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Biblical Femininity

by | Oct 23, 2014 | Blog, Theology

#7 in a series on 1 Peter

By Alex Kneen…

In the beginning, we read in Genesis, the earth was formless and empty. Then God began the work of shaping and filling. He separated light from dark, day from night, the heavens above from the earth below, the waters from the dry land, and all living things He made distinct, each to bear fruit or offspring after its own kind. Then He made man, both male and female, creating a distinct boundary so that men are not women, nor are women men. Thankfully, we do not live in a world where dark and light intermingle, or where the seas arbitrarily switch places with land. We can expect a cow to be a cow for all of its life and not give birth to baby alligators. Without these distinctions, the resulting confusion would not reflect a God who is three in one, where each member is distinct, but completely unified.

Beautifully and mysteriously separated into male and female, we reflect our Creator so that we might have some understanding of who He is. I am not certain I can define biblical femininity as an essence apart from physiology, psychology, or roles to which women are called, but I offer a definition given by John Piper in the book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships (pg. 37).*

I think Piper’s definition helps paint a very tangible picture of biblical femininity. For this article, however, I will focus on the passage in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Peter tells us two things about biblical femininity: first, a godly woman is submissive to proper authority, and second, a godly woman has a gentle and quiet spirit. This statement often appears backward and enslaving to contemporary cultures. However, this does not define biblical femininity. Neither Piper nor Peter suggest this. Rather, biblical femininity is characterized most importantly by a gentle and quiet spirit. The soul of a woman who has set her hope on God is unshakeable. No matter her circumstances, whether she lives with an unbelieving husband, whether she is experiencing great persecution, she rests. In the face of unfairness or even sin against her, her spirit is gentle. To say it another way, she is not harsh. Also, in the midst of confusion or unfairness, her spirit is quiet. The opposite suggests a soul in tumult. In turn, her outward behavior reflects this. Peter illustrates this further by saying that godly women do not fear anything that is frightening. Notice that he does not say, “Do not fear anything that shouldn’t be frightening.” He encourages women to exhibit real rest in the face of real fear.

There are three things Peter says about this gentle and quiet spirit. First, he describes it as eternally beautiful. This beauty never fades and only increases as time and circumstances continue to prove a woman’s faith in her Creator. This beauty manifests itself within the endless diversity of personality that God has fashioned in each woman. Just as God set boundaries between one thing and another, He also created diversity within and across those boundaries. Whatever a godly woman wears, whatever her actions, whatever her personality, such expressions are rooted in a spirit firmly rested upon God.

Secondly, it is precious to God. Personally, thinking of something as being treasured by God incites a deep desire to possess whatever it is! However, this gentle and quiet spirit may not be a treasured thing of beauty to anyone else but Him.

Lastly, remember that biblical femininity is impossible to achieve. It is not a work of any woman’s effort that she should boast, anymore than she could boast in her salvation. It is the work of the Spirit alone. Godly women rejoice and rest in the fact that Jesus died for their sins, rose again, sent His Spirit to work in them, and stands in Heaven now, interceding for them. So as godly women express themselves within the roles they have been called to and uniquely created to fill, they do not have to fear. They trust that God will take care of them. They do not have to doubt their worth if they are women and not men. They do not have to grieve as their physical appeal fades. They do not have to vindicate themselves when treated unfairly. They do not have to fear anything that is frightening, because they know that in Jesus, God is for them and no one can stand against them.

*Other resources:

Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, www.cmbw.org

John Piper, www.desiringgod.org

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