The Call of God unto Salvation

In 2 Timothy 1:9, God is the One “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” For Paul and Timothy then and for us today, what is this “calling,” and when does it take place?

This “calling” is theologically termed the effectual call, which Wayne Grudem defines as “an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.”1

Backing up one step (and yet part-and-parcel of the effectual call), there is also a general call for salvation that is given to all who hear the gospel. Louis Berkhof defines this general call as “the presentation and offering of salvation in Christ to sinners, together with an earnest exhortation to accept Christ by faith, in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal.”2

This general call can obviously be resisted, for many indeed reject the offering of salvation in Christ. However, there is a work of God that renders the general call of the gospel effective unto salvation for some (thus giving us the descriptor effectual), those who God “summons,” as described earlier. This is the work of regeneration, the impartation of spiritual life to the sinner so as to enable him to choose Christ unto salvation (cf. John 1:13; 1 Pet 1:3, 23). “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:14), but, “even when we were dead in our trespasses,” God “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5) through the Spirit’s work in regeneration, enabling us to indeed accept the things of the Spirit of God, i.e., the gospel. Rolland McCune clarifies, “[I]t is probably best to consider the effectual call as regeneration itself (i.e., the impartation of life) which secures the sinner’s immediate response of repentance and faith.”3

Balancing the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man, McCune explains the nature of regeneration further: “God has ways of working with the human volitional apparatus so that it freely and voluntarily chooses to come to Christ for salvation, even while He instigates and controls the entire matter. In fact, in the final analysis, there is really no synergism involved. Calling is all of God.”4

So, the calling in 2 Timothy 1:9 is God’s effectual call unto salvation, as it is in other passages that speak of a believer’s call unto salvation.5 It was for at least Timothy and Paul (“us”) and, in principle, anyone who had likewise been saved and called. The general call to salvation becomes effectual when God regenerates the sinner so as to bring about his voluntary acceptance of the gospel.

  1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 693. Italics removed. []
  2. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology  (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1938), 459. Italics removed. Berkhof uses the term external call, but the concept is the same. []
  3. Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity: The Doctrines of Salvation, the Church, and Last Things (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 44. []
  4. Ibid., 46. []
  5. For a number of other verses that refer to the effectual call, see Rom 8:28; 11:29; 1 Cor 1:9; Gal 5:13; 1 Thess 2:12; 4:7; 1 Tim 6:12; 1 Pet 3:9. []

A Quick Biography of Timothy

Raised in Lystra (Acts 16:1–5), “from childhood,” Timothy had “been acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Tim 3:15), thanks to his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who had “a faith that dwelt first” in them (2 Tim 1:5). Eunice was “a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1), and likely an unbeliever as evidenced by his opposition to Timothy being circumcised according to Mosaic Law (cf. Acts 16:3).

Minus his father, Timothy’s family likely accepted Paul’s gospel when he came to Lystra during his first missionary journey (AD 47–49; cf. Acts 14:5–23). Paul had there healed a cripple, provoking an attempt to worship him (Acts 14:8–18), and he was soon thereafter opposed, stoned, and left for dead (Acts 14:19–20). Shortly after, however, Paul was “strengthening the souls of the disciples” and left them in the hands of their newly-appointed elders (Acts 14:22–23).

Likely among those who followed Paul at that time, it is no surprise that Timothy matured and was later “well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). Thus, “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him” (Acts 16:3) during his second missionary journey (AD 50–52), which may have been when Timothy was formally set aside to use his “gift” of preaching and teaching, “given” to him “by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on” him (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).

Luke’s Acts and Paul’s letters give but a few snippets from his life of missionary service. Timothy would at times be separated from Paul (Acts 17:14–15), sent to churches with specific tasks (Acts 18:22), such as checking up on them (1 Thess 3:1–10), helping in handling their problems (1 Tim 1:3), and doing so in a manner that mirrored Christ (1 Cor 4:15–17). He would join Paul for his third missionary journey (AD 53–57; cf. Acts 20:4–5; Rom 16:21; 2 Cor 1:1) and then encourage him in a Roman prison (AD 59–61; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Phm 1). He joined him again for a fourth journey (AD 62–66), finally to be left at Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) where he remained until the death of Paul (cf. 2 Tim 4:6–8), except for perhaps an occasional trip to Paul or elsewhere (cf 2 Tim 4:9, 13, 21).

