Wives and Unbelieving Husbands
1 Peter 3:1–6
1 Peter Lesson #077
December 29, 2016
“Father, we are just so grateful for Your mercy and Your kindness, Your goodness to us, that You have provided us with the salvation that is not dependent in any way on who we are, what we do, but is totally dependent upon who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the Cross. Father, we are thankful that we have such a great salvation, and that You have treated us in such undeserved kindness and with such grace.
Father, we pray that as we continue our walk by means of the Spirit, that we may continue to be reminded of how much we are the recipients of Your grace and how important it is to continue our daily study of Your Word, that our mind might be renewed—just completely overhauled—our thinking renovated, so that we conform to Your Word and not our cultural values, or the opinions of our peers, or any human being, but that we are focused upon You.
Father, we pray that as we continue our study in 1 Peter, You will help us to understand these things. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
All right, we are back in 1 Peter 3:1. Last week, and part of the lesson before that, I went through the Doctrine of the Dance. The reason I did that is because we have such a hard time in our culture because of the rise of these anti-Judeo-Christian values related to roles in marriage. Today we have, probably, three generations: the Baby Boomers, the Generation Xers, and the Millennials. As they’ve gotten further and further away from knowing the Bible or understanding the Bible and been more and more influenced through the political sphere and through the socialization that has taken place through the promotion of radical feminism in the university classroom, they don’t understand the roles that God designed for marriage. Consequently, marriage breaks down.
We would see this in high divorce rate. It’s hard to tell anymore, because people don’t get married. The marriage rate has declined, so the divorce rate has declined; but that’s only because people go live together, and then when they decide to go their separate ways, they just go their separate ways. There is no way to track the breakups in terms of statistics or anything of that nature.
But from the biblical perspective, we know that stability comes only from implementing—truly understanding and implementing—the five divine institutions. And these fall apart—and have fallen apart. The first one is our individual responsibility, that every person is responsible to God for their choices, for their lives. Second is marriage. Marriage is between a man and woman, and it is the foundation for the family, which is the third divine institution. It is to provide the instruction, the framework of stability for the next generation, to pass on the values from one generation to the other.
You have the family, and there are clearly defined roles in the Scripture for the husband, for the wife, and for the children. Ancient civilizations all recognized this, but they perverted it. That’s what human viewpoint does—it perverts it. But what’s interesting is that they still held to the importance of marriage, even though, for example, in Greek culture, they almost institutionalized having a concubine. The man had a wife to rear children, and he had a concubine, or hetaira, as a mistress. So there are these perversions of marriage, but they understood that marriage was the foundation for the family and the training ground for the next generation. And they had laws in Rome, they had laws in Greece and in older civilizations, in order to provide that stability.
What we’ve got in our culture, I think, really began with the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers were an antinomian reaction to their parents. They were rebels. They rejected truth. They rejected absolutes. They were influenced by the deterioration in thought and morality that had really begun in the late 19th century that goes by various names—existentialism, postmodernism; but they rejected absolutes.
When you apply that, that moral relativism, to marriage, then marriage as an institution is no longer significant or valued, that stability doesn’t come from following a set parameter of rules. In fact, a set parameter of rules is viewed as a box that hems people in rather than a framework that enables people to perform to excellence. So you see that people reject the law; you see an example in our president [Obama] who has an absolute disdain for the rule of law, unless it happens to benefit his purposes.
We have seen this just in the last week, and you’ll see much more of it in the next three weeks. I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. I read one report today indicating that he and John Kerry have been colluding with the Palestinian Authority. And they have more little things up their sleeve to go against Israel with in the next two or three weeks, so be prepared. This is antinomianism. This is against regulations.
You’ve heard me teach many times from this pulpit about Israel’s legal right to the land. You can talk to all manner of unbelievers who don’t care a whit about what the Bible says, and they may not care a whole lot about history, but they do seem to care about the law. Coming out of World War II, with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, those same nations redrew the borders—as victors have the legal right to do. This was the foundation of the League of Nations.
