|Vol. 1, No. 4||Page 13||April 1999|
Sarah: Whose Daughters Ye Are
It is interesting that Peter has emphasized the importance of a beautiful "inside," as more important than outward appearance. Outward beauty may attract attention, but this inner beauty can lead the lost to Christ. The apostle has said that an unbelieving husband might be won by the influence of his wife's godly lifestyle.
"While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man [person] of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek an quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (1 Peter 3:1-4).It is our loving service to God that makes us beautiful rather than the costly ointments and gaudy baubles of worldliness.
Some have misinterpreted what is said here and insisted that women ought to give no attention at all to appearance. Accordingly, they have completely forbidden any jewelry ("gold"). However, Peter is not giving an absolute. Such would lead to the foolish position of no clothing at all ("putting on of apparel").
What is being shown is that physical beauty can never take the place of spiritual beauty. It is interesting, therefore, that he mentions Sarah in this context, because particular attention is given in the Old Testament to her physical beauty. Abraham described her as "a fair woman to look upon," and the Egyptians saw "that she was very fair" (Gen. 12:11, 15). It was her beauty, however, that created a crises. Fearing that someone might kill him in order to have his beautiful wife, Abraham had persuaded her to claim to be his sister. He was willing to put her into a compromising situation. Surely the greater blame in this was on Abraham himself, but it illustrates that there are far greater concerns than being attractive to men.
We shouldn't be obsessed with fashion but neither should we be so unconcerned that we neglect to care for ourselves. Hygiene, neatness and grooming are important, but even more important is our attitude and spirit. True beauty begins inside. Others will find us beautiful in spirit when we wear our Christianity quietly and consistently in our lives. If we are beautiful in God's sight, we have a beauty that never fades.
The passage in 1 Peter uses Sarah especially as an example of a wife who was in subjection to her husband. She even called him "lord" (1 Peter 3:5-6). This is not, of course, "lord" in the since of deity, but a term of respect for his position of leadership. Many are troubled by the Bible's requirement that wives are to be in subjection to their husbands (i.e., Ephesians 5:22-24). Submission means to cooperate voluntarily with someone, out of love and respect for God and that person. Ideally, submission is mutual (Ephesians 5:21).
There are limits to submission, of course. And while Sarah is a wonderful example of one meekly following her husband's instructions, she should have known where to draw the line. We do not know what discussion, if any, followed Abraham's request that she lie to say she was his sister, not his wife. It is certain, however, that she should not have complied. Even Pharaoh, and later Abimelech, saw that this was a dangerous course which could only result in great tragedy. By the providence of God, she was kept from being an adulteress, but we could admire her more if, in this matter, she had refused to submit to Abraham's plan.
We are to submit "even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well." (Christian submission never requires us to disobey God.) We need to be in submission for the orderly function of the home. Within any group or organization there must be a leader. If the military did not have its chain of command, there would be chaos. If there were not a final authority in a company such as a president or CEO it would fail. Even in a business partnership there must be some way to break a tie so the business can move forward.
We should be in submission to save an unbelieving husband. Men have been converted because women have maintained their submissiveness to their husbands and Christ in such a way that Christ shone through in their lives.
If your husband is a non-Christian, unfaithful, or even unconcerned about spiritual matters, you are not going to convert him by playing sermon tapes real loud or leaving scriptures in his lunch box. You will convert him because of the difference Christ is making in your life.
We must be submissive to honor Jesus through obedience. If we ignore God's designated authority in the home, one would have to question our level of spiritual commitment. We can learn a lot by the study of Sarah. We need to emulate her strengths and learn from her weaknesses.