But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.-1 Timothy 2:15
The meaning of 1 Timothy 2:15, particularly the phrase, “women will be saved through childbearing” is a notoriously difficult passage to interpret. Therefore this post is more technical and a bit longer, for as C.S. Lewis said about Christian reality, “So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies–these overly simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”
With that said, we should hold these two fundamental principles when interpreting any difficult verse, like 1 Timothy 2:15, “women will be saved through childbearing”:
1. Scripture interprets Scripture. This means all of Scripture never contradicts; thus when multiple options for an interpretation are presented, we must choose the one which does not contradict other related parts of Scripture.
2. The context of a verse greatly determines its meaning.
What 1 Timothy 2:15, “women will be saved through childbearing” Obviously Doesn’t Mean
Since the entire Bible points to salvation only being received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), we can rule out any interpretation of “women will be saved through childbearing” which says this means women will be saved by works. Paul would never mean this, as everything he wrote in the New Testament revolves around the opposite message of the gospel of grace.
One common interpretation for 1 Timothy 2:15 is that women will be saved through the birth of Jesus, as if the phrase, “women will be saved through childbearing” means women, along with all humans, will have the chance to be saved because Jesus was born through Mary. A reference to Galatians 3:15 is used to back this meaning. However, the Bible nowhere else uses this type of language, and the context for such a statement would be extremely odd since the topic at hand is the roles of men and women in the church and home.
Placing 1 Timothy 2:15, “women will be saved through childbearing” in the Proper Context and Theological Framework Supported Throughout Scripture
Taking into account a systematic theology derived from the entire Bible, we know that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and by God’s grace given in the gospel, which when received will be confirmed by a changed life (i.e. works). This doctrine of saved by grace alone and the doctrine of faith being dead without works can be scene succinctly in these two passages:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18)
We can see that the Bible clearly states that we are saved “by grace” “through faith” and “for good works.” Anyone who believes they have received grace through faith but does not have good works is deceiving themselves, only possessing a hollow, dead faith. We are not saved by our works, but our good works (not our perfection) are the evidence of our genuine conversion.
Contextually, 1 Timothy 2:15 is preceded by:
“. . . God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6)
“. . . likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Here again we can see the consistent theology of Scripture that people are only saved by “one mediator . . . the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) and that all Christians, including women, should be expressing “good works” (1 Timothy 2:10).
With this context in place, we can see 1 Timothy 2:11-15 explains with greater detail the types of “good works” men and women should be exhibiting in faith. Paul states that men should be the leaders and teachers within the church and family, and women should follow their husbands and love their families.
The Most Probable Meaning of 1 Timothy 2:15, “women will be saved through childbearing”
If we can only be saved “by grace” “through faith” and “faith without works is dead,” in one sense it can be stated we are saved by grace “through faith expressed in works.” If you plug in “through faith expressed in works” within 1 Timothy 2:15, this is how it would read:
“Yet she will be saved through [faith expressed in works]—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
Paul tells Christian women they should have “good works” (1 Timothy 2:10), he tells them they should “continue in faith” (1 Timothy 2:15), therefore it’s a very safe and logical interpretation to state that “childbearing” is one of the good works women should have as an expression of the faith they are saved “through.” (Note: This obviously doesn’t mean all women must bear children, as some women can’t. But it does mean “childbearing” is a good work solely dedicated to women, as no man could do it, no matter how much faith he had.)
Notice too that Paul did not say, “women will be saved [by] childbearing” but “women will be saved through childbearing.” He intentionally and specifically used the word “through” because this word is most commonly used in the phrase “through faith.” We are saved “by grace” and “through faith.”
Therefore, 1 Timothy 2:15 which states “women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith” probably means what every other part of Scripture means that talks about salvation. We are saved “by grace” “through faith” and “faith without works is dead.” If bearing children is a good work the female Christian (in general) is to do, then we can say with confidence, knowing this does not contradict other parts of Scripture:
Women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.