The Beautiful Wife
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 3:2-4
If you were here for last week’s message, you know that the passage we’re looking at deals with the relationship in the home between husbands and wives.
One of themes in the message for wives is the topic of attractiveness or beauty. Beauty has been an obsession for every culture, though their standards don’t always agree. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
From the Middle Ages through Renaissance and Victorian period of England, standards of beauty indicated that women were to be as pale as possible, demonstrating they had the status to never work outdoors under the sun. Women wanted translucent skin and could enhance that look either by painting veins onto themselves, using toxic compounds, or even resorting to bloodletting or phlebotomy.
Another ideal of beauty was a high forehead. Some women would shave their eyebrows and pluck their hairline as a form of augmentation.
Ancient Greece was no different in its pursuit of beauty. Plato is quoted as saying the three wishes of every Greek were to be healthy, to be rich by honest means, and to be beautiful. Parents would place statues of Greek goddesses in their bedrooms hoping that the children they conceived would be beautiful. That beauty, for the Greeks, included symmetry and balanced proportions tied to mathematical ratios.
One of the most highly-prized qualities of a woman was her hair. Lovely hair was the color of flax, giving an advantage to the natural blondes and redheads.
Another element of beauty in Ancient Greece was what was called “eyebrows of grace.” These were soft arches that would ideally meet in the middle over the nose. If one’s eyebrows didn’t extend that far, one could glue animal hair to fill it in. Today, if your eyebrows extend above your nose, we call it a unibrow, and it’s not as highly regarded.
Besides gluing animal hair to the face, Greek women used makeup which included powder and blush imported from Syria, black and red pencils, and white lead to camouflage wrinkles. Once the Romans came in, by the way, wrinkled skin was smeared with wax to make it look smoother.
It might interest you to know, however, the average Greek man wasn’t really looking for a beautiful wife. In fact, most housewives never wore makeup. Wives were much more about function than fashion. One Greek statesman and orator is credited with saying a man obtains a wife in order “to have a faithful watchdog in the house. Beauty and gratification of the senses come from the mistress.”
As you can tell, the Greco-Roman society did not have a high regard for wives. They were property. They didn’t place a very high emphasis on a wife’s beauty.
Well, contrasted to that, the Bible tells us that beauty is a gift from God, and it's a good thing to have a beautiful wife. In fact, there are plenty of women the Bible tells us were beautiful, and it doesn’t fault them for it. Before the flood, demons recognized the beauty of women. Sarah, Abraham’s wife was called beautiful—so was Rebekah. Rachel was said to be beautiful of form and face.
God even gave Israel instruction for how to marry a beautiful woman among the captives of their enemies. He knew the men would want to take some women into their homes.
We are also told of the beauty of David’s wives, Abigail and Bathsheeba, as well as one of his granddaughters, and his nurse at the end of his life.
Later in Israel’s history we have the beauty of Queen Vashti and her replacement Esther, who was also beautiful of form and face.
There is also the detailed description in Song of Solomon where the husband praises the captivating beauty of his wife.
So, again, the Bible never says physical beauty is wrong or sinful, in itself. What we are told, however, is that the attraction of beauty can be deceptive or misleading. Proverbs 31 includes instructions to a young man about what to look for in a wife. And it says: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.”
Physical beauty and outward attractiveness can be dangerous for a man and for a woman. It can become an obsession. It can blind us to more important things in life and to what is truly beautiful.
Earlier, I quoted the famous saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Basically, that’s saying that it’s the person looking at something that determines whether it’s beautiful or not. In some ways and to some degree, that might be true. There is a kind of subjectiveness to beauty. But there is also an objective standard God has given us.
More important than any standard or ideal the world props up, we need to cling to the standard of God. What does God say is truly beautiful?
What pleases God has less to do with physical appearance than with the heart. I think most of you know that. First Samuel 16 tells us: “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
So, ladies, what makes you beautiful in God’s sight? And guys, what should you be looking for in a future wife, promoting in your current wife, and teaching to your daughters?
