Saturday, November 8, 2008

Called According to God’s Good Pleasure—A Study of 2 Timothy 1:9


tou/ sw,santoj h`ma/j kai. kale,santoj klh,sei a`gi,a|( ouv kata. ta. e;rga h`mw/n avlla. kata. ivdi,an pro,qesin kai. ca,rin( th.n doqei/san h`mi/n evn Cristw/| VIhsou/ pro. cro,nwn aivwni,wn(

Author’s Translation:

[God] who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but on the contrary, according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the eternal times.

It is evident from this text that the believer in Jesus Christ is saved by the sheer pleasure and grace of God. This is not a new concept. In the Old Testament, Israel was called by Yahweh to Himself simply because of His sovereign choice:

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you

Just as God elected Israel to be His chosen people to the nations (Isa 42:6), so has God also chosen His own people—from every tribe, tongue, people, and language (Rev 5:9)—in order to be ambassadors for Him on earth (2 Cor 5:20).

I will endeavor to elucidate five marks of salvation from 2 Timothy 1:9. It is, to be sure, a theologically pregnant verse which demands the most scrutinizing and toilsome study—which this brief paper doesn’t exhaust, but hopefully this will shed light on some new areas of theology that may bring comfort and amazement as you understand more about God’s redemptive plan resulting in your greater awe and wonder of God’s election of you.

  1. Salvation is Based on God’s Initiative

We must understand that the reality of salvation being based upon God’s initiative is a common theme repeated in Scripture (Isa 43:3; Hos 13:4; 1 Tim 1:1; Tit 1:3; Jude 25). Specifically in this context, however, the phrase proving this is tou/ sw,santoj h`ma/j. The genitive participle refers back to the end of verse 8 (du,namin qeou/; the context of suffering hardship according to the power of God) is pointing back (anaphoric) to “God” (qeou; v. 8). That is why I choose to translate verse 9 as God who saved us. It is God’s doing. Salvation is God’s work. Even faith is a gift of God (Phil 1:29). Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that we unswervingly understand that salvation is monergistic, not synergistic. That is, that it is accomplished through the accomplished work of one—namely, God.

  1. Salvation is Grounded on God’s Electing Call

The next phrase to be studied reveals that salvation is grounded and instigated through God’s electing call, kale,santoj klh,sei a`gi,a|. We are saved by God who called us with (NIVto”) a holy calling, klh,sei a`gi,a. I think, given the context, that the dative construction is to be seen as means (by means of) rather than purpose/result (to/for). The point is not that Christians have been elected by God to live a holy life full of good works. No doubt, this is a theme in Scripture and a treasured reality (cf. Eph 2:10), but here, the point is not so much that God called us for the purpose of living a holy life but to show that in eternity past (see the end of v. 9), God called believers by means of His holy and perfect electing call! I believe that given the immediate context, this is the intended meaning. What, then, does it mean that God called by means of His holy calling? It means that—in eternity past—God elected believers unto Himself with a perfect, unique, monergistic, sovereign—thus, “holy”—call.

  1. Salvation is Accomplished is Not Because of God’s Foreknowledge

The next phrase to be understood from this verse unambiguously reveals that God has elected sinners unto Himself based on nothing that they would or could do. The phrase at hand is ouv kata. ta. e;rga h`mw/n. Again, I believe the point is not that believers are not saved according to works—though this is, to be sure, a repeated theme all through the Scriptures (Eph 2:8-9). Specifically, this verse is not a “proof text” that if a person lives a good life that he cannot work his way to heaven (though the concept is true and can be proven elsewhere in Scripture). Rather, this verse—given the immediate context—is clearly showing that God’s election in eternity past was not decided or determined based upon some foreseen “work” or “action” from individuals. In other words, God did not choose me because He saw my “works” and knew that I’d believe upon Him and, hence, chose me. The point here is that God—before the ages were ever established—elected individuals unto Himself not because of anything they would ever do (or could ever do). A commonly understood term for this is unconditional election. This is precisely what this verse is teaching.

  1. Salvation is Established Because of God’s Sovereign Purpose

So then, the question is asked, “If God didn’t choose me because He knew I would believe in Him, then why did God elect me?” Simple. avlla. kata. ivdi,an pro,qesin kai. ca,rin. Not to put too much emphasis on disjunctive markers but the contrastive particle avlla. is significant. It is stronger than the simple de. Not according to our works did he save us but—on the other hand—God saved us according to (kata) His own (note again, mongeristic salvation here, ivdi,an) purpose and grace. Again, it beckons us to recall God’s election of Israel in Deut 7:7–8 when God chose the nation unto Himself simply because “He loved them.” That’s it! No explanation needed! God chose Israel; God chose you; God chose me simply because He wanted to. God’s purpose demanded He elect you. God’s grace allowed Him to elect sinners like me and you. Of course, it’s understandable to see how the Apostle Paul, after giving a treatise on God’s future plans and faithfulness to His promises to ethnic Israel, exclaims in utter amazement and joy:

Romans 11:33 - 12:1 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

  1. Salvation is Enacting What Was Established in Eternity Past

This election was accomplished and attributed th.n doqei/san h`mi/n evn Cristw/| VIhsou/ pro. cro,nwn aivwni,wn. It’s all by grace! This salvation according to God’s purpose enacted by means of grace was given to us (*note the passive th.n doqei/san) in Christ Jesus. This salvation was given to the elect in Christ Jesus. Those who are in union with Jesus Christ are, in fact, the elect of God. But note the time that all this occurred, pro. cro,nwn aivwni,wn. I like the ESV which has “before the ages began” which is close to the original intent—before the eternal times in history and eternity past! God elected me and you—if you believe upon Jesus Christ and are forgiven of your sins—before the ages began! Not only does this reveal the utter omniscience of God (who knew us before the ages began) but also his Sovereign pleasure to elect and take joy in electing us unto Himself in eternity past! It is an accomplished action. It is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life and it was penciled there before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Praise God!

Therefore, may we then take joy in our salvation recognizing that God has accomplished our redemption for us, based on His own purpose and grace—not according to our good works—from all eternity past!

Soli Deo Gloria!


Anonymous said...

Great post son!

The only part where I might express things differently is that election is according to the foreknowledge of God...meaning His unconditional decree to save the elect apart from any merit on their part and only to serve His good pleasure.

Many incorrectly understand God's foreknowledge to be "pre-cognition"...looking down the proverbial corridor of time and seeing in advance who will/will not respond in obedience to Christ as He is offered in the Gospel. While God is of course omniscient, His election is not conditioned in any way on what man will do. It is according to His sovereign good pleasure.

His foreknowledge is in essence His setting His love upon the elect.

I know you know all that!

Thank you very much for your excellent handling of God's inerrant Word son!

Geoffrey Kirkland said...

Dad- I'm definitely in agreement with all that you said. Thanks!

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