They redrew the borders for all the nations in Europe; that was their right. They redrew the borders of Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, all those. And that’s legitimate. They didn’t have time to complete the task, so they completed the task at San Remo in Italy, concluding their findings in 1922. They redrew all the borders in the Middle East, including what was to be set aside as the national homeland for Israel. That incorporated, within it, the verbiage of the Balfour Declaration. It was approved—by I think it was 55 or 56 nations—in the League of Nations, and that is what gave the Balfour Declaration international legal status. That is international law.
In Article 80, in the UN charter, they are required by their charter to enforce all of the treaties and laws that were entered into by their predecessor, the League of Nations. That means that the UN is obligated to protect Israel’s right to the land west of the Jordan. So this recent resolution that was passed down was illegal. It was completely illegal according to the UN’s own charter, and yet nobody cares, nobody talks about it; the world has forgotten it. But there are a few people who keep insisting on it. And the reason is because people don’t care about law. Moral relativism leads to social and political anarchy. These ancient civilizations, like Greece and Rome, understood that, and so they had these rigorous laws and traditions to protect the family and to protect marriage in order to preserve the stability of the nation.
That’s really part of the backdrop to understanding why both Peter and Paul take the time to give instruction on the roles and responsibilities, from a biblical perspective, based on Genesis 1–3, for the husband, the wife, the children, and the slaves and masters. Because this had to be preserved, but not in the distorted or perverted human viewpoint way in which it had come to be practiced in these civilizations, but according to biblical standards. So that’s really the backdrop here.
When we come to this section in 1 Peter 3:1–6, Peter is applying this biblical framework to a specific situation, that is, a wife that is married to an unbelieving husband. The wife has converted to Christianity, but the husband is not a Christian. That would really set up a difficult scenario in the Greco-Roman culture.
We started looking at some of the background two weeks ago. In 1 Peter 3:1–2, we read, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”
It says pretty much the same thing in the NET translation, which I quoted the last time. So it’s not a distortion. There are not real difficulties in the translation of this verse. Some people wish there were, but that’s not the point. Neither is it something that is culturally relative. We will get into verse three in a minute.
I want to talk about some background things. I mentioned the first two last time; I want to touch on those and then move forward tonight. First of all, there is a principal in hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is just the science of interpretation. There is a science to it; there is also an art aspect to it.
But there is a certain science to it. And one of the principles in interpretation is to interpret something in the light of the times in which it was written and also to interpret it in light of the culture—there’s a cultural context. So, for example, Moses wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch. He wrote that within a certain cultural context. Actually, there were two: There’s the context of the Egyptian background, and then there’s the context of the biblical revelation of God background. That is the cultural framework out of which Moses is writing.
But when we study it, we look at it from a totally different culture. We come from a 21st century, Western civilization, United States framework, and so we have to do a transference to understand how that relates. And that’s part of application.
But what you often hear today is, “That was their culture; this is our culture, so it doesn’t relate.” That’s a misuse and a false use of this principle of interpreting in the light of the culture. If we understand the cultural norms at a time, we can get a better grasp of what the writer is saying and we can see the universal principle a little more clearly to apply into the 21st century.
So we interpret in the light of culture. It doesn’t mean that the standards for marriage, the standards for family, the standards for the roles of males and females in marriage, are any different from God’s design. Because you read these passages. 1 Timothy 2:8–12 is where Paul talks about not allowing women to teach men or to have authority over men. You look at passages in 1 Corinthians 11; you look at other passages like Ephesians 5 and Ephesians 6, also talking about the roles of men and women, fathers and sons, and slaves and masters. The pattern—when you look at the text and Paul or Peter are saying why—always goes back to before the fall, in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden.
They are not looking to contemporary culture to provide the rationale for why women are to submit to husbands. In fact, they say a lot of things that don’t fit and are very different from the way that their culture—either in Judaism or in the Greco-Roman Empire—viewed things. For example, in 1 Peter 3:7, which we will probably get to next week, when Peter addresses husbands, he says, “Husbands, likewise,” the same way that 1 Peter 3:1 starts off with the wives. “In the same way” or “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.”
He says, “Likewise,” or “in the same way.” “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel.” That’s got to be understood in the context of that time period. A husband would have treated the wife as something less than the husband—they were not on the same plane. Here the husband is to treat his wife with honor and respect as if she is a weaker vessel.
