How do you respond to 1 Timothy 1:9?

“[God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”

Compatibilists sometimes appeal to this verse to support the view that God determined who would (and thus who would not) be saved “before the ages began.” This interpretation is possible but conflicts with Scripture’s affirmation that God loves all and wants all to be saved. If an interpretation is possible that doesn’t pose this contradiction, it is to be preferred. Fortunately, an alternative interpretation is available.

When Jews thought about God electing people, they thought primarily in corporate terms. God chose the nation of Israel to be his people and wanted them to be his vehicle for reaching the world. Thus, when Paul speaks of God saving and calling people “before the ages began,” it is likely that he is thinking about the Church–the “new Israel”–as a corporate whole.

Before the ages God determined to shower grace upon all who would believe in Jesus Christ. Paul can therefore say to all who believe that “God saved us and called us…before the ages began” (emphasis added). What was decreed for the corporate whole becomes applied to each individual once they by faith align themselves with the corporate whole.

Further Reading

An excellent book on the corporate view of election is W. W. Klein, The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990).

Related Reading

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 30:19?

After establishing the terms of the covenant he was entering into with Israel, the Lord says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” This passage represents the most fundamental motif…

Topics:

What is the significance of 2 Chronicles 12:5–8?

The Lord allows King Shishak of Egypt to almost conquer all of Israel because of King Reheboam’s rebellion. “You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak” (vs. 5). The officers and king repent, so the Lord responds by saying, “They have humbled themselves; I will not destroy them, but I…

Topics:

When Did Jesus Bind the Strongman?

Question: In Luke 11:21-22 Jesus said: “When a strong man, with all his weapons ready, guards his own house, all his belongings are safe. But when a stronger man attacks him and defeats him, he carries away all the weapons the owner was depending on and divides up what he stole.” My question is, when…

Why did God create me to be a pedophile?

Question: Since the first time I experienced a sex drive it’s been directed towards little children. I’ve never acted on this, for I know it’s wrong. But it torments me. Why would God created me with pedophile cravings? Answer: I’m so sorry for your condition and greatly respect the fact that you have committed yourself…

What about the Gospel of John and Calvinism?

Question: The Gospel of John seems to teach that people believe because God draws them, rather than that God draws people because they believe. If this is true, how can you deny the Calvinistic teaching that salvation is based on God’s choice, not ours? Answer: As you note, many people find support for the view…

Topics:

What is omni-resourcefulness?

Question: What do you mean when you refer to God’s omni-resourcefulness? Can you support this with Scripture? Answer: I and others use the term omni-resourcefulness to highlight a feature of God in Scripture that the classical theological tradition consistently overlooks. Part of the greatness of the God of the Bible, we argue, is that he…