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Does a woman have to bear children to be saved?

The Question:

1 Timothy 2:11-15 “A woman [wife] should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman [wife] to teach or to have authority over a man [husband]; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women [wives] will be saved [preserved, restored] through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” According to this passage, does a woman have to bear children to be saved?

The Answer:

This passage talks about a wife being subject to her husband and not usurping his authority in the home. One thing you need to realize is that MOST women in the New Testament time were not educated, and were disrupting the church services by yelling out questions and comments to their husbands, who were seated in a separate section. The Apostle Paul here in his first letter to Timothy is telling them to be quiet in church and ask those questions at home!

This does not mean that women do not have a place in ministry – because there are references in the New Testament to women apostles, prophets, deacons, teachers and pastors. In order to fulfill these ministries, women sometimes are placed in authority over men, but should still be in submission to their own husbands, as their husbands are submitted to Christ.

Ephesians 5:22-33: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. “

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- for we are members of his body. “

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

“This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. “

Because of a woman’s newfound freedom in Christ, she had to be reminded not to get out of order. And because men were used to treating women as property, they had to be reminded to love their wives sacrificially, not treat them as objects they owned.

I Timothy 2:15 “But women [wives] will be saved [preserved, restored] through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

Then it refers to a woman being saved through childbearing, which in the context of the rest of the scripture doesn’t mean her eternal salvation. But the mortality (death) rate IN childbearing in that day was extremely high, so this primarily is a promise of HEALING – to preserve (save) the woman as she goes about the process of bearing children. That this verse applies to husband and wives (and not men and women in general) is shown by the reference to Adam and Eve, who of course were the first husband and wife. The Greek words for man/woman and husband/wife are the same, so to see which the original writer meant depends on context.

So this does NOT mean that a woman has to have children to saved in a spiritual sense, just that her continuance in faith, love and propriety, being in loving submission to her husband, will protect her THROUGH the childbearing process and keep her from deception.

The only Old Testament reference I can think of for the same topic is Genesis 3:16: To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." 

This refers to part of the curse that came upon women due to Adam and Eve’s sin.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

Now in the New Testament through the blood of Jesus we are no longer under the curse, but under grace and mercy – and that is why if a woman continues in faith, love and propriety, in voluntary submission to her husband, the curse on childbearing is reversed. We still suffer pain in it (unless the doctor knocks us out!), but we are promised to make it through childbearing.

IF your wife is disturbed because she thinks she has to have a child to be saved eternally, please put her mind at rest! Our salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not by works – that is it is the unearned, unmerited, free gift from God not based on anything we do or say, and certainly NOT on bearing children!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.

cover A very good book on this subject is "What Paul REALLY said about Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love, with study questions" by John Temple Bristow, Harper San Francisco, 1988.

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