Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 1 Timothy 2:15
I’m not sure what this verse means. Many great thinkers have offered their varied interpretations of the meaning behind Paul’s words, some of which seem plausible; however, regardless of their opinions, it remains a difficult verse.
I’ll tell you what I do know: I bore a child and, in the weeks leading up to the birth of our baby, I was in awe of God’s perfect design in the intricate formation of our daughter. How is it possible that a tiny cell can multiply to the point of becoming a human body woven together with an eternal soul? Yet, at the same time, I was fearful of the process by which this child would make her entry into the outside world. If God is such a master designer, what is the point of the pain?
While I was in labor that night, “A Beautiful, Scandalous Night” played on my iPod. Its lyrics sang of the cross and the blood and our salvation. It caught my attention because it seemed so out of place. What does Calvary have to do with labor and delivery?
In that moment, however, I began to understand the answer to my question. Labor pains are not a cursed afterthought but far from it! From the moment sin entered the world, childbearing pointed forward to what Hebrews tells us about Jesus: “For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
This is My Body, Broken for You
Calvary was a beautiful, life-giving night. Christ endured the cross, letting His body be torn apart and scarred, knowing that on the other side of His pain was life for all believers. A brand new people would be born. Every person was born into this world through the painfully torn and scarred body of the woman who gave them life.
Discomfort begins during pregnancy and builds to the point of excruciating pain during childbirth. But all the pain and discomfort is not in vain; it is productive and purposeful. And it’s bearable because it is temporary. We know that this short period of pain will bring a life into this world.
Despising the Shame
Calvary was a scandalous night, too. Not only was it painful to carry the cross, but it was also shameful. Jesus, naked and exposed, walked through the streets while people spat on Him and mocked Him. Likewise, there is nothing dignified about childbirth, no matter what the movies tell you. Birthing a child requires exposure of vulnerabilities normally kept as private as possible, not to mention the bodily functions and fluids that would make anyone cringe.
When a woman gave birth to a child in ancient Israel, Levitical law required that she go outside the camp and wait through a period of uncleanness. Childbirth was in no way a clean and holy experience. Even today with modern medicine, it is messy, undignified, earthly, primal and sometimes dangerous. In their uncleanness, women in ancient Israel got to experience for the sake of each of their children what Christ experienced fully for all of us—shame, uncleanness and isolation.
The curse in Genesis 3 hints of Christ. The ultimate expression of new life being brought into the world was through Jesus’ broken body, and this image of our salvation would be repeated in every new life brought into this world. Eve experienced that which pointed forward to the cross and, until Jesus comes again, every new life will enter the world through a pain and shame that points back to the cross.
Because of sin, however, even this signpost toward salvation is broken. It doesn’t always work out in a beautiful, joyous experience. It doesn’t always end with a healthy child or mother. Many women never experience childbirth and, many who do, experience tragic difficulties. Sin has broken everything. Those who mourn in childbirth or infertility are not lesser images of Christ. They, too, point us to the cross through their suffering and help us to long for the day when the curse will be lifted.
It really was a beautiful, scandalous night. My pain was not purposeless; it was an echo of the pain that brought eternal life. My blood was not in vain; it was a passing reminder of the blood that continually covers me. What happened in that delivery room was just a glimpse of what happened when we were born again at Calvary. I may not know exactly what Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:15, but I do know this: Delivery and all its pain is carefully crafted as an image of the salvation, secured for us by the faithful and fruitful labor of Christ.