Sermon Text: 1 Peter 3:1–6
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé

Sarah’s Fearless Daughters

Do you have problem passages? 

When I say problem passages, I mean passages that make you so uncomfortable that your immediate instinct is to figure out a way to make the passage somehow say the opposite of what it seems to say. We are prone to this, because sin has corrupted every part of what it means to be human; it didn’t spare our emotional self, rational self, sexual self, relational self—any part of our self.

And so when we run into a passage of Scripture that confronts some area of our self that has been twisted or put out of alignment by sin, our first instinct tends to be to doubt the passage rather than to doubt our reason, our emotion, our intuition

We’re like a person missing a shoe trying to tell a guy with a level that the floor is off kilter. So here’s a presupposition we need to have as we think and reason and wrestle our way through the Scriptures: Christians don’t get to have problem passages.

When we come to the text, we come to it humbly. We come to it for instruction. We come to it to be corrected, molded, shaped by it.

Now listen, because here’s why this matters so deeply: Those places where you feel great reluctance, great resistance, great fear and trepidation at the Word of God—those are very often precisely those places where you most need God’s gracious, sovereign rule to knock you over and stand you back up.

Those are often the very places where a competing god has successfully discipled you to, in the words of the Apostle Paul in his great letter to the Romans, “exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship the creature rather than the Creator.”

This morning in 1 Peter, we come to a text like that—a text that may knock us over. A text that might feel like having the rug pulled out from under us. A text that stands in stark, bold opposition to the discipleship programs of the gods of this age, the vicious and false god of egalitarian, self-defining, self-sovereignty.

So what I want to do here up front, before we read our text and get to work, is to make a plea to you, especially to my sisters this morning. Peter speaks to you today, eye to eye, with great care for your soul and for your joy. And for some of you, this may feel like a hard word, a strange instruction; it may not make sense to you.

And so as your pastor, I’m pleading with you to doubt your own heart, thoughts, feelings, and intuitions rather than God’s Word. To soften your heart, to submit yourself to the Word of God in faith that God is wiser than we are, that he loves us more than we love ourselves, and that obedience to him always results in blessing in the long run.

One of the great problems facing the church today is that pastors often feel great freedom in rebuking men and male sin—we often have no problem being very direct with men—but when it comes to the patterns of sin and fear and idolatry that tend to thrive among the Lord’s women, there is very often a great trepidation to engage. There is a fear to bluntly, directly confront feminine sin.

I feel that. I feel twinges of fear, even now, to preach this text faithfully. But I love you and don’t want to rob you of enduring good out of fear of offending you in the next 45 minutes. So I’m going to try with all my might not to rob you. Let’s read our text this morning, ask for the Lord’s help, and get to work.

Instruction Spoken into Temptation

This section of Peter’s letter lands right in the middle of a five-part series of instructions to specific groups of Christians. We’ve already hear him address Christian citizens and household slaves. Now he’ll address Christian wives. Next week, he address husbands, and then finally, he will address all of us in the local church. 

With each group, Peter takes the pattern of the gospel—of Jesus’ suffering for sinners and subsequent glory—and uses it as a pattern to instruct Christian citizens under civil authorities. And as he does so, he identifies areas where the temptation is particularly strong for each group. 

And so from his instruction to Christian wives, we’ll draw out three primary areas where Peter identifies a strong temptation and see the instruction he speaks into this areas.

1. He urges Christian wives to humble submission, not controlling manipulation.
2. He warns Christian women against obsession with ephemeral, external beauty rather than internal, enduring beauty.
3. He calls Christian women to faith rather than fear.

And in each of these three instructions, we will ask three questions:

1. What feminine temptation is this speaking into? What is my flesh telling me to do?
2. What will happen if I listen to it, if I obey its passions and desires?
3. What would Peter have me do instead? What would it look like to obey the Lord rather than my flesh?

The Temptation to Control

The first of the three temptations Peter speaks into is in verses 1–2. Look there again, if you would.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”

-1 Peter 3:1–2

1. What feminine temptation is this speaking into?

The temptation Peter addresses is the temptation to subvert the order of authority within the family government. The Scriptures teach four general spheres of authority and governing:

The self.
The home.
The church.
The state.

