian young married women to love their husbands and to love their children. In the love of God we are to seek His truth and righteousness in our life. Out of love for God we seek to confess His name, and glorify Him in all our life. In love, especially for our fellow saints, we are to seek their highest good and salvation.
God’s Word exhorts you to a life of good works. God has made the womanly nature in such a way that godly women are eminently suited for a life of good works in a very special way. They are able to show depths of compassion, love, tenderness, and sympathy that man is not able to demonstrate in the same way. The great examples of godly women in the Bible are those whose lives were filled with good works, especially good works of charity, kindness, and compassion for the poor and afflicted in the world. Already now in your youth begin to practice such good works.In considering these Christian virtues laid out in the Word of God, we will soon realize how totally de-void most modern-day women are of any of these. Many are impudent, rebellious, and immoral to the extreme. They are devoid of all virtue and moral beauty and excellence. Though they are glamorized by the modern-day media, and appear on the front covers of women’s magazines they are an abomination to the Lord. To reveal the virtues of the godly woman you need to be prepared to be radically different from the women of the world. You need also, to be prepared to be ridiculed and mocked by this ungodly world. As the world grows in rebellion and wickedness over against God, the women of this world are more and more becoming the leaders in sin. Women were once called the fairer and gentler sex. They were respected even by the world for being more noble and virtuous than the rough, immoral, and brazenly wicked men of the world. That is hardly true anymore today. Today women are often leaders in basest sin and immorality. They are aggressive in leading men to commit more and more evil. They pride themselves in their life of immorality.
I want to call your attention yet to the fact that the matter of dress is brought up in connection with the calling of the god-fearing woman. We cannot ignore this. Women generally place a lot of emphasis on dress. They spend a lot of time every day in front of the mirror putting on makeup and deciding what clothes to wear for the day. The apostles of the Lord thought this whole matter to be of sufficient importance to exhort you specifically about your dress. The apostle Paul says inI Timothy 2, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” Peter says: Let not your adorning be the outward adorning of the plaiting of the hair and the wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel (I Pet. 3:3). The Word of God does not here forbid the moderate use of make-up, the perming of one’s hair, the wearing of some jewelry, and some nice clothes. Not all concern about this is condemned. But modesty and sobriety must also govern the way the godly woman dresses. This is virtuous in the sight of God. It is possible to become legalistic and petty about these matters, so that a person is judged strictly by the way he or she dresses. This is wrong. However, there are general guidelines laid out in the Word of God that the godly woman must follow. Often the way we dress reflects the attitude of our heart. Many women of the world dress in enticing ways only to catch the eye of men. Much immoral enticement is practiced by means of women’s clothing. This is quite obvious. Besides this, many dress to draw excessive attention to themselves. Godly women ought to be specially careful in this area. Rather than following the world’s fashions and seeing how daring one can be, the great concern about dress’ for the godly woman must be that of modesty and chasteness. By no means does the godly woman want to call the attention of the world to herself, and certainly not the immoral eyes of evil men.
You must be careful not to spend all your money on clothes so that you do not have sufficient resources for more important things in life, such as supporting the church and giving to the poor.
The evil that must be avoided by godly women in the area of dress is that of inordinate attention to outward adornment. What a necessary consideration this is. Virtually the total preoccupation of women of the world is with outward appearance. They want to look good, to look glamorous. They love to hear compliments about how glamorous they look outwardly.
The adornment of the god-fearing woman must be inner and spiritual adornment, the beauty of the inner man. The inner man is the new regenerated nature that we have through the operation of the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. This work in our hearts will create in us a desire to possess the beautiful virtues of God.
The apostle Peter knows what he is talking about. His words have the greatest relevance for our modem day. Who pays any attention to the great matter of the beauty of the heart before God? Yet the beauty of the heart is true beauty before God. Mere outward beauty is nothing but vanity. All the emphasis that is placed on this in the world only encourages pride and self-promotion. All the emphasis on these things by the women of the world cannot cover up the rottenness and depravity that resides in the heart of the ungodly women of the world. Would it not be wonderful if more women would be concerned about true spiritual beauty before God?: What a change there would be, in many women if they would spend as much time and effort and concern to adorn themselves spiritually every day as they do in dressing themselves up and putting on make-up every day.
The virtues outlined in the passages we read this morning are the reflection of the high standard of the Word of God for you as god-fearing women. After hearing about them and considering yourself I am sure that you say within yourself, “How can I ever live up to such a standard?” And indeed, it is impossible for you by nature. We all fall far short of the standard of the Word of God. We are called to walk by faith in Christ Jesus. He alone can give us the strength to overcome the sinful inclinations of our corrupt nature and to flee from the temptations of this world. We need the power of the operation of the Spirit of God in our hearts to cleanse us from sin and enable us to walk in holiness and sanctification before God.
The principle from which the regenerated child of God must live is that of the fear of God. The apostle Peter speaks directly of this fear in connection with his admonition to women. That we fear God means that we have a profound knowledge of His sovereignty, greatness, and holiness. That we fear God means that we know of His righteous judgments. In fear of God we desire to avoid that which displeases God and that which brings His condemnation on the wicked. We desire instead to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. We consider His favor in our life to be greater than any glory and honor that the world may ascribe to us.
The apostle Peter speaks of being of great price in the sight of God. How we want to be accepted. Young people often have an especially strong desire for this, sometimes almost an uncontrollable desire. Our greatest concern in life, however, ought not to be that we are accepted by men—certainly not the men of the world. Our greatest concern in life must be that we are pleasing to the Lord, that we are precious in His sight. There is true joy and delight in being pleasing unto the Lord. The Lord delights in His saints. He delights in god-fearing women in whom He sees reflected I-Es own glorious virtues, virtues He Himself has worked by His grace and Spirit in their hearts.
What a dreadful surprise the glamorous women of Hollywood and Broadway and Paris and London are going to have before the Lord, the Judge of all men, in the day of the revelation of His righteous judgment. While they were in this world they imagined that there was no one greater and more glamorous than they were. The world honors its own. Who, after all, is greater in this world than the glamorous movie star and the woman that has spent almost all her time on outward adornment, the physical beauty of her body, make-up, expensive perfumes, skin-oils, facial-treatments, hair dyes, and whatever else the world has invented to glamorize the physical, outward beauty of her women? But when God comes to judge, all that outward glamor is going to be stripped away to reveal the depraved and wicked hearts of the women of the world. They shall be condemned to everlasting shame and condemnation.
But the woman who fears God, she shall be praised. The woman who has the true, inner, spiritual beauty of the godly virtues outlined in the passages that we considered today, she shall be precious in the sight of God. She shall be exalted because in her shines the true glory of God in Christ Jesus. Young women of the church of Jesus Christ, strive by God’s grace to show forth the glory of these true virtues before God. Always think about being truly beautiful in the sight of God, your Lord and Savior. Then you will have the great reward of His everlasting favor and blessing on your life.