Bible verses about
Adam and Eve
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The actual creation of Adam and Eve and the placing of them in the Garden of Eden was not an end in itself but only a necessary step at the beginning of a process that continues right down to today.
God is creating a community.
From the very beginning, God implies the expansion of His own community. He says, "Let Us," indicating a community already exists. Man was made, physically, in God's image, and he begins with characteristics of shape and form in common with his Maker. The rest of the Bible fills in the details of how mankind is being brought from having not only form and shape in common with his Maker, but also character, so that he fits perfectly into the community that the Maker is expanding.
When the Son of God came, He came with a message from His Father. Jesus gave as the title to the message that He brought, "the good news of the Kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14-15). This is the Boss Himself, and this is the title He Himself gave. It was the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Is there any doubt in our minds that God is forming a community? Is there any doubt that Jesus Christ will rule this community, first, and that afterward, He will turn everything over to the Father? (I Corinthians 15:28)? There is nothing ambiguous here. Is God forming a community?
The important thing for us is what ramifications the good news of the Kingdom of God has on the way we live our lives. In the course of the unfolding of Christ's ministry, and the apostles' afterward, we find some interesting things that have a direct impact on the way we live our lives.
First, Christ was the Son of God. Does not a son indicate a family relationship? “Son” is used in the Bible in at least two different ways. One means "a direct descendant of." The other is used in the sense of "characteristics of, but not necessarily direct descendant of." The Bible says plainly that Jesus was the Son of God, a direct relationship. Since He was of the same Family, there is a family relationship. He was not only a literal Son born of Mary of the Holy Spirit, but He also showed the characteristics of God. He was God.
Is Christ indicating a family relationship with us in Mark 3:34-35? We have already seen that the community that He is creating is a kingdom. This kingdom is also a Family. Everybody is related, all being sons of the Creator. Everybody has the same characteristics. Do not the descendants of parents look like their parents? Sure they do.
Everything fits together beautifully, and logically. God is reproducing Himself.
Consider Romans 8:14-15. Is that a family? Thus, if we have the Spirit of God, we are part of a family. We are Jesus' brothers. We are Jesus' sisters. We are Jesus' mothers (see Matthew 12:50). We have the same Father as He did.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)
From our childhood, we carry an image of God kneeling over the created but inert Adam. He is lifeless until God performs the first mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then Adam springs to life! His eyelids flutter, he takes a deep breath, and then he bends from his waist and sits up.
Nowhere does the Bible show God breathing life into any animal that He created. When He created them, they started breathing. Why should man be any different?
He is different because he is in the likeness of God. He did something to man that actually made man into the image of God. While he was lying there on the ground, he was still yet a creature. But when God knelt down and breathed into him, the infusion of the spirit in man occurred. That is what made man in the image of God! That is what gave man the power to have dominion. It gave man the intellect he needed to rule what God has created.
Man has creaturely life, but with the infusion of the spirit in man, he is more—a living being with intelligence. Man was given the power to govern his actions, not by instinct, but by memory, by conceptualization and thinking spatially. A man can appreciate beauty, communicate verbally, or write. A human being has feelings that are—in the expression of their subtly and power—far above an animal in terms of love or hate, and above all of the emotions that fall in between.
We can create and destroy. The power is in a man to do these things. The power is in the spirit when combined with the brain, but it has to be developed.
God shows very clearly that, as we are, we are nothing more than a pale representation of what we can be. Yet, we are endowed with powers that lift us so far above the animals on earth that we can have dominion over them.
Mankind is then commanded to fill the earth and subdue it. Subdue means "to tread upon," which implies "to bring into subjection." It does not mean "to destroy" or "to treat violently," but "to control and direct." In Genesis 1:26 and 28, God implies that He has conferred powers to mankind not given to animals.
It is also the first indication, when combined with Genesis 2:7 and 15, that when God confers a responsibility, He also confers the powers to carry out that responsibility.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
The Garden of Eden was the environment that God created for a relationship with Him to take place. Adam and Eve's responsibility was to dress and keep it. They were put there, not to do nothing, not just to pluck fruit off a tree, not even merely to receive eternal life, but to take care of the Garden.
