Summary: 1 Timothy has some strange stuff for our 21st-century ears. It says, women “will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”
Today’s Epistle reading has some strange stuff for our 21st-century ears. It says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet…. She will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”
To our ears, that “submissive part” is hard to swallow. In the LC-MS, we officially believe that statement: We have to because it’s in the Bible. But instead of embracing it as God’s truth for our lives, most of us probably wish it wasn’t in the Bible. And if we’re bold enough in our sinning, we’ll even say that!
Today, however, I’m not focusing so much about being submissive, for that’s not hard to understand, even though we bristle at those words. What’s hard to understand is the idea that women “will be saved through childbearing.” Now that causes us to scratch our heads! And I’m sure most of you have never fully understood what point Scripture is even making by saying that.
What does it mean that a woman “will be saved through childbearing”? Let’s start with what these words DON’T mean. We know the Apostle Paul doesn’t mean that women enter the kingdom of God by having children. Scripture clearly shows that women are saved the same way men are: “For by grace you are saved through faith. This is not your own doing; it is God’s gift, not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So we know right away what St. Paul does NOT mean when he says that women “will be saved through childbearing.” What, then, does he mean?
The Apostle Paul gives us a powerful clue by pointing us to Eve, “the mother of all [the] living” (Genesis 3:20). He says, “It was the woman who was deceived and became a lawbreaker.” With those words, the Apostle brings to memory, not only humanity’s Fall into sin, but also God’s first promise to redeem us through Christ.
Do you remember what happened shortly after humanity’s Fall into Sin? God said to the serpent who had tempted Eve, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and her Offspring. He [that is Eve’s Offspring] will crush your head” (Genesis 3:15).
Even way back then, God promised to send a Messiah, someone who would undo the damage Adam and Eve had done. God promised to send a Child into the world to wage war against Satan, to crush the old serpent’s head, and to bring salvation to us. God’s promise, even back then, pointed forward to Jesus!
Eve took that promise to heart! She just hadn’t figured out God’s timing. When Eve gave birth to her firstborn son, she cried out with joy: “I have given birth to a man, the LORD” (Genesis 4:1, from the Hebrew). That’s what she said. But most translations insert a few words because the translators think what Eve said doesn’t make any sense. So your translation probably says something like, “I have given birth to a man with the help of the LORD.”
Do you hear the difference? Our translations say that Eve exclaimed with joy that she had a son with the Lord’s help. No doubt that was true. But if Eve meant what she said--”I have given birth to a man, the LORD”--then she believed that she had just given birth to the Savior of the world! Yes, Eve knew God’s promise and took it to heart.
Eve’s firstborn son, as you know, was not the promised Messiah, the Christ. Eve’s child was a sign pointing forward to the Messiah to come. The child was a reminder of the salvation that was yet to come through childbearing. Eve’s children were living reminders of the salvation God promised to bring into this world through the birth of a Child. Eve would “be saved through childbearing” because God would come into the world as a Child, born of a woman.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? Should we not then look at our children in the same way? Should we not look at our sons and daughters similarly to how Eve learned to look at her children?
So then, what are our children besides children? Children are living reminders of our Salvation who was born into the world through the Virgin Mary. Women “will be saved through childbearing” because childbirth points us to our Lord’s incarnation. Women “will be saved through childbearing”--not because children make mothers holy--but because the birth of every child comes as an in-the-flesh reminder and sign that Jesus was born a Child for us and our salvation!
You could even say that every mother--just by being a mother--is a living proclamation of the Gospel, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see! God wants you to see children and childbirth in that way. God wants you to see the reminders that point to your redemption and salvation.