Some suggest that Timothy was timid since the Corinthians had to be told not to despise him (1 Cor 16:10–11) and the admonition to use his gift in Ephesus implied that he may not have been doing so (2 Tim 1:6). Some add to this weak persona his occasional sickness (1 Tim 5:23). At the same time, we remember Paul’s glowing commendations of Timothy (1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:19–22) and that he dealt with problems in Corinth, Ephesus, and elsewhere, and his last mention in the NT is having been freed from being imprisoned for the gospel (Heb 13:23). Whatever his flaws may have been, he is an excellent example of Christlike service for us today (1 Cor 4:15–17).

Scriptural Quotations with Time Divisions of the Tribulation

These notes were taught at my church on March 3, 2017, clarifying a number of time references we had seen in our study of Revelation.

First Half of the Tribulation

Days

Rev 11:3: “they will prophesy for 1,260 days”

One Week

Dan 9:27: “he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week”

 

Second Half of the Tribulation

Days

Rev 12:6: “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days”

Dan 12:11: “And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days”

Dan 12:12: “Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days”

Note: The woman in Rev 12:6, 14 is symbolic of Israel (cf. Rev 12:1 with Gen 37:9).

Months

Rev 11:2: “they will trample the holy city for forty-two months”

Rev 13:5: “the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months”

Times

Dan 7:25: “they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time”

Dan 12:7: “it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished”

Rev 12:14: But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

Half of the Week

Dan 9:27: “And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering”

Note: Jesus speaks of the “abomination of desolation,” which seems to be some sort of statue that the Antichrist sets up in the temple in Jerusalem at the midpoint of the Tribulation (cf. Matt 24:15), an image of the Antichrist that is Satanically empowered and worshipped as a result (cf. Rev 13:15).

Note: The fact that Daniel and John use the same terms for this time (days and times) without offering a figurative understanding of these times suggests that we should not understand them figuratively, recognizing that both Daniel and John have much symbolism otherwise in their visions. The fact that Jesus, Paul, and John elsewhere speak of a literal Antichrist within this future framework of timing supports this conclusion (cf. Matt 24:15; 2 Thess 2:8–10; 1 John 2:18).

Other Notes

In comparing Scripture to Scripture, the notes below explain other biblical conclusions that help to clarify and are in harmony with the seven-year timing of the Tribulation and its two primary divisions.

  • Israel is distinct from the church, a fact that helps to understand numerous prophecies in the OT and NT.
    God promised Abraham physical descendants who would become a great nation (Gen 12:2), the nation Israel. Though Israel is hardened from Christ for now, she is predestined by the grace of God to be saved in the future (Rom 11:2, 25–27). Just as unbelieving Israel was distinct from the church in the early church (e.g., Acts 3:12; 5:31), so she is today. She is also distinct from the ideal Israelite, Jesus Christ (cf. Isa 49:5).
  • The Tribulation (used as a specific, eschatological term) refers to the final seven years of this present age.
    The Tribulation is Daniel’s seventieth “seven,” a heptad of years (Dan 9:27). The first sixty-nine of a prophesied seventy sets of seven years (483 years) took place prior to the death of Christ, when “an anointed One shall be cut off and have nothing” (Dan 9:26; cf. 9:24–25). The final set of seven years is yet to come, a future time involving the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thess 2:8–10; 1 John 2:18). These 490 years are parallel to the years in which Israel forsook giving the land rest every seventh year, seventy years total (see 2 Chron 36:20–21 with Lev 25:1–7; Jer 25:8–14; Dan 9:1–2).
  • There is biblical precedent for breaking a year into twelve months of thirty days each.
    A biblical year can consist of 360 days, 12 months of 30 days each (cf. Gen 7:11, 24; 8:3–4). For the Tribulation, as seen above, this time of seven years (one week) is broken into two segments of three and one-half years (a time, times, and half a time), forty-two months, or 1,260 days. Though Daniel speaks of events that take place thirty and seventy-five days after the second 1,260 days of the Tribulation (cf. Dan 12:11–12 with Rev 12:6), his time markers simply speak of something after the Tribulation and do not contradict other passages dividing this period.

The Promise of Life That Is in Christ Jesus

In 2 Timothy 1:1, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.”

