The High Calling of Motherhood

May 11, 2003 / No. 3149

Dear Radio Friends,

     On this day when we celebrate the great blessing of God to the Christian church and to families of Christian mothers, I would call your attention to God’s Word as it is found in I Timothy 2:15.   There we read these words:  “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

     The words of holy Scripture to which I direct your thoughts a few moments today are spoken for the comfort and the encouragement of godly mothers.  If you are acquainted with the second chapter of I Timothy, and are acquainted especially with the last part of that chapter, perhaps that strikes you as not being true.  You might be acquainted with that passage and conclude that the apostle is being rather hard or even harsh upon Christian mothers.  He has said, in the verse just before, that the woman being deceived was in the transgression.  That is, he is saying to us that it was the woman, Eve in particular, who played a prominent and important part in bringing God’s curse upon sin, for she in her pride ate of the forbidden fruit and tempted Adam and thus figured prominently in Adam’s sin.  And it was Adam’s sin that brought spiritual death upon all men.

     But our text, I insist, was spoken for the comfort and the encouragement of godly mothers.  It begins with the word “notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing.”  That is, as she figured prominently in the fall of man into sin and ruin, so also, by the wonderful mercy of God, the woman figures prominently in the work of God in salvation.  As sin sought to use the woman for its ends, so the mercy of God is pleased to use the woman in a vital and wonderful way in His purposes.  The devil sought to use Eve to accomplish his purpose.  But God in sovereign mercy uses Christian women, and specifically now Christian mothers, to accomplish His glorious and eternal purposes of love and grace in Jesus Christ.

     As the woman, then, figured prominently in the fall of man into sin, so the woman, and specifically Christian mothers, figure prominently in God’s mighty work of the salvation of a church.  We need to hear that word  today because, as a result of sin, motherhood is filled with many pains and sorrows.  God said, you will remember, to Eve and in her to all women, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow.  In sorrow shalt thou bring forth thy children.”  A woman brings forth children in birth pangs.  And for some those pains are so intense that one would despair of life.

As the woman figured prominently

in the fall of man into sin, so the woman,

and specifically Christian mothers,

figure prominently in God’s mighty work

of the salvation of a church.

     Still more, the calling of a mother is one that our flesh feels is so degrading.  Our flesh would recoil from the constant calling of a mother for self-sacrifice, a mother’s need for self-denial and selfless footwashing of her children and of all of her family.  So often a mother, even in Christian homes, does not see the blessing of God upon her but sees, perhaps today, fighting kids and a messy house and all kinds of stress and pressures.  So it is very important for us to turn to the Word of God and to know that God honors Christian mothers.  God sees their place (your place as a Christian mother) of vital importance in His whole purpose of salvation in Jesus Christ.

     So let us hear that word of encouragement of the high calling of a mother.

     What exactly is the calling of a mother?  The apostle says, “nevertheless she (that is, Christian mothers) shall be saved in childbearing.”  Notice with me that the word of God does not say that the woman is saved by childbearing, but she shall be saved in childbearing.  The idea is not that by giving birth to a child a woman earns salvation or contributes to salvation.  That is not the idea.  That is, of course, contrary to the whole gospel of the grace of God.  Our salvation is exclusively the gift of God in Jesus Christ.  Our works do not earn or contribute to that salvation.  Besides, what would that be saying to single Christian women, to those who are not married and do not have children?  What would that be saying to those women who by the very hand of God are prevented from having, or not able physically to have, a child?  No, the idea is not that the woman is saved by the fact of her childbearing.  We are saved by the fact of the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross.  That is our comfort.

     Then also to women who, perhaps, are not married, or cannot have children, the Word of God is rich.  It is your comfort.  The Word of God would say to you that salvation, the grace of God giving you salvation, is worked out in your life and that God’s will, however He leads you, is a good will.  He is showing you through all things that He, as your Savior, is the portion of your soul.

     So what does it mean, then, if it does not mean that we earn salvation by having a child?  It means this, that a godly mother, that is, a married woman who is given a child, walks in the path of her salvation in the way of nurturing her children.  When we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to a place of service.  When we are redeemed by our Savior’s wonderful blood and the Holy Spirit works in us our salvation, then Christ assigns to each one of us a place in His kingdom, a place of service.  He assigns to us what we call “our calling in this life,” our Christian calling.  And we are to walk in that calling to the glory of God.  The idea is this, that a mother is saved, that is, she walks in the calling that her Savior has given to her, in the way of nurturing and bearing children.  So to speak, God works out our salvation, that is, we walk in the paths of salvation and we show forth our thankfulness and we show forth our service to Christ in the way of bearing children and nurturing those children in His name.  That is the idea.  We walk in the way of our salvation as a Christian mother by nurturing and caring for and rearing and raising our children whom the Lord gives to us.

