The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Question: God is patient towards what end?
Answer: The reason why God is patient toward “you” is because He is not wishing for “any” to perish but for “all” to come to repentance.” “You” are part of “any” and “all.”
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul: “If God planned to redeem all men, did his plan fail?” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.168)
First of all, God didn’t plan any for Hell, as per Matthew 25:41, and second, God planned redemption in His Son, as per Ephesians 1:4, and that plan, has not failed. The mandate to believe in His Son is given (John 3:16), and the invitation is to all. (Matthew 22:2-10)
Calvinist, James White: “The biblical teaching is that God brings His elect to Himself in love while showing much patience toward those who deserve to be cut off immediately under His wrath (Romans 9:22-23).” (Debating Calvinism, p.269, emphasis mine)
Question: Does it really make sense to say that God is being patient with Himself?
Answer: God is not being patient with Himself, for a time when to administer an Irresistible Grace, but is patient with individuals, giving time and opportunity to repent.
Acts 17:30-31: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Romans 2:4: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”
Question: Why does God command all men everywhere to repent?
Answer: Because God desires all men everywhere to repent.
Question: What is the implication of God’s patience?
Answer: You are to do something. What sense would it make sense to say that God is actually waiting for Himself to implant Irresistible Grace?
God’s patience was also expressed at Isaiah 65:2: “‘I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face.’” Matthew 23:37 is similar: “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.’”
One Calvinist writes: “If God had perfect knowledge of everything before Creation, and the ultimate destination of every soul, in which the world is subdivided between sheep and goats, then 2 Peter 3:9 can’t mean that God is patiently waiting to save the very goats whom He knew perfectly before time that He would never would save. Do you believe that God is senile?”
God knows the ultimate destination of every soul, whether Heaven or Hell. If a person ends up in Hell, by the simple fact that they didn’t have to be there, and wasn’t God’s plan for their life, proves that they have absolutely no excuse at Judgment, and provides a perfectly logical basis (without alleged senility) to say that God was patient and longsuffering towards them, not wishing for them to perish, but that they would have instead come to repentance and received the free offer of pardon that was provided.
Question: How could God be “patient” with those He foreknows will reject Him?
Answer: Because even though God knows whether His offer of salvation will ultimately be rejected, the fact that it was a sincere offer, and a very real opportunity for salvation, shows that God can be “patient” in terms of how they could and should have responded.
The same Calvinist goes on to explain that God can be patient toward the [Calvinistically] elect, in terms of a time when to administer an Irresistible Grace, just like how a person can be patient while awaiting the arrival date of a planned vacation.
However, God is not being patient with Himself to do something, but is patient for you to do something, which is to repent and accept His standing offer of pardon for all of your sins.
The New Living Translation paraphrases: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.”
Calvinist, William MacDonald: “God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but there is a limit.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.40, emphasis mine)
William MacDonald: “He does not want any to perish. His desire is that all should come to repentance. He purposely extends the time of grace so that men might have every opportunity to be saved.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2302)
Calvinism is such a logically and functionally sound system,
that it’s no wonder that it has attracted millions of adherents
around the world. It seems to answer all of the tough questions
about how someone becomes a Christian and why all are not
Christians. It seems to beautifully place all things in perfect
order. Everything that happens, happens by design, according
to a preordained script. God is never frustrated or disappointed,
because He is pulling the strings.
And then a verse like 2nd Peter 3:9 comes along and blows
the whole thing up. And then you discover that there are
countless other verses just like it. So although Calvinism is
logically and functionally sound, it is not biblically sound,
and hence the reason to scrap it and start over.
Question: If God predestined a person to reject Him, how could He genuinely be “patient” for their repentance?
Answer: The Secret-Will defense does not adequately explain God’s patience, in terms of how He can He simultaneously be “not wishing for any to perish”? The Calvinist defense extends the problem, by asking how God could be patient toward those whom He hardens, and yes, although God may harden someone so that they cannot repent (Isaiah 6:10), prior to their hardening, He was patient. (Isaiah 65:2) Hence, call upon the Lord “while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6), because His patience will run out.
