1 Timothy 2:1-15: She will be saved through the bearing of a Child

Scripture contains strange stuff to our ears: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.  I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet….  She will be saved through childbearing…”

To our ears, “submissive” is a hard pill to swallow.  In our church, we believe what the Bible teaches so we agree with it—though we may be embarrassed and not trumpet that verse aloud.  Now, if most of us are honest, we wish the Bible didn’t tell women to be submissive or exercise authority over a man.

Today, however, I’m focusing on something else.  For our ears took in something even weirder.  Now, if a woman placing herself under a man’s authority sounds skewed and off balance, a woman being saved through childbearing sounds borderline insane.

So, what does the Apostle Paul mean?  He gives us a clue by pointing us to Eve, “the mother of all [the] living” (Genesis 3:20).  He reveals Eve “was deceived and became a transgressor.”  With those words, the Apostle brings to mind, not only humanity’s Fall into sin but also God’s first promise to redeem us through Christ.

Do you remember what happened soon after our fall into sin?  God said to the serpent who lured Eve into temptation: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and her Offspring.  He [Eve’s Offspring] will crush your head” (Genesis 3:15).

Soon after the fall, God promised to send a Messiah, someone who would undo the damage Adam and Eve unleashed into this world.  God pledged to send a Child into the world to wage war against Satan, to crush the old serpent’s head, and to bring us His salvation.  God’s promise, soon after sin’s corruption, pointed forward to Jesus!

Eve believed God’s prophecy but got His timing wrong.  When Eve’s womb gave forth her firstborn son, she cried out: “I have given birth to a man, the Lord” (Genesis 4:1, from the Hebrew).  Those are her words.  But most translations insert a few words because the translators think what Eve said doesn’t make any sense.  So your translation may read, “I have given birth to a man with the help of the LORD.”

Do you catch the difference?  Our translations say Eve exclaimed she just bore a son with the Lord’s help.  No doubt that is true.  But what if Eve meant what she said?  “I have given birth to a man, the LORD.”  She thought she brought the Savior of the world into the world!  Yes, Eve knew God’s promise and took it to heart.

Eve’s firstborn son, as you know, did not turn out to be the promised Messiah, the Christ.  No, Eve’s child became a sign pointing forward to the Messiah to come.  He reminded Eve and her descendants of the salvation yet to come through childbearing.  Eve’s children became living reminders of the salvation God promised to bring into this world through the birth of a Child.  Eve would “be saved through childbearing” because God would enter into the world as a Child, born of a woman.

What a beautiful picture!  Should we not learn to look at our children in the same way?  Should we not look at our sons and daughters the same way Eve learned to look at her children?

So, what are our children besides children?  They are living reminders of our Salvation, born into the world through the Virgin Mary.  Women “will be saved through childbearing” because childbirth points us to our Lord’s incarnation.  Women “will be saved through childbearing”—not because children make mothers holy—but because the birth of every child comes as an in-the-flesh reminder and sign that Jesus was born a Child for us and our salvation!

The original Greek text of the New Testament is much clearer: “She will be saved through the bearing of a child.”  Did you catch the “the”: “the bearing of a child”?  Those words are in the passive voice: “she will be saved.”  The woman giving birth to a child doesn’t save her, which is the whole point of the passive voice.

What then saves the woman?  Not her giving birth but the child whom she bears.  So, which child is that?  “She will be saved through the bearing of a child.”  Jesus is the child who will save the woman.  So, a Christian begins to understand every childbirth as a proclamation of Jesus’ birth, born to save us from sin and death, to save us for a life with God.

You could say every mother—just by being a mother—is a living proclamation of the Gospel if our ears are unplugged, and our eyes are open!  God wants you to revel in children and childbirth in that way.  God wants you to grasp those reminders, which point to your redemption and salvation.

