I think 1 Timothy 2:15 is the most confusing verse in the whole Bible, particularly if you’re like me – a woman with no biological children. It’s the conclusion of a passage about men and women in the church, and here’s what it says: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:14-15). What is that all about? Surely salvation doesn’t come with the condition that you procreate. I don’t think it does, because Paul states clearly in another of his letters: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). That’s how you’re saved: By a belief that God raised Christ from the dead and confession of that faith, so what’s childbearing got to do with it? I wondered if Paul was talking about being a spiritual mother – sharing truths and being an example to the next generation, but it says childbearing, not child-rearing.
Then there’s the second part of the verse: “If they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control”. Who are they: Is it they – the women who bear the children, or they – the children themselves? Is Paul telling women: Your children (whose choices you can’t control) need to keep following God, otherwise you’re out? I discounted that straightaway. Imagine the fear and anxiety that could cause any mother! I really don’t think God would want that. John says God’s commands are not burdensome and Jesus Himself tells us His burden is light, so ‘They’ must mean Christian women. We’re to continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. That makes sense. There’s plenty in the Bible encouraging us to continue in the hope held out for us in the gospel and hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, but it still doesn’t answer the childbearing question.
One thing’s for sure: I can’t dismiss it. Paul tells us that: “All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live” (2 Timothy 3:16), so it must be there for a reason. The author of “1 and 2 Timothy for You” shed some light on this for me. In the verse before, we’re reminded of the garden of Eden, where the serpent deceived Eve. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, she offered some to Adam. Because he went against what God had told him, sin came into the world. Eve was deceived and sin (or transgression) was the result, but her childbearing eventually brought about salvation. One of Eve’s descendants, Jesus Christ, would die to take away the sin of the world. It was part of Eve’s purpose to have offspring so that we could be saved. Not every woman has to give birth to a child, but our salvation comes through the birth of a child, and we’ll be saved if we continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
That left me feeling much more peaceful and if you’ve been confused about the verse, like I have, I hope you feel the same.