This Mother’s Day, preachers will preach on the glory of motherhood, and some preachers will preach on the glory of womanhood (submissive women), but I want to preach on a different kind of motherhood. I want to tell you the story of Sarah in the Bible, mother of nations. I want women to know that in 1 Peter 3:1-6, we have the promise of being like Sarah, a mother of a nation of new believers.
Some like to quote Peter when he said Sarah called Abraham “master” in Genesis 18:12, “So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’” The New International Version Bible uses the word “master,” unlike other translations that use the word “Lord.”
It is impossible to connect 1 Peter 3:1-6 to the words of Sarah found in Genesis to support the doctrine of wifely submission, but Bruce Ware, one of the founding members of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, attempts to do just that in his book, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: The Trinity as Theological Foundation for Family Ministry.1
Ware writes, “I find it astonishing that it is in this text, of all New Testament passages that teach on husband and wife relations, that the strongest language is used to describe a wife’s submission! Peter appealed to Sarah as an example and said that she “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Pet 3:6a), indicating that they would be Sarah’s “children” if they fearlessly followed this example.”
Ware, who is a professor of Christian Theology, has missed the beautiful promise of this passage. The promise is not that women would be Sarah’s children if they are submissive, but that they would become mothers like Sarah because they themselves would be founding a new nation of believers, not by giving birth in the physical sense, but by spreading the gospel message so people can be born again by the spirit.
To emphasize, Peter does NOT tell wives they are Sarah’s daughters if they submit to their husbands like Sarah did. What he DOES say was startling, and likely raised the hairs on their heads by its audacity. Peter tells these women that “like mother, like daughter” and just as their mother Sarah birthed a new nation, they, too, are birthing a new nation of believers.
We can interpret Peter’s words something like this, “That was the way it was done back in Sarah’s day, but things have changed. We are now under grace by faith, not under the law. You have done what is right in becoming Christ-followers, and are Sarah’s daughters—children of the freed woman—if you do not fear as you keep following Christ, and, like Sarah, you will birth this new nation of God’s people.”
Again, Paul says the same thing:
“Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother (Sarah)….Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (Galatians 4:21-26, 31).
Mothers of a nation of believers!
1 Peter 3 contains a powerful promise of building a nation of believers that is for all time.
Twenty-first century Christian women are also children of the free woman, but some still choose to cling to Hagar by holding to a master/slave relationship with their husbands, and pastors still enforce this type of submission, even when they know it is wrong.
Sarah is mentioned four times in the New Testament, three of which are specifically about her becoming the mother of a nation. 1 Peter 3:6 is too, but the greater truth of it has been neglected. By passionately claiming the first part of the scripture that says wives must submit to their husbands, the promise it held for New Testament wives has been ignored. This particular reference to Sarah in 1 Peter 3:6 emphasizes the new covenant and has those new Christian women actively participating in the ministry of the gospel by birthing a nation of believers (1 Peter 3:6; Hebrews 11:11; Romans 4:19; Galatians 4:2-26, 31).
Wives, continue in your marriages even if your husbands are unbelievers, for by doing so, you will be like Sarah, mothers of a nation of believers.
Male headship is dethroned when Peter told Christian women that they will be like Sarah, mothers of a nation of believers.
From my book “Dethroning Male Headship: Second Edition”