Saved Through the Bearing of Children

Elizabeth is about two weeks away from giving birth, Lord willing, to our fourth healthy child. The Bible has several things to say about child bearing. First, because of the fall, it is painful – “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children…” (Gen. 3:16). Second, God says that in spite of this reality, women should still bear children. Not only would we find basis for this contention in the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 (repeated after the flood in Genesis 9:7), but Paul is quite explicit: “I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house [a better translation of the Greek word oikodespoteo is “manage/rule one’s household”], and give the enemy no occasion for reproach” (I Timothy 5:14). Third, Paul says that women will be saved through the bearing of children (I Timothy 2:15). What? Is Paul here teaching salvation by childbirth? The answer, of course, must be “No.” In the context Paul has just been speaking about what godliness looks like if you are a woman – modest and discreet clothing, good works, quietly receiving instruction with entire submissiveness, not teaching or exercising authority over a man (I Timothy 2:9-12). He grounds those directions in the creation story (I Timothy 2:13-14), then concludes with the statement under discussion. His mind has been in Genesis 3, and so what he is doing in I Timothy 2:15 is summarizing the calling of women: a la I Timothy 5:14, child bearing is a primary calling. Obviously not every woman will be called to bear children (see I Corinthians 7:8, 25-26, 34), but most will, and as they do so they are bearing not only children but also the fruit of godliness. Paul is not contradicting salvation by grace alone through faith alone; rather, he is declaring that the faith that saves is never alone: “…women will saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” Bill Barcley mentions that Paul’s language here may be a response to the false teachers: “Perhaps these teachers, who were forbidding marriage (I Tim. 4:3), were teaching women that they could not experience all that God had for them unless they abandoned family for positions in the church and society” (I and II Timothy, Evangelical Press, page 97-98). Childbearing, accompanied by the fruits mentioned, is the path of perseverance, the pathway along which the saved woman must walk, and will walk by God’s grace. May God give my wife, and all Christian mothers, the grace to live their lives – even while bearing and raising children – in faith, love, sanctity, and self-restraint.

SDG,
Ezra

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