It is a little unfair to leave 1 Timothy 2:15 hanging out on its own for so long especially since it is part of the context and understanding its meaning requires linking it to the prior couple of verses regarding Eve as well as verse 12 itself.
I very rarely approach a passage without having some idea to start with of it’s meaning and potential application. Of course many times during my study I discover truths which mandate a change in my starting position sometimes a complete change is needed as the word shapes me.
But I entered this text with a great deal of uncertainty; and it was quite disconcerting. At least I knew what it could not mean. Based upon the rest of scripture I can assure you that it does not
mean “have a baby…get to heaven!” but trying to plug this little verse into it’s context and then into life was a challenge. But as with every other section of the Bible, Context is King if you want to know what it means. That principle is one reason why I am starting to work on memorizing larger portions of Scripture.
I use the word “context” a lot but I realize it’s possible that it’s meaning has been forgotten or missed along the way, so let me give you a quick definition again. It comes in part from a French word meaning “woven together”. Context is basically all the information that is woven like a tapestry together with the text you’re looking at. That means we include the surrounding text of the book, and then the larger circle of the authors books, and then the Entire New Testament and Old Testament all the while keeping in mind the historical setting, the intended recipients and so forth.
If you study the context of the rest of scripture, not to mention the pastoral letters and first Timothy in specific you’ll soon discover that it is the second half of the verse that helps explain the first. The immediate context identifies who “she is” and directs us toward understanding the meaning of this verse to the Ephesians and also helps to provide an adequate application to ourselves.
Keep in mind that this verse is set in immediate contrast to the prior statement regarding Eve while also looking back to the earlier statement that a woman not teach or hold authority over a man. But, at least in my mind, Paul takes a turn that I wouldn’t have anticipated. He says “She will be saved…”.
It’s a curious move to me because I want to ask the question, “Who is ‘she’ And what is she going to be saved from, and finally how is she going to be saved whatever that might mean?
The answer to all three questions is tied together. So let’s take a look at the verse phrase by phrase. He starts out with “ She will be saved ”.
Since the immediate context is Eve in the prior verse, “She” must be a reference to Eve. However the last part of the verse moves into the plural with “They”. It’s an interesting change which helps us to understand that Eve as an individual is being used as an example which is representative of all women.
Thus in v15 “she” who “will be saved” is both Eve and simultaneously is “any woman”. There are two conditions however upon which salvation is somehow contingent.
Of course we still need to determine what kind of salvation is meant in this verse.
There are two ways to define salvation in this passage.
The first option is that salvation is a reference to some kind of temporary salvation in this life from some kind of trouble; I’ll just call that temporary or “Temporal Salvation”. The second option is that being saved means being saved from sin; which I’ll just call “Eternal Salvation”.
There are a number of ways to understand 1 Timothy 2:15 depending on whether the salvation indicated is temporal or eternal. Most of them depend on how you understand the next phrase, “ through the childbearing ”.
The Means Of Their Salvation
Most translations 1 leave out 2
the word “the” and just translate the equivalent of “through childbearing”; and yet the article matters because a proper interpretation of the text turns on it. But I believe Paul intended the meaning of the phrase to be specific which is why he used the word “The” here. He wasn’t talking about any childbirth or childbirth in general as if having a baby were somehow salvific. And certainly, Paul is more than aware that many women cannot have children either because they are unmarried or because they or their husbands are medically incapable.. It is sad to say but the ignorant interpretation of this verse which is occasionally caused by the absence of the article in translation has occasionally lead to unnecessary heartache for women who have struggled with infertility.
Yet I contend that The article “the” belongs in that phrase, “ Through the childbearing
”. With the article there it becomes clear that one single act of childbearing is in view. The text itself is already tied by the previous verse to Genesis 3 which provides the first prophecy of the birth of a savior, (Genesis 3:15). The article in this verse points towards the particular birth of Jesus to Mary.
Remember the chapter context involves Gods desire to save people. It’s the purpose of prayer and of teaching. And it is only natural that the instance of childbirth mentioned point to the same purpose.
Eve, Paul is saying, will be saved because of the birth of Jesus. But he doesn’t leave it with Eve alone he brings the focus to all women being saved through the birth of Jesus and he expands on
The Method of Their Salvation.
They need to abide
in faith and love and holiness with modesty.
The verb “abide” means to stay in it. There is nothing new in that requirement. Saving faith is not a transient faith, it is a lasting faith. Many times we read such things as “only he who endures to the end shall be saved…” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mk. 13:13).
Continuing in faith to the very end or “The perseverance of the saints” is all over scripture. True believers don’t come and go, they come and stay in the faith. There is no such thing as, “saved on Monday, not saved on Tuesday and saved again on Thursday.” If you are a believer you will not be perfect in this life on your own. Your perfection is in Christ, Stay in Him, trust Jesus and not your own self for salvation. The ups may be very up and the downs may even be very down but when all is said and done you will continue in faith or you were never in it in the first place.
Faith is always the necessary ingredient for salvation, while Love , holiness and modesty are natural outflows from a faith that works. (Compare James 2:17, 26 ).
The last word of the text, “modesty,” is also in verse 11 thus
verbally tying the text together around the idea of behavior which is identified by self-control.
But make no mistake this is a passage about salvation. God wants the men to pray because he wants people saved. He wants the women to dress modestly because he wants people saved; even the leadership of the church ties in to the mission of the church: bringing the message of salvation to the lost.
The fact that men are also saved by faith is not contradicted by this passage. The emphasis is currently on women and their role in the church. Moreover with this interpretation the verse provides a repetition to the startling (to the first century church) view that there is no difference between men and women in terms of salvation (Galatians 3:28).
Satisfaction, joy and obedience for both men and women comes from doing what we were created to do. It is, “…the devil’s lie that the only role of significance is that of leadership. 3 The failure created by the church as a whole in allowing, and enabling women to be pastors and leaders over men is the failure of men to accept their God-given responsibility to lead with godliness. Therefore in the next chapter, Paul will deal with the male leadership of the church from qualifications to implementation.
But even as Paul brings assurance that God has made a way of salvation available through the Birth of Jesus Christ; he reminds us that personal faith is necessary for salvation.
So let me simply ask you about your faith this morning.
The Bible is abundantly clear; without perfection no-one will see God. But there is a problem because every one of us have broken God’s laws and thus proved ourselves imperfect. But God sent his Son to be born to Mary while she was still a virgin. God’s Son is Jesus Christ who died on a cross in order to pay the price for your sin. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and rose again to life on the third day.
And now the choice is for each one of you. Will you reject your sin and embrace salvation by believing in Jesus Christ? He is calling you. He died for you. Are you willing to give your life to Him?
I invite you today to come and surrender your life to Jesus from this moment now until forever. I will be right here, waiting to answer your questions, to guide you, and to pray with you. Come, now is the time to give your life to Jesus.
1 ESV, HCSB, NET, NLT, ASV, BBE, CJB, Darby, Douay-Rheims, NIV, GENEVA, KJV, NAB, NJB, NKJV, NRS, RSV, WEBSTER REVISED
The fact that the article is not translated in every case is not in the least shocking or problematic because Greek and English are two very distinct languages. Translation is seldom an issue of just exchanging one word for another in a new language. Complex rules of syntax, grammar and countless variables must be considered in translating every word, phrase, thought and so forth. The shear volume of English translations is an indicator of the difficulty of creating the “perfect translation”.
3 MacArthur, John. 1 Timothy. Chicago: Moody Press, 1995. p87.