Where Does Paul and Peter Derive Their Instruction about the Modesty?
Peter appeals to Sarah and Abraham—how Sarah shows her godliness through her inward attitude and how she addressed her husband. The Proverbs 31 woman would be an inspiration here.
What are the commands in these passages?
- Women should be wearing respectable, modest apparel, not seeking to draw attention to their wealth.
- Proper clothing for women is good works.
- Women should be known for their inner beauty—and that should be the focus.
- Inner beauty consists of a gentle and quiet spirit.
From these passages, what does God care about what we wear?
God cares about what we show through our clothing more than what is our clothing. The emphasis in these two passages is not on “causing a brother to stumble” or the like, but on what attitude is on display from what is worn. You see both Paul and Peter speaking out against an outward show of wealth (something we could also get from James) as well as recommending that women make sure they spend their time fostering a meek and gentle spirit. In both of these passages, these commands flow right into the idea that women should be submissive and respectful.
How do the different contexts of the two passages apply?
In 1 Timothy 2 we are clearly talking about in the gathering/assembly/church. Here, Paul commands women not to wear gold, silver, braided hair or costly attire. In 1 Peter 3 we cannot only be talking about the church, in that we’re talking about unbelieving husbands as well, and there’s no indication that instructions are only for the church. In Peter’s instruction we have similar comments—regarding gold jewelry, braided hair and clothing—but in this passage it is more of a comparison, that the beauty should come from within, not from without. In both passages the focus is to be on the internal, and not showing off.
Is the Command Cultural?
There are some that believe that braided hair was a cultural symbol of the times that showed a form of status or position—and you can believe that having gold or silver on display would be a sign of wealth. James talks about people of wealth getting a better place in the assembly, and so preferring people based on what they had was definitely a problem. Both Paul and Peter are reaching past this in that they are both focusing on what makes a woman beautiful before God and it has nothing to do with what they look like on the outside, but with what is shown through their actions and heart. There is nothing in these passages talking about skirt length, etc.