Q: #523. What does (1 Tim 2:15) mean when it says, "she will be saved in childbearing?"
A: The precise meaning of (1 Tim 2:15) has been debated for centuries. Several different interpretations have been put forth. The one thing we know for sure is that it does not mean that a woman receives “salvation” by giving birth to a child. Salvation comes not through “works” (having a child), but through faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
To find our definition of (1 Tim 2:15), I believe we need to look at three different things: 1. the original Greek, 2. the verse in context, 3. related verses.
When we look at the two key words: “saved” and “childbearing” in Greek, we find the following. The Greek word for “saved” is “sozo.” The majority of times it is used in New Testament, it is tied to “salvation” (93 times). However, “sozo” also has a secondary meaning, and that is to be “delivered” or “preserved” (Mt 8:25)(Mt 9:21-22)(Mt 27:40,42,49)(Jn 12:27)(Acts 4:9)(2 Tim 4:18)(Jude 1:5). Since we know that “sozo” in this instance is not being used for salvation, we know that it must be tied to these secondary meanings.
When we look at “childbearing” in Greek, we find the word “teknogonia” being used. This word is used nowhere else in the New Testament. Strong’s gives us this definition: “childbirth (parentage) i.e. (by inpl.) maternity, (the performance of maternal duties). A second Greek word “teknogoneo” is translated in (1 Tim 5:14) as “bear children,” and Strong’s defines it as “to be a child-bearer, i.e. parent (mother).”
When we put these two Greek words and definitions together, we might more clearly translate (1 Tim 2:15) this way: “she will be preserved as she gives birth to, and raises her children.”
Next, to understand this, we need to look at the verse in context. Beginning in (1 Tim 2:8), we see that Paul is talking about the roles of men and women in the church. In verse 11, it says a woman should “quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness” (NASB). Verse 12 tells a woman not “to teach or exercise authority over a man.” Then, in verses 13-14, we are shown that because Eve did not follow her God-given role, this resulted in her being “deceived” by Satan. She got out of her God-ordained covering (God first, husband Adam second, her third, Satan last). Her order was essentially flipped backwards: Satan first, her second, Adam third, God last.
***Note: I discuss more fully the role of women teaching in the church here.
Tying this to verse 15, I believe Paul is saying that if a woman follows God’s primary ordained role for her, to give birth to and raise her children (1 Tim 5:14)(Titus 2:3-5) (and to take care of others in her family: 1 Tim 5:4,14), to be under submission to God and her husband (Col 3:18)(Eph 5:22-24)(1 Cor 11:3)(1 Pet 3:5-6), and if she will “continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety,” God will “deliver” and “preserve” (“save”) her. In other words, if she follows God’s plan for her, this will help to protect her from “temptation” and “deception” from Satan.
This is all a part of “sanctification,” or becoming more and more holy (1 Pet 1:15-16)(1 Th 4:7)(Lev 11:44-45). It is a part of our goal as Christians, to become more and more like Jesus (Eph 4:13.15)(Phil 3:12-14)(2 Cor 3:17-18)(Rom 8:29). Therefore, a woman is not “saved” (“justified / justification“) by having a child, but instead, she is being “sanctified” (“sanctification“) when she follows the God-ordained plan for her life as a woman, mother, and wife.
***Note: Two other historical definitions of this verse are: 1. Women (and men) are saved by the birth (childbirth) of Jesus, which came through a woman, 2. Christian women are saved from harm (“protected or preserved”) during the act of childbirth. I find neither of these definitions to work very well.