The next Biblegems question come from 1 Timothy chapter 2. The question comes from Paul’s teaching in verse 15 that women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (NIV). What does the Bible mean when it says that women will be saved through childbearing? Saved from what? —you might ask.
As is usually the case, the answer is found primarily in the context. In this case, the previous verses reveal that the apostle Paul is concerned about the impact cultural norms of the day are having upon the spiritual health of women in the Church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:1). These Christian women are predominantly Gentile (non-Jewish), and therefore much less modest in their dress, and much more inclined to “dress-up” (v.9) than their Jewish counterparts. In a public worship setting (2:11-12), this could cause temptation for the men and disdain from the Jewish women who had been trained from childhood to identify godliness with extreme modesty and simple, unadorned attire (Gen. 24:65).
Another important connection in the context comes from Paul’s allusion to the account of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden. Paul stresses the point here that it was Eve, not Adam, who had been deceived. While Adam had his own role to play in outright disobedience, Paul’s purpose in this text seems to be to highlight the fact that Eve was enticed by an outside influence that offered her more than what God had ordained for her. She was tempted to experience right from wrong, to “know” more than God had permitted her to know, to “be” more than God had designed for her to be. By yielding to that temptation, Eve brought upon herself, and upon her female descendants, a level of pain in childbearing that was never part of God’s original design.
Giving birth is at the very epicenter of what it means to be female. To have that joyful experience shrouded in pain created a generational reminder of what happens when human beings step outside of God’s plan for their lives.
So Paul is using the phrase “saved through childbearing” as a euphemism, a figure of speech, meaning ‘saved through being content in her ordained role’ as a woman. The Greek culture of the first century church encouraged women to flaunt their bodies and their femininity—in other words, to be less than content with their God-given role as a wife and mother, set apart solely for her family. What does “childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety,” save her from?
“... she would be saved from becoming a prey to the
social evils of the time and would take her part in the
maintenance of the testimony of the local church.”1
1 Vines, as quoted in the Expositors Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor
J.D. Douglas, Associate Editor, Accordance Bible Software, in loc.