Paul was “an apostle of Christ Jesus” in that he was chosen, called, and sent by Christ Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 26:16–18). This apostleship was sovereignly ordained and took place “by the will of God,” and its purpose was “according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.” The richness of this last phrase is worth a closer look.

The Life That Is In Christ Jesus

The life that is in Christ Jesus is eternal, spiritual life. Without this life, we would only sin and live in spiritual death (Rom 5:12–14), only to be punished by the second death, eternal residence in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14–15). This life in Christ Jesus is ours to have as a free gift from God made possible in Christ (Rom 6:23). It comes to us when we believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 20:31) and, more broadly, it comes to us through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10), which makes clear that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor 15:3–4).

The Promise of This Life

That this life was the content of a promise implies that one gave this promise and that another received this promise. It would seem that God Himself is the One who gives this promise. Indeed, “eternal life” was something “which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). After that, “the gospel of God” was something “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures” of the Old Testament (Rom 1:1–2). In the context of 2 Tim 1:1, the recipients of this promise are those who hear about this promise in this present age. Paul’s function as an apostle was to be sent and to go the Gentiles, heralding the gospel, that is, that God promises eternal life to all those who repent and believe and thus find themselves in Christ Jesus, a gospel that we are all to give to everyone who will hear (cf. Matt 28:18–20).

Putting the above together, according to 2 Timothy 1:1, it was the will of God that Paul was sent by Christ Jesus as an apostle for the purpose of bringing about what was promised, namely, that many would have eternal life through Christ Jesus because of their repentant belief in the gospel.

May we praise God as those who believe this gospel and have eternal life in Christ Jesus!

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:15–19)

Passage Summary

After the seventh angel blew his trumpet, multiple voices proclaimed the acquisition of the world’s kingdom into that of God and His Son (11:15). The twenty-four elders prostrated themselves and thanked God for doing so (11:16–17), detailing what had taken and would take place (11:18). In response, the heavenly temple opened, showing the ark as accompanied by various phenomena, confirming that what was announced would indeed take place  (11:19).

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
11:15 Exod 15:18; Dan 2:44–45; 7:13–14, 27 God’s kingdom is eternal.
11:18 Ps 2:1–3; 46:6 The nations rage, and God meets their rage with His wrath.
11:18 Ps 115:13 God’s reward is to the entirety of His saints.

 A Parting Thought

Though judgment has its purpose in dealing with those who spurn their Maker, it will also clear the way for God’s eternal kingdom on earth, free from evil, in which we live out our salvation to its full. Give thanks to Him whose power shall do just this!

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Not in My House: Reminding Ourselves of 2 John 10–11

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 10–11 ESV).

Every Christian should occasionally remind himself of this passage and its meaning, especially in light of today’s pervasive pluralism. This passage yields two prohibitions (“do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting”) with an explanation for these prohibitions (“for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works”), and I will try to draw out the meaning of this passage below in a series of observations.

Observe, first of all, the context. The commands concern “anyone” who “comes to you,” and this “anyone” is such a one who “does not bring this teaching,” namely, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7), indicating that this “anyone” is certainly not a Christian (cf. 2 John 9). The “you” is a plural “you” (humas), referring back to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1), likely a figurative expression for a local church and its members, some of whom may have been returning to the rest as sent back from John with this letter (cf. 2 John 4). Understood for 2 John 10–11, then, is that its prohibitions and explanation are from the apostle John to a local church concerning what to do with false teachers.

Second, having the context in hand, we are now in a better position to understand what it means to forbid someone entrance into one’s “house.” Supposing this house were a personal, physical dwelling, to receive someone therein in John’s day would imply a solidarity of sorts between the host and guest. In this instance, the purpose of hospitality would be to facilitate the intentions of the guest. He (or multiple people) is the “anyone” who “comes to you,” apparently with a teaching, but not “this teaching” that confesses Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7). The host’s shelter, then, would imply an acceptance or at least a tolerance of this guest’s anti-Christian teaching, a heinous sin indeed (more on this point below). It is no wonder that John would command homeowners to “not receive him into your house.” It would communicate to the heretical guest and likely others that his false teaching could be tolerated, accepted, or even promoted, and the end result would be that the teacher and followers do not have God, a perilous result, to be sure (cf. 2 John 9).

