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.
Question: Who are the “chosen” and what is the implication of “they also”?
Answer: I believe that this references to the Jews. Why would Paul add the description of Jesus being a “descendant of David”? David was a Jew. Who caused Paul such “hardship”? It was the Jews. Who chased him down from city to city, and had him stoned and placed in prison and treated as a “criminal”? It was the Jews. Yet, despite being an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul had a zealous passion for reaching the Jews. (Romans 9:1-5, 10:1-3, 11:12-14) That explains the expression, “they also.”
It must be pointed out that Paul sometimes references the Jews by other expressions. Galatians 2: 7-9 states: “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Another example is Romans 15:8: “For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.” It’s clear that Paul is making an indirect reference to the Jews. That seems to be the case at 2nd Timothy 2:10 as well, given all of the aforementioned factors. Moreover, I believe that the Jews are specifically called “elect” by Jesus, insomuch that the Jews have an election in Abraham. At Matthew 24:22-31, Jesus specifically discusses what I believe must exclusively be the Jews.
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.
Question: Who are “the elect” referenced by Paul at 2nd Timothy 2:10 for whom he suffers and endures much that they may too obtain salvation in Christ?
Answer: The Jews, which is both fair to the context, and to the words, “they also,” insomuch that Paul is an apostle to the Gentiles, though is also concerned for the salvation of the Jews as well, from whom he suffered so much. Paul is not speaking of the elect in terms of Christians (Romans 8:33), but of the Jews, who are referred to as an elect people, or the Chosen People, so that they might also obtain the salvation that the Gentiles were experiencing. Given that the Jews and Gentiles were differentiated by the terms “circumcised” and “uncircumcised” (Galatians 2:7, 9), Paul could just as easily have said: “I endure all things for the sake of [the circumcised], so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Question: Were the Jews ever referred to as “the elect”?
Answer: I believe so. Compare with Matthew 24:22-31 and Luke 18:7.
Consider the verses which speak of Israel as the elect:
Deuteronomy 7:6: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Isaiah 45:4: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.”
Isaiah 65:9: “And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.”
Isaiah 65:22: “They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”
The Jews, the seed of David, are also referred to as the “elect,” mentioned twice in the Gospels:
Matthew 24:24: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
Luke 18:7: “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?”
These both reference the Jews, as the context suggests, and because the listeners would have also understood it this way.
John Calvin: “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, Calvinism’s elect church. However, the problem is that this would have Paul contrasting one group with the same group, which wouldn’t make sense.
Question: Can the Calvinist interpretation adequately explain the phrase, “they also”?
Answer: Obviously I don’t think that it can. Otherwise, it would be like saying, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of Calvinism’s elect, so that they too may obtain the salvation which Calvinism’s elect receive.” In other words, it makes no sense to contrast one group with the same group. The phrase, “they also,” can only make sense if it is contrasting differing groups.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “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: “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 Calvinism’s elect into the sole object.
Question: What would be the point of Paul saying that he “endures all things” for the sake of those who are irresistibly “made willing”? How would Paul’s evangelistic efforts facilitate the monergistic work of God in salvation?
Answer: The Calvinist explanation is that Paul’s endurance is “the means” by which a particular group of Calvinism’s elect will experience their salvation. In other words, if Paul waits them out, and if they are among Calvinism’s elect, then they will receive an Irresistible Grace, and will come around.
Laurence Vance: “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.
As an example, a person will study hard in college
so that they can pass their tests, graduate and get a
high paying job. But if this will happen regardless,
perhaps because they are very rich or well connected,
then why study hard at all? Where’s the motivation?
Instead, one labors hard because they wish to
achieve that which could be, but won’t be, unless
max effort is expended.