Dress means "to embellish." This may seem a little strange, but Adam and Eve were to take care of it so well that it would become better than it was when God gave it to them. We like to think of the Garden as being a place of absolute and perfect beauty. Instead, since God told them to "dress and keep it," it seems that it was not complete. It had only been started. What He had done was certainly beautiful, but He wanted them to carry on and finish it.
Keep means "to guard" or "to preserve." If they did not work to dress the Garden, God is telling them, it would deteriorate. That is the way of all things physical, they degenerate if they are not maintained and taken care of.
There are spiritual lessons here. We have been invited into a relationship with God. Like any relationship, it must be worked on to make it increasingly tighter and more productive. We are to "dress and to keep" the relationship. We are not in the Garden, certainly, but we are in the relationship. To do this, we must use and grow in the Holy Spirit. The relationship is the key to accomplishing this. If there is no relationship, there is no Holy Spirit working in and with us, no chance that we will ever grow in the Spirit, and no way we can be close to God. The relationship is the key.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)
In verse 15, God clarifies why he gave man powers. At first glance, it only appears to cover what is physical and material, but with God's spiritual revelation and other scriptures, it carries far greater implication.
In the King James Version, the word meaning "tend" or "cultivate" is dress. The Hebrew means "to work at." In 1611, when the King James was translated, the word dress meant "to set in order," but gradually, it was applied to applying decorative details, "to embellish."
Today, when we say that we are going to dress, we include both parts of that definition. We put ourselves in order and embellish how we look.
In modern Bibles, “dress” has been translated "tend" or "cultivate." They have subtle meanings that are slightly different from "dress." Tend means "to pay attention to" or "to serve." For example, “I am going to tend to the dishes.” It means "to apply oneself to the care of" or "to manage the operations of."
Cultivate, which is the best of the three definitions, means "to put through a finishing process," "to foster the growth of," or "to further or encourage." Neither "dress" or "tend" is wrong, but "cultivate" most accurately applies the Hebrew meaning of the original word.
There is the word "keep" as well. We are to "dress and keep." Keep means to "guard," "preserve," "be faithful to," and "maintain."
God has given man powers to carry out the responsibility that has been given into his hands: to have dominion. Man must do the following: Put what has been placed into his hands through a finishing process, watch over it, guard it, protect it, and preserve its beauty.
This was all given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a beautiful place. God let them and us know that, as beautiful as the Garden was, it would not stay that way. It was subject to natural law and would degenerate. The Garden would need to be maintained, cultivated, dressed, and kept, requiring a great deal of work. Man was not only to preserve, control, and direct it, but also to strive even to ennoble the Garden of Eden through work.
It begins to become clear that God intends mankind to make more of his environment than he has been given. God has given the powers to do that. We are to understand this not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually.
Here in Genesis, God has shown the fact that a person works, the reason why he works, and the way he works all have a great deal to do with his spiritual development. It is important to note the difference between "salvation" and "development." We are saved by grace. But if there is going to be development from where God begins whenever we first receive His Spirit, then it requires something on our part to enable the fullness of development to take place. That involves work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
This account of Adam's and Eve's reaction to their sin demonstrates that sin destroys innocence.
Were two people ever more innocent at the beginning of their lives than Adam and Eve? Immediately after sinning, though, they felt shame because of their nakedness, and they doubly showed their guilt by hiding from God. Do the truly innocent have any need to hide? Do the innocent need to feel shame?
Sin leaves a tarnish on a person's mind so that he does not look at life in quite the same way anymore. David expresses how this tarnish affected him in Psalm 40:12, "My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up." Paul later explains, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).
A well-known series of scriptures, beginning in Matthew 18:1, touches on innocence and its destruction. It starts with a question from the disciples: "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus replies that unless we become as little children, we will not be in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is not the beauty of their innocence and the harmless vulnerability of little children a major reason why we find them so adorable? They produce no harm, shame, or guilt. But what happens as they become adults? They become sophisticated, worldly, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, cool, uninvolved, and many other negative things. They also seem to lose their zest for life. Sin does that.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does
Here we have the Bible's first sermon. This is what Abel heard, believed, and submitted to. The same instruction merely informed Cain.
