Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
"For the Sake of the...Uh...Err...Well..."
04/03/2006 - James WhiteYou won't hear Dave Hunt preaching on this text anytime soon. Then again, even if he did, it would only involve its citation followed by, "But, of course, the Calvinists are wrong to cite this, because over here in Exodus we know..." and that would be the last you would hear of this text. In any case, its lack of popularity should not cause us to miss its tremendous importance. I break with our tradition and provide you with my own translation:
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they also might experience the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it, eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
The context is important. 2 Timothy is Paul's farewell letter to Timothy. You don't waste words when writing your farewell to a dearly beloved son in the faith. He is encouraging Timothy to be strong. He calls Timothy to "share in suffering" with him (2:3), to compete, work hard, and remember Jesus Christ. Then, in verse 9, he mentions his own suffering as a criminal for the gospel. This is the context lying behind Paul's statement that he "endures." Endures what? Everything. All the opposition and attacks and beatings and imprisonment and long days of toil and labor--he endured it all for what reason? Oh, surely, we could say "the glory of God," but that isn't Paul's answer here. Instead, he says he endures all of this "for the sake of the elect." Many may wish this term did not appear in Scripture, but it is right there. tou.j evklektou,j, "the elect," "the chosen ones." Paul uses the same term in Romans 8:33 "Who will bring a charge against God's elect?", and significantly in Colossians 3:12: "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Notice that Paul refers to the professing believers in Colossae as "those who have been chosen of God." Not those who chose God (they did that, but they did so as a result of being chosen by Him: the Christian gospel is God-centered, not man-centered!). It is important to see the source of the "choosing" in election here: "chosen of God." God chooses. God disposes. God is sovereign in this matter.
And so back in 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul endures the sufferings of his apostleship "for the sake of the elect," but the reason he does so should not be missed, "so that they also might experience the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it, eternal glory." Paul sees his sufferings, his ministry, his tireless work, as means God has used to bring His elect to salvation. As I have said many times, God ordains the ends as well as the means. Preaching, teaching, ministering, defending the faith--all are means used by God to bring His elect to salvation. Just a few more quick notes:
1) Why preach if the identity and number of elect was fixed in eternity? Arminians ask this all the time. Because it is our glorious privilege to be used of God in His service as the means by which He brings His elect unto Himself! We who have heard the Master's call and been raised from spiritual death should long to be used of God to bring others into His kingdom, just as He used those in the faith before us to bring us the life-giving message of the gospel.
2) The interface of the divine decree ("the elect" here clearly refers to a specific people, chosen by God, not merely "foreseen down the corridors of time") with its outworking in time (seen in Paul's activity and suffering) is seen. Is God dependent upon Paul? Surely not in the eternal perspective of His decree. But we cannot "see" that decree. We have God's prescriptive will plainly revealed to us: preach the gospel to every person! Fight the good fight! Endure persecution as a slave of Jesus Christ! We know God will save His elect, and we know those who truly respond to our message do so only by grace. This gives us boldness to proclaim God's command to repent to all men everywhere.
3) The elect come to Christ. Almost every passage that speaks of the gospel's specificity in the New Testament likewise denies the concept of inclusivism or pluralism. The salvation the elect obtain is "in Christ Jesus" and in Him alone. It is simply ridiculous to think that Paul includes in this the idea of some kind of "secret, ignorant disciple who clings to falsehood but is really in Christ anyway." Such is purely wishful thinking on the part of modern neo-evangelicals who are ashamed of the exclusivity of the claims of Christ.
4) Finally, on a personal note, once again we see how certain Internet trouble-makers who are busy throwing their reputations and credibility to the wind in their old age cannot speak the truth: I have a long history of consistently teaching in accordance with this text and what I have asserted above. I have repeatedly confessed that God uses the means of His gospel to bring His elect unto Himself, just as any person who is an elder in a Reformed Baptist Church would have to in light of the teaching of the LBCF. And yet one man, despite being told this directly, and seeing it in print, is so set upon distorting the truth and maintaining his Dave Hunt type dogged infallibility, refuses to accept correction, but insists upon continued slander. Mark such men well: we are warned against them in Scripture (Romans 16:17).