Adrian Rogers: “Now it takes nerve for somebody to change that to read, ‘He is willing that many perish and only some come to repentance.’ How can you do that?” (Our House A Lighthouse: II Corinthians 5:13-21)
Dave Hunt writes, concerning how Calvinism ultimately portrays God: “He pretends to be sincere for repentance, while withholding the very grace men need to repent, having foreordained that man can’t and won’t repent without sovereign regeneration. Calvinism mocks God, His Word, and man himself!” (Debating Calvinism, p.314)
Adrian Rogers: “God did not say that some people can be saved and other people cannot be saved, that some are in a select group. No! There is no respect of persons with God. None whatsoever. The Lord is not willing that any should perish. If you go to hell, a broken-hearted God will watch you drop into hell. It is not God’s plan that you die and go to hell. The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (The Christ of the New Testament: Acts 10:43)
Adrian Rogers: “Some people submit to the will of God, some people do not. All are called, but not all respond. Those who do not say to God, ‘Not my will, but thine,’ will one day in hell hear God say to them, ‘Not My will, but thine be done.’ What a terrible way to end, resisting God.” (Foundations For Our Faith, Vol.II, A Study In Romans Chapters 5-9, p.94)
God’s wish for none to perish is explicitly conditional upon repentance. However, if God had stated that He unconditionally willed that all men be saved, and then some perish, He would have broken His word. But God conditionally desires that all men become saved, according to 1st Timothy 2:3-4.
However, if God is sovereign, then won’t everyone meet His condition, and thus repent? Arminians do not believe that God’s will is always done on earth “as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) God’s allows people to reject His will for their life. Jesus stated: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)
Calvinists believe that the Arminian perspective portrays God as impotent, in that He struggles along with humanity to save as many as He can, but by and large fails at His purpose to save humanity. To a Calvinist, that cannot be indicative of the true Sovereign God of the universe:
Calvinist, Alan Kurschner: “God desires that his sheep are saved. God desires that his people are saved. He does not desire that every single individual who has ever lived, live in glory with him forever. If that were the case, we have an incompetent, unhappy, and impotent God.” (The Calvinist Gadfly, emphasis mine) Calvinist, Matthew McMahon: “I reject anything which makes God a cosmic bell-hop tending to the commands and demands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which removes God’s sovereignty to place man as the Sovereign as another gospel. I reject anything which denies the sovereign decrees of God and His electing grace to put salvation into the hands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which denies man’s total depravity and exalts his fictitious free will as another gospel. I reject anything which places the perseverance of man to glory in the incapable hands of a sinful man as another gospel. I reject anything which endeavors to treat God as the great Grandfather in the sky beckoning and pleading with man to be saved as changing the true God into a pitiable wimp.” (Why I am a Calvinist, emphasis mine)
We should also keep in mind that God says: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) Thus, we need to have a healthy mistrust of ourselves, and abandon our own feelings, and submit to exactly what God says, because that is truth. However, Calvinists all too often project their own ideals on to God, and then vilify anyone who disagrees with their perspective of how they feel that God should rule and reign.
Calvinists have advanced two types of interpretations for 2nd Peter 3:9:
1) Secret will
2) Of the elect
Calvinism’s “Secret Will” Defense
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “The revealed will was that all men be saved, but the hidden will was that the greater part of mankind be damned.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.195, emphasis mine)
Erwin Lutzer: “But there is a difference between the decree of God and the desire of God. A moment’s reflection will confirm this distinction. Think of it this way: God did not delight in the death of his Son. We could say that he was not willing that his Son die and suffer in agony upon the cross. Yet, he decreed that it would happen. Christ died at the hands of wicked men doing whatsoever God’s hand ‘predestined to occur’ (Acts 4:28). Clearly, God chose to forego his desires. He desired one thing but decreed another. If we ask why, all that we can do is reply that he had an overriding purpose to accomplish.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.196, emphasis mine)
Actually, the Bible does say that God was willing to “spare not His own Son,” but to deliver Him up for us all. (Romans 8:32, KJV) Therefore, you cannot invent a secret will out of that statement. If you return to the belief that God simply means what He says, then you wouldn’t have to resort to such arguments. Why not simply allow God to be who He is? If God wants to allow man, whom He created, to operate with a free-will, within the confines of what He permits (1st Corinthians 10:13), then so be it.
