How to Be a Daughter of Sarah
Passage: 1 Peter 3:5-6
This morning, we will conclude our study of a wife’s role in marriage that we began last week. We’re only going to cover two verses this morning, but I think it’s important that we slow down and really ponder what God demands of us in this section. I’d like to begin by reading Peter’s entire instruction to husbands and wives in 1 Peter 3:1–7. We all recognize that our world reacts very strongly against God’s instructions in these verses. And to some extent, we can understand. There’s no question that in the hands of sinners gender roles have a long history of abuse that contradicts v. 7. But mankind’s rejection of marriage roles goes much deeper than a desire to correct these sins. Our culture’s rejects God’s purpose because, like Adam and Eve in the garden, we arrogantly think we know better than God. But this conviction didn’t work out so well for Adam and Eve, and it’s never worked out well. There are some sad parallels between our culture’s reaction to marriage roles and the story of Jonah who thought much like Adam and Eve. God told Jonah to go preach repentance in the wicked, rival city of Nineveh even though Nineveh would one day destroy Israel. It was a hard command, but it came from a good and wise God. But Jonah thought he knew better than God and so he went the opposite direction. And he found that resisting God’s will was more miserable than obeying it, as he spent three days in the belly of a fish. After the fish spit Jonah up on the ground, Jonah conceded and went to Nineveh to preach, but he wasn’t happy about it. He continued to resist and to be filled with bitterness and anger even while God was doing great things in the city. Sadly, the story of Jonah closes with Jonah continuing to resist God and angry over the death of a shade plant even while God declares his goodness and love. Jonah was so wrapped up in his own distorted belief about how things ought to be that he couldn’t see the goodness and wisdom of God, and it left him miserable and angry. And sadly, that’s how it is for anyone who rejects God’s will. Consider the rebellion against God’s plan for marriage that has taken place in the last 50+ years in our country and how much trouble it has caused. There are exceptions, but very few people who have rejected God’s will have gone to their death with the joy that say my grandfather had when he died. He and my grandmother honored God’s plan in their family, and he died with joy with his wife at his side after 50+ years of a full, wonderful marriage together. Neither of them would have traded God’s plan for any substitute they could have devised. And so there is no denying that God’s demands in these verses can be difficult to obey and that they are unpopular in our culture, but as we begin today, I want to emphasize that they flow from perfect wisdom and love, and that when a man and woman follow them obediently, these instructions are for our good. And ultimately, these commands come from our authority. And so I trust that as we study today, we will not make the arrogant mistake of Jonah and think we know better than God but that we will trust him and submit to his will.
With that in mind, vv. 5–6 conclude Peter’s instruction to wives by pointing them to the example of holy women from the past. Who are these women, and why does Peter bring them up?
The Holy Women (vv. 5–6):
Verse 5 speaks of “holy women” from “former times.” Who does Peter have in mind? Since v. 6 specifically mentions Sarah, she is primarily in view along with the other wives of Israel’s patriarchs—Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. Peter uses their example to complete his explanation of the command in v. 1 for wives to submit to their husbands. Verses 5–6 accomplish two things. First, they provide an authoritative basis for the command by demonstrating that Peter’s instructions have always been God’s design. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah honored their husbands and followed them even when it took great faith to do so. Therefore, by submitting to their husbands, the ladies in Peter’s audience would be following the pattern of godly women throughout history. Second and primarily, these two verses use the testimony of these women to further explain what submission looks like.
Therefore, let’s take some time to consider their example of submission.
The Example of Submission:
I’d like to break their example into three statements. First…
They submitted to their husbands based on faith in God.