In each of those spheres, he appoints authorities. The self is to be ruled by the Spirit and not the flesh. The husband is to be the head of his home, of his wife (Eph. 5), and together they are to rule over their children (Eph. 6). The church is to be ruled by godly elders (1 Timothy 3). The state is to be ruled by godly men who rule according to God’s law (Ex. 18; 1 Sam. 8; Pr. 31).

And what happens when sin gets into any of these spheres—the self, the home, the church, or the state—is that those in authority ignore God’s higher, ultimate authority and govern wickedly. But what also happens is that those under authority chafe and rebel over authority.

The Scriptures are clear: From the beginning, God intended for husbands to be the head of their home, and wives are called to submission to their husband’s leadership. There are many texts we could cross-reference today’s text with to show this. We’ll see one, Ephesians 5:22–23,

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

-Ephesians 5:22–23

A man is to exercise Christlike headship in his home, to which his wife is to joyfully submit herself. This isn’t a culturally conditioned instruction; it’s grounded in the creational intent of God to display the gospel of God—which in its fullness preaches the gospel of a loving Bridegroom saving and cherishing his spotless Bride. 

This pattern of headship and submission is something that the Lord who made humanity has worked into the very nature of humanity. It is not arbitrary—God didn’t flip a coin after creating man and woman and say, “Welp, the man is going to have headship.”

It’s profoundly not the case that you could reverse the roles and have the home function just as well; there are creational glories and strengths of masculinity that lean into headship—giving away of strength for the sake of love and protection and provision. And there are creational glories and strengths of femininity that lean into submission—of fruitfulness, domesticity, care, and nurturing.

And from our first mother, Eve, sin has been telling wives to rebel against their husbands, to seek power through manipulation and control; to undermine him, discourage his authority; to reject submission for control.

This is why God warned Eve in Genesis 3, “Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you.” That word “for” is translated “contrary to” in the ESV for a reason: It is the exact same word that the Lord uses to warn Cain in Genesis 4, “[Sin’s] desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The Curse of sin exchanges submissive, joyfully meek wives—whose nurturing, fruitful help is their glory—into aggressive manipulators, and it exchanges strong, self-sacrificing husbands for tyrants.

So ladies, sin is telling you, your flesh is telling you right now that you will find your greatest joy by reaching for power and control and manipulation. That you should use nagging as a weapon. That you should wield your emotions like a sword to cut your husband. That you should belittle him, disrespect him—get your own.

The Proverbs calls this woman a contentious woman—she is like a continual dripping of water. The Proverbs call this woman the loud woman, the brash woman, the woman named Folly. It warns men not to go near this woman, to avoid her as a wife.

And Peter applies this specifically to women whose husbands aren’t believers, a common case in the area and time he was writing to, where many women converted to Christ whose husbands did not initially.

And so he anticipates that they may think they aren’t called to submit to their husbands since they don’t submit to Christ. And Peter says, “No! Especially then! You are preaching the Gospel to them!” The great African theologian, Augustine, praised his own mother, Monnica, for her faithful, quite, humble submission to her pagan husband, Patricius, who became a Christian at the very end of his life through her witness.

“She served her husband as her master, and did all she could to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her conduct, by which You made her beautiful… Finally, when her husband was at the end of his earthly span, she gained him for You.”

Sin tells you to try and win your unbelieving husband through the taking of authority rather than submission, yet Peter urges you to respectful, pure, submissive conduct.

2. What will happen if you listen to this temptation, if you obey its passions and desires?

When we disregard and disobey God’s instruction for how he created us to function and the world to be, we create little hells everywhere we go. In the attempt to make our own little heavens, we make hell.

So does submission sound like Hell to you? Does the idea of headship and submission sound like an evil to you? Before you reject it, remember that it is that very instinct—the instinct to call God’s instructions onerous and hellish—that in the end actually makes Hell on earth. The result of throwing off God’s design for masculinity and femininity isn’t an egalitarian paradise; it’s hellish. 

