In the previous post, I dug through 1 Peter 3:1-6 and unpacked the v. 1-4 of that text. I commented on how the passage addresses women who have husbands that are disobedient to God and God’s commands to those women. Those commands would be rather amazingly difficult to obey, but God gives all women everywhere (those with good and godly husbands, those with occasionally sinful husbands, and those with wretchedly sinful husbands) more than just difficult commands. Oh no. He gives them firm truths onto which they can anchor their battered and fearful hearts. In this post, I’m going to continue mining out 1 Peter 3:5-6 and unpack two titanium truths for securing a struggling heart.
In verse 1 Peter 3:5-6, Peter writes “For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.”
Here’s the first titanium truth:
1. You’re one of God’s damsels.
1 Peter 3:5-6a presents this truth. There’s a category of women that you find yourself in when you’re married to a (even occasionally) faithless husband, and that category is two fold. First, that category is one of “holy women.” Now “holy” means “set-apart” or “in a separate category.” To say that God is “holy” is to say that he’s in a completely separate category than anything else in creation. God’s just in a completely different league.
The following phrase explains how these women are holy. They’re holy in that they’re woman who “hoped in God.” In other words, when their knight in shining armor turned out to be a monkey in a chicken suit they placed all their trust in the Lord. When the guy that they had hoped would bring their hopes into being turned out to be the embodiment of their fears, they turned those struggles over to the Lord. When they kissed their prince and he turned into a frog, or a dung beetle, they leaned on the Lord to uphold them.
They cried out to God because it felt like God was all they had left.
Then, the manifestation of their hoping in God was in their adorning themselves in submission to their mediocre husbands. If “submission” sounds like a dirty word to you for whatever reason (and there are many reasons the term has become horribly soiled), you may want to read this for a little help in understanding what “submission” means in the Bible.
Sadly, the situation Peter is referencing is one that is both old and familiar, hence God points all trapped-in-a-horrible-marriage wives to Sarah, the wife of Abraham. She’s one of the first poster girls for that club; she had married a great guy but he wasn’t always nominated for husband of the year. Just as a tiny refresher, Abraham was a guy who dragged Sarah to a new and foreign country after they had been married and comfortably settled for decades (Gen. 12:1-5), and on the way there denied being Sarah’s husband and allowed her to be taken into someone’s harem (Gen. 12:10-20). What would have been her natural reaction to that news?
I cannot even imagine what was going through Sarah’s mind the second time that happened (Gen. 20:1-18). That’s right. Abraham did that twice. I’m quite confident that Sarah cried out to God for help, since her husband of several decades won the “worst husband of the year” awards multiple times. In fact, Abraham had a few more shining examples of #HubbyFail that you can find in Genesis.
Yet, she acted in a way that doesn’t make any sense; she submitted to him even when he wasn’t being the man he should have been. That submission doesn’t make sense…at least outside of a mighty, just, wise and saving God. Sarah knew enough about God to know that he had placed her in the situation she was in, and she submitted to God. The practical outworking of her submission to God was in submission to her (occasionally) less than stellar feller.
1 Peter 3:6 says that she even went so far as to call him “master”. The Greek term here is kurios, which is a very common term in the New Testament. It’s a word that occurs 748 times in the New Testament and though it’s often used as the Greek equivalent of the name of God in the Old Testament, here it just means “master”. Without getting into what would be a rather unwieldy rabbit trail, it’s safe to say that the term designates a person of significant authority.
Sarah placed herself under the authority and leading of her husband, regardless of what he did and how shameful he acted at times. She didn’t do that because he was a man worthy of following or because she always got tangible and immediate benefit out of it. On the surface, there were several times where her submission would have appeared to have backfired horribly. Still, she did it because her submission to her husband was actually the practical manifestation of her ultimate submission to God…and God mentions her two thousand years later as an example of a woman worth emulating. That’s a rather weighty endorsement of her behavior and character.
When a woman who is struggling under the weight of being married to a Godly man who has lost the “Godly” part, she still needs to submit to God. That doesn’t mean that she is a doormat or acts as if abuse is acceptable, but rather that she doesn’t attempt to manipulate or muscle her husband into being righteous. She leaves the work of the Holy Spirit to the Spirit and fulfills the various roles that God has assigned her as best she can without becoming a thorn in the side of a stink weed.
This brings us to the second titanium truth:
2. You’re one of Sarah’s daughters.
1 Peter 3:6b presents this truth when it says “And you are her children.” Now this is a special blessing reserved for women in this category. As believers, they have a special connection to Abraham and the promises made to him that are experienced in Christ. As women who struggle in a difficult marriage and submit to a difficult man, they gain a second special connection: a relationship to Sarah that is over and above their relationship to Abraham. This isn’t to say that they become Jews, or gain some sort of genetic connection to Sarah. This is to say that they are her daughters in the respect that they act like she acted.
Peter doesn’t leave the “how she acted” question open. Peter knows that women in this situation need practical help and he gives it in two ways. Writing by the Spirit, Peter gives struggling women two conditions for being one of “Sarah’s daughters.”
Peter first condition is found when writes “if you do good.” This is fairly straightforward and is a general summary of Godly character; “doing good” is a quick summary of “think, act and speak in such a way that conforms with the commands and precepts of God as revealed in the Scripture.” In other words, read the Bible and do what it says; obey its commands, heed its warnings, emulate its positive examples, conform to its precepts.
Another way of restating that would be “following Jesus’ example in speech and action” (i.e. “doing good”).
Peter then delivers the second condition when he writes “and do not fear anything that is frightening.” In any given situation, the opposite of doing good is being fearful. This isn’t a general “thou shalt not fear anything” command either, but rather fearing “anything that is frightening.” In the specific situation of trying to win a husbands affections and make themselves beautiful to him, whether he’s a righteous fellow or not, God knows that fear crouches at the door and longs to attack. The fear of taking God’s path to winning a sinful husband’s heart is something that is actually frightening.
The scenario that Peter writes about is one that is familiar to any women living at any time in any culture: the pagan culture is violently at odds with Christianity on everything, let alone issues related to beauty, marriage, submission, etc. The culture isn’t even the real enemy either. The real enemy is the sin in a woman’s heart that unrelentingly tempts her to believe the tsunami of lies fed her from the culture.
“He won’t get it.”
“That won’t work.”
“You know how men are…”
“How can I compete with women like that…”
And so on and so on. The deception of sin and the world is endless. The counter-biblical messages a woman receives on these issues is relentless. The fear of God’s path proving to be fruitless is ever-present.
But God says to not fear the things that seem worthy of fear.
The list of things that a woman can fear is gigantic, especially on the issue of winning the heart of a husband (1 Peter 3:1-2) or winning his affection (1 Peter 3:3-5). God tells every woman, everywhere, to not fear those realistically frightening things. This is down and dirty spiritual warfare: a battle of two views of reality fighting for supremacy. The first worldview is the view of the creation, and the second worldview is the view of the creator.
Godly women who find themselves in the specific scenario listed in 1 Peter 3:1-5 need to trust God and do not fear anything that is frightening.
That wraps up my look at 1 Peter 3:1-6 and brings us through looking at the other modesty text that everyone pulls out. In the following post, I’m going to try to wrap everything together. I’m going to process all the information gleaned from the previous posts and also provide a little bit of information addressing an obvious question.
Then I’ll finally tackle the question that everyone has been waiting for me to tackle.