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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Understanding 1 John 2:2 by Pastor John Samson | Main | The Jesus Syllogism »

    Understanding 2 Peter 3:9 by Pastor John Samson

    Without doubt, 2 Peter 3:9 is the single most popular verse used to dismiss the reformed doctrine of election, bar none. Usually the meaning of the verse is assumed without taking any time to study it, which is the very hallmark of tradition. In fact, traditions are so strong that many do not even see the need to study the verse because they believe there is no need to do so. I have to admit that I did this for many years. Those most enslaved to their traditions are those who believe they do not have any. First of all then, let us read the verse in its context.

    2 Peter 3:1-9 - 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, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 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." 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, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 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. 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. 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.

    The first thing we notice is that the subject of the passage is not salvation but the second coming of Christ. Peter is explaining the reason for the delay in Christ’s second coming – He is still coming, and will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (v. 10).

    The second thing to notice is the clear identity of the people he is addressing. He speaks of the mockers as “they”, but everywhere else he speaks to his audience as “you” and the “beloved.” This is very important because the assumption that is usually made is that the “you” the “any” and the “all” of 2 Peter 3:9 refers to everyone on the planet.

    But surely "all" means “all,” right? Well usually, yes, but not always. This has to be determined by the context in which the words are found. For example, when a teacher is getting ready to start a class and asks his students, "Are all here?" he is not asking if every last living person on planet earth is present in the room. Rather he is referring to all the students enrolled in the class. It is context that provides the basis for a sound interpretation.

    So, the question in 2 Peter 3:9 is whether "all" refers to all human beings without distinction, or whether it refers to everyone within a certain group. The context indicates that Peter is writing to a specific group and not to all of mankind – “to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours” 2 Peter 1:1. The audience is confirmed when Peter writes, “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.” (2 Peter 3:1)

    Can we be even more specific? Yes, because if this is the second letter addressed to them, the first makes it clear who he is writing to. 1 Peter 1:1 - “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect…” So Peter is writing to the elect in 2 Peter 3, saying:

    “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.... 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. 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.” (v. 1, 8, 9 - emphasis mine)

    If the "any" or “all” here refers to everyone in human history, the verse would prove far more than Arminians would want to prove - it would prove universalism rather than Christianity. (Universalism is the false doctrine that teaches that everyone will ultimately be saved, with no one going to hell). If God is not willing that any person perish, then what? No one would ever perish! Yet, in context, the "any" that God wills not to perish must be limited to the same group he is writing to, the elect, and the "all" that are to come to repentance is the very same group. Christ’s second coming has been delayed so that all the elect can be gathered in. God is not willing that any of the elect should perish, but that all of them come to repentance.

    Rather than denying election, understood in its biblical context, it is one of the strongest verses in favor of it.

    Posted by John Samson on October 30, 2005 07:34 PM

    Comments

    This has always been one of my 'pet peeves' of Scripture taken out of context. I wrote on this, in very much the same way as your address reads, several years ago.

    Good words, I hope it's well received.

    SDG ~ Carla

    Many thanks John, for your very helpful expositions. Greatly appreciated. Would you mind expounding on 1 Timothy 2:4, another one of those texts often quoted in support of universal atonement.

    Warm greetings in Christ,

    Jim K

    Whenever I'd heard anyone espouse a Calvinist understanding of election, I always recalled this one verse (just verse 9, by itself of course!) and sort of clung to it as "proof" that the elect were the Christians, however they came to faith, and not individuals who were in fact predestined to come to faith. The context dawned on me one day, and I realized that Peter was not addressing this to the entire earth, but to the "beloved." I realized at that time the flaw in my thinking.

    However, I never made the connection to his first epistle! The explicit reference to the "elect" in that salutation makes the case all the more compelling for a non-universal election. Thanks to Pastor Samson for pointing this out. I'm sure this argument would mean nothing to the legions who think 2 Peter is written by a different author entirely, but for the rest of us, it's very helpful.

