The following was written by Phillip Stratton, a friend of Soteriology 101, and posted with full permission. Thank you, Phillip!
To both Calvinists and Arminians, the identity of “the elect” is widely accepted as “the saved ones”. Even if the sides disagree how one becomes saved the usual consensus is that new covenant believers are “the elect”. To see if that definition fits, let’s take a look at one passage in the New Testament where the term “the elect” is used as well as the term’s Old Testament roots .
2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV), “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Who were/are “the elect” for whom Paul was willing to suffer with much hardship?
The two most widely accepted interpretations are the unconditional elect and/or the conditional elect. According to Calvinism, the former, the elect are those predestined and predetermined by God for salvation from eternity past. This group is certain and locked in. The elect will be saved and the non-elect will be lost. Period. According to Arminianism the elect are those foreseen by God who will accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior by their own free will; ie. conditional elect. Those who are “in Christ” are the elect of God. In short, one becomes elect when he or she elects to believe. However, neither of these widely accepted interpretations fit the content and grammar of the text.
Who Are the “They Also”?
Look, again, at the text….
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
John Calvin writes… “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)
If the elect, and the elect alone, are guaranteed salvation, why the “they also”? For Calvinism to be correct the word “also”, or “too” would have to be omitted. John Piper does as much when he preaches on this verse (please see video link provided).
Three times Piper quotes this verse and all three times he omits the word “also”. Once might be a mistake. But three times? Then what about the elect “may” obtain salvation? In Calvinism, the elect are guaranteed salvation. There is zero chance that one of God’s elect will be lost. So why would Paul say “may” obtain, clearly suggesting that they “may not”? If Paul was preaching Calvinism, the verse would have to read….
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they (alone) will (not “may”) obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
The Arminian definition of the elect also suffers problems with this verse. Again, according to Arminianism, the elect are those “in Christ”. Here’s how Brian Abasciano defines the Arminian view of election….
“By way of summary, there are two different views of election conditioned on faith. First, individual election is the classic view, in which God individually chose each believer based upon his foreknowledge of each one’s faith and so predestined each to eternal life. Second, corporate election is the main alternative view, holding that election to salvation is primarily of the Church as a people and embraces individuals only in faith-union with Christ the Chosen One and as members of his people.”
He clarifies this statement with the following….
“In the New Testament, only believers are identified as elect.”http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvationc-conditional-election/
Is that true? The book of Timothy is found in the New Testament. Let’s see….
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of those in Christ Jesus (or believers), that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
But haven’t those in Christ already obtained salvation? Can someone be “in Christ” and still be lost? Doesn’t make sense. And we still have the problem of the “they also”. Since the “also” or “too” introduces another category of people, in this instance, the other category would have to be those not “in Christ” or the Lost (unbelievers). Inserting “believers” in place of “the elect” suggests that non-believers can and, indeed, have obtained salvation as well. It just doesn’t work. A non-believer can obtain salvation, but only by becoming a believer. Thus a non-believer will not obtain salvation.
Whoever the elect are, Paul definitely considers them to be lost. And the “they also” inserts the notion that someone other than the elect can obtain salvation as well. If “they” refers back to “the elect”, then the “also” means someone other than the elect can obtain salvation as well. That “other category”, in context, would have to be the non-elect. That makes hash of Paul’s purpose and theology. There is a much easier explanation.
If “The Elect” are not the “Saved Ones”…?
So who are the elect? What do the scriptures say?
For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.Isaiah 45:4 (NKJV)
O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!Psalm 105:6 (NKJV)
Nowhere in God’s word is there a more clear and concise rendering of who the elect are. It is Israel. And its not limited to the Old Testament. We find the word “elect” 4 times in the gospels and each time Jesus is referring to the Jews (Matthew 24:22, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:31, Luke 18:7). But does it work within the scope of 2 Timothy 2:10? Let’s see….
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of Israel, that they too may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
That interpretation seems to work perfectly within the text. Paul is saying he is enduring hardship for his fellow Israelites so that they also, along with the Gentiles to whom he was an apostle, may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. But does Israel fit the immediate context? Let’s look at the previous verses….
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David (a Jew from the tribe of Judah; one of the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel), was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble (at the hand of the Jews) as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NKJV)
Yes. Israel, or the Jews, fits the immediate context. How many times do you hear Calvinists screaming “Context, context, context!” Well, we have context. Do we have any other scriptural support that suggests Israel being Paul’s focus here? Yes.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are IsraelitesRomans 9:3-4a (NKJV)
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.Romans 10:1 (NKJV)
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.Romans 11:13-134 (NKJV)
For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”Acts 28:20 (NKJV)
Was Paul willing to be eternally cut off from Christ for the Gentiles? Nope. Was it for the hope of the Church that Paul was bound with chains? Nope. Paul’s heart, focus and goal was always for the salvation of his fellow Jews because the Gentiles were accepting the Gospel while his countrymen spurned it. The very ones who hunted him down, stoned him, and left him for dead (Acts 14:19), and even had him imprisoned. Paul could just as easily have said….
“I endure all things for the sake of the circumcision, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
“2Tim 2:10 – διὰ τοῦτο πάντα ὑπομένω διὰ τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ σωτηρίας τύχωσιν τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ μετὰ δόξης αἰωνίου
My literal translation – ‘on account of this, these [things] I am enduring on account of the elect [ones] in order that even to/for/with/by them salvation/deliverance they should obtain/experience, the [kind that is] in Jesus, with everlasting glory.’
The και – meaning ‘even’, has to do with Paul’s introducing another category of people, besides the Gentiles to whom he is an apostle, and whom he is wanting to see saved. This other category he also wants to see saved and is willing to keep enduring all things so that might happen.
That other category is ‘elect ones’, and so Phillip has context and other passages on his side pointing to ‘elect ones’ here meaning Jews who are not yet saved, but on account of whom (their forcing Paul’s arrest and trial by Rome) he is enduring his current imprisonment.”
“The context leans towards identifying the ‘elect’ as the same ones ‘on account of which’ he is willing to endure suffering, that they also (the ones causing the suffering) ‘may obtain’ salvation… but not certain they will.”From longtime friend of the Soteriology 101 blog, Brian Wagner
Brother Brian’s analysis and rendering is spot on. What can we take from these observations?
1. “The elect” are the elect if they obtain salvation or not
2. There is a high probability the “the elect” will not obtain salvation
3. The elect are the ones who have imprisoned him and want him dead
What has been provided is sound exegesis. We have context, grammar, and other scriptural support. Both the Calvinist and Arminian interpretations have nothing.
A Category Error
So when Calvinists or Arminians alike assume “the elect” are the new covenant believers, they are not speaking in the same categories as the biblical authors do. The OT is abundantly clear that Israel is the elect of God. Nothing in scripture says He ever abandoned Israel. Jesus confirms their election during His earthly ministry when speaking of His second coming in the last days. The apostle Paul states that Israel never lost their election (Romans 9:4-5, Romans 11:2, Romans 11:28, 2 Timothy 2:10). Saved or lost, they are still His chosen people. God swore He would never forsake His chosen people (1 Samuel 12:22).
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of Israel, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the Jews, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
“Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the circumcision, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Each works perfectly within the context and grammar without doing damage to the word of God. Even though Paul was called by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles, his heart was always for his fellow Israelites and their salvation. Calvinists will tell you that we preach the gospel indiscriminately to everyone because we don’t know who “the elect” are. Well, Paul knew precisely who the elect are and, apparently, so did Timothy. Of course the apostle should have known who the elect were. The OT scriptures told him plainly.