But, third, suppose that the “house” referred to a personal, physical dwelling as it was used for the gathering of a local church for worship, as was typically the case in John’s day (cf. Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2). If so, “house” would be a metonym in which the thing (house) closely associated with another (church) is used instead of the other.  The command to “not receive him into your house” would then assume that he would not be received and recognized by the church that gathered together for worship in this house. Beyond that, he would certainly not be given opportunity to promote his heresy. One way or the other, the net effect seems to be the same. His intention to promote heresy would have made him unwelcome in a Christian’s home and thus the church. Or it could have made him unwelcome in the church and thus whatever assistance a member of such a church would provide.

Fourth, as to the previous point, it would seem that even shelter is denied to these false teachers because John commands to “not…give him a greeting.” The word for “greeting” (chairō) could be used for either a parting (cf. 2 Cor 13:11) or, more frequently, a greeting (cf. Acts 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1). If the emphasis is on the false teacher’s departure, John gives a tidy prohibition encompassing both the false teacher’s arrival and departure. The false teacher should receive neither aid when he comes nor blessing when he leaves. Or, if the “greeting” has the false teacher’s arrival in mind, John’s readers were to give him neither shelter nor even a standard greeting. Either way, the goal is to offer no assistance, Christian recognition, or opportunity for the false teacher to promote his heresy.

Fifth and last, the explanation for these prohibitions clearly shows why these prohibitions are so severe: “for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”  As one lexicon explains, to take part “in the deeds of others means to be equally responsible for them.”1 In other words, to shelter and aid a false teacher, or even to wish him well, whether he is coming or going, is to be equally responsible for his heresy and leading others away from the truth. In John’s day, the heresy was to deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (cf. 2 John 7). Whether this heresy or another, applying this command today would mean that we should deny Christian aid or recognition to anyone who denies the life-giving teaching of Christ and thus displays that he does not have God (cf. 2 John 9). Should we do any less, we share in his wicked works.

  1. BDAG, s.v., “κοινωνέω.” []
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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:7–14)

Passage Summary

The ministry of the two prophets ends when the beast rises from the dead and kills them, precipitating the final forty-two months of the Tribulation in which Israel is especially persecuted and trampled (11:7; cf. 11:2; 13:4–7; 17:8, 11). The death of the two prophets is globally celebrated (11:8–10), ending three and one-half days later by their resurrection and ascension into heaven, followed by an earthquake in Jerusalem, bringing about the conversion of the survivors (11:12–13; cf. 16:9). This is the second of three woes (11:14; cf. 8:13).

 

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
11:7–8 Dan 7:3, 8, 21 John describes this time in Daniel’s terms.
11:8 Gen 19:24 God punished Sodom and Gomorrah. Jerusalem is figuratively described. Cf. Isa 1:9–10; 3:9; Jer 23:14; Ezek 16:49.
11:9 Psa 79:2–3 The bodies of God’s servants lay unburied in Jerusalem.
11:11 Ezek 37:5, 9–10 God’s breath gives life.
11:13 Ezek 38:19 Both texts speak of an earthquake in Jerusalem.

A Parting Thought 

While many die from the earthquake, God let some live on for the sake of their salvation. Sometimes God sometimes uses amazing means for the sake of drawing in His people.

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An Overview of 2 Timothy and Four Commentary Recommendations

While some books of the Bible can be neatly outlined, others are not while nonetheless being clearly understandable. In 2 Timothy, there are certainly the clear and repeated themes for Timothy to suffer, preach the Word, and be faithful in his ministry (2 Tim 1:8, 13–14; 2:1–3, 14–15; 3:14–17; 4:1–5), especially in the midst of gospel opponents (2 Tim 2:15–18, 22–26; 3:1–9; 4:14–15). The letter’s body revolves around these themes and others (2 Tim 1:3–4:18), bookended by an obvious introduction and conclusion (2 Tim 1:1–2; 4:19–22).

After an introduction (2 Tim 1:1–2), the first section of 2 Timothy includes Paul’s thankfulness and instructions for Timothy (2 Tim 1:3–18). After giving thanks for Timothy and encouraging him to teach (2 Tim 1:3–7), Paul exhorted Timothy to suffer for the gospel (2 Tim 1:8–12) and guard the good deposit of the gospel entrusted to him (2 Tim 1:13–18).