“And as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” So that’s a warning men: If you’re married, if you’re not loving your wife as Christ loved the church, then your prayers are not going to get answered. That’s almost like being out of fellowship. You may confess sin, but if you continue right after that to mistreat your wife and not to honor her, then you’re just back out of fellowship again. That’s one of those situations in the Scripture that says that you can just eviscerate your prayer life by not being the kind of loving husband that the Bible says you should be.
So getting your relationship correct with your wife is one of the best things you can do to enhance your prayer life. That kind of a sentence would never be communicated in the ancient world or by the ancient philosophers; that is elevating women to a position that is much, much higher than any position that would have been noted in the ancient world for women.
You see the same thing with Paul. He does the same kind of thing. The modern feminists like to call this an example of patriarchy, an example of continuing to keep women down and submissive and beaten down and not being able to reach their potential. That’s just the opposite of what the Scripture is saying. So what they are talking about isn’t what the feminists have talked about and tried to shape the arguments. They say, “The Bible just beats down on women.” It’s just the opposite. You really have to have to change your thinking about that.
What this means I pointed out last time.
- We must interpret in the light of the culture.
It is what I’ve just done. We must recognize what the cultural views on the roles of men and women were and how the divine viewpoint reshapes that. There are going to be, of course, points of similarity, but also great points of difference. And don’t make the mistake of thinking, when you hear certain words like “submission,” that that means what the feminists have frontloaded that definition with for the last 50 years. They’ve tried to brainwash this culture; it’s all part of spiritual warfare in the angelic conflict, to redefine the terms of Scripture in ways that are unacceptable.
- In most human viewpoint-based cultures, women have been viewed with a less-than-equal position or status, than the male, except in certain matriarchal cultures where women are elevated. But matriarchal cultures have never had any level of success, have never advanced civilization, and have never provided a lasting culture. The reason is that—I pointed out last time—going back to the Trinity—in the Trinity you have equality of Persons but distinction of roles. And you don’t get that from an ultimate source.
You look at evolution. What’s the ultimate reality in evolution? It’s just matter and energy that’s existed forever. It’s impersonal. You can’t develop a philosophy of personal relationship if the ultimate reality in the universe is impersonal. You just can’t do it. The result is that when you’re really living consistently with an impersonal metaphysic, or an impersonal view of ultimate reality, then it’s going to destroy people’s ability to relate personally and to give honor and respect to one another. That’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last hundred years or so.
We have seen some of the worst wars in the history of mankind. We have seen the absolute deterioration of relationships in marriage and in families, more so than in any other time in history. So I used that illustration of the Trinity to demonstrate that.
The third point I want to make is getting into some new material.
- The context in 1 Peter 3 is specifically dealing with an application of the general principle of the wife’s submission to the husband to a situation where the wife is married to an unbeliever. That’s a narrow restriction there.
Peter is talking to women who are married to an unbeliever, and he says that you are to “be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word,” and that carries the idea of being hostile, or antagonistic, to the Word [the gospel].
It’s how should a wife behave if her husband’s an unbeliever and he’s hostile to the gospel? Now in this situation it’s the first century. Today I would say, “Well, first of all, you put yourself in your own trap, because Scripture says that Christians are not to be married to non-Christians.” That applies to a lot of people. In my first church, I was amazed. Four or five daughters of women in the church—these ladies had grown up in the church. Their parents were still in the church. Their parents were in their 40s or 50s, and these daughters had gone out and had gotten married to some guy that they had met at college or somewhere else. They married him—and the guy wasn’t a believer. And they had grown up as a believer.
Five to 10 years into the marriage they are having serious problems in their marriage, and they want to know what the problem is. The problem is that the pastor never emphasized that believers do not marry unbelievers. Now it might work if the believer is totally carnal and in rebellion against God—just like the unbeliever is; then they are going to be in agreement. But if the believer is not living in rebellion, then they’re going to have a totally different orientation toward life and towards reality than the unbeliever, and that just sets the stage for conflict.