     We ask the question then:  How do you serve your Savior as a mother, as a redeemed woman in the blood of Jesus Christ?  How do you do that?  Do you have to prove yourself to be equal to a man?  Do you have to go out and prove that you can make it in the business world or in politics or even in the ministry or being an elder?  Do you need to escape the drudgery of your home?  Should you say, “I’m tired of being buried under these diapers and I’m going to abandon motherhood for the office or for the factory”?  No, that is all wrong.  The pathway to the experience of your salvation, the pathway of real service to your Lord has been appointed by God.  It is this:  Motherhood, in bearing children or mothering, nurturing, and caring for the children God has given to you.  That is a gift of God’s grace.  God has redeemed you and He has blessed you with a child.  He has blessed your marriage.  And now He has given you a calling.  What is that calling?  It is a great calling:  bring up your children in the way of the Lord.

     We could say, then, that the mother’s task is to oversee the forging of Christian character and faith in her sons and daughters.  The Christian mother is the one who sets the tone in the home for the entire life of the family and children.  Yours is the calling to take the great Christian principles and doctrines and apply them practically to the everyday affairs of your children, and to do that, so to speak, naturally, within the context of your daily living with your children.  That means that you become a student of each child personally — learning its mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual abilities or weaknesses.  That you are a mother means that you are to develop, by the grace of God, the child’s talents and to instill knowledge and virtue into his heart and to correct his faults, to love him and to discipline him.  In short, you as a mother are used of God to build godly men and women for the church of Jesus Christ.  As Paul says of Timothy in II Timothy 1:5 that he calls to remembrance the unfeigned, that is, the real faith that was in Timothy.  Where did that faith come from?  It came from God, yes.  But God used means.  And what were those means?  Listen:  the unfeigned faith which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that is in thee also, Timothy.  God used the means of a godly mother to nurture faith in the heart of Timothy.

We could say, then, that the mother’s task

is to oversee the forging of Christian character

and faith in her sons and daughters.

     Or we could use the example of Moses and his mother Jocebed.  You remember that at that time in Egypt the commandment had gone forth that all the male children of the Israelites were to be killed.  Jocebed and her husband hid the baby Moses.  They had put their son in an ark.  Pharaoh’s daughter found him and gave him to Jocebed to nurse for her.  But soon she would send her officers to take Moses out of Jocebed’s home and Moses would be brought into the home of Pharaoh.  All of the religious instruction that Moses had before he was forty years old took place in a few short years by his mother’s side.  How old was he when he was taken away from her and brought to Egypt’s courts?  He could have been very young — three, four, five.  But during those first formative years, those little years, his mother taught Moses all the truths of Jehovah, the God of His covenant — His promise to redeem Israel, the promise even of a great deliverer, Jesus Christ.  She did that in poverty.  She did that in times which were dark and evil, inside a little reed hut, perhaps plastered with mud.  She taught him to place his complete dependence upon the living God — until one day those officers did come for little Moses.  And she watched him go.

     After that, for the next years of his life, Moses was taught all the philosophy of Egypt, all of Egypt’s morals, and all of Egypt’s gods.  But it was the instruction that he received from his mother in those first two, three, four years of his life which became the backbone of his spiritual life.  When he grew up to manhood and he was offered the treasures of Egypt, he refused those treasures, choosing rather to suffer reproach with the people of God (the book of Hebrews tells us that).  Why?  God’s grace, yes, of course.  But God worked that grace through a mother and through a mother’s nurture and instruction.

All of the religious instruction that Moses had

before he was forty years old

took place in a few short years by his mother’s side.

     That is the high calling, that is the purpose that God has in mothering.  God has a purpose of forming and building His church, building godly men and godly women.  The greatest servants in the history of the church of Jesus Christ, who have dealt the strongest blows to Satan’s kingdom, have been raised in stable homes under the nurture and tutelage of devout and believing mothers.

     Nothing can replace the training of a Christian mother.  It is of the most profound significance in the purposes of God.  Your children follow you as you are in the house.  They look upon you.  And they follow your faith.  That is the great calling of a Christian mother.

     So the apostle says that the great blessing of God, even though the woman figured prominently in the fall of man into sin, yet by the grace of God she figures prominently in a most important place.  For she shall be saved in childbearing.

     Now we ask the question, How do I do that as a Christian mother?  Exactly how do I fulfill such a glorious task and calling?  The answer is what the apostle concludes the verse with:  If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.  That is how.  Now if you think about that answer, then you see that the answer that God has given to you is:  First, take heed to yourself.  Whenever God entrusts us with the care of another in His kingdom and covenant, whenever God gives to us a place of authority and we take up that calling seriously (we must bring up our children as a mother in the way of the Lord) and we ask the Lord, “Lord, how am I to do that?” then immediately the Lord answers, “The most important thing for you to do is to take heed unto yourself, and to take heed especially to your own spiritual life.”

