What Does 1 Timothy 2:15 Mean When It Says Women “Will Be Saved Through Childbearing”?

1 Timothy 2:15 is not an easy verse to interpret and I relish in the challenge of explaining difficult texts. If I could summarize verse 15 in a single sentence it would be: Christian women are saved in the context of being a mother and raising children rather than teaching and having authority over men in the church as a pastor. I understand “through” as “in the context of” or “in the sphere of.” Childbearing is representative of the unique role that a woman plays in society. Paul is saying that a wife’s submission to the role of motherhood, rather than trying to have authority over men, is evidence of her salvation and a fruit of the Spirit just as faith, love, holiness, and self-control are. The woman who is filled with the Spirit submits gladly to her husband and Christian men are called to find their identity as a man in the protection, provision, and flourishing of women. Paul praises the noble and high calling of being a mother in contrast to the feminist culture we live in. Being a so-called “stay-at-home mom” is God’s plan for the raising of children and nothing to be ashamed of (Tit 2:5).

There is a direct contrast between verses 12 and 15 where Paul distinguishes between the role of a pastor and the role of a godly Christian woman who submits to the authority of her husband in the home and the authority of the elders in the church. The church is likewise a family of families, the household of God, which is a representation of the nuclear family which itself represents God the Father’s eternal plan of uniting the church to his Son. This principle of primogeniture is rooted in the order of creation since Adam was created first before his wife and so has headship over her. Satan went to Eve first in order to undermine God’s plan of male headship and responsibility. Biblical patriarchy is grounded in the identity of the first person of the Trinity who is our Father. Sonship and human father-son relationships were created to reflect the eternal relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Marriage was created to reflect the eternal plan of the Father to give his Son a bride. Motherhood was created to reflect the work of the new birth which brings about new life to those who are Christ’s bride.

Have you ever noticed that the enemies of Scripture often interpret it better than those who claim to believe in it? Feminists are right to see Paul as a relic of the past defending biblical patriarchy with different roles for men and women in society, the church, and the home. Often, the reason why the Bible is difficult to interpret is not because it is unclear, but because we do not want to believe in what it clearly says. One way this verse is interpreted is that Christian women are promised that they will be kept safe through childbearing. But many godly Christian women have died while giving birth. Another interpretation of this verse is that “childbearing” is a metaphor for believing in Christ and the attributes listed here. But in that case, you could apply “childbearing” to men as well since they too have faith, love, holiness, and self-control. Also, how does this interpretation of childbearing contrast with the failure to obey Paul’s command in verse 12? Rather, the role of motherhood is an example of what it looks like to continue in the faith. Of course, Paul is not saying that every Christian woman is called to be a mother or else he would be contradicting his advice in 1 Corinthians 7.

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