What we see in this situation in the first century, is that you would have had, as Paul and Peter and the other apostles went throughout the Roman Empire, and other Christians preaching the gospel, there would have been many people who would have responded. So you would have women who would respond to the gospel and trust in Christ as Savior, and then they go home and they are in a tough situation now because they are married to a husband who would probably be hostile to the fact that she has converted to another religion. We’ll get into that in just a minute. So the third point here is that the context specifically deals with this situation where the wife is married to an unbeliever.
- This is important to understand the culture—the wives that Peter is talking to. In the Greco–Roman culture, Christianity was a new belief system. It wasn’t well known; it’s a new belief system. So any new belief system that wasn’t authorized by the Roman government for much of the first century was viewed as sort of a sect within Judaism, so it didn’t get a lot of government opposition. It got some under the time of Nero and from about AD 60 on.
But it was viewed with suspicion as a new belief system, and might often be viewed by the husband that the wife who converted to this new belief system might be thought of as attempting to disrupt the social order. Because they understood, in the Greco–Roman culture, that prosperity and stability for the civilization—for Rome, for Greece—was based on the foundation of the accepted religions. They understood that religious belief brought cohesion to the family.
Now, of course, their religious belief was pagan, but it still would bind the people together with a universal or homogenous belief system. As a result of that, when somebody came in with another belief system, it would be viewed as being disruptive and dangerous to the status quo. It could introduce new ideas and maybe ideas that were licentious ideas, that were antinomian ideas that would cause rebellion on the part of women and children and be totally and completely disruptive.
In Greco–Roman culture at the time, the wife and children were expected to have the same religious beliefs as the father. Now think about that for a minute. What’s an example where you see that in play in the New Testament? What’s one of the favorite verses we often quote as a very brief verse for salvation? Acts 16:31. We often quote just the first half of the verse. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” What does rest of the verse say? “You and your household.” Who is Paul talking to? He’s talking to the Philippian jailer. After Paul and Silas have been released from jail and they didn’t leave, the jailer comes back and his life is going to be threatened. He said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul tells him. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
They viewed the family as an important unit—that was a cultural thing. If the father went a certain way, the rest of the family would follow him in those religious convictions. If the wife went out and converted, apart from the husband, then that might be viewed by the husband as an act of rebellion and it could provoke a certain level of antagonism and hostility on the part of the husband. So what Peter is addressing here is, “Now you’re a believing wife, a Christian wife, and you’re in a hostile, antagonistic environment with this unbelieving husband. How should you handle this?” This is very wise counsel.
First of all, he’s really saying, “Keep your mouth shut. Don’t preach to the husband. Don’t try to tell him how to straighten out his life. Live what you’re believing, and don’t threaten the stability and status quo.” Because that’s what the big concern is; now it’s just going to turn the household upside down. That’s part of the background here.
- The fifth point is that a wife’s conversion might provoke antagonism for her husband from several reasons. I’m developing this point out.
- First of all, the fact that she would adopt any religion other that her husband’s violated the Greco–Roman ideal of an orderly home.
In an orderly home, everybody’s going to believe the same thing; everybody’s going to trot off to whatever religious worship together. The family that prays together stays together—that general idea. Whatever the religious system was, everybody would be together.
If she adopted another religion, it would be viewed as something that would disrupt an orderly home and therefore could disrupt society. And if the husband viewed his wife’s worship of God and Jesus as open rebellion, then this could bring serious consequences to her. She might be viewed as a source of public embarrassment and criticism for the husband, which was completely unacceptable.
- Another thing is that the husband and society could view this as being socially unacceptable, especially if she worshiped Jesus exclusively. So society, outside the home, is looking to this as a threat to them.
- Third. Usually, in these situations in the Greek culture, the wife was very limited in terms of having friends and associates outside of the home.
It wasn’t like today where you have women going to work, and they develop a number of friends that they’ve had from college and university and people they’ve worked with over the years where they have a whole set group of people that they socialize with that don’t have any relationship whatsoever with her husband or with her family. So when she left to go to church, she’s developing a new sphere of friends, a new sphere of associates, a new sphere of input, ideas. This could be viewed as threatening to the husband and the stability of the family.
Furthermore, she needed to be careful how she dressed if she left home without her husband so that she would not be mistaken for dressing like a wanton woman, a prostitute, a hooker, however you want to put it.