    Jim K...

    Re: 1 Tim 2:4

    "who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

    In the immediate context of this statement Paul uges "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions..."

    So he very well could be saying that he wants all men without distinction to be saved, but not all men without exception ... that is, all kinds of people. But even if he means all persons on planet earth the problem must be dealt with because there are other texts which say this. The point here is to get to the bottom of the Biblical principle of God desiring the wicked to be saved. There is a text which says more clearly that God even "desires" the wicked to be saved. In Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11. It says, "Do I indeed delight in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather in his turning from his way that he might live?" . . . "I do not delight (ehephoz) in the death of the one who dies, says the Lord; so turn and live" (cf. 33:11)."

    So, in light of these texts, how is this problem resolved?

    The answer, again, has to do with God's imperatives and commands. The passages do not state what God will do, but rather what God wills man should do. This is not speaking about God's decree. It teaches what is pleasing and acceptable to God and in accordance with his own nature (that all men should come to him). The passage itself says it like thus: God wants man to "turn from his way..." but this is not what he himself has determined to do concerning man. It shows what God is prepared to give believers and penitnets, but not what he has actually decreed concerning this person. What we "ought" to do does not equal our ability to do it. Again Rom 3:19, 20 shows that man is impotent to obey God and yet is fully accountable to him. Inability does not alleviate us of responsibility.

    It is one thing to command (will) the non-elect to come and another to decree (will) they should come.

    God can call the former but not the later without contradicting himself because the former respects only the will of precept (God's imperatives), while the later respects his will of decree.

    When God calls us to obey the ten commandments, this is an imperative and is his will for it conforms to his character ... yet this does not mean he decrees it to come about.

    This is in the highest degree consistent. There is a constant will of commanding duty and the promise of blessing on him that performs it (God genuinely will this)for he seriously makes known the way of salvation and what is agreeable to himself, but this does not make known what he has intended to do concering a person.

    Even when we make laws in a country, the intent is that the populace obey them, but the law does not give the power to do it. It is merely stating an imperative that conforms with a standard, not injecting people with any certain ability.

    John W. Hendryx

    related articles
    The Will of God Francis Turretin

    The Will of God by R.C. Sproul

    Are There Two Wills in God? by Dr. Sam Storms

    Thanks for the exposition Pastor John. I just wanted to add one other thing that is important to take arminians to in the context of the scripture is V. 15 in the same chapter of 2 Peter. V. 9 says He (God) is patient with you (elect), not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. In the same thought Peter says in V.15 to bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. His patience "means in salvation". (forgive the NIV translation, it's all I have in my office at the moment at work). So, if we look at both verses together we must declare the book of 2 Peter to be teaching universalism or teaching the doctrines of grace, but arminianism is not even a "choice".

    Thanks for the commentary on this verse. I have been going throught the book of Romans with a group and in reaction to the doctrine of election, this verse was brought up. I have heard some explain the immediate context for the word "all" but you just really gave me a better understanding of the greater context of this letter to who it is addressing. Your commentary is very helpful.

    I heard just recently about this website at a time when I am considering again with an open mind the question of limited atonement. Re-evaluation, in their full context, of the isolated verses used against LA, is eroding my resistance to it.

    Now when I read 2 Pet 3:9, I see that it concerns the elect, but that the reason the Lord is patient with us is lest we physically perish with unrepentant sin (cf. 1 Co 3:15; 2 Co 5:10). Is this not confirmed by vv. 11, 14 which exhort us to holy living? (Salvation in v. 15 would then be concerned with its sanctification aspect.) What do you think?

    John, thanks for your article. That's probably the clearest and most concise exposition of that verse I've seen yet.

    Your point about the salutation in 1 Peter was especially helpful - like the commenter above, I'd never seen that before.

    Keep up your encouraging work!

    Great exposition John. Thanks!