Paul then gives a number of pictures of service for Timothy in order to reinforce Timothy’s faithfulness to his ministry (2 Tim 2:1–26).  He is to teach and suffer as a solder, athlete, and farmer (2 Tim 2:1–7), as motivated by Christ’s salvation to those he would serve (2 Tim 2:8–13), and to do so as a diligent workman, cleansed vessel, and man of God (2 Tim 2:14–26).

Paul again charges Timothy to faithful ministry (2 Tim 3:1–4:8) by promising the presence of ungodly people in these last days (2 Tim 3:1–9), reminding Timothy how he differs from them (2 Tim 3:10–17), and charging Timothy  before divine witnesses to preach the Word, especially in light of Paul’s soon departure (2 Tim 4:1–8).

In bringing the book to an end, Paul requests Timothy to bring some things to him in prison and gives a report of his trial before the Roman authorities (2 Tim 4:9–18). Greetings are given and requested, and the book closes with prayers for Timothy and the rest in Ephesus (2 Tim 4:19–22).

Here are some recommended commentaries, ranging from shorter to longer works:

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:3–6)

Passage Summary

The two witnesses are granted authority to prophesy in sackcloth for 1,260 days (11:3). In the raptured church’s absence (cf. 1:20; 3:10–11), these two now shine the gospel as lampstands, the means whereby a great multitude of Gentiles and 144,000 Jews are saved (cf. 7:3–14). They use fire to kill their opponents (11:5), stop the rain, turn water to blood, and do whatever plagues they choose as often as they desire (11:6).

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
11:4 Zech 4:1–3, 11–14 Israel and the two witnesses would be God’s light to the world.
11:5 2 Kgs 1:10 Fire came at the command of a prophet to consume the enemies of God. Cf. also Num 16:35; Jer 5:14.
11:6 Exod 7:19–25 A plague may be turning water into blood.
11:6 1 Kgs 17:1 A plague may be the absence of rain.

 A Parting Thought 

Christ will protect His own (1 John 5:18), even sending specially chosen servants to do miracles to protect those who have not yet come to Him (i.e., Israel as a whole). In this, we see a very tangible example of how Christ will indeed receive all those that His Father has chosen to give to Him (John 6:37).

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When God’s People Live in a Godless Nation – A Reminder from Long Ago

2017.02.01 - Blue_MarbleThe kingdom of Israel divided into southern and northern divisions under the reign of Solomon’s son Reheboam in roughly 930 B.C. (2 Chron 10). Reheboam then ruled the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south while Jereboam ruled the other ten tribes in the north.

It is interesting that these two sets of tribes were taken captive by foreign powers roughly 200 and 350 years later. The northern tribes were taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the southern tribes were taken captive by Babylon in 586 B.C. Why is that one set of tribes would be taken captive by about 140 years earlier than the other?

Many reasons could be given, but we find one significant factor for the earlier captivity of the northern tribes just after the kingdom divided―leaders for godliness left the north to go to the south, and many of God’s people followed them (2 Chron 11:13–17).

To keep his people from following Reheboam once again, Jeroboam created two calves of gold and appointed non-Levitical priests to facilitate this system of false worship (1 Kgs 12:25–33). Along the way, Jeroboam cast out the true priests from the Levites, provoking the godly people in the north to follow these priests to the south (2 Chron 11:13–16). Their influence on the southern tribes was noticeable: “They strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chron 11:17). One can easily assume that the strengthening of the south was surely matched by the weakening of the north. After Israel’s division, the northern tribes instituted a system of idolatry, and it no surprise that they hastened God’s judgment all the sooner than the south. Unfortunately, the southern tribes, too, would be taken captive for their idolatry in time as well.

The northern tribes of Israel illustrate a helpful reminder for us today―a nation is stronger when its people fear the Lord. Remember that the priests were expelled from the north, provoking those who truly followed the Lord to follow these priests to the south. It is no surprise that the northern tribes took roughly half the time than the south to exhaust the patience of God.

Putting the above into a broader perspective, we know that Christ will judge the world at the end of this present age, just as Israel’s divisions were judged long ago. Until then, however, let us be a godly people who strengthen whatever nation may be our home because of who we are in Him. May it be that the influence of His people stays His hand in judgment for a time so that more may join us in knowing Him.