Adam and Eve were the first sinners to stand before God and be called into account. In this passage are four elements that apply to what Abel believed. The first element is that, in order for a sinner to stand before God, nakedness must be covered. Nakedness, both spiritual and physical, has wide usage as a symbol. At its best, it indicates innocence, child-like simplicity, and vulnerability. At its worst, it indicates humiliation, guilt, shame, and punishment. Adam and Eve were attempting to hide their humiliation, guilt, and shame when they grabbed a few fig leaves to provide covering.
An interesting spiritual lesson comes in understanding an application of the symbolism here. Adam and Eve threw together as a covering whatever was handy at the moment. What they chose to cover themselves with physically was totally inadequate as a spiritual covering. God immediately rejected their effort, which is the main instruction of this vignette.
A secondary teaching is that many carnal people today think it does not matter what they physically wear when they come before God at church services. Oh, yes, it does! These days, people arrive at church to worship wearing all kinds of casual clothing. In fact, many churches invite them to do so, advertising themselves as "casual"! Sometimes this reflects a matter of ignorance; they just do not know any better. At other times, it reveals a serious matter of disrespect for the primary covering—Christ's sacrifice, as we shall see shortly.
It is good to remember the overall principle to appear before God covered with acceptable covering. The symbolic instruction carries through to both physical and spiritual applications, and the person who cares what God thinks will do his best to conform to Him. God covered Adam and Eve with truly fine clothing. That is our example.
The second element Genesis 3 reveals takes us a step further spiritually in regard to the covering: What humans devise in terms of covering spiritual nakedness is, in reality, worthless. The third element clarifies this further: God Himself must supply the only covering that is spiritually adequate.
The fourth element is that the only adequate spiritual covering is by means of death. As in the first element, there are two lines of instruction. The first leads to the necessity of the second, if life is to continue. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The underlying principle is that we are always to give of our best to the Master. When we fail, the death penalty is imposed. This, then, brings forth a second teaching: In a spiritual sense, the entire human race sinned in Adam and Eve, who represented all mankind at the time. Since the wages of sin is death, and all have subsequently sinned, all of us must receive that wage—or another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must substitute for us.
However, we find it clearly spelled out in Romans that there must be a link between us and the Substitute (Romans 4:1-4, 11-12, 16, 19-20, 23-25; 5:1-2).
Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the link between us and God's forgiveness, which provides the acceptable spiritual covering necessary to be received into God's presence and receive the gift of life.
The second aspect of the fourth element also involves another death—ours. In this case, it is not a literal death but a spiritual one:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? . . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. (Romans 6:1-2, 6-8)
This death is achieved through repentance because one believes he is a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, having broken His law and earned death.
What we have just reviewed must have been taught to Cain and Abel, probably by Adam. How do we know this? Because Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel offered by faith, and faith comes by hearing. He heard the divine words given by God to Adam and Eve, which were passed to him, and Abel believed. Cain heard the same words, but did not believe as Abel did.
More proof is recorded following Cain's rejection. God says to him in Genesis 4:7, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." God clearly indicates a choice between right and wrong. Good and evil faced Cain and Abel. The one brother by faith chose what was right in God's eyes, while the other chose what was right in his own eyes. In essence, he chose death.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)
Neither of the other two curses contains such a lengthy reason for God's pronouncement.
Why God does this probably lies in the fact that Adam was not deceived when he sinned (I Timothy 2:14). God saw the need to explain to him why he was being cursed so that Adam would not repeat the grievous error again. Events had deteriorated much too far already, and this preamble is an attempt to shore up the damage by pinpointing to Adam the cause of the problem.
God's reason for Adam's curse comes in two parts: 1) He obeyed Eve, and 2) he disobeyed God. He sinned by doing something he should not have done, as well as by not doing what he should have done! Like most sins, his was an act of commission and omission.
God first exposes Adam's abdication of his leadership role in the marriage. Though Ephesians 5:21 says to "[submit] to one another in the fear of God," Adam yielded to his wife in an area he knew God had specifically commanded them to do otherwise. He should have led, not followed.
Genesis 3 provides no explanation for why Adam followed her lead; verse 6 tersely says, "She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate." It suggests he weakly acquiesced to do her bidding with a "whatever you say, dear" attitude. He chose to appease her rather than correct her.
