What Does It Mean That Eve Is Saved by Childbirth?

Daniel Darling
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Look around you. Read the headlines. You know. The world is not as it should be. Kids gunned down in our schools and cities. Corruption in the highest offices. Humans striving for power and money and sexual gratification, leaving the weak in their wake.

“Take and eat” seems so inviting, such a harmless indulgence, such a fleeting moment. And yet we can imagine that Eve would regret this moment for the rest of her life. “So simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation,”[1] writes Derek Kidner.

Saved by Childbearing

So how did “take and eat” become, to quote Kidner, “verbs of salvation”? We find this in perhaps one of the most controversial verses in the New Testament, Paul’s declaration in 1 Timothy 2:13–14:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.

Saved by childbearing. This passage is embedded in instructions for leadership roles in the church, but it is often misunderstood. Paul is not here saying that women are by nature more gullible or easily deceived, but that the lies of the serpent went directly at God’s design for His world. In tempting Eve, he circumvented Adam and circumvented God, preying on the vulnerability of Eve.

God’s creation order is not about inferiority, as so many who read Genesis and 1 Timothy claim, but about stewardship and servanthood. Though Christians disagree on the exact implications, it cannot be denied that God intentionally built into His creation genuine and complementary differences between men and women, differences many seek to blur while others seek to exploit, trampling on God’s good design for our flourishing.

But more importantly, Paul is pointing to something beautiful in creation and in the gospel hope that is delivered in the midst of the curse of Genesis 3: women are central to the storyline of Scripture. Though birth is now accompanied by pain since the fall, the privilege of giving birth is God’s sign of His love for humanity. Every single difficulty in childbirth is a reminder of the fateful day when Eve, speaking for all of us, yielded to the seduction of the serpent, and yet every single birth is a sign of God’s promise to crush the head of that serpent. This is why the angel said to a young and vulnerable Jewish girl named Mary, “Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42). Mary stands at the apex of God’s covenant with humanity. Jesus, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, the seed of the woman, the greatest of Eve’s grandsons, come to rescue a world corrupted by her deception.

God’s Design for Men and Women

We must see God’s design for men and women, not as a cruel attempt to push down women but to elevate them as coequal image bearers who work side by side with their brothers for their flourishing and God’s glory. This is what Paul is getting at in 1 Timothy 2. This is the vision of God’s kingdom community.

Amy Gannett writes, “As those who believe God has designed men and women equally in his image and made us equally vital to his kingdom work, we believe God loves women, and his design . . . for the home and . . . the church expresses his love.” The way God has ordered creation, the way He orders the family and the way He gathers redeemed men and women in His new covenant community is not about power or striving, but about sacrifice.

Ever since Eden, men and women have jostled and strived for supremacy and power. But God intends to restore what Satan has so thoroughly corrupted. Marriage then both looks backward and it points forward. The biblical vision of men and women in exclusive sexual union has its roots in creation. Jesus and Paul both quote Genesis’s call for men and women to leave their parents and cleave to one another in self-giving love reserved only for this institution that images Christ and His church.

God intentionally built into His creation genuine and complementary differences between men and women.

And yet marriage is a temporary signpost to something greater, the eternal union of Christ and His church. Adam sacrificed his body for his bride, and so it is that the second Adam sacrificed for His bride. From Adam’s side came Eve, and from Jesus’ side came the blood that redeems the church. It’s not just Eve who is “saved by childbirth,” but every single Christian who finds grace through being born again in Christ. “Motherhood teaches women the imagery and language of the gospel on an intensely personal level,” writes Jen Wilkin. “How appropriate the intertwined imagery of childbirth and the Cross: the necessary spilling of blood for the commencement of life, great loss holding hands with great gain.”

Eve would see heartbreak unfold in her own family. She’d see her son killed by another son. She would see God’s beautiful world descend into depravity. The Bible tells us that Adam lived to be over 900 years old. We can presume, but don’t know, that Eve likely lived most of those years. And yet Eve is a faint shadow of Mary, another woman with a special calling, who would see her own Son unjustly killed, whose sacrifice would be accepted by God. Jesus would reverse Eve’s regret and our regret. Eve lived between two worlds—the world of Eden that she left and a new world, marred by sin, her sin, our sin.

Living in the In-between

We live in this in-between, the world we long for and the world we inhabit. The marriage you dream of and the marriage you experience. The career you wish you had and the career you have. We live with shattered dreams of Eden. But there is a third place beyond the Eden we’ve lost and the brokenness in which we live. God is taking us somewhere, to a new city, Eden fulfilled.

Adam and Eve began in the garden, naked and unashamed. Their quest to usurp God, to be all-knowing, thrust the humans into a cycle of shame and regret. But the second Adam went to the cross naked and ashamed so we could be clothed in the pure white robes of righteousness of Christ. We will never go back to the naked innocence of Eden, but we will go forward toward that new city clothed in perfect white clothes, made clean. Just as God slew the innocent animals to cover their shame, so God provided a perfect lamb slain to cover our shame.

[1] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (London: Tyndale, 1967), 73.

For Further Reading:

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by Daniel Darling

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