That’s what we’re going to talk about today as we continue our time in First Peter chapter 3.
Go ahead and turn there with me if you’re not already there. You should also find the passage in the notes page from today’s bulletin. We are in the book of First Peter, chapter 3, verses 1-4. First Peter 3:1-4. Let me read that as we begin, and as we do, I’d like you to notice the words “adorning” and “beauty.”
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, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 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.
If you recall, the context of this passage is dealing with honoring God in a difficult situation and in a hostile world. This world is ugly. This world is set against the grace and the love of God. And, as a result, there is an added difficulty.
Peter wrote to citizens and resident about living under ungodly governing authorities. He wrote to slaves about working for an unreasonable master. And now, he writes to wives with a special eye toward the wives who live with a man who is disobedient and unfaithful to the law of God.
The natural temptation of a wife when living with a husband with whom she severely disagrees is to try to make his life worse. The temptation is to respond to evil with evil.
In the first century, if a husband converted to Christianity, typically the family would follow. But if a wife converted, the husband might not. And he may be ridiculed by society for what they perceived to be his wife’s rebellion. The world might consider her undesirable, but God says she can be beautiful. How? Let me give you three qualities of true, feminine beauty.
The first quality is what we covered last week, so I’m not gonna spend a lot of time here. I’m going to call it a silent submission. A beautiful wife, a beautiful woman, demonstrates a silent submission.
The wife’s silence, you should remember, doesn’t mean she never talks or contributes or helps. It means she abstains from the kind of speech that attacks her husband or demonstrates a lack of submission. A wife is called by God to recognize the authority He has given in the home to the husband.
Now, as we continue in this passage, we see another beautiful trait. Verse 1 gave us a silent submission. Verse 2 gives a respectful purity. A respectful purity. That’s what God says is beautiful. Husbands should see, in their wives, verse 2 says, “respectful and pure conduct.”
That word “respectful” is literally the word for “fear.” And here, it’s not dealing with terror or dread; it’s connected to a fear of the Lord and a respect for authority.
The word Peter uses here for purity is connected to innocence and integrity. Even outside Christianity, it was used at the time for devout, religious people who were thought to be closer to God. They were pure. They were wise. They were holy. They were unstained by wickedness. They were separated from the carnality of this world.
Two specific applications of this term were sexual purity and modesty. This is a woman who understands that God created physical intimacy and physical attraction to be enjoyed, but He created it to be bound within the covenant of marriage. When you understand the power of sexuality, and you respect God’s design for it and guard it within the context of marriage—that’s called modesty. That’s real purity.
Maybe a Christian wife with an unbelieving husband could be tempted to draw near to other men who shared her faith. She could harbor a discontentment and begin to covet a man who doesn’t belong to her. Even if a woman is totally covered up, wearing the least flattering clothing imaginable, she can be immodest.
Obviously, there is the immodesty and evil of adultery, but immodesty can also come through in a flirtatious attitude. It can come through in a compromising situation. There can be seductive speech, seductive glances, seductive innuendos. That’s an expression of immodesty. It pulls the attention off the things of God and onto you. And for a woman, having those kinds of interactions with a man who isn’t your husband is impure. Don’t cater to those outside lusts.
That’s the immodesty of the heart, expressed in your speech and conduct. Sometimes, it’s very subtle. The more obvious expression of immodesty is in how you dress. Immodest clothing is meant to accentuate or draw attention to your body.
Our society wrongfully connects beauty with sex appeal. A good pair of jeans, an attractive dress, a flattering swimsuit—in our culture, those things are judged by how much they appeal to others’ senses.
We need to resist the cultural pressure to assign someone value based on how physically attractive they are. And we need to fight against the urge to draw undue attention to ourselves, instead of placing the attention on Christ. The heart of taking glory from Christ, and seeking glory for yourself is called immodesty. You can be immodest in how you think and talk and act, and you can be immodest in how you dress.