Then God reminds him that he had directly disobeyed His very clear command: "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). God's words in Genesis 3:17 cut straight to the heart of the matter. However Adam had justified to himself that he could eat the forbidden fruit, he had still committed sin in God's eyes.
As the wording suggests, the two reasons go together; it is an Old Testament pre-statement of Peter's words to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:29: "We ought to obey God rather than men." God's commands take precedence over any words, acts, or persuasions to the contrary - even if they are delivered by a beautiful, naked woman offering to feed us fruit!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)
Some commentators make a great deal out of the fact that God addresses this curse to adam rather than to "the man" (ish in Hebrew), seeing this as proof that this curse was to fall on all mankind. This semantic argument means very little in the end, since both ish, the man named Adam, and adam, mankind, received the effects of the curse, just as both Eve and all other women have suffered from her curse.
English-speaking peoples have a saying that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." God, of course, understood this, and thus His curse on Adam centers on eating. In fact, eating is a major theme of the first three chapters of Genesis (see 1:29-30; 2:9, 15-17; 3:1-6, 11-13).
Eating, however, stands for more than simply nourishing the body; it is one small part of mankind's daily struggle to survive his hostile environment, planet earth. The Garden of Eden was a place where man's work "to tend and keep" what God had made was pleasurable, fulfilling, and probably not overly strenuous. The earth worked with the man to produce his needs for food, clothing, shelter, and whatever other need he might have.
Once God pronounced his curse, though, the ground—from which comes all material wealth and produce—turned uncooperative. Instead of man and nature united in productive labor, the situation became man versus nature, a competition for dominance. Now, man would have to use all his physical and mental powers to subdue the earth.
The earth would yield its fruit only after a man forced it through hard labor in plowing, planting, watering, cultivating, and reaping. Animals from insects to deer to wolves, fearful of man, would become pests and destroy his crops, herds, possessions and even his life on occasion. Materials for building homes, crafting tools, making clothing, and manufacturing items would be gathered only by raping the land of minerals, metals, wood, and stone.
The earth would protest through natural processes like earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, wildfires, erosion, and infertility. Denuded of trees, the land would become a desert. The weather would turn foul, sending too much or too little rain. Windstorms like hurricanes and tornadoes would devastate vast stretches of territory. The sun would beat down mercilessly or withhold its heat for long stretches.
Such was the situation Adam and Eve faced after God drove them from the Garden of Eden. For six thousand years all their descendants have struggled to survive the harsh conditions of life separated from God and in competition with nature. Surely it has affected their eating, but it has also had an impact on every other endeavor of mankind—from breaking horses for riding to blasting satellites into orbit. Men accomplish nothing except by the toil of hard work and overcoming the obstacles the environment places in their way.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Three)
Now the separation is very clear, and mankind is cut off from God and from the Holy Spirit. The episode in the garden of Eden, as it is recorded, makes it clear that humanity took itself away from God, not the other way around. In addition, Genesis 3 gives no indication that Adam and Eve wanted the breach to be healed. All they did was justify themselves—Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement
Sin was introduced and destroyed man's relationship with God, so God drove man out of the Garden. Practically every picture or painting of this scene shows God leading them out. But this is incorrect! He “drove them out,” implying a punishing anger. Their relationship was broken. A major principle is shown at the very beginning of the Bible: Sin destroys relationships and produces separation.
To understand this further, it is good to understand that at the heart of sin is the concept of failure. It is a specific kind of failure, producing a specific result and a specific fruit. Genesis 2 and 3 teach that sin is the failure to maintain a relationship, first with God, and secondly with man. Sin produces separation, first with God, and secondly with man. Eventually, sin produces death—the first death—and then the ultimate separation from which there can never be another relationship, the second death.
In addition to being separated from fellowship with God, Adam and Eve were also separated from the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit.
A very clear progression is shown in the breaking of Adam and Eve's relationship with God:
1. They became convinced that their way was better than God's.
2. They became self-conscious, and they hid from God.
3. They tried to justify and defend what they did.
In order to build a relationship with God, those steps must be reversed:
1. We must drop every excuse and every justification.
2. We must drop our pride and stop hiding from God, thinking He is unaware of what is going on.
3. We must become convinced that God's way is better than ours.
Genesis 3:24 says that the Tree of Life is guarded. The Holy Spirit is guarded. We understand this symbolically, making it clear that our way back to the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit is not going to be easy. In fact, it is impossible! No human being is going to get past a cherub.
