2 Timothy 1:9 states:

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

If this verse says what I think it does, that we were chosen to be saved "before the world began," doesn't that prove the Calvinist Doctrine of Election?


No. Even as a Calvinist, one has to understand that it takes more than one verse to put together a complete picture of how we understand salvation to work. The verse you reference in Timothy is indeed very helpful, but it really only proves the part about his purpose as the author of salvation was conceived before we were.

In order to defend the doctrine of election, you will need to reach out to other parts of scripture. For example in 2nd Timothy, how do you know that "us" is specific to individuals and not just representative of a general group of "somebodies" that God planned on saving?

I do think the doctrine can be defended from Scripture, but I don't think you can do it from one verse. You need to take into consideration the whole counsel of Scripture.

  • Let me clarify, I am not a Calvinist. But I see what you mean. Do you think this "group of somebodies" could be special cases like Paul?
    – aopsfan
    Nov 28 '11 at 22:42
  • @aopsfan: No, I don't think "us" in this verse could be suffering just to Paul and Timothy. Again you need to consider more of scripture than any verse out of context. Although Paul is writing to Timothy, he is using language that he uses elsewhere when writing expressly to all believers.
    – Caleb
    Nov 28 '11 at 22:48
  • I understand how just one verse cannot prove or disprove Calvinism. But if Paul is referring to all believers, isn't that what the Doctrine of Election teaches?
    – aopsfan
    Nov 28 '11 at 23:13
  • @aopsfan: I don't think you quite understand why one verse can be used as a complete proof out of context or you wouldn't have asked a question saying "Does verse X prove Y?" The verse is related and yes if all the bits can be known to be understood a certain way then it is a nice neat summary of the doctrine. However it isn't a "proof" in itself because you need the rest of the context of not only that letter but Paul's other writings and the writings he referenced (basically the whole Bible) in order to form a solid understanding of this (or any) doctrine.
    – Caleb
    Nov 29 '11 at 20:40
  • @aopsfan I said "no" this verse doesn't prove the case by itself because by itself it could be taken several ways (see the other answer here for one). In order to discern which interpretation is correct you have to look to more than just this verse. It's a good one, but it's only one part of what we have to go on, not a self-contained proof in itself.
    – Caleb
    Nov 29 '11 at 20:42

An alternative interpretation of this passage is that it refers to corporate election. Corporate election is often used as an alternative interpretation of passages dealing with election.

It is the belief that God elected the Church itself to be the body of Christ and to receive salvation. For example:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. - Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

This is in contrast to the belief that God predestined the individuals who would become members of the Church (I use the words "members" and "Church" in the spiritual sense - not speaking of membership in any particular church, but of membership in the body of Christ).

In this view, the "us" in the passage would refer to all believers, in the corporate sense. For example (with purely illustrative purpose):

Who hath saved [His Church], and called [Christians] with an holy calling, not according to works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given [to the body of Christ] before the world began.

I don't know Greek, so I'm not sure how well this illustration fits with the tenses used in the original text.

You can read more about corporate election here.


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