God gave us bodies to use for His glory. And in the case of marriage, that includes a couple’s mutual enjoyment of one another’s bodies. That’s God’s design. But it should not be taken outside of that design.
This pure wife, whom the Lord finds beautiful, walks in modesty. Her purity is seen in how she acts and how she dresses. Her husband trusts her because he knows she is not enflaming the lusts of other men.
Ladies, this is not a popular topic to talk about. And I’m not going to make myself the fashion police. But to all of you, whether you’re married or single, young or old, you need to fight and guard yourself against immodesty—in your heart, in your speech, and in your dress. It doesn’t matter what the fashion trend is. It doesn’t matter what your friends tell you. You need to honor God. And there are plenty of other passages that address this, and ladies, you can and should talk to one another more specifically about this.
What parts of your body are visible to others in public? Based on what you’re wearing, where is someone’s attention drawn to? You need to think about these things. You need to think about what others might see in any particular scenario of life.
Let me give you one example. When God gave Israel instructions about how to build an altar to worship him, here’s what He said. This is from Exodus 20:26—“You shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.”
Why did He say that? In the Old Testament, everybody wore a skirt—men and women. And it was a long skirt, all the way to the floor. Well, God wanted pure worship. He wanted the focus on Him. If the altar was set up at the top of a staircase, those at the bottom would be looking up toward the person standing at the top. That introduces the possibility that they’d be able to see something that would otherwise be covered up. So, God says, “Don’t do that. Don’t put the altar up at the top of some stairs. Don’t permit the possibility of being exposed like that.”
The way you dress can have a drastic impact on someone else’s ability to worship and honor God. That’s the context of the call to modesty in 1 Timothy 2:9-10.
When you get dressed in the morning, the prevailing thought in your mind shouldn’t be, “How can I gain that person’s attention? How can I get people to look at me or complement me?” Your main thought should be, “How can I honor Christ and point people to Him? How can my fear of God be visible?” You don’t have to dress like a nun, but you need to be intentional.
I’m assuming the vast majority of us wouldn’t walk around outside in our undergarments. That’s indecent. But why does that then become acceptable if you’re going to work out, or if you’re going to the beach? It becomes acceptable because culture says it is. But even when culture fluctuates, God’s standard remains.
I’m not sure if you know this, but when the bikini was introduced in France after World War 2, the man who designed it couldn’t find a model who was willing to wear something so scandalous. He ended paying a Casino showgirl to do it. Some countries even banned that kind of bathing suit. It was, however, very popular with the men. Of course it was.
Many provocative fashion trends weren’t created by women. They were created by men seeking to make money and shift the culture. And that’s exactly what has happened. As a culture, we become desensitized to what should be considered scandalous, and we fall away from God’s design.
Flaunting your body publicly is not some kind of liberation. It’s a rejection and a rebellion of God. It does not demonstrate that you fear Him, and that you respect His word. It does not promote the purity He’s after.
Proverbs 11:22 gives us a very graphic image. It says, “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
In other words—what a waste! You don’t take something as valuable and beautiful as gold and attach it to a pig. In the same way, God says, it doesn’t matter how beautiful and attractive a woman might be if she doesn’t have discretion or good taste. Her immodesty nullifies her physical beauty. It’s wasted. There should be no place for that in a woman of God.
So, think about what you’re going to wear. Think about how you can honor God and aim the spotlight at Him. Wives and daughters, you are a representation of Christ, but also of your husband and your parents. So, when someone sees you, what are they going to think about Christ, and what are they going to think about your family? God wants purity in His people.
Husbands, you should want your wife to be pure. She’s for you and you alone. Dads and moms, train your daughters for this. Show them how to walk with a respectful purity. Show them what modesty looks like.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, “If I’m going to be that intentional about what I wear, that’s going to take a lot of time. I might have to ask my husband about what I’m wearing. I might have to talk to my dad or my mom about it. Is God’s standard of beauty really worth that kind of investment?”