I’m always reminded, when I talk about this, of the fact that how people dress, and how women dress, can be viewed quite differently from culture to culture. Most the time I go over to Ukraine it’s winter, and everybody’s all bundled up, wearing sweaters and everything warm. But in 2000, when we went over to Kazakhstan, it was summer. You would go to the market, you would go in any store, you’d be walking on the streets, and a waitress would come up. And these young girls, 18, 19, 20 years old, just dressed in really short skirts and really sheer tops. They dressed like hookers!
The Soviet Union had been broken up like seven or eight years before, and their view of how Western women dress, which is the ideal, was often what they saw in runway shows—how models dressed. So that’s how they would dress.
I had seen this before, but George Meisinger had not. I remember George making a comment. He said, “Robby, they all dress like hookers.” Well, it’s a matter of your cultural perspective. They weren’t. Most of these girls—one thing we noticed—had an innocence and a purity much like a 12- or 13-year-old girl in the United States in the 1940s would have. They weren’t much older than that, but they had no idea; they weren’t debauched like American 18- or 19-year-olds. They dressed this way, but they had a naïveté that belied how they were dressed. So these kinds of cultural things enter in.
That’s why Peter, and Paul also, address how women are to dress in public—going out—that it would not bring dishonor on the family, or dishonor upon Christ. So all of these were part of what Peter is trying to address here.
- Like the slave, the woman is instructed to recognize the leadership and authority of the one set over her, the husband—even if he’s hostile. Or, in the case of the slave, even if the master is harsh, which would be anything short of any kind of physical abuse. The reason that this is being emphasized is to show that Christianity is not an assault on the social order or the structure of the family, but that it was indeed honoring the family structure and was seeking to build it up.
One of the things that we should note—I pointed this out the last time. Paul says the same kind of thing: “Be submissive to your husband.” He’s not making a statement here that, “All women are an underclass, and all women need to submit to all men.” “Women are at a lower level than men”; there is not that kind of a statement here. It is saying that within the home there is a role structure, and the husband’s the leader and the woman is to work together with him like we saw in the Doctrine of the Dance. This is what’s being emphasized here: to build up and stabilize the family, and that Christianity isn’t an assault on the social order.
- Peter is speaking in general terms, so it’s up to each individual husband and wife to determine the application here to their own situation.
That’s really important. One thing I’ve observed over the years is that people are really different. They really are! You can look around this congregation. You have many different personality types. You have many different leadership skills. Different men have different leadership skills. And different women have different leadership skills. How that comes together in one couple is going to be different from how it comes together in another couple. But what Peter is giving here are the general principles related to the man is still the one accountable; God is going to hold him accountable, and he’s the one who’s in charge. And the wife is to work with him; she’s created to be his assistant to achieve God’s plan in their life. So Peter is speaking in general terms, and it’s up to each individual husband and wife how they are going to manifest this, or apply it, in their own situation.
- Peter’s emphasis is that a wife is to submit to her own husband. This is not saying the women as a class are to submit to men as a class. I covered that already, but that’s point 8.
- Peter has an evangelistic goal in mind here. He’s concerned about winning the husband to salvation, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that.
In that culture, at that time, the woman was to show deference to her husband—not nag him, not preach to him, not point out all of his sins and that he needed to get straight with God or he was going to go burn in the Lake of Fire. That would be showing a great deal of disrespect to her husband in that culture, and it would be viewed as something that was quite shameful for a woman to say something like that to her husband.
Now, other cultures would be a little different. Today we have communication in a very different way between husbands and wives, but it was very different in that particular culture. So Peter is addressing that and saying that she should win him through her conduct. Remember, we studied this word as it is used all the way through Peter. We are to conduct ourselves a certain way; we are to have a certain kind of conduct. In 1 Peter 1:15, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
1 Peter 1:17, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” This goes on talking about how the believer is to live and how they are to comport themselves. “Without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.” She’s going to be demonstrating that she’s not rebellious, she’s not antagonistic to his leadership, she respects his position as the father, as the husband, and so this is not an act of rebellion.
