“But women will be saved through childbearing.” (1 Timothy 2:15, NIV)
Ever wondered what in the world this verse means?! If so, you’re not alone. As Bible scholar Andreas Kostenberger admits, “This simple statement has mystified average Bible readers as well as Christian scholars for centuries.”
However, it was included in God’s Word. Therefore, truth relevant to our lives is to be gleaned from this verse. Thanks to Dr. Kostenberger’s extensive study, we can better understand its meaning, and its significant implications for us as women.
At first glance 1 Timothy 2:15 can appear to contradict other Scriptures that clearly state salvation is by grace, through faith, and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9). But sound interpretive principles tell us this can’t be true. So what is this “being saved” exactly, and what about single women or those who can’t conceive? Most importantly, what does this verse mean for my life today?
Dr. Kostenberger concludes that Paul is not referring here to final salvation, but rather that “‘women shall be kept safe by childbearing’ is the likely rendering of 1 Timothy 2:15." Furthermore, “it can be argued that what women are to be kept safe from is being deceived, ultimately by Satan himself.” He goes on:
What does it mean, then, for a woman to be “kept safe [from Satan]”? It means, among other things, that she will not yield in her mind to false notions of what it means for her to be a woman and in particular a woman of God. It means that she will respect divinely set boundaries in the exercise of her spiritual gifts and ministry calling in trust and obedience to God’s Word. It means that she will find fulfillment in her domestic calling, in her relationship with her husband, in her role as mother and maker of the home, and in proper ministry involvements in God’s “household,” the church (see 1 Tim. 3:15)
Suddenly, we realize the tremendous implications of this so-called “difficult” verse. We are “kept safe” from Satan’s lies when we hold fast to Scripture’s definition of womanhood. We are kept safe when we “respect divinely set boundaries” and “find fulfillment in [our] domestic calling.” What powerful motivation for biblical womanhood!
Having said this, Dr. Kostenberger responds to the most likely objection:
Does that mean that women are to be “confined” to the home? Not at all. The mandate for women to center their calling around the home does not mean to limit it to the home. As passages such as Proverbs 31 make very clear, women will participate in a great variety of activities from their home as a base and thus be great blessings to their husbands and children. More than that, women, by bearing children and thus fulfilling their natural procreative and biological functions, actively participate in humanity’s rule over creation (see Gen. 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”). Single women, likewise, can take an active part in God’s work as they devote themselves to matters pertaining to “God’s household” (1 Tim. 3:15; see 1 Cor. 7:29-35).
Properly understood, this verse can serve as both a warning and a comfort. It is like a divine “green zone” for us as women—protecting us from danger outside and providing joy and peace within. When we as women—single and married, the childless and the mother—“find fulfillment in [our] domestic calling,” both in the home and in the church, we are kept safe from Satan’s strategies to rob us (and our families) of peace and joy.
There is much more that can be said about this verse, and Dr. Kostenberger says it in the September 1997 issue (yes, almost nine years ago!) of the CBMW newsletter. You can also find a link to an even more scholarly explanation of this text at Andreas Kostenberger’s weekly blog (you just have to scroll down to last week’s entry). Finally, we want to take this opportunity to recommend the books Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner and H.S. Baldwin as well as God, Marriage, and Family by Dr. Kostenberger, which Dad says is the single best book he’s read on this topic.
Thanks be to God for verses such as 1 Timothy 2:15!