October 7, 2016

Addressing the Dressing VII: That Other Modesty Text (ctd.)

by Lyndon Unger

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?

Hey babe. Good news: I got 40 goats. Bad news: you're staying behind in Pharoah's harem. If anyone asks, you're my sister.

“Hey U. Gr8 news: Pharaoh gave me livestock & slaves! Leaving 4 Canaan 2morrow!  Bad news: U R staying behind in Pharaoh’s harem. If any1 asks, U R my sister. xoxo, Abe.”

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.

God Likes

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.



Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Maranatha

    Lyndon, I ROFL about this “modern Sarah”-picture above, receiving the smartphone-message from “Abe”!!! This is awesome GREAT!! Thank you!

    Seriously, as I mentioned in my post to Jennifer recently, I begin to understand much better what Gods will for women REALLY is (and not what some traditional elder-brethren-church-understanding is out from the fairly misunderstood trousers-question of Deut22,5 esp. in Germany here which is really boring!). As my hsb and I went through the spiritual armor weapons in Eph6 very early and shortly after our conversion, we had to learn that women do NOT have to FIGHT in battle but ONLY MEN do. Men have to use the armor in practical use, women have Jesus instead fighting for them (if being or working outside home). That does not make the battle for the woman easier, because her “battlefield” is at home then. If the man is a picture on Christ and the woman on the church (Eph 5,32), the man fights against the world ‘outside’ with all the spiritual armor and the woman’s “fight” is more ‘inside’ – among the brethren, if you like: strengthening, nourishing, comforting the man (and the children), when he comes back, wounded and depressed after fail or boasting and brimming over from victory (which both can be destructive for the company inside, because he has got to LEAD the company – but please, not out from an emotional guideline but out from the word of God). The work ‘inside’ is not inferior to the battle ‘outside’ – sometimes even harder.

    The woman has to know the bible as much as her hsb to be able to MAKE HIM a GOOD LEADER. She has got to council him, but not out of herself as Jobs wife did (Job 2,9) – btw here I recently thought of the behaviour of Job in chapter 29 (count the “I’s” and “me’s”, his natural proud of own knowledge in front of others!) influencing her as the wife during matrimony. Not good…not good… So what kind of picture should she have had out from “his” God? – Today, we live in times when even christian men aren’t really “men” anymore – see Judges 4-5 which just repeats worldwide – just look into christian (Laodicean church era) families that do not very much differ from the worldlings. But even a woman like Deborah did not fight alone outside, she only accompanied Barak but HE had to use the weapons. Gods order was then, not to let him have the victory outside, but to use a woman in the tent inside (Jael) to kill the enemy. This was a kind of chastisement for Barak being such a spiritual weak person in his manly duty before God.

    What has this to do with hair and dressing of women? Well, if men do more “believe with their eyes” (which is also true not only with sexual attraction but with Christ’s resurrection as well) than women, they naturally do more tend to be carried away spiritually from their duties God gave them – in family and in public. Physical female attraction should stay at home only, and in the sleeping-room only, very private, between the married couple ONLY (Song of Solomon). That is what I meant with the “hair” of Delilah – the heathen woman used her physical attraction to suck out Simsons spiritual power; she used the bed not to build him up in caring and brotherly love but to bring him down and destroy him in front of his enemies. Thus, she “reigned” over him instead of that he would lead her. This shall never be the case with believing women and housewifes.

    The “submission problem” is btw out from the curse against Eve from Gen3,16 – the womans sin was to (mis)lead where she should have to had asked the man first and follow him (instead of the satanic serpent) – the mans sin was not wanting to lead but to leave her alone and just regard the serpent talking to his wife without interaction. This is the main problem between Adam and Eve until today. And this is probably the reason why Jesus Christ blessed women even more than men (e.g. when appearing them first after resurrection) because in some way women suffer much more in their ‘inferior’ role and order than a man can understand. If he does, after years of Christ’s work on him, he will be blessed, too.

    Have a blessed sunday with your wife and family!

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks Maranatha!

      I definitely would want to encourage you to persevere towards learning what it means to be one of Sarah’s daughters, and see that Christ-like character benefit you, your family, your marriage, your church, your city, etc.

      Blessings on you and your family this coming Sunday!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    I assume “the question that everyone has been waiting for me to tackle” is the one about abusive (in a number of ways) husbands. I really hope you’re not going to conclude that to be truly Christ-like, a wife–in her desire to win her husband to faith–should just submit to beatings she doesn’t deserve, or that “deserve” could even be a consideration in that context. (To be equal, I should also acknowledge that in some marriages, it’s actually the husband who is being abused; the same question would apply there, too.)

    I’m buckled in for the ride. Light the fuse, brother.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Actually, no. Not at all; that would be a short post indeed.

      I’m not going to address abuse at all, but rather issues surrounding clothing and “causing a brother to stumble”.

      If there’s ever any physical abuse in a marriage, the relevant pastors/elders need to become involved and involve the police. The husband needs to be stopped and then stop. The woman needs to be rescued and defended.

      Submission is never unto willful reception of unjust physical violence, and physical violence between a husband and wife is never, ever justified.

      In circumstances of emotional abuse, the church also needs to be involved in either counseling or church discipline, depending on what’s happening.

      I have no problem getting verbally aggressive with, and calling the police on (if necessary), a husband that takes out his frustrations with his life/sin/circumstances on his wife.

      They need to stop right NOW and need to know that they’re in danger of eternal torment in Hell if they don’t repent THIS MINUTE.

