The Apostle Paul was a man of great persuasion. That was probably his greatest goal other than glorifying God. He lived for the opportunity to persuade and convince somebody that God is worthy of devotion and that Jesus is the only Savior (Acts 18:4, 13; 19:8, 26; 26:28; 28:23-24). In fact, he tells us, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences,” (2 Corinthians 5:11). He lived to persuade.
The technical study of persuasion is called rhetoric. Rhetoric is all around us. You see it in pulpits and at political conventions, in conversations between stay-at-home moms and at meetings between business executives. Although the term rhetoric has come to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, it’s just part of the art of effective communication.
There are three main forms of rhetoric. One is called ethos, which is an appeal based upon the character and reputation of the communicator. Another is called logos, which is an appeal based upon logic or reason. Finally, pathos is an appeal based upon emotion. You see every form of rhetoric used in the Scripture, but space doesn’t afford the opportunity to give examples.
We too, like Paul, are to be people of persuasion, striving to convince others of the hope found only in Jesus Christ. In fact, that’s the entire point Peter is trying to get across to us in our focal passage this week. But, how are we to go about it? Peter focuses in on one particular form of persuasion — our ethos, the powerful witness of a godly life.
In 1 Peter 2:11-12, 3:1-12, we read:
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation… 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, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 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. 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; 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. 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. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT. HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”
Here Peter provides us with specific and in-depth teaching on ways to shine forth a godly character and build a Christ-like reputation before a lost and dying world. He begins with the general principle there in 1 Peter 2:12. We’re to keep our behavior excellent among unbelievers so that they’ll glorify Jesus when He returns. In other words, Peter is saying we should live in such a way that leads people to salvation. You see, it’s only saved people who will rejoice, praising God, when Jesus comes back. All others will shriek in terror because judgment has fallen upon them. Peter wants our life to persuade people to come to Christ.
What sort of life is Peter talking about? He’s talking about a life that:
- abstains from fleshly lusts (1 Pet 2:11);
- submits to government officials (1 Pet 2:13-17);
- yields to bosses on the job (1 Pet 2:18-20);
- accepts the leadership of a husband (1 Pet 3:1-6); and
- is considerate and honoring to a wife (1 Pet 3:7).
To sum up what Peter is driving us toward, he says, “All of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing,” (1 Pet 3:8-9). That’s a powerful life that will persuade people that your Jesus is a worthy Lord.
Do you want to win people to Jesus? Do you hope to be used by God to persuade other sinners like yourself to hate their sin and love Christ? Then you must share the message of the gospel — the glorious truth that Jesus lived the life we cannot live and died the death we all deserve so that all sinners who will believe on Him will be forgiven, made righteous and have life everlasting. But, God through Peter wants us to authenticate our gospel message with a godly life. May your ethos, your life, shine for Jesus! Then, may the world see the goodness of Christ in you and be persuaded by your message so that you’ll bring along many brothers and sisters to glory!
-This article first appeared in the March 16 edition of the Baptist and Reflector, the official newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as a commentary on the March 20, 2011 LifeWay Sunday School curriculum Bible Studies for Life, and can be accessed through the B&R website at http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=3746. The article has been slightly edited here for westmainbaptist.com.