    This post has helped me to understand something I have wrestled with for five years in Seminary/college; namely the doctrine of limited atonement. I appreciate the post and thank God for it. I go to a non-calvinistic school but find myself holding to reformed doctrines. I believe they are biblical and right. Thank you again for this post.

    Neil, good point about the exhortation to holy living in 2 Peter 3:11,14 but it is not a convincing argument to say that Peter is referring to the sanctification requirement for salvation when he says that we can regard the patience of our Lord as salvation based on 1 Cor 3:15 and 2 Cor 5:10 because in those verses people without worthy works still receive salvation (1 Cor 3:15, "If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but as one escaping the fire). Peter seems to be exhorting the elect to holy lives since it's all going to burn. I think (always question a sentence when it begins like that) that it is necessary to see Peter referring to the new birth of all of the elect who were set aside before the beginning of the world and not just the sanctification sense for the following reasons:
    - There is a very specific number of elect who will be saved (Romans 11:25)
    - These elect are going to be the only ones gathered to God in the day of the Lord (Matt. 24:31)
    - All of these elect are sinners (Romans 3:10, 23)
    - God hates sin (Prov 6:16-19)
    - Sin deserves destruction (Romans 6:23)
    - Yet, God doesn't destroy the sinner immediately after sin (Romans 3:25)
    - God is slow to anger and great in power and will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Nahum 1:3)
    We have to count His patience as salvation not in the sanctification sense but in new birth because we are not justified until new birth and therefore deserve to be destroyed every second of every day until then. I do, however, believe that scripture teaches there is not salvation without sanctification.
    Therefore, 2 Peter 3:9,15 are either referring to universalism or election. I believe election and that 2 Peter 3:9 is even more powerful of an argument when combined with V.15.

    Thanks, Jon. Your points are well taken. Christ's patience before calling me to life in the new birth was more crucially beneficial that which he has that I might not suffer loss (of things) at the judgment.

    Another reason to support the Reformed interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 is the parallel to 1 Peter 3:20:

    20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.

    God waited patiently for Noah to complete the ark. This was not so the world would repent, but for the sake of Noah. Perhaps the
    parable of the wheat and the tares is another, albeit weaker, parallel passage.

    Blessings,

    Simon

    Why are people considering Samson's interpretation "the Reformed" interpretation? Not all the Reformed and Calvinistic interpreters agree on this passage. Calvin, for instance, views the passage as referencing the revealed will of God that all mankind repent unto salvation. John Frame and O. T. Allis are some contemporary interpreters who also follow the revealed will interpretation. Even John Owen thought the whole world was in view here.

    The immediate context has to do with a comparison of Peter's day to Noah's day through the connecting theme of the longsuffering of God. It's absurd to think that God was only waiting in Noah's day solely for the purpose of saving his family. God was demonstrating well-meant patience toward all sinners at that time, but they sinned against that patience and incurred judgment. Paul captures the principle in the following verses:


    NKJ Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

    As for other Reformed interpretations, here are a couple:

    John Calvin says:
    "9. But the Lord is not slack, or, delays not. He checks extreme and unreasonable haste by another reason, that is, that the Lord defers his coming that he might invite all mankind to repentance. For our minds are always prurient, and a doubt often creeps in, why he does not come sooner. But when we hear that the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us, there is no reason why we should any longer complain of tardiness. He is tardy who allows an occasion to pass by through slothfulness: there is nothing like this in God, who in the best manner regulates time to promote our salvation. And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent.

    This is a very necessary admonition, so that we may learn to employ time aright, as we shall otherwise suffer a just punishment for our idleness.

    Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive all to repentance, so that none may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way.

    But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

    But as the verb cwrh~sai is often taken passively by the Greeks, no less suitable to this passage is the verb which I have put in the margin, that God would have all, who had been before wandering and scattered, to be gathered or come together to repentance."

