June 13, 1999, posted, July 18, 1999

According to his own purpose

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose (that is, for his own reasons and intentions) and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

I am pulling this verse out by itself, but we will look at it according to its context. And what I will give you is the overwhelming teaching of Scripture from Genesis through Revelation.

I must confess that what Paul says here is one of the most hotly contested doctrines in Scripture. Many Christians have parted company over what is taught here. Primarily, though, folks just avoid what Paul says on this subject, and go on to other things that are easier to understand or that are not so decisive.

I put a short quote in the bulletin, and that is pretty much how we must deal with passages like v. 9. We are fallen creatures, not the Creator. We cannot even govern our own actions, words and thoughts, let alone understand how the God of heaven can govern all things according to his own purpose.

All we can do is look at what God says, and accept it as he says it. He has given us all we need to know in order to please him. And that is our only responsibility.

Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

We are able to accept the creation of the world by faith. Paul presents several things that must be accepted by the same kind of faith.

There is a term going around, Sovereign Grace. I do not know the "official" definition of that term, but the Scriptural definition is this:


Though 2 Timothy 1:9 presents this doctrine beyond any question, it is so far above human understanding that it leaves may unanswered questions.

So, let us look it this verse, and probably raise more questions than we will answer. (If I remember, I will give a chance for you to ask questions at the end.)

The purpose of this verse is given in the context of v. 6. It was to encourage Timothy to remain faithful to and active for Christ in the midst of distressing and discouraging circumstances. It would have been easy for Timothy to be discouraged, for not only was Paul imprisoned for the gospel, but many had turned away from him --- deserted him.

First, Who hath saved us, and called us.

Salvation took place in eternity past, before we were called, for it does not say, Who hath called us, and saved us. Salvation took place in eternity past:

2 Thess. 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Isa. 46:9, . . . I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure . (See also, Jn. 15:16, Eph. 1:4, 5.)
Jude 1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called .

Those whom God hath from the beginning chosen to salvation are known in Scripture as the Elect. Divine Providence then goes before the unconverted Elect to preserve and keep them safe from the many dangers that would take their lives.

Look at 2 Timothy 2:10.


I can think of at least two times I came within a split second of death before I was saved.

While driving an old VW in the late 60, a motorcycle pulled out in front of me. When I swerved to miss him, the VW rolled across the driver's door, 320 ft.

While working for Honeywell, I accidently plugged into a 220, which shorted out THRU ME. I was hanging from a 20 ft. ceiling, and though quite unusual for Honeywell, I had another man working with me. He was on the floor was able to pull the plug. If he had not been there, I would have been killed when the 220 grabbed me.

In God's good time and by his grace, he calls the Elect through the preaching of the gospel that divine Providence brought them under.

Though the salvation of the Elect took place before the world began, it is accomplished through the preaching of the gospel, which must go to every creature, for his people are scattered world-wide.

1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Cor. 1:17-2:5, Mat. 28:19, 20.)

Second, saved us

Salvation is of the Lord, and it is totally according to his purpose.

Jonah 2:9, 10 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

It was in the school of hard knocks, "Whale seminary," that Jonah learned that salvation is not of man nor is salvation according to man's purpose. It was not until Jonah confessed that salvation is of the Lord that the Lord spoke to the fish, and Jonah was delivered.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Romans 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (See also 1 Cor. 2:16.)

In the context of Jonah, Salvation is of the Lord means that God will save whom he will, when he will, in the manner he will, and he works totally at his good pleasure. Salvation is totally the work of a sovereign God, with advice from no one.

Jonah's conflict with the Lord was that Nineveh's "salvation" was according to the purpose of the Lord, and not according to man's purpose, an idea so disagreeable that Jonah refused to preach repentance to Nineveh.

Salvation is the result of God's Holy Spirit giving the desire and faith to repent and come to Christ. Does not Ephesians 2:8 tell us that faith is the gift of God?

Salvation is the result of God's call to repent and believe the gospel. Salvation places one into the hands of Christ for safe keeping. God alone is the cause of salvation.

Third, called us with an holy calling.

The purpose of God's call is our sanctification, or holiness of life. God, before the world began, decided in whom to place his Spirit of Grace and faith. That Spirit gives the desire and power to answer God's call to conversion. God's Spirit then gives the desire and power to be holy. (See Eph. 1:18, 4:1.)

The call to salvation comes wholly from God, and it claims us wholly for God. Holly implies that believers are separated from the rest of the world unto God.

Fourth, not according to our works.

God did not look down through time and see who would be a good servant of his, or who would do a good work for him. The call of God to a particular person, ministers especially, is based solely upon God's good purpose for that individual, God's kindness (mercy) and God's love:

Titus 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Neither you nor I are saved by good works, but if we are saved, we will maintain good works. Those who have been called by God have been called with an holy calling. In other words, the saved will desire to be holy even as he who called in holy. (1 Pet. 1:15. Not sinless perfection, but striving toward Christlikeness.)

Fifth, but according to his own purpose and grace.

Paul's message on God's grace in salvation says that God calls people according to his own purpose, or according to his own reasons, and apart from any goodness on the individual's part. And God's purpose, or God's goal or God's reason for saving a person, is accomplished by his Spirit of Grace. (See Romans chapters 3 & 11.)

God's call to salvation of one individual while not calling another is according to his sovereign purpose. And no person can say, "What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35.)