  • Yes, I get that Sarah went along with her husband’s plan to lie. And God didn’t blame her for the lie. But what about Abigail? When her husband refused to give David and his men food, she went behind his back and gave David food so David wouldn’t kill her, and all her family. So it’s ok for a husband to put his wife in harms way but it isn’t right for a husband to get all his family killed?

    • Jason

      Well, she was recognized for her intellect, not her submission…

      Still, I think she was being a supportive wife in her actions. She recognized her husband’s choice as self-destructive and sought to protect him from himself.

      Your last question isn’t keeping context in mind. It was neither right for Abraham to lie about his relationship to Sarah, nor was it right for Nabal to be inhospitable to David.

      However, Sarah *was* right to be willing to put herself in harms way to protect her husband and Abigail was also right for being willing to humble herself to protect hers.

      • Maranatha

        Personally I think both women Sarah and Abigail were blessed in being submissive to GOD first. He will take care of the womans’ situation in marriage (and if married to an elected saint or to a wicked idiot) and of her personal state of growing in faith. You cannot compare one woman to another, not even the same woman (e.g. Sarah) at another time in her personal life and thus her increasing level of belief and knowledge like with all saints, be they male or female. You have to recognize the context because God does so, too.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Why is it okay for a husband to put his wife in harms way?

      Who’s suggesting that?

      I honestly don’t understand your last question. I suspect you’re making an assumption that you might want to think through carefully.

      David was the anointed king of Israel, and had been for years, by 1 Sam 25. He was famous, and people knew that Saul was attempting to kill him to prevent him from getting the throne. Abigail knew this too, and she was most certainly submitting to her husband in that she helped protect his business, and his life, from the incumbent king. Abigail was never in danger of being killed, since David had explicitly stated that he was going to kill Nabal and all the men in his household (1 Sam. 25:22, 34).

      Also, submission doesn’t mean “do what he says, even if it’s idiotic or sinful.” Submission is willfully embracing the role in which God has placed a person. Abigail’s duty was to her husband, and she fulfilled that in spite of his own efforts to commit suicide by the sword of David.

      • So it wasn’t dangerous for Sarah to be included in the harem?

        • Lyndon Unger

          It was definitely dangerous, and it was also not okay for Abraham to do it.

          Still, he did and Sarah submitted to him (though I’m guessing that in the situation, she didn’t really have much choice).

  • Jason

    “winning a sinful husband’s hear” Don’t know if you were going for winning his heart or his ear, but either way it’s a one letter problem. 😛

    • Lyndon Unger

      Doh. I made an edit. Thanks for the catch.

  • Still Waters

    Hmmm, I’m not sure that Peter is referring to the way Sarah obeyed Abraham by acquiescing to the lie. After the second occasion, Abimelech had a few words for not only Abraham but also Sarah (Genesis 20:26). If Godly submission to one’s husband extended to even lying at his request, why was Sapphira punished along with Ananias? There is only one occasion on which Sarah refers to Abraham as lord, and that comes shortly after he asked her to make cakes for a certain three guests he had invited to rest and eat (Genesis 18:6, 12). The story of Abraham and Sarah is more convoluted than the surface picture of coward husband and submissive wife. Sarah advised Abraham to take Hagar, he listened to her. When Hagar got pregnant, Sarah blamed Abraham and Abraham turned Hagar over to her tender mercies; Hagar fled, then God gave her a promise and sent her back to Sarah. Then, when Isaac came along, Sarah wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away, and Abraham, who was reluctant to part with his other son, is told by God to listen to Sarah. So, Abraham listened to Sarah once and it was a bad idea; but the second time, when Abraham doesn’t want to listen to Sarah, God tells him it is a good idea. Not so straightforward, is it?

    • Maranatha

      Dear Still Waters, within a marriage submission does never go so far that God will be factored out. God never expects a woman to obey her hsb more than Him if the hsb acts against God. Such did Ananias, and Sapphira would not have been forced by scriptures to follow him here (the same as Abigail did not with Nabal). But, at it is written TWICE in Acts 5,4 and v. 9 (for both the hsb AND his woman separately!), they both would “lie against / betray the Holy Spirit” which is an individual responsability in front of GOD. As they both agreed on doing so, but with full responsability each, this made the sin even worse. (IMHO both of them were hypocrite non-believers as it was made public within the beginning church and set as a warning example in punishment by God then).

    • Lyndon Unger

      Who’s suggesting that the story of Sarah and Abraham is straight-forward or one-dimensional?

      The context in 1 Peter is one of a woman being married to a foolish husband and being tempted to act foolishly herself. Sarah certainly did act foolishly, and sinfully, frequently. Still, Peter makes the specific point that if a woman does good and does not fear what is fearful, they’re like Sarah.

      That’s not at all saying that Sarah was blameless, or even always submissive, but Peter points out that she was marked by submission as a general characteristic.

      Beyond that, there’s a lot more going on in the story of Abimelech than you realize as well. Abraham WAS Sarah’s brother (Gen. 20:12) and they had made the “call me sister, not wife” arrangement (20:13) because Abraham (for good reason) feared for his life (20:11). When Abimelech “took her”, he hadn’t met her or even seen her when the dream came (20:2-4); it was his servants who took her for him. They probably didn’t give Abraham any choice, and Sarah would have been an idiot to give them any reason to murder Abraham and avoid the future vengeance of a wrathful spouse…especially a wealthy man of means like Abraham.

      Abraham didn’t know that Abimelech feared God, and that’s the only reason both Sarah and Abraham agreed to mention their sibling relationship and not their marital one.

      There is absolutely no relevant or valid parallel between Abraham and Sarah’s predicament and Ananias and Sapphira’s self-elevating deception of the church.