There’s one last part to this passage that has yet to be addressed and then I’ll make a few closing comments on it.
Paul writes in verse 15,
But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (15)
One of the study Bibles I use calls it a “notoriously difficult passage to interpret.”
And it is. What does Paul mean?
I think one thing that we can definitely rule out is that he meant women need to have children in order to be saved. For as Paul said,
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What then does Paul mean?
Remember that in verse 14, that Paul had just said, “It was not Adam who was deceived but the woman.”
Those sound like pretty harsh words, and perhaps Paul knew it. It sounds like, “Women, it’s Eve’s fault that we’re in this mess.”
And so I think Paul was trying to soften his statement.
What I think he’s pointing to is the sentence that God passed on Eve. What was the sentence? That she would experience an increase in pain in childbirth.
And Paul is saying, “That pain that you go through in childbirth is symbolic of the pain that has come into this world because of Eve’s sin. But though you have this physical reminder of this spiritual reality, know that you will indeed be saved if you walk in faith in Christ and his work on the cross, in love for God and for others, and in the holiness of God.”
A similar use of the word “through” is used in I Corinthians 3:15, that though Christians go through the fire of judgment and some or even all of their works are burnt up, nevertheless they will be saved because of their faith in Christ.
Final point. I have read a lot of the arguments that the Christian egalitarians have written on the matter. Though they bring up some interesting points at times, and while there is certainly a lot of interpretation that has to be imposed on the texts by both sides to make sense of these passages, it is my conclusion that the egalitarians must stretch a lot further on their interpretations to come to the conclusions they do.
I think that the interpretation I am giving is more consistent with the text, and I feel much more comfortable sticking with the clear teaching of Paul than with the many assertions made by the egalitarians, often with proof from vague passages (e.g. that Junia (Romans 16:7) was an apostle in the sense that Paul and others were) or assumptions that can never be proven (e.g. that there were false women teachers in Ephesus).
Nevertheless, as I said, both sides need to stretch somewhat to make their points since we can’t ask Paul exactly what he meant. As a result, I’m not inclined to be dogmatic on this point. I have, for instance, worked with women head pastors, and never felt it was my place to tell them, “You know, I don’t think you should be in this position.”
In short, you can you argue with me on this point. You can tell me I’m wrong, and I’m willing to listen. But unless you can come up with clear teachings from scripture that qualify what Paul says in this passage, you’re not likely to convince me. But from my standpoint, no matter how you may feel about me for my stance, I will not let it affect my love for brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with me. I just ask that you would do the same for me.