“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.” (1 Peter 3:3–4, NASB95)
Remembering that these verses are a continuation of the previous two, they are directed specifically to wives in relation to their husbands. Here Peter speaks to the wives’ overall “adornment” or “adorning.” In Greek the word translated as adornment is “kosmos.” It has the meaning of the whole order of things as we see them in the universe around us. It is the arrangement that includes both the good and the bad, the outside and the in. It is the whole picture. While we might be tempted to think in astronomical terms, this word also is at the root of a major industry known to women (and men) around the world. From the Greek word “kosmos” we move to “kosmein” (Greek, to arrange or adorn) to “kosmētikos” (Greek, being skilled in adorning or decorating) to “cosmétique” (French) to the 17th century English word, “cosmetic.” In a modern dictionary, I read the adjective meaning of “cosmetic” to be “serving to beautify; imparting or improving beauty, especially of the face” (dictionary.com). In these verses, the wife’s kosmos is how she presents herself to her husband and to those who observe them together.
Paul wrote that the wife is not to make her adorning be something merely (an added word by translators) seen on the outside as in the braiding or otherwise dressing up of her hair, or found in the jewelry she wears or the nature of her clothing. These definitely enhance the wife’s appearance and are appreciated by husbands, but they are not all there is. Women are more than works of art. They are intentionally designed and created by God in His image. And, it is in the marriage relationship that the man joins with the woman for them to become one as husband and wife. This is a oneness that reaches to the core of who each of them uniquely are as their depths are shared fully with each other.
Last night Robin and I went on a date, and I was a happy man to be with her as she dressed herself for the occasion. She is a beautiful woman, and I am thankful that she chose me and wants to be with me. I am thankful that God designed us to be attracted this way to enjoy each other, and should you have any question here take some time to read the Song of Solomon. I am a truly blessed man. And while I greatly admire Robin’s outward beauty, I love her the most because of who she is from her very core as a woman who loves our Lord and of course me.
Paul wrote that the wife is to make sure that her beauty is truly more than skin deep. “…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.” This can be contrasted to the religious leaders of Jesus’s day to whom He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25–28, NASB95) These men were all about the show. They were imposters. They dressed one way while their hearts were directed another. They were about the show, but in reality, they had nothing to show.
Jesus set a drastically different example, and wives (and all of us) who belong to Christ and who have known His great love are to live to reflect Christ in the way they live their lives. Notice the contrast between the outward person who dresses to impress and the inward heart of the person which cannot be seen. We have the life of Christ in us. The moment we are saved we are sealed and permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are made a new creation. As far as the world knows, not a single thing about us has changed. We don’t get an instant halo. Our hair doesn’t begin to glow. We don’t walk a foot off the ground. We aren’t healed of all our ailments. Struggles don’t disappear. Physically we look the same, but, despite what people might see, the spiritual reality is that everything about us has been changed. God has begun a work in us, and this work will begin to flow out in every area of our lives. It will show. It will show in how we respond to setbacks and disappointments. It will show in how we respond differently to situations. It will show when the corners of our mouths turn up instead of down, when we show compassion or lend a hand, and when we have a bounce in our step even when we might not be able to physically take a step any longer.
Peter doesn’t condemn outward adornment, but he does condemn a preoccupation with it to the neglect of inward Christ-like character. The harsh reality is that our bodies are in the process of going downhill, and the effort to keep them looking good requires more and more energy as time goes by. Where once skin was smooth, wrinkles now appear. Where once our energy was seemingly limitless, we now grow weary much more quickly. In the eternal scheme of things our bodies will be gone in a moment. They simply won’t last. That’s the truth, and there is no changing it. But the work that God does in us as we grow in Christ will not fade, and in fact will continue to grow and even become more evident as our own personal weakness grows. “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16, NASB95)
Later in 2 Corinthians Paul wrote, “And He [Christ] has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, NASB95) In the next chapter Paul concludes the letter with, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11, NASB95) Notice the contrast?
In 1 Peter 3:1-2 we read about how the wife may impact her husband by the conduct of her character. It is her character that endures forever, and in these verses we see the priority of the beauty growing from within that far surpasses the beauty from without. These are the things that are precious in the sight of God who knows us inside and out.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:3–4, NASB95)
“The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever.” (Psalm 37:18, NASB95)