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How to have a Christian Mouth: The Apostle Peter’s Speech Class

By Al Valdés

A recent office devotional in 1 Peter had the title “Shut up!” Yes, it sounds rude. And, no, it doesn’t accurately cover the whole subject matter. But, it served as an attention grabber that pointed to the real topic: What does 1 Peter say about speech? If we recall from Sunday School, the apostle Peter had more than one episode in which he apparently said something he shouldn’t have. (See Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 9:2-8; John 18:15-27.) But, then, he served as the spokesman for the Twelve apostles (See Acts 1:15-26; 2:14-4; 3:11-26; 4:8-12). So, he knows a little about speaking! Let’s look at three of his lessons.

Lesson 1: Don’t attack other believers with your speech

We know that Peter’s recipients had been experiencing persecution—the kind of attacks that happen when Christian values clash with those of non-believers. For example, we read, “So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you.” (1 Peter 4:4, HCSB) In this larger context of unpleasantness, the apostle deals with a Christian’s verbal–and other–responses to non-believers. But, he also warns believers against all manner of negative speech—against each other!

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3, NIV)

Renowned Bible teacher Stanley Toussaint calls these “sins that you see in the foyer of the church.” Peter tells us to lay all that stuff aside!

Lesson 2: Answer your enemies appropriately

As kids we may have heard about sending someone either “around the corner” or, later, to a very, very, very hot place! (It makes you wonder what they would find around the bend!) As adults, the culture and our peers still don’t help much with advice such as “you shouldn’t take that!” or “I would cuss them out!” or worse. But for these believers (apparently under verbal persecution primarily) the apostle Peter had precise and Christ-centered advice:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:21-24, NIV)

and:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9, NIV)

We also should entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father in the face of attacks, and respond with a blessing rather than a curse.

Lesson 3: Win husbands to the Word without a word

Christian wives who live with husbands who have not yet believed sometimes have stereotypical ways of behaving—hiding tracts in strategic places, bringing up believing sports heroes, leaving Christian books here and there, or perhaps even tempting them with the church barbecue! Peter has a different plan: let your behavior do the speaking. He puts it this way:

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:1-4, NIV)

Now, if they have not heard the Gospel already, at some point someone has to tell them to believe in Jesus (see John 3:16-18a). And, as an important side note, if you plan on marrying someone who has not believed in Jesus as their Savior, you need to know that God forbids it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) —whether or not they presently go to church with you. They must actually believe in Jesus before you say, “I do.”

Conclusion

What we say and don’t say can powerfully impact our lives and those of others. Cutting out negative speech towards other Christians, responding appropriately to antagonists of the faith, and winning unbelieving husbands through virtuous behavior represent just three of the ways in which the apostle Peter instructs us about speech (or the lack thereof). But, his letter also covers speaking in the sense of a spiritual gift (1 Peter 4:10-11), and also the highest and best form of speech — praise offered to God. Peter writes:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3, NIV)

and,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)

Amen.

 

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