Verse 5 characterizes these women as constantly trusting God. The verb Peter uses typically speaks of hope for the future. Specifically here, it is hope in God’s eternal reward. Hebrews 11:13 expands on the hope that inspired the patriarchs and their wives when it says, “These all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” In other words, these ladies didn’t live their lives based on what they could see or their present circumstances; instead, the driving force of their lives was the hope of God’s eternal reward. You may wonder what does eternity have to do with a wife’s submission? The answer is everything. We are studying the life of Abraham on Sunday nights, and following Abraham must have taken a lot of faith for Sarah. She followed him when he said God had commanded them to leave their home and travel to a new place. Sarah lived in a tent her entire time in Canaan, and when she died, she only had one descendant, and they didn’t own any property. They were a long ways from being a nation. But she made these sacrifices and followed her husband because she knew that God’s reward in heaven was far greater than anything she left behind in Ur. Ladies, following your husband won’t always be easy. It may mean taking an uncomfortable step like a big move or a job transition that you aren’t sure about. At times, it may mean following your husband even when you are convinced he is making a foolish choice. You have tried to graciously and sometimes firmly help him see that, and he won’t budge. And what is the natural temptation when you are convinced an authority is about to do something foolish? Your feelings and momentary logic say to resist and take charge. And so you have to make a choice. Will I take matters into my own hands and fight for my temporary happiness, or will I trust that God knows best and that his eternal reward is worth my obedience? Ladies will you trust God enough to submit to your husbands even when it’s hard or even when you disagree with his decisions about finances, child-rearing, and time priorities? Recognize the significance of this point. When you reject your husband’s authority, you aren’t just rejecting him, you are rejecting God’s command and you are refusing to trust the goodness of his will and the superiority of his eternal reward. It is wicked. And I’d like to add that this principle holds true anytime we dishonor an authority. Obeying God’s will is always a step of faith. If you are struggling to honor a parent, your boss at work, the government, or a teacher, make a choice to trust God with your life now and with your eternity.
Submit by faith. Second, these ladies set an example in that…
They adorned themselves with a submissive spirit.
Of course, that word “adorned” ought to ring a bell from last week. In vv. 3–4 it was used in reference to our most outstanding qualities. Peter said that a woman should not primarily be noticed for her outward appearance but for her “gentle and quiet spirit.” Here, Peter states that the holy women were known for how they submitted to their own husbands. The idea is very similar to v. 4. These women weren’t known for being pushy or boisterous. They didn’t try to manipulate their husbands through doing little things to influence them against their wills. Instead, they were known for loving and honoring their husbands and for standing behind them. Ladies, is this how you are known by your family and friends? Your kids might be the most significant test. One of my good friends from Michigan was the oldest son of my former pastor. I remember him telling me one time how thankful he was that he doesn’t have any memories of his parents arguing while growing up. He added, that’s pretty incredible because his mom is a very strong and opinionated woman. He said, “I know they had disagreements, but they always kept them from us, and they never put each other down in front of us.” Claudia adorned herself before her boys with a submissive spirit, and her husband, by extension, adorned himself with love and honor for his wife. We’ll see in v. 7 that the husband’s adornment is also very important. He should never put his wife down before others either. A husband and a wife ought to be a tight-knit team, and it ought to be very clear that they love and respect each other. Husbands and wives, are you known for this kind of unity and love to where no one would ever think of trying to pit you against each other because there is no way it would work? Does your spouse trust you like this? Again, the principle here is significant for any relationship with an authority. Does your boss absolutely trust you that you have his back or that when he asks you to do something, you will fulfill his wishes heartily? Adorn yourself with a submissive spirit. Before we go one, I do want to highlight a significant detail to this command that we could potentially skip over. That is that vv. 1, 5 are both very specific that wives are to obey “your own husband.” He doesn’t say that women are to submit to all men in every context of life, even though this would have been the assumption in Peter’s day and is sometimes assumed in ours. The Scriptures are clear that men are to lead in the home and in the church, but they don’t require this elsewhere. Therefore, I want to clarify that it is okay for women to lead in secular contexts like politics, the classroom, or the workplace. Of course, this doesn’t mean that in these contexts, women (or men) can stop being modest and humble. Godliness applies to every area of life. And as ladies think about a career, they’ve got to be realistic about whether or not their career goals will come into conflict with God’s design for marriage and family. Therefore, while there’s nothing wrong with a lady working in business or another high-demanding job, you need to consider if this kind of career won’t compromise family obligations. Young ladies, as you think about your future, you ought to prepare to be able to support yourself or to help support your family, but choose a path that will also be conducive to family.