- In a rather roundabout way Peter is cautioning the Christian wife against disrupting the family by asserting her authority over the husband or asserting the fact that she’s found the truth and he hasn’t. He’s not telling her to be a doormat. He’s not telling her to shut up and just sit in the corner. He is teaching about how she can best handle a situation that may be viewed as a challenge to her husband’s authority because she has chosen a religion different from his.
So that’s the framework, and it makes much more sense when we understand that. Then he’s going to talk about how she dresses. Because now she’s going to be going to meet with other believers, she’s going to be, probably, going out of the house, and so she needs to make sure that she comports herself in a correct way. So in verse three, Peter says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing of gold, or putting on of fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
There are some passages in 1 Timothy that are similar. They are taken out of context by a lot of legalistic people. Peter is not saying that the wives shouldn’t dress well. The emphasis is not on dressing down—that’s not what he is saying. He’s saying that the emphasis needs to be on the inner character, not necessarily on the outer character.
Today I read this in a blog that I thought brought this out in a certain sense. Some of you may be familiar with David Brooks; he’s a columnist for the New York Times. Sometimes he’s conservative. Most of this last year he’s been very anti-Trump. But on another note, a week after Trump was elected he came out and said, “He’s really impressed me by the way he has gone about selecting cabinet members. They wouldn’t always be my choice, but they are well-qualified people.” I haven’t heard anything more; I don’t normally read him.
In this book that he’s recently written, he talks about the difference between what he calls “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” These are David Brook’s categories. He’s arguing that our culture emphasizes attaining things in life that enhance a résumé—education, wealth, fame, status—over striving for character qualities—integrity, humility, dedication, and love. These are usually reserved for a person’s eulogy. So his point is that we often emphasize, in our culture, attaining things that would look good on our résumé. They look like we’ve accomplished things; we’ve done things. We look good, we sound good, we live in a good house, we drive the cars that have the right kind of status; but, rather, we should be emphasizing the things that we want people to say in our eulogy—that we had certain character qualities.
That’s what Peter is emphasizing. He is not saying it’s wrong to have an education, or to dress well, or to possess certain things that you can afford because of your wealth or your success, but that that shouldn’t be the emphasis. Every time I read this verse, I’m reminded of the first few months I was in Dallas when I went to seminary in 1976. I went to seminary, and for a while I went to a very nice large Bible Church in North Dallas. There were a lot of young people there—a lot of twenty-somethings were in this church. North Dallas is a very successful area—just north of Highland Park—which is like River Oaks here in Houston. I was just amazed. I mean, I didn’t grow up in a small country church; I grew up in a nice urban church here in Houston where people dressed very nicely, where there were a lot of people who were wealthy, who were well off, very successful, and they dressed well.
But I was blown away when I went to this church. It was a fashion show every Sunday morning! Because there were a lot of nice, spiritually squared away young seminary guys who went to that church, and they attracted a lot of the SMU, socialite, upper crust Highland Park young ladies. They wanted to be dressed in their finest to attract these young men. So you would just see this every week. I’m not judging their spiritual status; I just thought that was really interesting because I had never seen that in my experience in Christianity. It was a little over the top.
But Peter is not saying, here that it’s wrong to do these things. Obviously some of the families in the church were wealthy because the women could afford to go out and spend the extra money for all of the beauty treatments, for the hair designs, the arrangement of the hair. Usually they would decorate the hair with gold and precious gems and pearls, and all of this would take time—just as it does today. There’s this view—I think it comes out of the somewhat Marxist social justice movement—the idea that Jesus was a was a refugee at Christmas. You’ve probably heard some of that in the last couple of weeks—that He was the original refugee. So we have to we have to take care of the refugees just like we would take care of Jesus. Makes you want to throw up.
You often read that the early church was a movement among the slaves. Slaves cannot afford the adorning of the hair. Slaves cannot afford wearing gold. They cannot afford gold; they cannot afford to look at gold—or fine apparel. The word “fine” there is not in the original—it is just apparel. But the idea there is that this is costly apparel; they are not just throwing a robe on, not just wearing shorts, T-shirts, and sandals.