Erwin Lutzer: “Similarly, he desires that all men be saved. Yet, on the other hand, he allows the greater part of humanity to perish. We simply do not know why he has chosen to forego his desire to see all men saved.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.197, emphasis mine)
God didn’t “forego his desire,” but rather, made it explicitly conditional upon “repentance.” You must believe in Jesus in order to receive the Father’s free gift of eternal life. (John 3:16) That’s the condition.
John Calvin: “It could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish? My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin, but only of His loving-kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel. There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.364, emphasis added)
As often as Calvin quotes Ephesians 1:4, he misquotes it nearly every time by lopping off in Christ, which is the true foundation of the biblical Election. Additionally, perhaps the reason why the “secret decree of doom” was not mentioned at 2nd Peter 3:9 was because God never made it.
John Calvin: “Hence God is said to will life, as also repentance. But the latter He wills, because He invites all to it by His word. Now this is not contradictory of His secret counsel, by which He determined to convert none but His elect. He cannot rightly on this account be thought variable, because as lawgiver He illuminates all with the external doctrine of life, in this first sense of calling all men to life. But in the other sense, He brings to life whom He will, as Father regenerating by the Spirit only His sons.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.106, emphasis mine)
Those whom God regenerates are those whom He has sealed in Christ on account of faith in His Son. (Ephesians 1:13) Although regeneration produces faith, so does the Gospel (Romans 10:17), whereby we are enabled to repent, believe and become saved, in conjunction with Christ who draws (John 12:32) and the Holy Spirit who convicts (John 16:8), pierces (Acts 2:37), pricks (Acts 26:14) and opens hearts in order to receive Him. (Acts 16:14) Calvinists reject that such illumination are sufficient to overcome the fallen state of man. Therefore, it is the Calvinist who rejects the true power (Romans 1:16) and life (Hebrews 4:12) that God has placed in His word, which is spirit and life (John 6:63), as the Holy Spirit operates through it.
Restating the verse: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Calvinism’s “Of the Elect” Defense
Calvinist, John MacArthur: “longsuffering toward us. The ‘Us’ is the saved, the people of God. He wants for them to be saved. ... not willing that any should perish. The ‘any’ must refer to those whom the Lord has chosen and will call to complete the redeemed, i.e. the ‘us.’ Since the whole passage is about God’s destroying the wicked, His patience is not so He can save all of them, but so that He can receive all of His own. ... all should come to repentance. ‘All’ (cf ‘us,’ ‘any’) must refer to all who are God’s people who will come to Christ to make up the full number of the people of God.” (The MacArthur Study Bible, p.1959, emphasis mine)
MacArthur states that the follow must apply:
- The ‘any’ must refer to those whom the Lord has chosen.
- ‘All’ (cf ‘us,’ ‘any’) must refer to all who are God’s people.
Calvinists, Peterson and Williams: “He patiently waits for all of Peter’s professed Christian readers to repent because he wants to spare them judgment.” (Why I am Not an Arminian, p.181, emphasis mine)
Question: Who does Peter define as the “any” and “all” at 2nd Peter 3:9?
Answer: Peter purposely left it as unqualified, indiscriminate terms.
Question: Who does Peter define as “you” at 2nd Peter 3:9?
Answer: The “beloved” (2nd Peter 3:8), that is, believers that he is writing to.
Question: Is Peter saying that God is patient with “you” because He is “not wishing for any [of you] to perish but for all [of you] to come to repentance.”
Answer: If that’s what Peter meant, then why didn’t Peter say what he meant?
Question: Are the beloved, or believers, the totality of “any” and “all”?
Answer: We know from 1st Timothy 4:10 that believers are a subset of “all men,” not the totality of all men, because it states: “...the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” So all “all men” does not equal “believers,” but includes believers. Similarly, “you” are not the totality of “any” and “all,” but a subset of it. Why is God patient with you? Because God is not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. You fit within the any and all. You do not comprise any and all.
Question: Is Peter, in context, talking about the lost perishing in verse 9?