So, Paul doesn’t contradict himself.  Scripture exclaims that women are saved the same way men are: “For by grace, you are saved through faith, which is not your own doing; it is God’s gift, not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But this verse about the “bearing of a child” is crucial for us to understand the rest of today’s Epistle reading.  After we understand what God wants us to know about childbearing, does the statement, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” make any sense.

In God’s New-Covenant Church, Paul’s point is about a woman not being allowed to serve as a pastor.  In 1st Timothy, chapter 3, which follows our Epistle reading for today, Paul transitions to the character traits needed for a man to serve as a pastor.  That’s the context.

We might not like God’s way of ordering His Church, for many consider the biblical roles of men and women to be cultural, a vestige of long ago, to be forgotten.  But if true, why does Paul point us back to our fall into sin, before a fallen human culture began to exist?

Man or woman, adult or child, smart or dumb; it’s the same—through God-given faith, we become part of His kingdom.  Through faith, a gift God gives to us, we become full participants in Christ’s precious forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  God saves us through faith.

That doesn’t mean God gives us the same roles.  A woman can’t be a father.  A man can’t be a mother.  Now, God does give every Christian a part in proclaiming the Truth of His kingdom.  God calls all to proclaim His truth, but in different vocations, because God did not create us the same and He gives us different callings.

A woman does not represent Jesus to a congregation because Jesus is a male, a man.  A woman doing so would confuse the picture; so Jesus only chose male Apostles as the Church’s first pastors.  Scripture doesn’t reveal a woman being “saved through the bearing of a child” by mere chance.  No, a man can’t give a picture of the birth of Jesus for our salvation because he can’t bear children.

Even more, every Christian woman who continues “in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control,” is a continuing, living proclamation of the Gospel.  How so?  God came into this world through a woman to save the world (John 3:17).  It is as Scripture teaches, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).

Through Mary giving birth to a child, God brought us His gift of salvation—but He didn’t stop there.  Through the birth of Jesus, God sanctified all the births of all children.  In every birth of every child, God uses childbirth to point us to the single, greatest birth—the birth of our Savior, Jesus!

Husbands and sons look with new eyes at your wives and your mothers.  Don’t look at women the way the fallen world views them.  Women are not sex objects to lust after and toss out after satisfying your urges.

Treat women like they are the queens of heaven!  God doesn’t only give a husband a wife to be someone who completes him.  She is, even more, to be served by him in the same way Christ continues to serve His Church.  It is as Ephesians states: women are images of the Church, for whom Christ gave His life “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

Look at Christian worship as your guide.  Now, if the worship service is only about what you do for God, then a wife only becomes about doing something for the husband.  If the worship service is only about receiving God’s Gospel gifts, then a wife only receives from her husband but never responds back to him in love.

Christian worship IS first receiving from God but, after that, responding in love.  A wife is to receive and respond to her husband’s love and service in the same way the Church is supposed to receive and respond to Christ.  The Divine Service, the worship service, trains us for Christian marriage.  Our life mirrors our life with God.

Indeed, a woman “will be saved through the bearing of a child.”  How so?  Women are living reminders of God’s love and grace.  For it was from God’s love and grace that He sent His Son into the world through a woman to save us.  Do not despise such gifts.  Such gifts are from your Savior.  Such gifts point you to your Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Comments

  1. I appreciate the gift God has blessed you with! I am facing a small problem here in our congregation with the issue as the congregation has a number of ELCIC [Canadian version of ELCA] members who want to dismiss Paul and what is written in 1 Timothy 2: 1-15 as archaic. Might I have permission to use this article, citing you of course, as part of a presentation I intend to conduct in the near future?

    In addition, whom do you know among our seminary professors who would be scholarly in this area that might be willing to skype into the discussion? By the way, maybe you would be willing to present by skype.

    • Pr. Smith:

      Yes, feel free to us it in your parish. I do not believe in any “ownership rights” in our Lord’s Church. As for profs, I don’t know. I wish I could be more help in that regard.

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