    My Comment on Calvin
    Be sure to read Calvin carefully. In this passage of his commentary, the "us, our, all mankind, all, each, every individual, any" etc., are all universal in scope. The immediate context of each word shows this by what preceeds each pronoun etc. Calvin has an excellent balance on the well-meant, or free offer of the gospel as is seen here. Calvin weaves together the general love and common grace of God with the free offer. For he says, "...the Lord, in delaying, shews a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us..." and again, "So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost."

    John Frame says:
    "Those who want to limit the reference of this passage to the elect sometimes focus on “you,” suggesting that this limits the reference to believers. Like other New Testament letters, this one is written to the church, and it presumes faith on the part of its readers. Yet, also like other letters, this one recognizes that professing believers are subject to many temptations in this life and that some do fall away. When they fall away permanently, they thereby show that they never had real faith. So, in addressing believers, Peter is not assuming that all his readers are among the elect. And “patience” (makrothymei) here is an attitude that, according to other passages, God shows to the reprobate (Rom. 2:4; 9:22). The passage itself makes no distinction between elect and reprobate.

    So, Peter may be expressing God’s desire that everyone in the church will come to repentance, but if his focus is thus on the church, he is not distinguishing between elect and reprobate within the church. My own view, however, is that his thought in this verse goes beyond the church: “anyone” and “everyone” are not necessarily included among “you.” So, after describing God’s patience with his people in the church, Peter looks beyond them, asserting God’s desire for universal human repentance." The Doctrine of God, page 535-36, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing

    O. Palmer Robertson says:


    "II Pet. 3:3-10 also appears to establish its base for the universal proclamation of the gospel on the covenant with Noah. Sinners may mock the word of new covenant prophecy concerning a consummating judgment (vv. 3,4). But Noah’s flood indicates the certainty of God’s ultimate intentions (vv. 5,6). As “by the word of God” the world first came into being, so “by the same word” the present universe is being sustained for the judgment of fire (vv. 5, 7). The reference to the “same word” refers broadly to the word of God which had been manifested so powerfully at creation. But it also appears to refer more specifically to the covenanting word spoken to Noah. On the basis of this post-diluvian word, the earth continues to be maintained to the present.

    The longsuffering of God, who does not wish any to perish (v. 9), manifests itself in the context of this covenanting word that God will maintain the whole of creation until the judgment of fire (vv. 7, 10). In the cosmic context of thse verses, describing the purposes of God respecting the whole of creation (vv. 6, 7), the “desire” of God that “all” should come to repentance should be interpreted universally. The fact that God may “desire” what he has not explicitly “decreed” simply must be taken as one of those areas of God’s purposes that cannot be comprehended by the finite mind. The context would not favor the limitation of this desire to the “elect,” despite the possibility that “longsuffering to you” could be interpreted as meaning longsuffering to the believing recipients of Peter’s letter. The point of the text is not that God is longsuffering toward the elect, not willing that any of the elect should perish. The present delay of judgment on the world indicates his longsuffering to the whole humanity, despite the fact that ultimately not all shall be saved. Cf. John Murray and N. B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (Phillipsburg, n.d.), pp. 21-26."
    The Christ of the Covenants, page 123, footnote 18. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing

    Tony

    >>>>Why are people considering Samson's interpretation "the Reformed" interpretation?

    Very good points, but who said Samson's was "THE" interpretation? Actually this point of God's preceptive (imperatives) vs. his will of decree was already discussed extensively in my own comments a few posts previous to yours so it is not the only interpretation of this or similar passages that has been offered so far.

    -jwh

    Hi John,

    Yes, I read and appreciated your discussion on the will of God as related to the Timothy passage prior to my post. There are a few commentators above, however, that call Samson's interpretation "the Reformed" interpretation (not that Samson did this himself).

    As you know, some higher forms of "Calvinism" are prone to minimize or even explain away texts that refer to the revealed or preceptive will of God. As Phil Johnson says about the "evolved" Calvinists, "hyper-Calvinists tend to stress the secret (or decretive) will of God over His revealed (or preceptive) will. Indeed, in all their discussion of "the will of God," hyper-Calvinists routinely obscure any distinction between God's will as reflected in His commands and His will as reflected in his eternal decrees. Yet that distinction is an essential part of historic Reformed theology." This tendency is reflected in their hermeneutics, as well as in their systematics. When the preceptive or revealed will fades away or is not considered as the "real" will of God, then we may end up compromising the sincerity of God in the name of his omnipotence. This is a real danger, and the tendency is pervasive on the internet.

