2 Timothy 2:8-13
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,
9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.
The security of the believer is a topic I seem to find popping up in daily conversations with other believers. I have spent the greater part of my Christian life teaching and defending the eternal security of the believer, (sometimes called the “once saved always saved” teaching), but after considering some of the “difficult verses” in the Word, I think I have to reconsider this position.
One passage that has “difficult verses” that needs consideration is 2 Timothy 2:8-13. And wouldn’t you know it, but we were in Sunday School a while back and the topic of eternal security popped up again. We began to look at 2 Timothy 2:8-13, and the context was security, suffering, denial and commitment.
Verse 10 speaks of the elect, out of which they may obtain the salvation…
Notice that Paul says that he endures all things for the elects sake, that they may obtain the salvation. I do not think this is the same as ….for the elects sake, that they shall obtain the salvation…
In my thinking this allows for two interpretations.
- Out of the group of elect, a subgroup of those who actually obtain salvation exists, based on the choices made by those within the group of the elect. This implies that there are some of the elect that never obtain salvation.If there are some in the elect that never obtain salvation, why are they called the elect? I suppose the simplest explanation would be that Paul is referring to the nation of Israel as the elect, but this isn’t a very satisfying explanation. I don’t see him mentioning Israel within the letter and he is speaking to a gentile convert concerning a gentile church.
- Out of the group of the elect there are some that do not remain in the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. The context seems to lean, in my opinion, towards this interpretation. Paul’s immediate context is endurance. Paul is speaking of suffering, commitment and denial within the Christian church, and specifically to Timothy, a Christian. He reminds Timothy, in verse 12, of the faithful saying, if we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us.
A fine Christian man within the Sunday School class made a valiant effort at defending the eternal security position. Even after class, we chatted about the benefits of open discussion between believers, and we assured each other that Christianity needs to allow for this openness.
As an adherent of eternal security, I use to struggle to explain this verse. I no longer am so sure of the eternal security teaching and as I open myself up to the possibility that our salvation is conditional, I find that throughout the Word, choices made by believers have had eternal consequences.
Let me know what you think. I am hopeful that your comments and questions will stir up some good discussion!
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