There is no relationship possible with God until He removes the barrier. He then personally and individually invites us to come back. But how do we "come back" when we never had a relationship with Him before? We were separated from Him through the sin of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had a relationship with Him, and Adam and Eve represent all of mankind. Therefore, in God's mind, we had a relationship, but we wrecked it in the persons of Adam and Eve. God invites us back into a relationship with Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)
The key to understanding the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6, 11-12) does not hinge on their zeal in keeping the law, but on their zeal in finding loopholes to twist it to their own ends. Their motto could have been, "How close can we get to the edge without going over?" We could refer to this practice as brinkmanship (pushing a situation to the limit to force a desired result) or marginalism (taking an extreme position on an issue).
A former homiletics teacher, also an avid skier, conveyed to his class an analogy of the Ten Commandments as the boundary markers along the ski trail. Every year, when contemplating the boundary markers at Vail or Aspen, he reflected that only an idiot would ski as close to the edge as he could. Yet this describes many practices of the scribes and Pharisees!
The legalist and the lawbreaker both have a morbid curiosity about those boundaries rather than concentrate upon the vast latitude of choices between those markers. This is reminiscent of our parents Adam and Eve developing a morbid curiosity about the one tree that God forbade, ignoring the thousands upon thousands of varieties that He did not forbid (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6). This behavior dwells on the negative and ignores the positive.
These examples point out that the spirits of legalism and lawlessness are twin siblings. When we place the critical points of the law/grace and legalism/lawlessness issue in proper perspective, law and grace are powerful allies opposing legalism and lawlessness. They give Christians great freedom to do good for others while also doing what is right.
David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out
When Adam and Eve sinned, God judged them. Since they were the father and mother of all of mankind, and they were the only representatives of mankind at the time, all of mankind figuratively sinned in Adam and Eve. God's judgment was correct, because given the chance, every human has sinned.
What then happened to Adam and Eve? They were ushered out of the Garden, and God put cherubim at its entrance to guard the Garden and the Tree of Life so that nobody could get back in. This is why at times the Bible bids people to return to God when they had never seemingly turned away from Him. Yet, all of mankind did turn away from God in Adam and Eve, and He invites us to return to the place, symbolically, where everything started, back to the environs He occupies, where the Tree of Life is.
The relationship with God is everything to our salvation. Without what Christ did in dying for our sins, we would not be in the position to have one with Him. Christ's payment of our sins opens up the way for a relationship to be built and for us to grow in the Holy Spirit, because now we have access to the Tree of Life in a relationship with God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)
Paul admonishes us to consider both God's goodness and severity. Both of these characteristics are part of what He is, and therefore we must respect both.
We can make the contrast between them very sharp: Until Adam and Eve sinned, they received all goodness from God. After their sin, it appears that His severity hit them immediately; they were ushered out of the Garden.
In Genesis 4, Cain sinned by killing Abel. At first, Cain received goodness from God in that he was permitted to live, but he also received severity in that he had to live as a marked vagabond.
In these two early examples, both sides of God's judgment appear, and a pattern has become especially clear: Severity results because of sin.
Whether we are immediately aware of it is not the issue. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned, their decline into death began immediately, regardless of whether they were physically aware of any deterioration of their health. Cain immediately became a vagabond separated from his family roots. The only real difference between the carrying out of the death penalty between Adam and Eve and Nadab and Abihu is the effect God desired to create by His immediate, shocking display of severity.
We who draw near to God must know that the God we serve is to be served as a holy God—especially because He is a holy God. He permitted no opportunity for them to repent because they should have known better. The wages of sin is always death.
In the days of Noah, the goodness of God spared only eight souls, but His severity terrifyingly destroyed the remainder of humanity. In a matter of a few days, perhaps billions of people, even innocent unborn and newborn babies, died because of sin.
