Recently I spent a number of weeks studying 2 Timothy in anticipation of teaching an overview of the book to an equipping class at our church. Being very familiar with this letter from Paul after many, many readings and after much meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to find several passages that caught my attention and made me dig a little deeper. I will devote several blogs to these studies and meditations.
This meditation will be more a theological study and here we are focusing on the doctrine of election that is prevalent in many of Paul’s epistles and is expressed here implicitly in 2 Timothy 2:9-10, where Paul says, “I suffer hardship for the gospel even to imprisonment as a criminal . . . For this reason I endure all (these) things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” In other words, Paul was willing to endure any God-given hardship in order to preach the gospel to those who were chosen (eklektos), so that they would obtain salvation and spend eternity in glory in heaven.
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION STATED
Briefly stated, the doctrine of election says that God, according to His own purpose and for His own glory, has, before the foundation of the world, chosen particular individuals for eternal salvation. Those God has chosen, and only those God has chosen, will certainly be saved and will certainly come to faith in Jesus and repentance from sin. God’s election of these individuals in eternity past is not conditioned on any action of these individuals or of any merit in them whatsoever but is conditioned only upon God’s free choice and His divine decree. While this election is a perfectly free choice of God, he has nevertheless ordained means whereby those people who are elect will come to faith in Christ and to repentance toward sin. The primary means for the salvation of the elect is the proclamation of the gospel.
It needs to be observed that Paul introduces no new doctrinal teaching in 2 Timothy, but this epistle is full of teaching and exhortation that flows from previous teaching in Paul’s other letters. Since election is a frequent theme of Paul’s letters, so 2 Timothy has election as an underlying theme. Thus election or “the chosen” is what we are studying here in 2 Timothy 2.
Careful observation of 2 Timothy 2:9-10 will reveal that the following doctrines are taught here in these verses:
- Because the world opposes Christ, preaching the gospel may result in stiff and often venomous resistance, including real hardship and suffering (“I endure all things”);
- There is a time in the life of the elect/chosen when they have not obtained salvation. (Note that Paul preaches the gospel so that the elect may obtain Obviously, they do not yet have what Paul is hoping they will obtain.)
- Salvation is not universal but is obtained only by the elect. This is obvious from the fact that the elect is a smaller group than the whole of mankind. Paul endures, not for everyone, but “for the sake of those who are elect.” Since there is a group that is elect, there is also a group that is not.
- Paul’s labor and perseverance in the gospel are maintained so that those whom God has chosen for salvation will hear the gospel and be saved. While Paul does not know, when he proclaims the gospel, which specific people in his hearing are elect, he knows without a doubt that God has chosen some people for salvation and that, by proclaiming the gospel, God may allow some of the elect to obtain salvation.
- All those who obtain salvation in Christ Jesus also receive eternal glory and will forever be in eternal glory. Therefore, when someone obtains salvation, they are at that moment guaranteed to be in eternal glory forever.
- Preaching the gospel is the primary means for allowing the elect to obtain salvation.
The main application of this doctrine of election is to embolden our evangelism. We can be bold because we can be confident that God has chosen some people for salvation and that those people will be drawn by the gospel preached. Our proclamation is not in vain, for we know that there are some who will hear and believe. Therefore, we present Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation for sinners and as the only possible rescue from the wrath of God and we do so boldly and faithfully until all the elect have been called to faith.
SDG rmb 1/27/2018