    Readers need to know about the diversity of opinion among the Reformed and Calvinistic thinkers in order to arrive at an informed viewpoint. There are serious problems with trying to make 2 Peter 3:9 or other controversial passages square with the decretal will of God. System drives exegesis and violence is done to the natural reading of scripture. I could have pointed out (and am still willing to do so) problems with Samson's arguments, but I guess I would prefer to be more informative than confrontational for the time being ;-)

    Tony:

    Actually, I am in full agreement with you in your concerns. But I am certain that Mr. Samson does not fall under that category even in light of his interpretation of this verse. He has affirmed that my interpretation of Ezekiel (above) is exactly how he would have explained it.

    It is odd to me that persons cannot see the difference in preceptive and God's will of decree. The concern of some is that God would not be internally inconsistent. That is important but he isn't being internally inconsistent - here's why:

    Consider how we explain the Trinity. We say, God is ONE essence and three persons. And in this way it is not contradictory - we are not saying three persons and one person. But rather that He is one and three in different ways.

    Likewise God's preceptive will is what he commands US TO DO to conform to his character, which does not carry with it the ability to do so. The laws purpose is to help us recognize our impotence (Rom 3:19, 20) -- NOT WHAT HE INTENDS TO DO or has decreed.

    This is about as plain as can be that God decrees certain things take place in the world and yet commands us to do other than what He decrees. The crucifixion of His Son is a good example. God commands that man does not murder, yet in Acts 2 & 4 God ordains evil men to murder His Son.

    -jwh

    Hi John,

    I agree. Anyone interested in being honest with the scriptural witness must make a distinction between senses of God's will. Since we distinguish between senses of God's will, there is no violation of the law of non-contradiction. That law does not merely say that A cannot be non-A, but that A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense.

    One of my other concerns is a subtle mistake that can be made concerning God's preceptive will. Some "Calvinistic" thinkers, so as to escape any embarrassment of presenting some idea of a strife in the divine bosom, only connect the idea of intentionality or volition with the decretal will so that the preceptive will merely describes something passive and constitutional. It involves no "active principles" as R. L. Dabney describes. In his article God's Indescriminate Proposals of Mercy, he says "It is significant that the Reformed divines of Turretin's school seem usually to conduct this debate on the assumption (sometimes tacit, sometimes expressed) that as God had no volition towards the salvation of the non-elect, so he could not have any propension or affection at all towards it...The perspicacious eye of Howe saw this assumption, and he made a tentative effort to expose it." Thus, according to some, the preceptive "will" describes something merely ad intra and not ad extra. It's the difference between saying 'God is constitutionally pleased when a sinner repents', and 'God is pleased by (and even moves to act in this world) specific sinners repenting, whether elect or not'. Saying this does not mean that God works with the same power and might in the case of all sinners (there is still a distinction between the decretal and preceptive motives, as well as between God's special and general love, contrary to Arminian assumptions), but only that he sincerely acts when he sends prophets to warn those who are finally damned. Describing God's preceptive or revealed will as something intentional, volitional and active does justice to the biblical picture of our merciful God.

