CHILDBIRTH AND SALVATION FOR WOMEN
“13. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 15. But women shall be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” 1 Timothy 2:13-15
Here we have a “strange passage”, according to most people today. “It can’t mean spiritual salvation,” say some.
If you look up the verses in Paul’s letters which contain the word “saved” (the same one that is in vs. 15), you will find that every time Paul uses the word he is talking about spiritual salvation. Is Paul then saying that women can earn salvation by childbearing? By no means. Salvation cannot be earned or merited. Salvation is by grace and not by works.
What Paul is saying may be summarized as follows: If a woman is truly saved, she will prove her faith and her salvation by pursuing good works, which are (according to Jesus) inevitable for a true Christian. The pathway of teaching doctrine to husbands or ordering them around is not open to women. The pathway of obedience, which leads to eternal salvation, is (for married women) accompanied by childbearing if possible. Lest a woman think that the childbearing itself will save her, Paul adds that a woman bearing children will be saved if she continues in “faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
Paul’s statement is paralleled by that of Jesus in Matthew 19:17, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Christ says the same thing again in Luke 10:25-28. “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.'” Jesus is not preaching salvation by law or works. He is teaching that if a person is truly a Christian, good works will accompany him to eternal life. (It is not even possible to truly obey the law of God unless one is a Christian anyway.)
Paul is saying that the pathway to salvation for married women is attended by godly childbearing. Those who reject childbearing (when they are married) reject the good works which Paul says accompany salvation.
To demonstrate that we are not teaching “salvation by works,” we will now quote Martin Luther and John Calvin, who unservingly defended salvation by grace alone. Let us see what they say 1 Timothy 2:15 means.
Martin Luther on 1 Tim. 2:15:”15. ‘SHE WILL BE SAVED.’ That subjection of women and domination of men have not been taken away, have they? No. The penalty remains. The blame passed over. The pain and tribulation of childbearing continue. Those penalties will continue until judgment. So also the dominion of men and the subjection of women continue. You must endure them. You will also be saved if you have also subjected yourselves and bear your children with pain. ‘THROUGH BEARING CHILDREN.’ It is a very great comfort that a woman can be saved by bearing children, etc. That is, she has an honorable and salutary status in life if she keeps busy having children. We ought to recommend this passage to them, etc. She is described as ‘saved’ not for freedom, for license, but for bearing and rearing children. Is she not saved by faith? He goes on and explains himself: bearing children is a wholesome responsibility, but for believers. To bear children is acceptable to God. He does not merely say that bearing children saves: he adds: if the bearing takes place in faith and love, it is a Christian work, for ‘to the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15). Also: ‘All things work together,’ Rom. 8:28. This is the comfort for married people in trouble: hardship and all things are salutary, for through them they are moved forward toward salvation and against adultery….’ IN FAITH.’ Paul had to add this, lest women think that they are good in the fact that they bear children. Simple childbearing does nothing, since the heathen also do this. But for Christian women their whole responsibility is salutary. So much the more salutary, then is bearing children. I add this, therefore, that they may not feel secure when they have no faith.”(Luther’s Works, Vol. 28, p.279)
As for John Calvin, his comments on our Scripture passage are as follows: “15. BUT SHE SHALL BE SAVED. The weakness of the sex renders women more suspicious and timid, and the preceding statement might greatly terrify and alarm the strongest minds. For these reasons he modifies what he had said by adding a consolation…. Paul, in order to comfort them and render their condition tolerable, informs them that they continue to enjoy the hope of salvation, though they suffer a temporal punishment. It is proper to observe that the good effect of this consolation is twofold. First, by the hope of salvation held out to them, they are prevented from falling into despair through alarm at the mention of their guilt. Secondly, they become accustomed to endure calmly and patiently the necessity of servitude, so as to submit willingly to their husbands, when they are informed that this kind of obedience is both profitable to themselves and acceptable to God. If this passage be tortured, as Papists are wont to do, to support the righteousness of works, the answer is easy. The Apostle does not argue here about the cause of salvation, and therefore we cannot and must not infer from these words what works deserve; but they only shew in what way God conducts us to salvation, to which he has appointed us through his grace. THROUGH CHILD-BEARING. To censorious men it might appear absurd, for an Apostle of Christ not only to exhort women to give attention to the birth of offspring, but to press this work as religious and holy to such an extent as to represent it in the light of the means of procuring salvation… whatever hypocrites or wise men of the world may think of it, when a woman, considering to what she has been called, submits to the condition which God has assigned to her, and does not refuse to endure the pains, or rather the fearful anguish, of parturition, or anxiety about her offspring, or anything else that belongs to her duty, God values this obedience more highly than if, in some other manner, she made a great display of heroic virtues, while she refused to obey the calling of God. To this must be added, that no consolation could be more appropriate or more efficacious than to shew that the very means (so to speak) of procuring salvation are found in the punishment itself”. (Calvin’s Commentary, Vol. 21, p. 71)