And it’s hellish because all rebellion against the lower authorities in creation is ultimately a rebellion against God’s authority, and so the instinct of your flesh towards dishonor, disrespect, towards power through control and manipulation—that’s just the instinct of your flesh to rebel against the Lord’s authority applied to marriage.

All unjust rebellion against the authorities God puts in place is rebellion against God. And the thing about rebellion against God is that it never works in the long run. It often seems to work in the near term—Nero certainly seemed to succeed as he flaunted God’s law in his wicked rule. But in the end, the justice of God won.

Think about the contrast between the submissive and the un-submissive wife: One woman aims for power through control. The other woman is trying to honor. The manipulative wife ends up, in the pursuit of power, to not have any real power.

3. What would Peter have me do instead?

In a word, to “…be subject to your own husbands… [with] respectful and pure conduct.”

Make it plain that you delight in his strength. That you delight in his masculine glory. That you are, as Paul says, his glory. That you want to be his crown—a feminine crown that adorns and intensifies his masculine glory. Make it plain that you want to follow him, to be led by him. 

Your husbands run on respect. When you honor him before others, praise his strength, submit to his leadership; when you make it plain that you want to follow him, that you trust him—this is compelling to him. And compelling by design.

I’m not saying that you ought to lie. I’m not saying that you are at fault when your husband is not a respectable man—as if you just weren’t compelling enough in your femininity or something. No, but you have been given great power by the Lord to influence your husband—and that power is found in respect and honor, not control and authority.

Now, as with the instructions we’ve already seen for Christians to obey the government and slaves to obey their masters, Peter is clearly not instructing Christian wives to obey their husband’s instruction to sin. If he says, “Curse Christ!” she says, “I love you, but I won’t.”

If you are being abused by your husband, whether physically or sexually or another way, tell a pastor. Tell a sister. Call the police if you need to. This text no more forbids those actions than Peter’s instruction to obey governing authority forbids citizens from turning in a corrupt cop. 

The Temptation to Vanity

Now that we’ve built out some of the biblical foundations, these second two areas will be more brief. The second of the three temptations Peter speaks into is found in verses 3–4. Look there with me, if you would.

“Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”

-1 Peter 3:3–4

And so again, our three questions: What is the flesh telling me to do? What will happen if I listen? What is the Lord calling for instead?

1. What feminine temptation is this speaking into?

Sin is telling you to trade in physical beauty rather than inward beauty. It’s telling you to gain power in, to find your joy in, to tether your identity to external adorning. To commodify your glory, your beauty, your strength, your body. 

Now what Peter is not giving is an absolute prohibition against physical beauty, against feminine clothing, against hair styling, and against jewelry. No, the force of this text is a contrast between the woman who has placed the center of identity gravity on her enduring self rather than on her ephemeral self.

To adorn is to glorify, enhance, embellish. You adorn what you treasure. And what you treasure, protect, value, and adorn reveals what you worship. And so Peter points to a feminine temptation to make the body the center of adorning—in worship of the self and the idols of sex and beauty and riches— rather than to turn to Christ for the inward adorning of the soul in worship of God.

2. What will happen if you listen to your flesh?

If you listen to it, you will become sad, silly, and find yourself increasingly desperate to cling to something that was meant to be passing, clinging to a seed that was meant to be sown.

And listen, this is not a manifesto against beauty. Beauty is good! As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 3, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” Yes! And praise that beautiful God for gifting us with beauty!

The beauty of the female body, of feminine dress and hair manner is a glory on earth. It is preaching something. Did you know that? Every body, in fact, has its own words in it, it’s own sermon. Human bodies are stories that God is writing.

The young, strong male body is saying, “Come and be fruitful with me. I have strength to provide and protect. I will give my strength away for the sake of my people.”

 The young, strong female body is saying, “Come and be fruitful with me. I am ready to give myself away for the sake of life.”

And follow me here close, because this is where we start to get into where this whole thing goes off the rails, where bodies and beauty and eternal adorning jumps the tracks: 

The body whose youthful flower is fading is preaching, too. And it is a sermon of enduring glory. That body says, “This body has been given over to a kind of death for the sake of life!” A female body that looks like it has borne children is a body that has a more mature glory than the young, fit body, that is saying, “Come and be fruitful with me.”