     Let that sink in a little bit.  That means that a good Christian mother is not first of all someone who knows how to sew or to wash or to bake bread with the best of them or has graduated from a home-ec class, and all the rest.  Not that those things are not important.  Those are wonderful things.  But the point is that you must not begin to compare yourself to other sisters and say, “Well, I’m not a very good mother because I can’t make homemade bread,” or something like that.  No, no, no.  The Word of God says, “Concentrate first of all on that wonderful relationship that you have with God through grace.  And walk in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”  Be a woman of faith in Jesus Christ.  Live a life of trust.  Live a life nurtured in prayer.  Live a life out of the Word of God.  Live a life of faith!  Take heed to your own faith in Jesus Christ.

     What is the most important thing for your child to see in you?  What do you want your child to remember about you when you are gone?  Do you want him to say, “Well, Mom always tried to hold on to her youth, her girlish ways, her figure.”  Is that what you want him to say?  Or do you want him to say, “By the grace of God, Mom held on.  Mom abided in faith in Jesus Christ.  She groomed herself spiritually.  She clung to her God moment by moment in dependence upon her God.  There was something about the presence of God in my mother.”  Continue in faith!

     Continue also in love or charity.  That is the gift of God whereby we cling to God with devotion and affection in our hearts.  The love of God — abide in His love.  Stay fixed upon the love of God.  Love God and therefore love your children.  Let your children know that Mom loves God, and that out of her love for God she loves her children, feeding them and carrying them and bandaging them and clothing them.

     Still more.  Continue in holiness with sobriety.  Holiness is that daily fight against sin.  It is the desire to be conformed to Christ in all of our thoughts, words, and deeds.  It is faithfulness to your own husband.  It is modesty in your dress.  It is charity toward others.  How crucial for your children, for they learn in you and from you what sin is.  They learn from you as a mother what their attitude ought to be about sin.  Let them not learn a critical Phariseeistic attitude, a self-righteous attitude about sin, a holier-than-thou attitude.  But let them learn a humble loathing of sin and a repentance before God through you.

     You see, the Christian mother, by taking heed to her own spiritual development, stands before her children and is an example of all these things.  In this way, bring up your children.

     The reward?  The reward is wonderful.  The reward is something that will be with you every day.  You will know that you have the approval and the smile of your Lord.  The reward of motherhood is simply this:  It is the reward of every servant of Jesus Christ.  It is His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  Is that your goal?  Is that precious to you?

     Is that more important even than the words that sometimes your own mind says to you, “Look at all my failures.  Look at all my shortcomings.”  Do you rather hear these words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Thou hast been faithful in little.  I will reward thee in much.”  You see, the reward is the favor of the Lord not because you are perfect, not because you have done things perfectly.  The Lord knows that.  We are sinners in His service, every one of us.  But the Lord rewards you with His favor.  And the Lord assures you of His love because He is pleased with you.  He is pleased when, by His grace, you devote yourself to the Christian nurture of your children.

     To every mother who has diligently trained her children and spoken to her children of the majesty and holiness of God from their infancy on, and who is now grieving over an impenitent son or daughter, may Jehovah comfort your sad heart.  May you pray that God will yet bring such a child to his spiritual knees, if it be His will, as Augustine, the great church father wrote:  “It was on my mother’s arms that I was first brought to Thy temple.  And it was when she betook herself again and again to intercede to Thee for me that I was brought back to Thy temple.”

     There is a word here, of course, to us as a family.  There is a word here for you as a father.  That is that you thank God for your wife.  And you tell her that you admire her for all that God does in and through her.  You pray for her and you see to it that your children respect and reverence her.  God forbid that there ever be any slighting of the lofty calling of motherhood within our own families.  There must be love and respect for our Christian mothers.

     Then be home, father.  Be home with that mother.  Be home with your wife.  Be home as parents with your children.  And you, father, you walk in faith and love and holiness with your wife before your children.  I have never talked to any man on his deathbed who said to me, “Reverend, I wish I had spent more time in building my business.”  I never heard one Christian man on his deathbed say that to me.  But I have heard good men of God near death choke out these words, “I regret, oh how deeply now do I regret that I did not spend more time with my wife and with my family.”  Spend time with those Christian mothers and wives.

     Young girls, this is the high calling.  This is the greatest calling on earth— to be entrusted with Christ’s little ones.  Take this calling seriously and the Lord will give you all the satisfaction of your heart.  Someday, mothers, the fruit will be reaped by Jesus Christ.  We cannot always see that fruit right now.  But some day that fruit is going to be reaped.  And you shall enter into the presence of your Lord, rejoicing in the harvest and thanking Him for the privilege of rearing His children.

     Hear the words of the Lord, Christian mothers:  “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, … verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

      Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word today and we pray for its blessing upon our hearts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.