    Dabney describes the situation this way:
    "Says the strong Arminian: "Since God is sovereign, and also true and sincere, therefore I know that, when he declares his compassion for 'him that dieth,' he has exerted all the power that even omnipotence can properly exert on 'free-will,' to turn that sinner to life." Thus this party sustain God's sincerity at the expense of his omnipotence. The party of the other extreme says: "Because God is sovereign and omnipotent, therefore we know that, were there any pity in him for 'the sinner that dieth,' that affection would inevitably have applied almighty grace, which would have turned him without fail to life; so that we must explain the merciful declaration as meaning something else than it seems." They thus save God's omnipotence and sovereignty at the expense of his sincerity. The two parties, while in extreme opposition, fall into the same error... Their common mistake would, in the case of a wise and good man, be exploded by explaining the nature of motive and free rational volition. The correct answer to the Arminian is to show him that the existence of a real and unfeigned pity in God for "him that dieth" does not imply that God has exhausted his divine power in vain to renew the creature's "free-will" in a way consistent with its nature, because the pity may have been truly in God, and yet countervailed by superior motives, so that he did not will to exert his omnipotence for that sinner's renewal. The other extreme receives the same reply; the absence of an omnipotent (and inevitably efficient) volition to renew that soul does not prove the absence of a true compassion in God for him; and for the same reason the propension may have been in God, but restrained from rising into a volition by superior rational motives."

    So then, a Calvinist can say that some passages describe the revealed will of God (in distinction from the decretal), and this will is even an "active principle" or describes a real propension in God without contradiction. God is not merely interested in the good, he is interested in the best. He, therefore, is interesting in magnifying his glorious nature as the summum bonum. God's dominant subjective motive is the seeking of his glory, which is the greatest possible magnifications of all of his perfections to the delight of his creatures. God's various motives are regulated by this dominant subjective disposition. His decree is the executive volition pursuing the wisest course of action. As Dabney says in his exposition on the significance of the image of God in man, "Every deliberate rational volition is regulated by the agent's dominant subjective disposition, and prompted by his own subjective motive. But that motive is a complex, not a simple modification of spirit. The simplest motive of man's rational volition is a complex of two elements: a desire or propension of some subjective optative power, and a judgment of the intelligence as to the true and preferable. The motive of a single decision may be far more complex than this, involving many intellectual considerations of prudence, or righteous policy, and several distinct and even competing propensions of the optative powers. The resultant volition arises out of a deliberation, in which the prevalent judgment and appetency counterpoise the inferior ones." This analogical comparison can help us understand the biblical distinctions in the senses of God's will as reflecting complex motives, and also encourage us to trust him when faced with the problem of evil in the world.

    p.s. Incidently, I didn't mean to suggest that Samson was of the sort that I described in my previous post. That's one of the shortcomings of trying to communicate through this medium. As you know, there are some readers out there who do have a difficultly making the careful distinctions, and thus fall prey to serious errors.

    The reason why I expounded on the will of God was because of this comment by Samson in his argument:

    "If God is not willing that any person perish, then what? No one would ever perish!"

    That argument assumes that God's will is always efficacious. That assumes that the only real will of God is the decretal will. The entire argument collapses if one observes the classic and genuinely Calvinsitic distinction between the secret and revealed will of God.

    One could ask Samson: "If you think the will of God is always efficacious according to your argument concerning universalism in this post, then how do you avoid universalism yourself, seeing that Jesus said that whosoever does the will of his Father would enter heaven?"


    NKJ Matthew 7:21 " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

    If the will of God is always efficacious, then everyone is doing the will of God, and will thus be saved. The reason why this is bogus is because Jesus is obviously referring to the preceptive will of God, and to the fact that the regenerate are those seeking to obey God's commandments.

    Also, the argument assumes a false dilemma. That is, that the only options in interpreting the text are the High Calvinistic/decretal interpretation, or the Arminian interpretation. There's no tertium quid.

    John even begins his argument with another false dilemma. He says, "The first thing we notice is that the subject of the passage is not salvation but the second coming of Christ. Peter is explaining the reason for the delay in Christ’s second coming – He is still coming, and will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (v. 10)."

