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Appropriate Dress for Christian Women (1Pet.3:3-5)

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Question:  A friend of mine and I are having a heated discussion. He believes that in 1 Peter 3:3-5 that Peter is speaking specifically to the married women about their adornment. I believe Peter is talking to all the women about their adornment and speaking specifically to the married women about their duties to their husbands.

Response:  Let me try and answer this question by first quoting not from Peter but from Paul:

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
1st Timothy 2:9-10 NIV

The passage above makes no mention of marriage relationships and is clearly addressed to all women in the Church. The sentiments expressed by Paul above are essentially the same as those voiced by Peter in the passage you ask about: it is the inner person and their work for Jesus Christ which ought to be of primary concern for women (a principle that applies to men as well), not outward appearances. Therefore there is a sense in which the disagreement may be purely academic. Based upon what Paul says above, it is certainly clear that scripture addresses these sentiments to all women (and, by application, to male Christians as well), so that in the Peter passage it would certainly be the case that Peter means and understands his words to be valid for all women (and men too, if the shoe fits). In the ancient world in particular, the supposition was that a woman would marry (generally these marriages were arranged long before she attained puberty), so that in the context of Peter's words (i.e., directions to married women), it probably would never have occurred to him that anyone might ever think that he was somehow applying these words only to married women.

I am at a bit of a disadvantage here, not knowing the entire ebb and flow of your debate, but I would say that if your friend is saying that because the context of 1st Peter 3:1-6 is an address to married women that therefore these things do not apply to unmarried Christian women that this is incorrect (especially in light of 1st Timothy 2:9-10 quoted above). The context is technically to married women (cf. verses 1 and 5), but, as I say, that is an academic point and does not mean that these verses are not to be applied to all Christian women. In my view, Peter clearly means to have all women take heed of these directives, married or not, and does not mean to have the fact that the context is strictly one of addressing the married women to be used as loophole for the unmarried ones.

You might also find these links helpful:

Should Christians wear Jewelry?

Should Christian Women Wear Pants?

1st Corinthians 11: Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on veils and hats in church.

What length of hair is considered long?

More on hats and hair length.

More on Jewelry.

The Creation of Eve

Hope this is of some help to you.

In Him in whom there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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