That said, the final example Peter highlights is that…
Sarah honored her husband as an authority.
This statement has engendered a lot of debate over the years because it is shocking in our day to think of a woman calling her husband “lord.” It sounds incredibly chauvinistic and demeaning to women. Based on our understanding of “lord,” we might picture Sarah as a mindless puppet who sheepishly walks around with her head down treating Abraham as her general or slave master. But this isn’t accurate. We know that’s not what Peter advocates based on v. 7, which states that men and women are equal before God even though they have different roles. And we will see tonight this is not how Abraham and Sarah interacted. Sarah freely shared her thoughts with Abraham, and they made decisions together. We’re actually going to look at a story tonight where Sarah took charge in a way that was not right. This verse is not describing oppression of women. The primary reason this statement sounds rough to us is that we are over 4,000 years removed from the culture of Abraham and Sarah. In their day, this title didn’t communicate belittlement; rather it was the normal term a wife would use to show honor and respect to her husband. There’s only one time where the Scriptures record Sarah calling Abraham “lord.” In Genesis 18, Abraham is 99 years old and Sarah is 89. The Lord appears to them and says that a year later, Sarah would have a son. Verse 12 states, “Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” Peter found this statement significant because even while noting Abraham’s age and human inability to father a son, Sarah still honored him and called him “lord.” Peter’s point is to highlight her respect for Abraham even in a place where he was weak, and to call on Christian wives to do the same. It’s often been said that women want to be loved, and men want to be respected. Ladies, there are few greater gifts you can give your husband than honor and respect, and there may not be a greater way you can hurt your husband than to belittle him as weak, dumb, or unable to provide sufficiently. If you feel like your husband is cold or distant, then ask yourself, “Does my husband see me as his biggest fan?” I don’t mean that you can’t ever disagree with him or point out his faults. Your husband wants loving confrontation. But at the end of the day, does he know that you trust him, that you believe in him, and that he is a good provider? Don’t just nod your head and think, “of course he does” because you wouldn’t be happy if that was his attitude about telling you he loved you or that you are beautiful. Honor your husband in your heart and express it to him in your words and actions. And as a result of this honor, obey him. Peter states that Sarah’s honor led to obedience. We know from Genesis that Sarah sometimes failed, but she still followed her husband across the known world. She lived in a tent with him for years based on what may have seemed to be a far-fetched promise. She then stood by as Abraham took Isaac on a journey that supposedly would end in his death. What a testimony. Wives, follow Sarah’s example. Honor your husband and follow his lead. All of us, let’s be challenged to trust God’s perfect order and to obey.
These ladies set a great example for Christian wives to follow. Peter then encourages wives with…
The Hope of Submissive Wives—They are Daughters of God.
The basic idea behind is pretty simple. When Christian wives submit to their husbands, they stand in the heritage of the godly women who have gone before them. To be a daughter or a son of a significant historical figure is a great honor. But this promise goes far deeper than the mere hope that you resemble someone great. To be a daughter of Sarah has salvific significance. This is because Abraham and Sarah have tremendous significance within God’s plan to provide salvation. In God’s initial covenant with Abraham, he promised, “in you (i.e., Abraham) all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This promise was fulfilled when Jesus was born as a descendant of Abraham. And Jesus provided a blessing that no one else could provide. He lived a perfect life, and then he died in our place taking on himself our punishment for sin. And through his death, Jesus provided salvation for all who believe on him. Acts 4:12 states, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This salvation means that we are rescued from the judgment of God that we rightly deserve, and God’s judgment is replaced with his favor, grace, and a home in heaven. These gifts are the primary blessings that God promised to provide through Abraham. Because of that, the NT often calls those who have been saved “children of Abraham.” We are not physical children, but we are spiritual children. And in our text, Peter adds that saved women are spiritual daughters of Sarah—Abraham’s wife and the mother of Israel.