Obviously, there were people in the congregation who were wealthy and who could afford to show their wealth. But Peter isn’t saying don’t do it. The sense here is correct. Even though “merely” is not in the original, that’s the sense of the passage. “Do not let your adornment be merely outward.” He’s not saying it’s wrong to dress well, or that it’s wrong to spend money on designer clothes, or it’s wrong to spend money on suits—$1,500, $2,000, $3,000 suits. If God has blessed you with the money to where you can do that, then you should enjoy the wealth that God has given you—as long as you have your priorities straight.
That’s what he is saying here. Don’t put the emphasis on the outward, but make sure that you are focusing on the inner values of your spiritual life and your spiritual growth. That’s the sense of the second verse. “Rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
Now, it is interesting. The New King James language here needs to be modernized just a little bit. First of all, this word “adornment” is the word KOSMOS. Ever hear the word KOSMOS before? That’s where it comes from. Now you may be some old legalistic Methodist or Baptist or Church of Christ saying that you shouldn’t wear makeup, and women should always have a beehive hairdo or something like that, because having “adornment” is worldliness! They would take that word KOSMOS and take it in its other sense, which has to do with “worldliness.” That’s just an absolute distortion and misuse of the original language.
In fact, the original meaning of the word KOSMOS is simply that of an orderly arrangement. That’s where we get our English word “cosmetics.” A woman will put on cosmetics; she will “put on her face”. She will organize and structure how she looks very carefully, and that’s the idea there. It’s not the idea here of a world system. But that came to be applied to a world system, because a philosophical system, or worldview, is highly structured and highly organized. So that’s how the word came to mean more than just the orderly arrangement of your clothing and your appearance.
In verse four, it says, “rather let it be the hidden person of the heart.” This is talking about the inner person, the real you. The real you isn’t what you camouflage by how you dress, the status symbols that you use, the style that you choose to present yourself. The real you is your soul—what’s going on behind the façade—the way you think, the way your sin nature works, the thoughts that you have—good and bad.
All that’s the hidden person of the heart. The word “heart” here emphasizes the center—the center of a person’s thinking. “Heart” has to do with that which is at the core of something, not a physical beating heart. It’s talking about that which is at the center of a person’s being, that hidden person in their soul. “Heart” here would be comparable to soul.
“With the incorruptible.” That’s a good translation. “With the incorruptible [or impermeable] beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” Now what does that mean—gentle and quiet? Because as soon as you read that, you’re thinking of some kind of weak, wimpy, little doormat. The word translated “gentle” is the word PRAŸS, which is related to the word PRAŸTES for humble; but it’s also related to the other words that we’ve talked about in terms of humility. That humility is being submissive to authority.
The most humble person in the world—the Septuagint translated that for Moses. The most humble man in the world, in the Old Testament, was Moses. Moses was a very strong, powerful, focused leader, but he was submitted to the authority of God—that’s what made him humble.
Jesus was humble—not because He was a wimp and He was rolled over by people, but because He submitted Himself to the authority of God. We just spent a lot of time talking about Philippians 2, “He humbled Himself and became obedient” to God. That’s what humility is—being obedient to the authority over you. So it’s the incorruptible beauty of someone who is submitted to authority and is strong because of it.
Then “quiet spirit” is the word HESUCHIOS, which in some cases means “quiet or silent.” It could mean that here, especially in contrast to winning their husband “without a word”; but it also has the sense of not being disruptive, rebellious, or contentious. This also fits in contrast with a humble spirit—that is, submitted to authority and quiet. That is not disruptive, not rebellious, not contentious.
Proverbs has a few things to say about this. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing.” It doesn’t matter how great you look when you’re 16, 19, or 25 years of age, or how well you dress; it doesn’t matter how much you lose your looks or gain better looks as you grow older. What matters is the state of our soul when we are standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord.” “Fearing the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of knowledge and understanding. “A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” We can apply that to any believer who fears the Lord; they will be praised at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Proverbs 12:4, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” So, a couple of applications. This is very similar to what Peter is saying; it flows right out of the Old Testament.
