Yet she will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:15 ESV
1 Timothy 2:15 is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. In fact, I once heard someone tell me that 1 Timothy 2:15 was the reason he couldn’t be a Christian! He had concerns about the Bible’s view of women, and he was convinced, unreasonably so, that this verse teaches that women must give birth in order to be saved. Does 1 Timothy 2:15 teach salvation by maternity?
First, we should recognize that sometimes Bible interpretation is difficult. According to New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger, there are seven various interpretations that have been offered for this one verse! So many voices can either clarify or confuse, and in this case it appears they may do the latter. But correct interpretation is possible.
Second, we have to start with the context. The old saying is true, “Every text without a context becomes a pretext for a prooftext.” In other words, without the context we can cause a verse to mean anything, often misunderstanding its meaning. The context must include the paragraphs around the verse but also the overarching storyline of Scripture.
In the immediate context, Paul is teaching about the roles of men and women in the church (2:8-12). He calls on men to lead in the church through prayer with holiness, without division or anger, and through teaching and spiritual authority. He calls women to a shared role in holiness and good works, but reserves pastoral leadership and teaching in the church to God’s qualified men. He offers Adam and Eve as examples, highlighting Eve’s deception by the serpent recorded in Genesis 3.
This context shows us that Eve is the “she” of verse 15. Eve will be saved through childbearing. What does this mean? For this, we must also consider the wider storyline of Scripture, including the Genesis account cited in verses 13-14.
In Genesis 3, on the heel of the serpent’s deception, we see a promise of God’s deliverance. God promised to reverse the curse, defeat the serpent and save a people from Himself through the birth of a child (Genesis 3:15). A baby boy would crush the head of the serpent. Through motherhood, God would save the world.
This thread continues throughout the Bible as many of Israel’s deliverers were born through miraculous means (think of Issac and Samson). Many godly saints preserved “in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” as they awaited the coming of the Messiah. But God’s Promised One would come in a most miraculous way; through a Virgin Birth. It all pointed toward the birth of Jesus whose name means “Savior” (Matt. 1:21).
Eve would be saved through childbearing because all people, men and women, would be saved through a child. The apostle Paul offers hope: even Eve wasn’t beyond the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross and rose again on the third day to offer eternal life to all who believe. He is the “Yes” and “Amen” of all God’s promises. Just as sin came through Eve’s deception and disobedience, so Jesus came through a woman’s obedience to God’s Word and her belief in the truth (see Luke 1:38). Jesus is the serpent-crushing baby of Genesis 3!
A few weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day. Rather than being a text of female subjugation, 1 Timothy 2:15 is a text that recognizes and celebrates the role of women in redemptive history.
Without women there would have been no Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:15 is also a regular reminder of the eternal importance of motherhood. When God wanted to save the world, He started with a faithful mother. God’s mission to make disciples of all nations continues through many faithful mothers, both physical and spiritual. Don’t let Mother’s Day be just a one day of celebration. May we give thanks everyday for God’s gift of motherhood. Without it there would be no salvation.
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