What Motherhood Teaches Us about Womanhood

Why Motherhood Matters

Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas Schreiner:
In light of Paul’s and the Bible’s teaching on motherhood, what is the significance of women being mothers? Beyond the obvious biological differences, does motherhood tell us anything about the difference between males and females? What do you have to say to women who are not mothers (1 Tim. 2:15)?

Mary Kassian:
I’ll answer this question with a quote from True Woman 101:

Every normal woman is equipped to be a mother. Certainly, not every woman in the world is destined to make use of her biological equipment. But motherhood, in a much deeper sense, is the essence of womanhood. The first woman’s name affirms and celebrates this truth: Eve means “life-giver.” God’s purpose is that every woman—married or single, fertile or infertile—will bring forth life. Regardless of her marital status, occupation, or age, a woman’s greatest aim ought to be to glorify God and further His kingdom by reproducing—bearing spiritual fruit. [1]

The Lord wants women to be fruitful for the purpose of advancing and expanding the family of God. The point of motherhood is to bring forth and nurture children in the faith. Women who have no biological children also participate in this calling:

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:1 ESV)

He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah! (Psalm 113:9 HCSB)

Gloria Furman:
Since womanhood cannot be handcuffed to mere biology, I would say to women who are not biological mothers that nurturing cannot be relegated to procreation. Through the gospel we see that fertility and “filling the earth” extend to Christian discipleship that bears lasting fruit. This is a joy-filled responsibility that every Christian woman bears. The clear glass of the gospel shows us that we are part of God’s bigger story in which he is calling out worshipers from every nation to come and adore his Son forever. So the goal of our nurturing is to promote human thriving in the most magnificently fulfilling capacity possible. As women who are in Christ, then, we should aim to do everything he gives us to do so that all the nations would see and savor him forever. Motherhood, according to God’s good design, includes biological and spiritual mothering and is woven into the very fabric of what it means to be a woman. Women lovingly mother others, using their God-given gifts to meet their needs for Jesus’s sake (2 Cor. 4:5).

Tony Merida:
It seems God has given women a wonderful nurturing instinct. I don’t mean to imply that men can’t be nurturers, nor that women are only nurturers. However, the fact that women can give birth and feed and nurture babies and children in ways that men cannot highlights the beautiful uniqueness women possess as caregivers. A woman does not have to be married, nor be a mother, to nurture those in need. I would encourage all women to pour out their lives in deeds of service to those in need, such as victims of abuse, orphans, widows, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry, and the afflicted, through thousands of God-honoring involvements.

A woman does not have to be married, nor be a mother, to nurture those in need.

Trillia Newbell:
First Timothy 2:15 has been debated and theorized so much, I’m not sure I can add to the conversation! We know that women are not actually saved (as in regenerated) through childbirth. Yet Paul uses this language, and so we cannot ignore it. And I could write an entire chapter (or even a book) on what the Lord says about motherhood. So instead, I’ll focus on the last question about women who aren’t mothers. God was kind to begin the creation story by letting us know that all men and women are made in his image; therefore, unmarried women are no less significant than mothers. Also, because all the Word is useful, all females can be encouraged and challenged by what they read in regard to women in the Word. So the question is, what can we learn about God when we read these Scriptures? That’s how we all—including my unmarried sisters—should approach this passage.

Theresa Bowen:
If 1 Timothy 2:9–15 were the whole of Scripture, we might assume that salvation for women is somehow tied to childbearing, but of course it is not. The full witness of Scripture teaches that the basis of salvation is grace alone through Christ’s atoning death and not works (childbearing or anything else we can do). Therefore Paul must have referred to childbearing to represent Eve’s original (and perfect!) design as a life giver and perhaps her sphere as being more familial. Biologically, the woman alone has been designed to bear children. And while she can reject children or, for reasons known only to God, be denied them, this is one area of her design that a woman cannot exchange with a man. But as glorious as physically giving birth is, being a life giver involves so much more. It is that nurturing, maternal spirit that God has sovereignly placed within the woman’s design. It involves viewing children (her own and others) and younger women as gifts and as worthy of her time and best efforts.

Women in the Church

Andreas J. Köstenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner

Offering a rigorous exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, this classic volume explores Paul’s teaching on women’s roles in the local church. Now includes a new preface, a new conclusion, and new and updated chapters.

Monica Rose Brennan:
Women who embrace who they are (their true identity) and fulfill God’s purpose will be rewarded. Motherhood reveals the nurturing, helping nature that God has formed in every woman’s heart. Mothers have such a high calling and privilege to train their children to follow Christ and to discover God’s purpose for their lives. I can’t think of a greater role in all the world; it is truly a gift from God. Those who cannot bear children are still called to be nurturers and minister to children and other women in a way that only a woman can. Women who are not mothers can be spiritual mothers to others and minister in a variety of ways.

Theresa Bowen:
Exactly. The life-giving aspect of our design in no way excludes single women. All women—married, single, with or without children—can nurture and speak life-giving words into other’s lives. And despite the loud disrespect and disregard for such “menial” work in our supposedly enlightened age, this role is still largely accepted in society. Most still expect the child with a bloodied knee to run to mom for comfort, most homemaking blogs are penned by women, and Hollywood borrows from God’s design every time the hero steps in and saves the damsel in distress rather than standing idly by or following in her steps. Being a life giver is huge! Ironically, we assign more respect to a woman spending eight hours at a computer in a cubicle than one speaking words of life to a discouraged husband or straying child. It is that nurturing spirit that creates the intangible atmosphere that makes a house a home. And while it may begin in her home, a life giver’s nurturing words and actions are often known throughout her sphere and beyond, sometimes throughout the world. Indeed, something powerful can happen when we align with and embrace our God-given design.

Rosaria Butterfield:
I am a mother by adoption. Two of our four children came to us at the age of seventeen out of the US foster care system. Many good Christians uttered their concern about adopting teenagers. Will they love us? Will they reject us? Will they hurt us? And what about my identity as a mother? Am I less of a mother to my children if I meet them as older teenagers? Am I not a “real” mother if I did not carry them in my body? Am I less of a disciple of Christ if I met him in middle age (as I did)? God constantly reveals to us his covenant love by forging impossible trails through the conflicts of our lives. But covenant love has earthly vessels. One earthly highway of God’s covenant love is the spiritual mothering that leads others to our Savior. Hospitality is a touchstone of the ministry that Kent and I share together. And for me, hospitality and mothering go together, as both flow out of the doctrine of adoption and both require hands-on service and consistent and sacrificial love.

[1] Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, True Woman 101: Divine Design (Chicago: Moody, 2012), 188.

This post features a roundtable discussion on motherhood adapted from Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (3rd Edition), edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner.

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