Before we go on, I want to emphasize that this blessing does not belong to everyone. Acts 4:12 said that salvation is only available in Christ, and our text says that only certain women are daughters of Sarah. This salvation only belongs to those who put their faith in Christ for salvation. If you have never done that, I want to urge you to do so today because you can never save yourself. You are a sinner who will never measure up to God’s righteousness. But Jesus already did. He lived a perfect life, and he died in your place. If you believe on him, you can be forgiven of your sin, and you can have a home in heaven. If you need to be saved, I hope that you will talk with me or Pastor Kris afterwards so that we can help you become a child of God.
For those of us who have been saved, it’s always good to remember the blessing we have received and the hope that we have because doing God’s will is not always easy. Some of the ladies to whom Peter was speaking were facing real hardship in their marriages, and obeying God’s will was hard. But thankfully for Christians, there is always hope, and we can remain encouraged even when obeying God is difficult. Ladies, obeying God’s will for marriage will be hard at times, but don’t lose sight of your reward. Eternity is worth obeying God’s design for marriage. I’d say the same thing to husbands. Loving your wife and being faithful to her will be hard at times, but eternity is worth it. Don’t quit on your marriage. Obey God’s will believing his reward is worth any sacrifice. Of course, this holds true for any other area of obedience. God help us to always remember that the temporary pleasure of disregarding God never outweighs the blessing of obedience.
We have a great hope. Peter then concludes with…
The Condition of Hope
“Do(ing) good” is simply a reference to godly conduct, to obeying God’s commands and modeling his character. It’s a general idea, but in this context, Peter is specifically thinking of Christian wives and of their God-given obligations in marriage. Again, Peter emphasizes the importance of honoring and obeying God’s design. He says that wives are to do so while “not (being) afraid with any terror.” At first, this might seem contradictory. In v. 2, Peter told wives to let the fear of the Lord drive their conduct, but here he says to not let fear affect conduct. It’s important to note that Peter uses a unique word for fear in v. 6. This term does not refer to a proper, reverent, secure fear of God, but to terror or intimidation. As we’ve already noted, there were a lot of forces trying to discourage these women from obeying God’s will. Society looked down on them for rejecting their husbands’ faith, and their husbands may have as well. These wives may have faced other fears also, and Peter challenges them not to let fear or intimidation keep them from obeying God’s will. Keep doing right, and trust the Lord with the consequences.
This is an important challenge because doing the right thing is often intimidating, and we’d rather just do it our way. But again, that’s where faith is so important. Whether you are a wife trying to obey your husband, a child obeying your parents, or an employee working under a terrible boss, you’ve got to trust God’s will that it is good and that he will be faithful as we do right. Do what is right, and recognize that it is not optional. Notice that this is a conditional statement that is tied to being a daughter of Abraham. You are a daughter of Abraham IF you do good… Peter is not teaching that you are saved by doing good deeds. We know this based on the rest of Scripture, which is clear that salvation is by grace. But while obedience doesn’t save, it is a necessary evidence of genuine faith. There is no biblical category for a genuine Christian who refuses to obey God’s will. Obedience is an essential mark of genuine faith. And so let’s be sure to take it seriously. Don’t nod your heard to God’s truth and leave without any intention of obeying it. Commit yourself to following God’s purpose no matter the cost.
In a moment, we are going to close by singing #464, “Lord, Be Glorified.” I trust we will sing this simple song as a genuine prayer that God would be glorified in my life, my home, and my church.