Answer: It’s anyone who needs repentance, with whom God is patient. We also know that the scope of those that God is patient with, is broad, and includes people who didn’t repent, as per Isaiah 65:2. Adding to this point, a pastor, for instance, will address their own congregation as “beloved,” knowing full well that some, if not many in the congregation, still need repentance, with whom God is patient (not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance). So the answer to the question is that it could refer to lost people, but primarily the saved, just as in any church setting. The Calvinist’s pickle, however, is in trying to make “you” = “any of you” and “all of you,” and that’s not what the text is saying, and my point is that even Calvinists recognize this problem, which is why you see Calvinists float a “secret will” explanation.
Question: One Calvinist view of 2nd Peter 3:9 is that the reason why God is being “patient” is because He is waiting for completion of the ingathering of “the elect,” that is, the time when the last member of Calvinism’s elect are given an Irresistible Grace and are made saved. Those who hold to this view, ask Arminians: How can Jesus return when there are people alive that might repent, if given another day, hour or minute? And what about those who would be born and someday become saved, if Jesus delayed longer?
Answer: For those who miss the Rapture, there is the Tribulation. For those who have still remained unrepentant through the Tribulation, time is up. Isaiah 55:6 states: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”
John MacArthur: “And although Scripture makes clear that God elects and rejects solely on the basis of His divine sovereignty, it makes equally clear that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32) and has no desire that even one person should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 9-16, p.42, emphasis mine)
That’s amazing! MacArthur has just contradicted himself. Which is it?, the Secret-Will defense or the Of-the-Elect defense? How is it possible to maintain both? To resolve MacArthur’s dilemma, the basis of why God elects and rejects is indeed His sovereign good pleasure, and God is pleased to grant eternal life to those in Christ who believe in His Son while rejecting unbelievers who remain in Adam. Nevertheless, here is how MacArthur reconciles his feelings:
John MacArthur: “So God elects those that are saved; those that perish do so without any help from God. He is, as Phil said, passive. And you see that in Romans 9 where God is fitting vessels unto salvation. But vessels are being fitted unto damnation, and God is passive in that. It is also true that God does love humanity, and manifests that in common grace, as I said. Now, having said that you believe all of that, you now have a problem. And that is that your brain can’t handle all of that information and bring complete resolution. But that’s okay; because if you could, you wouldn’t be human. There are things that only God can understand. And I really do believe that. I’m very content with that. That’s one of the reasons I know the Bible is written by God, because men would fix it. If I wrote a book that had those contradictions, Phil [Johnson] would edit them all out. One of the bench marks of divine inspiration is the fact that you’re dealing with transcendence.” (Election and Predestination: The Sovereignty of God in Salvation, emphasis mine)
(1) Calvinists seem mixed on whether to use the Secret-Will defense or the Of-the-Elect defense. I think that the aforementioned Ezekiel verse forces Calvinists into the “secret will” direction.
(2) I’m perplexed at how MacArthur says of the non-elect, “without any help from God,” as if we would really forget that Calvinism teaches that God[allegedly] decreed whatsoever comes to pass. According to Calvinists like James White, God couldn’t infallibly know that the non-elect would rebel, had God not decreed it and rendered it certain. So Calvinists can be unintentionally deceptive in their Double Talk.
(3) MacArthur tries to reconcile his Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9:22, together with John 3:16, and arrives at an unworkable dilemma, namely, a dreaded contradiction. MacArthur’s solution is to simply accept the contradiction, and to use the contradiction as the fingerprint of God, because man would have edited out, and smoothed out, the rough edges. That’s one solution. However, here’s another: The Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9:22 is wrong, and God indeed loves the world. God literally meant what He said at 2nd Peter 3:9. God literally “so loved” the world that He gave it His Son, which was for the purpose of salvation, and it is God’s will that all men repent and receive His Son, in order that the world may be saved. Jesus said: “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47) To the Calvinist, this means that Jesus has come to save the world of the elect. The of the elect is what the Calvinist must infer in order to salvage Calvinism. But why? Why does Calvinism need to be salvaged? Why not dump Calvinism, and walk through the door?, and believe that God means what He says, without having to embrace contradictions?
I think that the reason why Peter can confidently say (through the Holy Spirit) that God desires that they (his readers) repent and not perish, is because God desires all to repent and none to perish. So Peter’s audience fits within the overall mass of humanity as a subset of “all men,” just as “believers” are a subset of all humanity at 1st Timothy 4:10.