Although the passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is referred to mostly because it is one of Paul’s instructions for how women are to behave, it is the last verse that has always perplexed me, “But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (v. 15). That is quite a statement. Aren’t we saved through the work of Christ on the cross? How could Paul make such a claim? And even moreso, he adds “if they continue…” as though if we do not, we are in danger of losing our salvation. If is yet another questionable statement. However, I came across Colossians 1:22-23 during this morning’s reading and, again, Paul makes another if statement: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”
Considering that the proper view of Scripture is one that wouldn’t believe it would contradict itself, nor speak untruths to us, I prefer to look into verses such as these as a challenge to discover what exactly God is conveying to His readers. Clearly, we cannot lose our salvation. Clearly, women are children of God in the same way that men are. So when the Colossians verses presented themselves, the latter issue was laid to rest; Paul made the if caveat in this epistle and it was all inclusive, no gender implications whatsoever. What about the first question though: since there’s an if in his wording, could we lose our salvation if we don’t continue? In fact, both letters include “in (your) faith” directly following the “if you continue” clause. Is that an implication that our faith could somehow be discontinued?
I’ll first divulge that the 1 Timothy 2:15 verse continued to hold my attention due to personal reasoning. I never doubted that I wouldn’t be saved (or restored, as some translations read) if I hadn’t bore children, but having done so, I can attest that what Paul says hits home. Jesus saves, of course, but in my case, He saved me further on this side of eternal life by blessing me with a child. A child that changed the entire course of my life the moment I knew I was pregnant. If I had continued to remain childless, my life would’ve looked much different and, in His sovereign grace, He knew that I’d repent of the self serving lifestyle that I’d led up to that point. As any parent knows, having children doesn’t allow for your selfish desires to rule over you anymore. We may have them in our hearts, but the selflessness that rearing children requires makes acting them out nearly impossible. It is yet another earthly example God gives us to experience, although ever so slightly, the unconditional love and sacrifice He has for His children. So, for me and surely countless others, childbearing and childrearing has saved in part. Of course, we could explore the deeper theological reasoning for this verse, since the word “women” is also recorded as “she,” referring to Eve as the previous two verses are read. With that knowledge, we could retrace Scripture all the way back to Genesis 3:20, which says that Eve “would become the mother of all the living.” And, in that case, Eve has been saved/restored because of the virgin birth. My line of thought only scrapes the surface, but can still be beneficial to ponder.
As far as the continuing in your faith verses already noted and the, perhaps, appearance of an underlying threat that our faith could be lost, I’m convinced that Paul isn’t intending to convey just that. In 2 Timothy 2:10-13, Paul mentions that he “endures everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” and shortly following, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” In the case of election, God chooses us. Period. He has all of the work already done and even as we accept His grace in salvation, it is still Him who enables us to do so. Which is how verse 13 in 2 Timothy 2 could be read: even if our faith (and I’m only referring to the elect) is less, seemingly discontinued, weakening, complacent, muddied, or any adjective that could describe a lacking amount of faith, it is He who remains faithful through it all. Paul appears to be simply giving us a charge, where the emphasis could be on the word continue instead of if. He’s imploring us to continue in the faith, love and holiness with propriety (1 Timothy 2:15); to continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel (Colossians 1:23).
In a way, we’ve all been saved through childbearing because of the virgin birth. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). Thank you, Peter, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So continue in your faith, the elect, and when you’re uncertain whether you’re doing it well enough, “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience…let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:22-23). For those of us who are parents, we can see this love and acceptance in the way we’d never reject our children if they were to come to us in need. And we can also understand the gravity of taking them under our parental wings as they’re raised, offering up all of our strength and having enough faith for two in the times they need you most. God is our Father and can exemplify that relationship more perfectly than we ever could.