Why talk about Sarah’s obedience in 1 Peter 3:1-7? By Bruce C. E. Fleming
Woman of Faith. Sarah is Peter’s example of a woman of great faith, and one whose prayers were answered. Married life for the Christian couple is not covered in 1 Peter 3:1-6 Peter. Rather, gives advice to be followed as long as spouses are spiritually unequal. They are unequal in that one knows Christ as Savior but the other does not yet know Christ. That second spouse needs to be won to Christ.
As soon as the second spouse is won to Christ and both spouses are believers, a full Christian home life can be enjoyed by both members of the couple! Biblical advice on that subject can be found in a different passage. Not here, because this passage is about witnessing wives and husbands.
Unsaved Husbands. The word “won,” near the end of verse 1, is “a missionary word.” This is the goal of the wives described in verses 1-6. These husbands do not know the Lord. They need to be “won” to Christ!
In these verses, Peter deals with wives whose everyday lives have been transformed because of their own salvation. As new Christians they feel a natural urgency to see their spouses won to Christ. “Won’t it be wonderful,” they perceive, “to live each day as believers together, to pray together, and to interact with others as Christians together!”
For those who look forward to this, and pray about it for some time with no noticeable change in their spouse, a certain suffering begins to build. They can ask:
– Why is God waiting?
– What else can I do to speed up this process?
– Will my spouse ever be won to Christ?
The church had been growing a number of years by the time Peter wrote his letter. Likely, there was a sizeable number of Christian spouses who wanted advice for their situation. Peter gives them hope. He tells them how best to live in order to lead their spouse to Christ!
Temporary Behavior. 1 Peter 3:1-6 addresses how wives ought to act during the temporary situation where one spouse in the marriage is a believer but the other is not yet a Christian. These verses are not normative for all Christian marriages. The do not address ongoing normal relations between a pair of believing spouses.
Peter writes to wives who find themselves in the worst of situations, where they cannot even speak with their husbands about Christ! They have to do all their “talking” through their actions.
Witnessing Through Action.Peter’s readers are Christians (1 Peter 1:1). He has advised them to grow in their spiritual lives (1 Peter 2:1-3). The unequally yoked wives have already taken the most important step they can take toward being effective soul winners – they themselves have been won by Christ.
In 1 Peter 3:2-4 Peter advises that the behavior of these Christian wives can catch a husband’s attention. Elements that will stand out to them will be “purity,” “reverence” and inner beauty.
Of all the people in the Bible, perhaps Peter understands impatience the best! Even as he counsels these wives to live chaste and pure lives, he knows some of their unsaved husbands seem as if they will be forever blind to their actions.
At the close of verse 4, Peter reassures these waiting wives that all is not in vain. God is watching and approving. The life of a witnessing wife is “of great worth in God’s sight.” That is sufficient reward for anyone.
A Cruel Joke? God is not a tease. He does not place the cry “Save my spouse!” in the heart of a new believer just to deny answering that prayer. In verses 5-6, Peter encourages waiting, witnessing wives to be patient and believe in, what to them may have come to seem an impossibility, the salvation of their unsaved husbands (see 2 Peter 3:1, 9).
Profiles in Courage. Peter compares the difficult situation of these unequally yoked women to that of the holy women of old in various situations who placed their trust in God. Many of the women in the Old Testament found themselves in seemingly hopeless spots. In verses 5-6, Peter picks the specific example of Sarah. Why Sarah?
Sarah’s marriage was not like that of the women in 1 Peter 3. She had married a believer. But to Peter, Sarah was a supreme example of the kind of person he has in mind, a “holy woman of old.” Both a waiting witnessing wife, and the barren and aged Sarah, can safely place before God their seemingly impossible prayer requests.
Sarah’s request was for the fulfillment of God’s promise – that she should have a child. Years passed and she and her husband were past their childbearing years. Her case seemed hopeless, yet God answered her prayers! To Peter, holding fast to a similar faith as a witnessing wife was a way of believing in God as a spiritual “daughter of Sarah.”
Let’s aim high and follow the best mentors available to us. Is our patience being tested? Let’s look to Sarah!
Have you been troubled by this and other passages in the Bible in relation to women and men? The supreme verse in this category is Genesis 3:16. Everything the Tru316 Project (Tru316.com) is doing is aimed at cleaning up the bad ideas and poor translation or Genesis 3:16.
I invite you to read and share with others The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3. You can also listen to the episodes on The Eden Podcast where we think again about passages from Genesis 2-3 down to 1 Peter 3!