Summary: Women have a vital role in the life of the saints. Struggling for mastery over men ensures that they cannot fulfil the role God has graciously given.

“Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” [1]

The role of women—in society and especially in churches—is a topic fraught with grave danger. The man who dares speak on the biblical role of women among the churches had better pledge his head toward heaven; the topic generates great heat—few congregants are truly neutral. Preachers don’t particularly enjoy controversy for the sake of controversy. Consequently, many of my ministerial colleagues, to say nothing of myself, will make a valiant effort to avoid conflict. This is not surprising, as among character traits that disqualify from eldership are pugnacity—a tendency to bully, and contentiousness—and a quarrelsome temper.

Having stated what should be obvious, I must hasten to say that controversy will come. If the servant of Christ fulfils his duty before God and to the flock of the Lord, he will generate opposition and stir emotions. When opposition comes, and be assured it shall come, it is often accompanied by animosity. The man of God must avoid responding in kind. The minister of Christ must be guided by the Word of God. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” [2 TIMOTHY 2:24-26].

Elsewhere, Paul has admonished all Christians concerning the appropriate response to outsiders. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” [COLOSSIANS 4:6]. And though it is true that all believers are to be gracious in their speech, servants of Christ, especially, are to be gentle, but firm.

This point is sufficiently important that I must appeal to Peter’s words to reinforce this truth. The Apostle to the Jews wrote, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” [1 PETER 3:15, 16].

Having stated this truth, which should be apparent to anyone even casually conversant with the Scriptures, the text for the message this morning does require our attention. In preaching through these Pastoral Letters, we have come to this portion of the Word. And though the issue of women’s ministries has become problematic among the professed people of God in this day, we dare not invest an inordinate amount of time addressing what should require but passing attention. The fact that the issue must be considered in depth is less an indication of the complexity of issues arising from the discussion than it is our own fallen and perverse nature.

The verse that serves as text for the message this day is controversial for what it says. Even if there were no broader dissention about the role of women, the verse itself qualifies as difficult to understand and fraught with potential to lend itself to being misunderstood. Accordingly, because the text is before us and because I want you to be thoroughly informed, we shall consider this verse, asking what it says and seeking to apply it in our lives.

TEXTUAL ISSUES — “She will be saved through childbearing.” Superficially, this statement creates some difficulties for the interpreter of Scripture. The heart of the controversy over Paul’s meaning centres on the word that is translated “saved” in my translation. The word is translated “salvation,” [2] “delivered” [3] or “preserved” [4] in other translations—the latter two efforts likely reflecting concern about the soteriological impact of Paul’s choice of words.

The usual meaning of the word as used in Paul’s writings speaks of eternal salvation. However, the word can also speak of rescue in other senses; the context determines what is meant. Underscore in your mind that Paul was speaking of salvation—but it was the salvation of the lost and not the salvation of those who professed Christ as Lord when he wrote these words. The Apostle’s concern has been that the people of God at worship not offend the propriety of lost people by advancing their own agenda and calling it worship.

Paul has urged “supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings” for all people. The purpose of this admonition is for the glory of the Master. As we enjoy peaceful and quiet lives, living a godly and dignified lifestyle, we will have greater opportunities to witness to the grace of God. We know that God desires all people to be saved, coming to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is the One Mediator presented for fallen mankind.

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