The stretch-marked, stretched-out-and-put-back-together female body is saying “I am a fruitful vine.” It is matured the way that grapes mature into wine. Meaning the passing of youthful beauty in your body is not failure to avoid, but a glory to present to God!

So sisters, listen (and I’m gaining to say some things here that maybe will seem strange, but I’m convinced it needs to be said): 

Parts of you that used to be firm and fit are going to sag. You are going to get stretch marks. You are going to get wrinkles. You are not going to be hot for long. You’re going to get a weird a flap of skin under your chin. A neck flap. And you’re going to get arm flaps.

This is why Peter preaches to his sisters: Don’t trust in the external adorning! It’s fleeting, and if you try to keep it and grasp onto it, it will turn your grapes to vinegar rather than wine. It will keep you from doing what you’re for. It will keep you from your glory. 

Your body is meant for use. It’s a seed meant for planting. Don’t cling to the seed and forfeit the hundredfold-return it’s designed to yield. Rather, use it up! Run hard towards the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. Give your body away to love and produce and die a happy, worn out shell leaning into resurrection glory.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”

-2 Corinthians 4:16–18

3. What would Peter have me do instead?

Peter would rather you lean into the glory of your enduring, feminine soul. To “...let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”

Women who focus on external beauty and neglect the inward soul eventually find that despite all their Herculean efforts, their beauty is gone. It’s left. It’s fled. The flower bloomed to beauty and faded to winter. And they find that they have become a dried out husk—no life within, none without.

Women who focus on inward beauty mature like wine. You can see it on their faces long past their flowering 20s. This is a beauty that Peter says is imperishable. It’s imperishable because it’s the beauty of a woman who has tethered her hope to the Lord Jesus and obedience to him rather than to her body and other people’s foolish opinions of it.

Be free, sisters. Be free from the weight of worshiping your bodies.

The Temptation to Fear

Sin tells women to be afraid of all of this. Look at verses 5–6,

“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.” 

-1 Peter 3:5–6

And so again, our three questions: What is the flesh telling me to do? What will happen if I listen? What is the Lord calling for instead?

1. What feminine temptation is this speaking into?

It is scary to give yourself away. It is scary to nurture the invisible rather than the visible when everyone is yelling at you at the top of their lungs that your identity is equal to your sex appeal.

It is scary to submit to weak and sinful husbands who don’t lead well, who sometimes doesn’t even worship the Lord.

These are frightful things. And so the temptation is the fear what genuinely is frightening—notice that, Peter admits that these are frightening things in verse 6!—rather than to trust in God’s keeping and protecting and satisfying and adorning.

2. What will happen if you listen to fear?

For starters, the first two temptations are embraced when this third one is. Fear incarnate looks like control. Fear with flesh on it and embodied in words and actions looks like manipulative control.

Fear incarnate looks like clinging to physical beauty as my hope rather than trusting that the God who brings the a hundredfold yield from the sown seed will bring that same yield from my sown self.

3. What would Peter have me do instead?

Faith, not fear. Trust God’s strength, not your own. Trust that he will bring you the wine of satisfaction when it seems like you are laying down your hopes and your strength like grapes to be crushed.

Crushed grapes make wine.
Sown seeds bear more.

Remember, sisters that as with all of Peter’s instructions to each group of believers in this section, he doesn’t tell you “Do this!” but rather, “Likewise, do this...”

Likewise. Or “in the same way.” In the same way as what? In the same way as Jesus our Lord was sown a dead seed to bear a billion fold return! In the same way that he entrusted himself to another even unto death for the sake of life. In the same way that he used his body up and bled his blood and gave his nerve endings away for us.

In the same way that he bled for life, died for life; in the same way that he quietly endured evil for the sake of glory. Sisters, you are safe in dying, so long as you are dying in the pattern of your dying and rising Lord.

You are safe in giving yourself away—your hopes, your strength, your glories, your beauty, your body—if you are giving yourself away like a living sacrifice to the God who adopts and adorns and satisfies.

His promises stand! Death isn’t permanent; life is! Suffering isn’t forever; glory is!