Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
The context of 2nd Timothy 2:8 speaks of the Jews as “the seed of David” who tracked down Paul from city to city, hindering the preaching of the Gospel, and incited the crowds against him, such that he suffered the “hardship” of “imprisonment as a criminal” on several occasions, because of the Jews. Paul writes: “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” (1st Thessalonians 2:14-16) If you trace this to 2nd Timothy 2:8-10, it should be clear as to who Paul intends to convey when he states: “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles because the Jews had largely rejected Christ: “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 13:46) Yet, despite all of their persecutions against him, Paul’s desire was that they “may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.” (2nd Timothy 2:10) This is because Paul still dearly loved his Jewish brothers, so much so, that he made this statement: “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed – cut off from Christ! – if that would save them.” (Romans 9:2-4, NLT) Paul was willing to be forever cursed, if that would satisfy God’s justice and save his Jewish brothers. That shows just how much Paul truly loved his Jewish brothers who knew not what they were doing. Paul’s endurance of his mischievous Jewish brothers stems from his sincere love for them, and his enduring hope that they may also come to know Christ as Savior. That’s what Paul was referring to at 2nd Timothy 2:8-10.
Paul stated: “We endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” (1st Corinthians 9:12) Paul was willing to be all things to all people so that some might be saved. The paraphrased New Living Translation paraphrases: “I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.” (1st Corinthians 9:19-23, NLT) Jesus said: “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:41) Paul went that extra mile, that Jesus spoke of, both with the Jews and Gentiles, for the sake of their salvation.
The King James Version reads: “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2nd Timothy 2:8-10) So you can see that the context not only lacks support for the Calvinistic interpretation, but also effectively demonstrates that the Jews are in focus, which shouldn’t be surprising since the phrase, “the elect,” can reference a number of things, such as the Jews (Isaiah 45:4), Jesus (1st Peter 2:6), angels (1st Timothy 5:21) and Christians. (Romans 8:1, 33) Here you have the Jews in focus, because Paul desires that “they also” become saved.
John Calvin comments: “When Paul says that he endures everything for the sake of the elect, he reveals how much more important the edification of the church is for him than his own safety. For Paul is not only prepared to die but even to be known as a criminal in order to promote the welfare of the church.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.134-135, emphasis mine)
You can see, here, how John Calvin infers that “the church” is the intended reference, and by that reference, the Calvinistically elect church. However, the problem is that this would have Paul contrasting one group with the same group, which wouldn’t make sense.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, comments: “That is why Paul said, ‘For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory’ (2 Tim. 2:10). So we endure for the sake of the elect.” (The Doctrines that Divide, p.217, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, William MacDonald, writes: “Because of the irresistible nature of the gospel, Paul was willing to endure all things for the sake of the elect. The elect here refers to all those chosen by God for eternal salvation. While the Bible does teach that God chooses people to be saved, it nowhere says that He selects some to be damned. Those who are saved are saved by the sovereign grace of God. Those who are lost are lost by their own deliberate choice.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2116, emphasis mine)
The phrase, “they also,” ruins this interpretation. If you take out “they also,” the Calvinist interpretation becomes more plausible, but who would want to subtract from Scripture? The text would look like this: “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they...may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” That would eliminate the contrast, and would make the Calvinistically elect into the sole object.
Laurence Vance writes: “To believe that Paul strove (Rom. 15:20) and labored in the Gospel (Phil. 4:3), enduring (2 Tim. 2:10) beatings, stonings, imprisonments, shipwreck, perils, pain, hunger and cold (2 Cor. 11:23-27) for the sake of the ‘elect’ who would be saved anyway is the most preposterous excuse ever offered in support of Unconditional Election.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.369)
In other words, if Paul endured all of these things for those who would be saved anyway, due to an irresistible, unavoidable, impossible-to-miss grace, simply because Paul might possibly have assumed it as “the predestined means,” infers quite a bit upon Paul. In my estimation, the Calvinist explanation seems inconsistent with the text, and impossible to fathom, logically. In other words, why go to the extreme if they are going to be saved anyway? To suppose that sufferings would be “the predestined means,” just doesn’t seem to be an adequate motivation. A more logical, sensible and plausible motivation is the idea that effort is something that aims towards that which can be, rather than something that will, regardless, inevitably be.