On Sunday, we made our way through 1 Timothy 2:9-14. We stopped short of finishing the chapter: verse 15 would have taken a bit more time than we had available to us.
After describing the fact that “Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:13-14), Paul wrote these perplexing words: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:15).
This week I’ve read through pages of commentaries on this verse. There are at least 7 or 8 major interpretations offered by scholars for how to understand this verse. Some see “childbearing” as a reference to the birth of Jesus. Others take the word to be a summary of domestic life, and see this verse as an encouragement for women to reject the false teaching that forbade marriage (1 Timothy 4:3) and instead chose to “work out their salvation” by accepting their God-given role as a mother (see also 1 Timothy 5:14).
However, the interpretation most compelling to me is one put forward by Henry Alford over 100 years ago. He suggested that we should understand verse 15 in the same way as 1 Corinthians 3:15: “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
The word “through” in this setting does not mean “saved by means of fire,” but “saved in spite of fire.”
Let’s test this idea out on 1 Timothy 2:15. This verse is following up on v. 14, which described Eve’s deception and sin. In this context, we can’t help but think about God’s curse on Eve for her sin: “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).
“Nevertheless,” says verse 15, “she will be saved in spite of this curse of painful childbearing—if they continue in their Christian faith, which is marked by faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
John Piper has written an excellent article which explains this all in a bit more detail and unpacks its application for mothers today:
He has also done a 9-minute Bible study video unpacking the same ideas. It’s worth a watch: