Picture yourself walking up to a stranger on the street and boldly asking, “Would you like me to tell you how you can be born again through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?” Generally speaking, how do you think that is going to go? Probably not much farther than that. Not many people are interested in investigating spiritual things, especially things within their own hearts. People say, and some survey’s suggest, that many of our neighbors are “religious.” But isn’t it true that even the religious people around us are actually quite secular? Other than the Roman Catholics who live two doors down from me, all of my other neighbors, even those professing to be Christians and Baptists, fill their lives, and their Sundays, with recreational camping, boating, yard maintenance and other worldly activities. Even the most religious church-goers get direction for their lives through secular pseudo-science and psychology rather then from the Word of God.

We live in a secularized society – one that was once religious but which has become worldly and unspiritual. This is why the average American is not interested in hearing the preaching of the Word of God. Without some sort of preparatory work, most of our neighbors refuse to hear a presentation of the gospel. They much prefer playing their video games or streaming a movie on their phones, than to sit in church. And even while in church, they may be playing their games and watching their movies, rather than listening. There is no hunger and thirst for righteousness or for the blessings of God. There is no desire for Heaven and no consideration of what will happen when earthly lives come to an end. As many observers have said, we are living in a “post-Christian society.”

When Peter was writing this letter, the world was in the very early days Christianity. Society at that time was just as religiously secular as ours is today, but for them it was because they were just then being introduced to the truth about Christ. There were homes where one member of the family had been saved, but the rest of the family were still unbelieving Jews or secular heathens. And those unsaved people were just as reluctant to hear the gospel, as our neighbors are. They may not have yet been exposed to evolution, the sexual revolution, humanism, and wishy-washy christendom, but they were just as antagonistic to the gospel.

In chapter 3 Peter has some advice for Christian women who were wives of unbelievers. And without using the term, in verse 1, he brings up the subject of “life-style evangelism.” That verse takes us to the question: How can we entice people who have absolutely no interest in spiritual things to become interested? How can we communicate and share what we know to be eternally important with people who only live for the world and for the moment? Peter supplies a partial answer to those questions.

I recently read an interesting statement. Missionary/evangelist Jim Petersen said: “Much more of our society is reachable than we imagine – although these people may not be immediately reapable.” He said, and I agree, because I find it in the Bible, that there are two aspects to the work of evangelism. There is the absolutely essential proclamation of the gospel. This is the work of informing the non-Christian that he is a sinner and Christ is the only Saviour. Paul said, “Christ sent me… to preach the gospel… for the preaching of the cross… is the power of God… unto salvation.” He also said “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Paul told Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke with all longsuffering and doctrine” because this is the God-given means of meeting man’s spiritual needs. In addition to the preaching of the Gospel, there is work of affirming the gospel. This is the on-going, sometimes long-term process, of modeling and explaining the message of Christ through our Christian lives. Peter says, “Ye wives, so live for Christ, that, even if your husbands obey not the word today, they may eventually – apart from the actual word – be won by your godly way of life.” Both these aspects of evangelism work together; they blend together. We cannot afford to emphasize one point to the exclusion of the other.

This morning I’d like us to consider Peter’s point about wearing, walking and working out the gospel.

But first: multitudes of people today obey NOT the Word.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” I said last week that there are two kinds of people in the world: sheep which are lost, and sheep which have been found and rescued by the Good Shepherd. That dichotomy can be expressed in many ways, and Peter gives us one of the alternatives. There are people who obey the Word, and there are those who don’t.

Brother Fulton and I were talking the other day, and the subject of “the Word” came up. He expressed the possibility of preaching on this subject last Sunday, but then he chose to go elsewhere. I hope that I don’t disappoint him this morning by taking up his theme. (Maybe he won’t find out.) I take up this theme because Peter made me do it.

When our Apostle speaks of these husbands as not obeying the Word, what did he mean? Wasn’t he saying that they were not listening to and not believing the WRITTEN Word of God? Wasn’t he was talking about those who refuse to obey the Bible? They didn’t have the sixty-six books that we have today, but they had the Old Testament scriptures. By Peter’s day, they may have had the four gospels and perhaps some of Paul’s epistles. Peter was referring to the Bible as they then possessed it. But there is another possible interpretation: the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They refused to believe what Christ has been preaching and teaching. When the Apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” he was speaking of the Second Person of the Godhead, Christ Jesus. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” Christ in His incarnation. “All things were made by Him and without Him not any thing that was made.” Christ in His deity. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Christ as the Saviour.

My conversation with Austin the other day began with a question about Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” In contrast to every other commentary I’ve ever read, John Gill says that Hebrews 4:12 is talking about Christ, the living Word, rather than the Bible, the written Word. And the truth is, there are statements in the surrounding context which lend credence to that opinion. For example the next verse says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in HIS sight, but all things are naked an opened unto the eyes of HIM with whom we have to do.” I’m not going to pursue this train of thought, other than to say, those who obey not the Word, refuse to obey both the written Word and the words of the Lord Jesus.

What do Christ and His Word tell us to do? After revealing to us that we are all sinners, they both urge us to to humble ourselves before God and to agree with Him that we are sinners. “God commandeth all men everywhere to REPENT” – Acts 17:30. Jesus said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” – speaking of eternal death. The Bible commands us, and we have the command of the living Word, to repent before God. And then the command is “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ” in order to be saved from this death. God’s Word commands us all to “trust in the Lord with all (our) hearts, and lean not unto (our) own (fleshly and secular) understanding.”