The cause of one's salvation is God's sovereign and eternal purpose for that individual. His call is based upon his plans for that person before the world began:

Ephesians 1:9 ... the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

No doubt this is why the signers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith defined themselves as "Particular Baptists." Particular --- "considered separately from the whole," or "a small part that can be considered separately from the whole." God's people are a "part that is considered separately from the whole" of the world.

God's choosing according to his own purpose is not a new doctrine --- Moses preached to Israel God's sovereign grace according to his own good pleasure. He told Israel that its call to freedom from bondage had nothing to do with its works nor size. Israel's call was based solely on God's love and promise to the fathers. in Deuteronomy 7:7, 8.

A cross reference to Deut. 7:8 is 1 John 4:7 (Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us...) - 13. And thus the doctrine of God's grace was transferred from OT Israel to the NT Gospel Church. In fact, Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, ye were Gentiles; he did not say, ye are Gentiles. (1 Cor. 12:2.)

The purpose of God as fulfilled in election is one of the more hotly contested doctrines among Christians. Paul's words in Romans 9 really stir up controversy, even hostility -- v. 11 For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;. All of Romans 9 deals with this issue of Election.

Ephesians 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

It is God's own purpose that chooses whomsoever he will to come to Christ, and that choice is according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (Eph. 3:11.) No one is called to Christ except those whom God purposed to call. No other reason can be given for an individual's salvation except the sovereign will of God. No other reason can be given for others not being called to Christ.

And no one can say to God, "What doest thou?" for calling of one person and not another (Dan. 4:35.)

Also, God works in, or gives gifts (talents, or abilities) to an individual according to his sovereign purpose. It is God's own purpose that freely gives particular gifts and desires to particular people. (This study in 2 Tim. is not a study into the different gifts.)

Let me say a word here about Foreknowledge. Geneva says on 2 Timothy 1:9:

He says that that grace was given to us from everlasting, to which we were predestinated from everlasting. So that the doctrine of foreseen faith and foreseen works is completely contrary to the doctrine which preaches and teaches the grace of God. (Geneva)

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

In other words, the doctrine that says that God calls an individual because God foresaw that the individual would come to Christ and serve God cannot be supported from Scripture.

Peter's words, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, fit very well with James' words of,

Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

In other words, God foreknew from the beginning what HE WOULD DO ACCORDING TO HIS OWN PURPOSE, and he then acts when the time comes according to that foreknowledge.

Peter said,

Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Here Peter uses foreknowledge of God when he refers to Christ's crucifixion. But we cannot say that his crucifixion was planed before the world because God foreknew that wicked men would reject him. Such heresy will not even fit into the context of the one verse, Acts 2:23. Clearly, Christ's crucifixion was determined from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8.) And in God's foreknown plan and purpose, he worked all things together to accomplish that plan. It was in God's plan to blind the Jews so they would kill Christ. (Note Rev. 17:8, the Elect are written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.)

Foreknowledge, therefore, refers to God's foreknown and predetermined plan being worked on earth among fallen men accordingly. It does not refer to God foreknowing what fallen man will do and then acting accordingly. His works in time and history are not determined by what fallen man will do in the future, as foreknown by him. His works in time and history are determined by what he desired to do among fallen man before the foundation of the earth, for the heavens do rule the earth --- the earth (fallen man's will) does not rule the heavens. (Dan. 4:26, &c.)

Paul tells Timothy, v. 9, that the Believers' call, ministers' particularly, is according to his own purpose and grace, i.e., God's purpose for a particular individual was established in the mind of God before the world, and it is accomplished in time and history by his sovereign grace working in the heart, and by Divine Providence controlling events.

It is God's own purpose that considers each individual as a particular individual. Something only the Lord God can do. For only he knows each and every person who ever lived or ever will live as a individual. (Cf. Mt. 10:30, Lk. 12:7.)

Sixth, given us --- us. We know Paul's calling and how God said he was a chosen vessel (Acts 9:1-15, &c.). According to Paul's word, us, all Believers, especially ministers, are as uniquely called as was Paul.

Seventh, in Christ Jesus.

This means that particular individuals were promised by God the Father to the Son. Through the shed blood of Christ, these individuals are sealed in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 11:25 ... This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. Because of that promise by the Father to the Son, we are heirs to that covenant in Christ:

Eighth, before the world began.

God's covenant people were given to Christ in God's eternal purpose before the foundation of the world, a doctrine that must be accepted by faith, q.v.

Ephesians 3:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Christ was called to his work before the world began, so it follows that the Elect were also called to their place in his sovereign purpose before the world began.


Purpose also comes from a word that is also used for showbread in Mat. 12:4, Mk. 2:26, Heb. 9:2. It also comes from another word meaning to set forth to be looked at, exposed to public view. Implied here is that we are saved in order to show forth the workings of the God of Heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ to a wicked world around us:

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.

The purpose of our salvation is to show others that the power of God can overcome the wickedness and perversity of the world around us.

Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The purpose of our salvation is to show others the attributes of God, love, concern/compassion, justice and right living. He did not save us without purpose.

God's basic purpose in his call to the Elect is that they be conformed to the image of his Son. (Rom. 8:27-30.)

Our call by God's special grace to special privileges is a call to special responsibilities and to special holiness, i.e., with an holy calling. The clear principle of grace here is that God implants in those whom he calls a special desire to live holy lives.

Man's free will and responsibility and God's Divine Call according to his Sovereign Purpose, who can understand?

Is it not strange that those who will accept the fact of the creation of the worlds by the spoken word of God cannot accept the fact that the heavens do rule the earth?