Following King Saul's paranoia-driven reign, God showed His goodness to Israel by raising up David, a man after His own heart, to rule over Israel. Yet, then David committed a disastrous double sin by entering into adultery with Bathsheba and deliberately bringing about the death of the loyal Uriah. God mercifully forgave the sins, but that does not mean there was no painful punishment laid on David and his family. God's severity against David and his family was hard and long. First, the son born of that illicit union died shortly after his birth. Later, David's firstborn son, Amnon, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. Tamar's brother, Absalom, seeking revenge, killed Amnon and fled from David, not seeing him for two years.
Then Absalom revolted against David in his desire to take over the throne. Absalom arrogantly proceeded to defile David's concubines in the sight of all Israel. Several thousand were killed in this revolt, and eventually, Absalom himself was killed by Joab. The family's pain did not stop even then, washing over into Solomon's reign when he put Adonijah to death because he sought political power by asking for Abishag's hand in marriage.
David was a man of blood, as God Himself mentions, but his children carried a moral cancer until death stopped them. Have we ever noticed how much deceit and illicit sex was involved in David's family's sins? God was not present in that family's life as He had once been. He could have stepped in at any time and stopped the holocaust ripping through David's family, but He did not. Living as they did, despite being the progeny of a man God greatly loved, they felt the severity of His judgments.
Deeply consider how long God's severity lasted! He did not simply let David off the hook. He had been chosen to draw near to God. Much was required of him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice
1 Timothy 2:12-15
Paul comments on the woman's curse in this passage, a section of Scripture that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years. What is immediately striking about Paul's reasoning and conclusion on Genesis 3:16 regarding the church is that he upholds it! Modern theological thought would reason that the effects of "the Fall" are nullified under Christ's blood, but Paul says, "Not so!" They may be diminished, but not eradicated.
Paul cites the fact that God created Adam before Eve as his proof that God intended the man to lead. He backs this up by showing that while Eve proved subject to deception—thus, she was the "weaker" of the two—Adam, whose sin was sheer disobedience, did not. Thus, Eve's sin establishes that woman should not take the lead from man; that route, by the biblical example of our first parents, generally leads to problems. The apostle concludes that a woman, formed by God as a helper to Adam and more inclined to being deceived, should not teach or lead men in the church.
On the other hand, as Ephesians 5:25-29, 33 plainly shows, Christian men must no longer "rule over" their wives. Loving authority is not domineering or despotic, but humble, caring, gentle, kind, and patient. In the same vein, Christian women should submit to and respect their husbands (verses 22-24, 33). Submission is not manipulative or grudging, but done in faith, respect, and humility.
How, though, is a woman "saved in childbearing"? The word Paul uses for "saved" (sozo) can be used for both physical deliverance from danger and spiritual salvation. How does faith, love, holiness, and self-control prevent or nullify the physical dangers of pregnancy? Conversely, is not salvation by grace? Which salvation does the apostle mean here?
Neither. A third explanation fits the context better. Paul's main concern in this section is proper order within the church. Men, he writes, should pray and teach. Women should adorn themselves modestly and do good works, but they should not be teaching publicly or leading men. Verse 15 explains what their primary concern should be: "childbearing." Thus, it means that much of God's judgment of women will be based on how well they perform their God-given role in bearing children.
To us, this sounds quite misogynistic, but to the Greek speaker "childbearing" (teknogonia) covers a great deal more ground than just "popping out babies." The Strong's Concordance definition shows that the extended meaning is "maternity (the performance of maternal duties)." W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, agrees, writing that it "impl[ies] the duties of motherhood" (p. 190). The Twentieth Century New Testament translates this clause, "But women will find their salvation in motherhood."
Paul's exhortation aims to bring marriage and family back to what God intended of men and women before Adam and Eve's sin. Just as God will judge men according to how well they fulfill their roles as husbands (leaders) and teachers, so He will judge women by their performance as wives and mothers. Since salvation, particularly the period of sanctification, is a process that covers our entire converted lifetimes, how well we fulfill our God-given responsibilities within our families will make a difference in God's judgment. Paul says we must perform these duties in faith, love, holiness, and self-control—just as we must do everything else in our Christian lives.
To summarize, then, the apostle simply states that God will judge and reward a woman according to her growth as a Christian within her appointed sphere of influence: her family. God Himself has drawn the lines between the sexes, and we should do our best to fulfill our roles with excellence, not rebellion or complaint. In this way, we will make progress in reversing the effects of the curses in the Garden of Eden.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part Two)
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