    He says it "is not salvation but the second coming of Christ" that is in view. Even the simplest reader of the text can see that BOTH salvation AND the second coming are in view. Peter speaks of God desiring "repentance" so that some do not "perish." What is that but a focus on salvation? Later on his in argumentation, Samson will argue that the verse is saying that God wants to save the elect. John says, "Christ’s second coming has been delayed so that all the elect can be gathered in (Tony: i.e. saved). God is not willing that any of the elect should perish, but that all of them come to repentance." (Tony: i.e. be saved) How then can he say the verse does not have salvation in view? He shows that he is confused from the beginning of his comments.

    I could point out more fallacies, but am I allowed to do that here? I am not attacking John personally, but dealing with the logic of his arguments.

    Just a few comments interspersed with yours Tony - your comments are in quotes, my replies are in bold.

    Firstly, in following the discussion in the comments here, I am very much aware that not all reformed people interpret these verses in the exact same way. I trust we will all extend grace to others where we disagree, and believe the best of one another.

    Tony writes: "The reason why I expounded on the will of God was because of this comment by Samson in his argument:

    "If God is not willing that any person perish, then what? No one would ever perish!"

    That argument assumes that God's will is always efficacious."

    In response, I would say "no it does not." Those reading an article in this kind of format should not assume that just because something is not said, it is therefore something unknown to the writer. Again, there is a limit as to what can be considered a 'normal' size posting of a blog article, and because of that, I feel that some allowances need to be made by the blog reader. Those writing articles should understand that most people don't want to read a 25-30 minute dissertation on a topic in a blog article format, and because of this, some things must be left out. This principle is true even in a book format, but it is especially true when writing a blog article. Choosing what to include and what to leave out is a difficult task. Along with folk like Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. James White and many others, I don't see the necessity of seeing this particular verse (2 Peter 3:9) as merely describing the prescriptive will of God.

    "That assumes that the only real will of God is the decretal will."

    You assume that I have no knowledge of either the decretive or the prescriptive will of God, or at least, if I do know of them, you assume that I do not believe in them. Such would not be the case.

    "The entire argument collapses if one observes the classic and genuinely Calvinsitic distinction between the secret and revealed will of God."

    "entire argument collapses???" - making an assertion doesn't make it so Tony. It would seem then that your assumption is that unless someone sees 2 Peter 3:9 as merely talking about the prescriptive will of God, they have no argument whatsoever. I beg to differ.

    "John even begins his argument with another false dilemma."

    another?? Have you established the first one?

    "He says, "The first thing we notice is that the subject of the passage is not salvation but the second coming of Christ. Peter is explaining the reason for the delay in Christ’s second coming – He is still coming, and will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (v. 10)."

    He says it "is not salvation but the second coming of Christ" that is in view. Even the simplest reader of the text can see that BOTH salvation AND the second coming are in view. Peter speaks of God desiring "repentance" so that some do not "perish." What is that but a focus on salvation?"

    At this point in the article I was stressing the CONTEXT of the verse - even writing out the eight verses prior to the one in question or under discussion. (2 Peter 3:9).

    "Later on his in argumentation, Samson will argue that the verse is saying that God wants to save the elect. John says, "Christ’s second coming has been delayed so that all the elect can be gathered in (Tony: i.e. saved). God is not willing that any of the elect should perish, but that all of them come to repentance." (Tony: i.e. be saved) How then can he say the verse does not have salvation in view?"

    Can you show me where I said that Tony? I didn't say the verse does not have salvation in view. I was talking about the subject or context of the passage. Obviously the verse under discussion IS talking about salvation.

    "He shows that he is confused from the beginning of his comments."

    I would suggest that it is you who have misunderstood me.

    "I could point out more fallacies, but am I allowed to do that here?"

    I have not detected an obvious fallacy (as yet) by your arguments Tony.

    John

    A converted semi-pelagian about 10 yrs. ago to the "doctrines of grace". Yes, context is the answer. An understanding of all the verses used by those of free will belief will be found in John Owen's famous treatise "The Death of Death In The Death of Christ". It will benefit though to read it more than once. Job 42:2

    Thank you so much for this commentary! I have recently been studying the doctrine of election, and it came down to this particular verse that picked my brain. I have been learning that whenever the Bible says "all" or "world", it's not literally speaking of every single person on earth. Again, thank you so much; this REALLY helped me out!!

