From Heaven or From Men

By Clinton D. Hamilton

Question: The question for consideration in this column is couched in the following quotation: “In 1 Timothy 2:15, women shall be preserved through the bearing of children. Does that mean women must have children in order to be saved?”

Response: Often the major point in a passage and the limitations of the context are stripped aside so as to permit the focusing on a subordinate issue. We must be careful lest this be the case with this passage. In the context of this passage, the issue is the relation of the woman to man. In verse 9, the women should adorn themselves in orderly clothing with modesty and sobriety, not with plaiting and gold or pearls or costly raiment. Paul continues in verse 10 by stating that it suits women professing godliness “with good works,” di’ ergon agathon. Accordingly, a woman is to learn in silence in all subjection (v. 11). But to teach I do not permit a woman nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence (v. 12). Because Adam was first formed then Eve (v. 13). And Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived has become the transgressor (v. 14). But she shall be saved through her childbearing, if they remain in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety (v. 15). What has just been presented is a somewhat literal translation of the section (1 Tim. 2:10-15) for the purpose of setting the context for the statement in 2:15. This passage is not at its heart about childbearing, but is about the proper relation of woman to man however this may express itself in behavior.

The woman is to reach her goal by obedience in maintaining the role God assigned to her. It is not to teach the man, nor to exercise dominion over him. Hers is by way of submission. It is by fulfilling this mission as God designed it that she reaches full happiness and true freedom in relation to God (vv. 11-12). After Eve had transgressed, God announced, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). This is the mission assigned to woman in the scheme of things in the social order of humankind. Adam called her Eve because she was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).

Sothesetai, “she shall be saved,” is future passive indicative third person singular of the verb sozo, “save, deliver, preserve, etc.” It has reference first to the woman in v. 14 (Eve) but in this context also to females who are members of the class of whom Eve was the first. Paul is speaking generally of the class of woman. “In childbearing” comes from dia tes teknogonias. What does this mean? Teknogonia, “bearing children,” appears only in this pas-sage in the NT. It is translated very literally in the KJV. The class of females of whom Eve was one fulfills its purpose among other things in childbearing as God decreed (Gen. 3:16). To younger women Paul gave this instruction: “marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:14). These two passages fit well with Genesis 3:16. However, on another occasion, Paul spoke of circumstances in which it may be better for a woman to remain unmarried in order to care for the things of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:26-38). He could not give this advice if it were a condition of being saved eternally that a woman bear children. If she bears children out of wedlock, she commits fornication or adultery both of which are forbidden. It becomes obvious that Paul is speaking of the general role or mission of woman in 1 Timothy 2:15, and not specifically of childbearing as a precondition of salvation from sin and the wrath of God to come.

It should not be overlooked that Paul immediately changes from the singular number to plural in his succeeding statements in the passage under study. The next statement is can meinosin en pistei kai agape kai hagiasm meta sphrosunes, “if they remain in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.” Ean is a conditional particle that introduces some-thing future and is here used with the subjunctive, as will be presently pointed out (see Thayer 162). Meinosin is aorist active subjunctive of the verb meno, “abide.” There is contemplated the condition of their being characterized by certain qualities of spiritual nature. They must remain in faith, love, and sanctification; these are the issues with respect to the higher sense of “save” that are under consideration. Childbearing is not the means of salvation. The expiatory death of Christ is the means of salvation or deliverance from the guilt of sin and the wrath of God. Those who are acquitted of sin are those who believe; they are people of faith (Rom. 1:16-17) and that person’s faith is reckoned for justification or acquittal (Rom. 4:5; Gen. 15:6). Love is essential to salvation if one is to walk by faith (2 Pet. 1:4-11; 1 John 4:7-8, 16, 19-21). Without sanctification, no one can see God (Heb. 12:14). Women can safely bear children and although this is part of the curse placed on them, they ultimately can be redeemed if they are characterized by faith, love, and sanctification.

To say that childbearing is the means of salvation is to wrest this statement out of context in 1 Timothy 2, and to ignore the context of other Scriptures also. Woman fits into the social fabric of humankind by maintaining the proper relation to man by being in submission and fulfilling the role of childbearing. The latter is painful and difficult. The salvation of men and women alike is through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and not in procreating or bearing children as the case of the sexes may be. Alford well points out that Christians are saved by fire (1 Cor. 3:15). Dia puros in this verse does not mean that the fire of trial is the means of salvation, any more than dia teknogonias has the sense of the means of salvation in 1 Timothy 2:15. Likewise, neither is di’ ergon agathon, “with good works,” the means of salvation (2:10). All of us may go through severe trials as by fire, but we are saved through Jesus Christ the Lord. Those who would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Women may go through childbearing as the general role given to them. But this does not mean that childbearing is essential to salvation. In the normal process and general plan, she is to bear children as part of her mission. There may be circumstances in which she is barren, bearing no children, as was Sarah through no fault of her own. This does not mean that she cannot be saved. One may be basically incapacitated to do good works by accident or disease. This does not mean that the person cannot be saved. One must be careful to exegete, not eisegete the text.

Guardian of Truth XL: 11 p. 12-13
June 6, 1996