“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…” 2 Tim 1:9
Paul has already talked about the suffering that Timothy will experience, but in this verse we hear the commission, really, and an awe-inspiring big picture showing us where we stand in God’s grand plan. Yes, there IS still a metanarrative! This is a theological verse in the best sense: the grounding and basis of our salvation as well as the direction of it.
That word ‘sozo’, ‘saved’, has a spectrum of meanings that we are to come into as His kids. It is spiritual and eternal salvation granted immediately by God to those who believe on Jesus Christ. Just get some of the things that we are saved from, too: present suffering, sickness, the strongholds of sin, deliverance at the Second Coming, shelter from the wrath of God, rescue for Israel, ALL the blessings that we receive in Christ, the believer who loses his reward because he has not lived a godly life but who still keeps his salvation. The word for ‘called’ is equally powerful; it means that we partake in the blessings of redemption. The calling on our lives is a ‘holy’ calling – we are to be separate, to be different, to be sacred. There are divine demands upon our lives! Upon the hours of our days! We cannot live as others live. The word ‘works’ denotes actions which can be faithful or unfaithful – they are not dependable. Indeed we know they are not. The phrase ‘time began’ is literally ‘before all eternity’.
From this verse we learn:
1st: That God has saved us and that is eternal
2nd: That our calling is holy
3rd: That our calling is of God, not of ourselves
4th: That our works cannot influence our calling whatever
5th: God has a divine purpose
6th: That our calling is part of God’s divine purpose
7th: Our holy calling was allocated before time began
8th: Our holy calling is in Christ
9th: Our holy calling is dependent on Christ
10th: We have been called as well as saved
11th: A calling is distinct from being saved
12th: The plan of our holy calling was established before time began
Something tells me that at this point the apostle Paul was trying to encourage Timothy! Why should be not be embarrassed?! Because we have our Maker on our side, and our credentials are beyond impeccable. The documentation that verifies that we are authentic goes back some. Unless, of course, as Paul reminds the Corinthians in 2 Cor 13:5 “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” This ought to be a daily testing, as every day is judgment day for the heart that is a consecrated altar, that must send up a holy flame.
Looking through R.A. Torrey’s indispensable Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, this verse draws us ultimately to Ephesians 1. This powerhouse of a chapter illuminates God’s grand plan for us, for example 1:4: “just as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. Perhaps 1:18-19 might also encourage you: “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (and yes it goes on and yes it is glorious).
Possibly more glorious yet than even Ephesians chapter 1, is a truth that we find in Revelation. Not only were we chosen before the foundation of the world. Not only were we predestined to be adopted as sons and daughters, and not only are we part of that lofty plan whereby all things would be drawn into one in Christ, BUT Jesus did not die on Calvary. No. We read in Rev. 13:8 of the “Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Before even man fell, the darling of Heaven had suffered abandonment and grief and was ripped away from the magnetic and all-sustaining dance of love of the Triune God. Just in order to reconcile a future, rebellious world to Himself, should they turn. And turn we must.
Here we bow in awe. Here we drop our knees in worship, and lower our heads. There is silence in heaven, because no words can express the humility, the self-sacrifice, the love that is vast as an ocean, of the Saviour. This is a holy calling. This is a unique calling. And He is worthy.