Then he gives an illustration in 1 Peter 3:5–6. He says, “For in this manner [that is, in this manner of submission], in former times [talking about Old Testament stories], the holy women.” That means the women who are set apart as believers; it is not talking about the fact that they lived at a higher plane of spirituality. Because he’s talking about Sarah. Now we can talk about Sarah and Abraham. They both had a lot of flaws, and they are very clear from Scripture. They are not perfect.
“For in this manner, in former times, the holy women [or the set apart women, the sanctified women] who trusted in God also adorned themselves.” That’s the verb form we will see—KOSMEO.
“Also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.” See, it’s not wrong to adorn yourself. “As Sarah obeyed Abraham [so there’s this example from Sarah], calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”
Now we have to understand what this is saying. This isn’t saying, ladies, that you need to walk around and call your husband “lord.” It might be nice; maybe their ego would approve of that, but that’s not what this is saying.
If you read about the founding fathers of the United States, or you read the biography of Abraham Lincoln—or any of those who lived prior to the Civil War—it was rare, even in a home setting, where a husband and a wife addressed each other by their first name. They would address themselves as “Mr. Lincoln” and “Mrs. Lincoln”; or the wife would refer to the husband as “sir” and the husband would refer to the wife as “ma’am.” There was a level of protocol and deference on the part of both of them.
So, when Sarah is addressing Abraham as “lord,” that wouldn’t be any different from a wife today referring to her husband as “sir,” or as “my dear husband,” because the cultural way of recognizing the head of the household was through this terminology. It’s not some sort of futile type of arrangement.
“As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” [that means respecting his position as the husband and the head of the home]. Then he applies it to these believers, “whose daughters you are.” Just as we are all referred to “by faith as sons of Abraham.”
“Whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” Now, did Sarah do some things that were really squirrely and out of order? Certainly. Go read Hebrews 11. After you read through Genesis 12 through 22 and you see all the squirrely things that Abraham and Sarah did, they are praised by God over in Hebrews 11.
Because God is a God of mercy, a God of love, and He doesn’t hold every little sin—or even the big ones. How many times have you read the life of David? David committed some really nasty sins: adultery, murder, and conspiracy to commit murder. He was pretty out of fellowship at times and did some pretty bad things, but all the way through the Old Testament he is the standard for those who love God. King after king after king that came in his line are evaluated. Are they as good as David? Do they obey God, like David did? And when we come to the resurrection, David is going to be resurrected. David will rule in Jerusalem as a prince. God is going to reward him.
It’s always been a great encouragement to me that Sampson, who is this failure, and this womanizer, and this deadbeat, and he’s rebellious against his parents in Judges, is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Samson trusted God at a key point in his life, and God praises him for that. The mercy of God is tremendous.
These are the examples of Sarah and Abraham. It is interesting that if you look through the Old Testament, it’s hard to find a place where you can pin this. And that’s because Peter is probably referring to the general view in Judaism, in the second Temple period, that Sarah was a good wife and that she’s the pattern for submission to her husband in various ways.
In terms of a corrected translation, 1 Peter 3:5 we read, “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God.” This isn’t PISTEUÓ here, the verb for trust; it’s ELPIZO. ELPIS is the noun for “hope.” This is the verb, “to hope,” the active participle. “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who hoped in God.”
They looked to the future. Hope is a confident expectation related to future reward. “Because they hoped in God, they adorned themselves—not only externally—but also with good works.” And that’s the point. They were submissive to their husbands.
I put the verb in this slide for adorn, to arrange; they set themselves in order by being submissive to their own husbands. “Being” there would be an instrumental participle—that this is how they adorned themselves, or organized themselves spiritually, was by being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah was submissive to Abraham.
Then we have to recognize, and we will come back and start with this next time, the mandate to the husbands in relationship to their wives. So we see that this is not quite the harsh, evil perspective of some vile, woman-hating misogynist in the Scriptures, but is reflecting the grace and the love of God in terms of how men and women are to live to their fullest capacity, by fulfilling the roles that God has designed for them.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and reflect upon these specifics on our roles and to think about how we contrast the biblical understanding of the roles of men and women in marriage to the cultural norms that are out there.
Father, we pray that we, as believers, might seek to constantly evaluate our conduct in light of your Word, that we might be transformed from grace to grace. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”