I am going to go out on a limb here, to tell you that the husbands of these women here in Peter, had heard the gospel in some way, just as everyone who has been listening to my voice this morning has heard. Maybe those men, along with their wives, had heard Paul preaching Christ in their synagogue. Or perhaps they had heard Peter or Silas presenting the commands of the gospel in the market. Maybe the men’s wives had shared with them the testimony of their conversion. In whatever way it was presented to them, they had rejected that Word; they rejected the message of the Saviour; they had pushed aside the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They had done just what some of you are doing to this message this morning. They had not obeyed the command of God which was presented through His Word.

What is going to happen to people who refuse to obey God? What will happen to those who refuse to obey the God who knows and sees all things? What will take place at the Great White Throne, when the Judge of all things points out people’s wilful disobedience? “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” God is angry, eternally angry, with those people. The Lord Jesus, the One who is called the “Word of God,” will soon return, “to execute judgment upon all.” “The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Why and how are those men ungodly? Among other things, they have not obeyed the Word of God. And they will hear God say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

But today, those disobedient husbands may be “won” by the conversation of their godly wives.

I said a few weeks ago that the only verse in the Bible which speaks about “soul-winning” is found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. While that is literally true, I have come to see that statement was not exactly accurate. I Peter 3:1 hints at soul-winning – “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be WON by the conversation of the wives.”

What is it to “win” a soul? Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” The word which Solomon uses is very common; it is found nearly a thousand times in the Bible. But only once is it translated “win” or “winneth.” Three quarters of the time it is translated “to take.” “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that (taketh) souls is wise.” Similarly, the Greek word that Peter uses is three quarters of the time translated “to gain.”

What is it to “win a soul?” In the language and sight of God it is to take that soul from the grasp and enslavement of Satan. It is to gain that person for Christ and the kingdom of Heaven. It is to snatch and rescue that soul from Hell.

And God has chosen to uses His own especially designed tools to win those souls.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” It is at this point where we have to be careful. All by itself, your godly life is never going to lead a soul from Satan to the Saviour. This is where some forms of “life-style evangelism” go dangerously awry.

That unsaved husband will never willingly follow anyone to Christ, because his heart has no desire to go in that direction. He may superficially listen to a gospel preacher or to the witness of his wife, but of his own he will never respond positively. Practically speaking, no one is ever going to be argued into repentance and faith in Christ. Evangelism is not an intellectual exercise, and salvation is not a result of education. Rather, they are blessings and results of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In writing to his co-worker Titus, Paul testified – “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Paul could have added, but didn’t really need to add, “we were not obedient to the Word.” “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” How was it that the Christian wife has been justified and made an heir of God and possessor of eternal life? It was by God’s free grace, which was applied through the regenerating work of the Holy Ghost. More simply put: God miraculously did it through His Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can take a heart which is as hard as a piece of granite and bring it into life before God.

What is the primary tool that the Spirit uses? It is the Word of God. The same Word which these unbelieving men have refused to obey. Paul says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (from the penalty of his sin). And how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” A preacher? Why is he important? Simply because that is God’s ordained plan. Saving “faith (in Christ) cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Earlier Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” And “as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel…” The preaching of the Word of God; the preaching of the gospel, is God’s ordained method of evangelism and the saving of souls. It is His primary tool.

But I go back again to where we began. We live in a secular world where the average person has no interest in hearing the preaching the gospel. How can we break through that intellectual barrier and that rock-solid heart? “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” Here is the purpose and use of “life-style evangelism.” The second aspect of evangelism is the affirmation of the gospel, the process of modeling and explaining the Christian message through our lives.

Picture the servants who were described in Peter’s last chapter. That slave may never be permitted to speak to his employer about Christ. When he was first born again, he became so excited about the Saviour that he boldly testified to his boss about what the Lord had done for him. But he was told that if he ever brought up the name of Christ again, he would be beaten. But because he was a new man in Christ he also became a model employee – the most thorough, the most diligent, the most conscientious member of the staff. His life and service become sermons in the flesh. And because the change in his life was so obvious, perhaps the boss became just a little curious about the cause. If that husband has threatened his wife and demanded that she never again speak of Jesus, but he is forced to see that she has become more respectful, more quick to be a blessing, and generally more sweet than she was before, she may eventually win her husband to the Saviour.

Let’s say that this woman’s husband is eventually born again. It may be that at the time, very little is said about the Word of God. There may not be any gospel sermon preached at the time of his conversion. Nevertheless, there in the background, is the gospel, which he heard at some earlier point in his life. The Word of God is present as a part of the equation, but at the moment, it is the life of that Godly wife which stands foremost. I am convinced that the preaching of the Word in some form is absolutely essential for the salvation of sin-dead souls. But the Lord may use a child, or a wife, a gospel tract, or any number of other things to soften a heart toward the Word of God.

Some day you are going to stand before the Judge, the one who is the Living Word. I believe that this message, and all the others you will have heard during your life, will spring back to mind. And you will recognize that you are either a child of God or you are not, because of whether or not you obeyed that word. You will also see how the Lord used people and circumstances to make you look and listen. What will be your judgment in that day? Will you hear Jesus say: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” or will it be “welcome, good, faithful and obedient servant?” Are you obedient unto the word of the gospel?