“Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our own works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
The “who” is God (2 Timothy 1:9 cf. 1:8). God saved Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:9 cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; Acts 22:16). Moreover, He called them with a holy calling. Does this refer to their being called by the gospel to salvation and glory (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)? Or, does this refer to their receiving a special call to preach (cf. Acts 16:10)? Ultimately it does not matter. The point is that salvation and their calling were from the grace of God.
Salvation is not according to (kata, literally “down from”) our own works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-5). Man is not the basis or source of salvation. Man’s good works cannot overcome or erase his sin problem. Gary Workman has written, “Many New Testament passages say that God does not save us ‘according to’ our works or ‘by’ works, yet a number of passages in the New Testament affirm that on judgment day God or Jesus will render unto every person ‘according to’ his deeds or work (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23 cf. 22:12). How can these statements be harmonized? It is clear that no amount of good works can save a person, but it is equally clear that the absence of good works can cause one to lose his salvation (Colossians 1:23; Romans 11:22) and that degrees of reward and punishment will be rendered according to one’s deeds (1 Corinthians 3:8, 12-15; Matthew 10:15; 11:24; Luke 12:47-48)” (Spiritual Sword Lectures, God’s Amazing Grace, pp. 390-391).
Salvation is according to (kata, literally “down from”) God. It is according to His purpose. His purpose to save man existed before creation (cf. Ephesians 3:8-11; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Peter 1:10-11; 1:18-20). It is according to His grace that salvation is available. He provided (Genesis 22:8,14). His grace is located “in Christ” (cf. Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:1; 1 John 5:11). Man, today, begins to access this grace by being baptized into Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-29).
“O the love that drew salvation’s plan! O the grace that bro’t it down to man! O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!” (Song: Years I Spent in Vanity by William R. Newell).