1 Peter 3:3-6

“Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes, but rather what is inside the heart—the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also adorned themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and do not fear any intimidation.”

Peter goes on here to describe how women are to live pure, reverent lives. He starts by saying that their beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry. I want to stop here first. The version I use (the CSB) does not have the word ‘merely’ which some versions have, but I do think that this is an appropriate addition- to an extent. In those days, just as today, women spent an immense amount of time on their outward appearance. Peter was warning the women that their outward appearance was not what was going to win their husbands over.

The reason I think that it is appropriate to have the word ‘merely’ added in is because some Christian groups have taken this verse to an extreme and used it to say women cannot wear makeup, jewelry, cut their hair…the list goes on. I shared a story in an earlier blog post about a woman in my Bible study group who had married into such a group. It was a hard life to live under such rules! But is this what the Bible teaches? Let’s look at the Proverbs 31 woman, especially verse 22. “She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” This is a well-dressed woman! I think that Peter is making the point here that we are not to spend all of our time on outward beauty, that we are to focus on what is in our hearts.

Peter goes on to describe this as “the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Edmund Clowney writes in his commentary, “The spirit of which Peter speaks is not here the Holy Spirit but it is the fruit of the Spirit in the heart of the Christian. The gentle and quiet spirit is not presented as distinctly feminine, for Jesus described himself as ‘gentle and humble of heart’.” Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Peter uses the word imperishable. Unlike beauty which fades, a gentle spirit will not fade.

We put so much value on outward beauty. I did a quick Google search and came up with these numbers. In 2021, people spent $63.4 billion on cosmetic surgery and procedures. The U.S. cosmetic industry revenue for 2022 is estimated to be about $49 billion. That’s a lot of money! People spend a lot of money to keep their outsides looking good, but neglect their spirit. God looks at what’s on the inside of a person. Remember the story of David? When Samuel was going to replace Saul as king, God told him this.  “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart’”(1 Samuel 16:7).  God is far more concerned with our heart than with what we look like.

Peter gives us the example of holy women of the past, and then especially Sarah. Sarah certainly did submit to Abraham, but when we read through their story, we can see that their relationship definitely had its ups and downs! Abraham had Sarah lie and say that she was his sister (to her potential danger) twice, but God protected them. Sarah gave Abraham her servant so they could have a family (because she was barren) and when her servant bore a child she blamed Abraham for causing her suffering. When Sarah was 90, the LORD appeared to Abraham and told him that in a year’s time she would bear a son. Sarah laughed. Then when she was confronted by the LORD about it, she denied it. The reason I covered all of this is because Abraham and Sarah were imperfect people! Yet God used them. He picked them from all the people on earth to be his chosen people. He made a covenant with them. And they followed him by faith. We read this about Sarah and Abraham in Hebrews 11:11-12. “By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the one who had promised was faithful. Therefore, from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and as innumerable as the grains of sand along the seashore.” Wayne Grudem writes this. “To be Sarah’s daughter is to be joint heirs of the promises and the honor given to her and Abraham.”

Peter writes that we have become her daughters when we do what is good and do not fear any intimidation. Roger Raymer writes in his commentary, “Wives who are fearful (perhaps because of disobeying their husbands) are not putting all their trust in God.” Conversely, Wayne Grudem writes, “a woman with a “gentle and quiet spirit’ who continues ‘hoping in God’ will not be terrified by circumstances or by an unbelieving or disobedient husband.”

So let’s wrap up Peter’s teaching for wives. We are to submit to our husbands. We are to live pure and reverent lives. And we are to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight. For those with unbelieving husbands, this is the way to win them over. And for those of us with believing husbands, this is the example of marriage we are to show to the world. Next up is instructions for husbands.

Grace be with you!


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