Sunday, 10 November 2019
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 1 Peter 3:3
The words of Peter here are completely in line with those of Paul which are found in 1 Timothy 2:9 –
“…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.”
The word Peter uses for “adornment” is kosmos. It signifies an ordered system. It is used at times to speak of the world, the universe, the people of the world, and etc. With this understood, Peter’s words can more effectively be understood.
He is saying that there is to be a character about the Christian woman which should not be “outward.” The NKJV supplied the word “merely.” The reason for this is that the “ordered system” of a woman isn’t to be based on externals. But this is exactly what the world is caught up in. This is so much the case that sometimes this is all one sees of her. There is nothing internally beautiful to back up the external facade which is seen by all.
In order to ensure that the true, godly character of the woman is seen, Peter says for women to “not let your adornment be merely outward.” It is a way of saying, “Have substance in and of yourself. Don’t just be a false presentation of who you are.” Then, in order to explain his intent, he notes several things to avoid. In doing so, he uses words only found here in Scripture. The first case is “arranging the hair.”
Peter uses the word emploké, meaning an elaborate braiding of the hair. If a woman is trusting in her hair to be the fullest expression of who she is, she is trusting in that which is vain, ostentatious, and vapid. The old saying, “It’s lipstick on a pig,” may be true. Without being able to discern the nature of the woman apart from her hair, there is nothing to really rely on in a meaningful way.
Next, he says, “wearing.” It is another unique word, perithesis. It signifies, “a putting all around.” In having gold on every extremity, and all around the face and neck, that is what the eyes will be directed to. The heart may be pure or wicked, the woman may be a saint or a harlot, but who can tell? Unless the person is known for who she is, the gold is a distraction which hides the truth. Like whitewash on a fence which is corroded and ready to fall down, and which has its true nature hidden, so the gold hides what is most important for others to see.
Peter then says, “or putting on fine apparel.” Again, a third unique word is seen endusis, translated as “putting on.” Further, the NKJV supplies the word “fine.” Vincent’s Word Studies states of this, “Female extravagance in dress in the days of the empire reached an alarming pitch.” In an attempt to compete with others in outward beauty, the inner nature of the woman is covered over and indiscernible. Such should not be the case.
Peter will explain what should rather be the case as he continues in the verses ahead.
Life application: This and similar verses have led to some interesting fashions for Christian women – entire denominations clad in matching dresses and bland appearance. However, it is not good to “pick and choose” intent from a verse simply because it meets someone’s personal preference. Rather, the Bible needs to interpret itself and where there is no comparable thought, wisdom is needed to know what’s being intimated.
As noted above, the NKJV supplies the words “merely” and “fine,” which are not in the original. The reason they do this is because:
1) Elsewhere in Scripture women wear fine apparel and have other outward adornments, thus highlighting their beauty.
2) Nowhere in Scripture is outward adornment to highlight beauty forbidden – in fact, it is often noted with approval.
Great biblical women of faith have adorned themselves with finery; in the Song of Solomon, the beauty and adornments of Solomon’s wife are highlighted, including gold and silver. The exemplary wife of noble character mentioned in Proverbs 31 is robed in “fine linen and purple.” Because of these, the NKJV has rightly inserted “merely” and “fine.” A woman’s beauty should not be “merely” noticed because of her externals.
Lord, no matter what we wear and no matter how we adorn ourselves, we have no true beauty apart from You. But through Jesus, we are radiant and beautiful. Whether we adorn ourselves in fine things or not, may we bring glory to You because of the inward beauty You give us through Jesus. Thank You for Jesus who brings forth the true beauty of who we are! Amen.