When admonishing sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit recognized that many of them were not blessed with believing husbands. Some of them were married to men who "obeyed not the Word," a most tragic circumstance (3:1). Sensitive to their situation, and characteristic of the Divine nature, the Spirit beamed a ray of hope toward these sisters. He admonished them to be "subject" to their own husbands. This was not only to fulfill the will of God for them, as stated elsewhere, but in order to lessen the burden associated with their dilemma. In an exceedingly rare statement, these elect ladies (2 John 1) are told, "that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives."NASB This is a most wonderful word, intended to encourage those living in less-than-ideal circumstances. Paul would say, "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" (1 Cor 7:16). Indeed, the Word of the Lord has a sweet elixir for every needy soul, and every hard circumstance of life!
The husband would not be "won over" by weighty arguments or eloquent presentations. It would not be accomplished by powerful proclamations of the Gospel, as ordinarily done. Here is a special graceľone that is to be taken quite seriously. In this case, the mind of a disobedient person is changed by beholding behaviorľby seeing the way the wife lives.
The Spirit does not leave us to conjecture about this most marvelous working. The believing wife is not provided a practical strategy designed to convince her husband she is right and he is wrong. Instead, she is simply to live her life unto the Lord in a manner that is above reproach. Her life is to be "chaste," or "pure," uncontaminated with the ways of the world and self-interests. She is to be "unspotted from the world," a general requirement for every believer (James 1:27). Like her brothers and sisters in Christ, she is not to be "partaker of other men's sins," keeping herself "pure" (1 Tim 5:22). She goes about the work of cleansing herself of "all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1), a common requirement for all.
Here the Spirit makes an intriguing observation. He does not say the disobedient husband will see the wife's submission to him and be duly impressed. Nor does He say the wife's industrious activity about the house will catch the husband's attention. Instead, he mentions a holy couplet: "chaste conversation coupled with fear." Other versions read "chaste conduct accompanied by fear,"NKJV "chaste and respectful behavior,"NASB "purity and reverence,"NIV "holy behavior in the fear of the Lord,"BBE and "pure, godly behavior."NLT
In this case, life is lived with an acute awareness of the Living God. Although there are domestic responsibilities, the spiritual obligations are the superior ones. That fact is actually SEEN, or beheld, in the wife's manner of life. It becomes evident to the husband that his wife is living for God, and doing so out of a deep respect and love for Him. There is a place for the husband, but it comes AFTER God's place.
To be significant before both men and God, a holy life must be "coupled" with the fear of the Lord, which is the "beginning of wisdom" (Psa 111:10). Purity of life is not mere external piety; i.e., keeping a set of rules. A person can be outwardly meticulously pure and moral, and not be a Christian at all. Many heathen religions require moral purity, as well as some atheistic manners of thought. Holiness is only acceptable and powerful if it is motivated by the fear of the Lord.
The "fear of the Lord" must also be "coupled" with a pure and holy life. In this case, "fear" is not the same as afraid, scared, or terror that causes one to draw back. This is a "fear" that mingles love and respect, and is the result of spiritual insight. Such "fear" will be expressed in a godly lifeľone that is apparent, even to one who is disobedient to the Word. Those who say they fear the Lord, yet are not holy in their conduct, have simply not told the truth. They are lacking the holy couplet.
It should be apparent that "chaste conversation coupled with fear" is not only for wives with husbands who "obey not the Word."
This is a common requirement for every believer. It is never right to be without this.
Herein is a very wonderful thing. The wife can experience an extraordinary blessing by continuing in the ordinary path. She can realize exceptional results by living in a usual manner. She can also set before the other members of Christ's body a notable and encouraging example of faithfulness. That example will not only be duly noted by her husband, but by her brothers and sisters. It will reap a harvest among them also.
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