Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
–1 Peter 3:3-5
So what can we learn from Sarah, as we consider her story through the lens of 1 Peter?
First, Sarah had a submissive spirit. If we are going to honor God as we relate to authorities in our lives, we must first have a deep-down, unshakable conviction that this is the place to which we’ve been called. (Read Genesis 2:18, Psalm 144:12, and 1 Corinthians 11:3 to begin further study.)
Peter, when referring to Sarah and other holy women, says they were adorned with a quiet spirit. That may not seem to have much to do with trust and submission, but Peter isn’t saying these women didn’t talk much. Rather, the word “quiet” that’s used there means they did not tend towards contention and strife, but to peace and support. (Hooray! We can all be “quiet” and still be chatty!) Long before Abraham asked her to do these hard things, Sarah had begun adorning her heart with an attitude of peace and support. (How convicting! Can we stop now??!) So we see how being “quiet” ties in with submission, but here’s the truth: you can only have the adornment of a quiet spirit when your trust is in God.
Second, Sarah submitted to Abraham because she trusted in and obeyed God, NOT because she trusted in Abraham! These holy women first “hoped in God,” and then were submissive to their own husbands. What does it mean to trust? Well, I like this definition: “surrender; a firm belief in the honesty and reliability of another.” In Genesis 12 and 20, she was able to go along with and support Abraham because she truly trusted God with her life.
Submission is not a crazy idea someone had back in the Stone Age (as if there was such a thing…) God Himself has ordained this authority thing, and has chosen to execute His plan for our lives through it. Yes, God’s plan for your life will come to pass as you embrace His call to follow and place yourself under the authorities in your life. Honestly, submission is really about obedience to God. It might seem crazy at times. (Or insane; ask Sarah!) But the question God is asking us is, Will you obey me in this? Why would God promise to lead and guide us and then tell us to submit unless He planned on guiding us through the structure of authority? God will not contradict himself; there is no way true joy for you lies in disobedience, and there’s no way His plan includes rebellion.
Of course, submitting doesn’t mean we don’t pray for and appeal to our authorities. Definitely! If you’re married, your husband needs your prayers! He probably needs your appeals, too! Be the prophet in your home! If you’re a daughter, your father needs you to be praying on his behalf for wisdom! He needs to know your heart! But if/when prayers seem to fail, appeals are shut down, and your heart is not heard — God is still God, and He has plans to prosper you. (And He’s proud of you for obeying Him as you submit!)*
God doesn’t want to just lead us down our life’s path; He wants to build character. The issue for Sarah, for example, was not whether or not Abraham made a wise decision, but what her response would be. She wouldn’t answer on judgment day for his decision, but she would answer for her response. This was a test of what she was made of! And there’s so much more to God’s will than what we do; there’s who we are, and submission, while it is a means of guidance and protection (what we do) is even more an instrument used in the building of character, proven through our responses (who we are.)
Week 1: Sarah: A Holy Woman
*Have an issue of an authority demanding things contrary to God’s standard of morality? Those are important questions. Please feel free to send them our way.