by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
Three: 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (ESV).
This verse could accurately be described as the most popular, and probably most tortured, of the “trinity” of passages under discussion. But at the same time, it's the easiest one to refute. Let's start with a few questions: What is Peter talking about? What promise? Who is Peter speaking to? Who is the “you?”
We are going to need more of the surrounding content than our earlier texts, so here we have 2 Peter 3:1-13:
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, (2) that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, (3) knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. (4) They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (5) For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, (6) and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. (7) But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (8) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (ESV).
What exactly is the topic that Peter is addressing here? What is he writing about? He is writing about the promise of the return of Jesus. He's writing about Christ's second coming and the judgment that accompanies it. Reading the verse in context makes it clear that Peter included the verse with the intention of explaining the appearance of “slowness” in regards to our Lord's return. With that in mind we see some questions surface. In regards to “not wishing that any should perish, but hat all should reach repentance” we need to ask “ANY of whom?” as well as “ALL of whom?”
Verse 9 used as a proof text against Calvinism can only be done apart from its context. Those who do so eisegete by assumption that the verse is referring to the promise of salvation and that the “any” and “all” refer to everyone, to every single person. They attempt to use it to show that there is no way God could have a predestined, or elect, group of chosen people, but instead, desires (but inevitably fails) to save every single person.
When put in its correct context though, we see that isn't even the issue that Paul was talking about. Not only are these texts NOT talking about individual salvation, or election or predestination for that matter, they are talking about a specific set of people. Again, “any” and “all” of whom? Well, one need not search far for the answer. We see see that the “scoffers” are mentioned in the midst of this context, but Peter makes no effort, no indication, to include them in his statement: “...but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The “you” here then is clear. The “you” in this context is the audience to whom the letter was written and is defined in the greeting, or salutation if you will: “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.”
2 Peter 1:1-3:, “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2) May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (ESV).
So, in summary (see, I told you this one was easiest), in 2 Peter 3 Peter is talking about the seeming, or perceived, slowness of Jesus in keeping his promise to return. In verse 9 Peter is dealing with the patience of God and how the calling of the elect to repentance needs to be completed before the return of Christ. It has absolutely nothing to do with the breadth, or reach, of the atonement, but instead, the timing of Christ's return.
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