Well, we could ask the same things about physical beauty, right? How much time does physical beauty and enhancement take? How much energy do we put into it? You paint your nails. You paint your toenails. You dye your hair. You put on makeup. You straighten your hair. You find a matching outfit. You find the right accessories. You do whatever else you do because you think it’s worth it.
The exact same thing was happening in Peter’s culture. And Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, doesn’t say those things are necessarily bad. What he says, though, is that the women shouldn’t make that external stuff the measure of how beautiful you feel. Does that make sense?
True beauty is not about your hair and your clothing. It’s about your heart, and it’s expressed in your conduct. It’s not wrong to improve your appearance in the morning. I’m not saying roll out of bed and go start your day. What I’m saying is those extra things that you do shouldn’t be the source of your confidence. That’s not true beauty.
Look at verse 3. This is what it says: Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear.
Those are examples of the things women did and still do to feel pretty. Again, this is not a prohibition. If this were a prohibition, it would be saying you can’t braid your hair, you can’t wear gold jewelry, and you can’t wear clothing. Obviously, that’s not what Peter is saying. He’s simply saying that what truly adorns you isn’t how you do your hair or what kind of clothes you wear. What is your true adorning?
The first attribute was a silent submission. That came from verse 1. Our second attribute was from verse 2. It was a respectful purity. Our final attribute comes from verse 4, and it is a quiet gentleness. A quiet gentleness.
Look at verse 4 with me—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.
True beauty can’t be captured in a photograph. You’re not gonna see it in a profile picture. True beauty—true adornment—is much deeper. Peter says it’s the hidden person of the heart.
It is a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s a reflection of Jesus Christ who was gentle and lowly in heart.
This is a wife who, even though she’s in a tough situation, trusts in the God who watches over her. She doesn’t need to assert herself. She doesn’t need to demand her rights. She graciously accepts the authority God has placed over her in the home. There’s no bitterness, and there’s no panic. Instead, there’s peace. There’s tranquility.
Ladies, that is true beauty. The world may look down on your for it, but our God says it’s beautiful. Verse 4 says it’s imperishable. It’s incorruptible.
The visible beauty of this world goes away. Fashion trends come and go. You look back at an old photo and you say, “Oh my, why did I ever think it was a good idea to wear that?!” The trend faded away.
The same happens with the physical beauty of a young lady. She grows old, and she looks back at an old photo, and she says, “Oh, my skin was so much softer back then. I hadn’t had any kids. I didn’t have any wrinkles or stretch marks. I didn’t have any grey hair.” Earthly beauty fades away.
There is a story about certain high-level escort in Greece in the fourth century. She was very young compared to the other women of her profession and was known for flaunting her natural beauty. Supposedly, she was the model for some of the statues produced at that time and became quite wealthy.
One day, as the story goes, there was a large feast, and many escorts were there along with their rich and noble companions, and they decided to play follow-the-leader. When it was her turn to lead, this young lady called for a bowl of water, and washed her face. The other women were obligated to follow.
She was young and beautiful, so it didn’t make a difference. But for the older women at the event, it meant all their makeup washed away, and they had to endure a very uncomfortable evening at the feast. She took advantage of the fact that physical beauty is temporary.
True beauty, on the other hand, is imperishable. It never fades. It never withers. It never goes out of style with God.
In the eyes of God, it’s precious. That’s the closing and emphatic word in the Greek. So it’ll be our closing thought as well. “Precious” means costly and valuable.
I think you all know that it takes a certain amount of money to buy beauty products. There are brands and types of makeup that are very expensive. There are perfumes that cost more than any of us would be willing to pay. And there are dresses and pieces of jewelry that cost more than we will earn in our lifetimes. They cost that much because, to this world, they are an expression of beauty.
In the eyes of God, however, that’s not what matters. Ladies, in God’s eyes, what makes you beautiful, what makes you precious in His sight is the grace of a silent submission, a respectful purity, and a quiet gentleness. That’s what our God values. And it’s the kind of beauty He will use to soften and to transform the heart of an unrighteous and ungodly man. Beauty does triumph over the beast.