    It just occurred to me to look up the word "promise." And I discovered there is additional evidence leading us to believe that this verse is referring to the elect. If you look to Hebrews 9:15, you'll see what I mean. I will quote it here for convenience:

    "For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."

    If it is "those who have been called" who receive the promise, and if 2 Pet 3:9 is talking about the same promise, then that would be a powerful argument that this is referring to the chosen of God (elect). You would not even have to argue that much over the "you" and "all," although you could find the answer there.

    You guys are waaaay off. Of course Peter is speaking to the elect (you). However, he is telling the elect that God wishes ALL (literally) to be saved. Is there a problem with that context? Not at all if you take an unbiased viewpoint. However, if you take a predetermined Calvinistic viewpoint, then you won't understand the precise context. Also, God doesn't make us robots. Think about this... it is clearly also God's will that no one sin, yet "all sin" (Rom.3:23)Now God clearly could make it impossible for us to sin, yet He does not do so, even though it is His will that we do not (e.g., 1Jn.2:1). Similarly He could force all to believe but clearly He does not do so (2Thes.3:2). Instead, He puts us in this world to believe if we so choose and leaves us here after we do so in order to test our faith and demonstrate the quality of that faith to the whole world. It's sad how you guys make a God who created mankind in His image and sent His Son to die only for a few chosen ones and created many to suffer an eternity in hell.

    Thanks for that! Have in the last week suddenly been awakened by the Holy Spirit to the doctrine I always believed in but never really appreciated, namely that of election. Your article was helpful in removing what was a bit of a stumbling block in further grasping the glory of God's electing grace. Thanks.

    Thanks for this post, it is very clear and concise. I believe that Matthew 18 is parallel to 2 Peter. Jesus likens a person who humbles himself and believes on him to a little child. He goes on to say in verse 14 "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." It is his sheep, not goats or wolves that God is "not willing" to let perish.

    you need to read you bible again.God's word is not to be taken out of context is correct but whose context man's or the HOLY SPIRIT Which helps us to understand scripture..The BIBLE Clearly states that in Isaiah 28:20 For precept must be upon precept ,precept upon precept .line upon line here a little and there a little.

    how can you study to shew thyself approved unto God a workmen that needeth not be ashamed .... when you are using a faulty BIBLE.I mean a king james bible is the infallible inerrant inspired and PRESERVED WORD OF GOD.All others are perv-version which take out ,leave out or change the word of GOD into a LIE.KJV Stand thetest of time for 400 years why change GOD DOES NOT CHANGE NEITHER SHOULD HIS WORD NOT ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE Remember Revelation 22:18-19 the King James Bible has a built in dictionary which helps you interpret scripture correctly and understand archaic and Words that people say theydon't understand ..THE HOLY SPIRIT Helps you to understand by Changing the BIBLE You in essence saying I Don't believe GODS WORD SO I Will change it to fit what I believe.that is Blasphemy..and where it says ,many times that GODS WORD IS Preserved by changing it to fit your understanding is saying I don't trust the Holy Spirit to guide me,and I don't beleive God preserved his word is what you are saying.

    Keith,

    The book by Dr. James White called "The King James Only Controversy" thoroughly refutes the claims you make in your comments, available here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/The-King-James-Only-Controversy-Can-You-Trust-the-Modern-Translations-p-18404.html

    While I appreciate John's thoughts on this scripture, there is a mix up in interpretation on his behalf. I find that scripture is straight forward and when I have to give my interpretation on it I am generally wrong. Here John is wrong. This scripture holds the keys to why John Calvin missed the point, and why my brothers in Christ continue to do so.
    To get this passage right we have to see it with preacher eyes. How many time have you preached to the choir in order to inspire your church? Here Peter writes and wants to church to convey the message. "don't let this escape you.." Carry it with you, take it with you, preach it out. A dividers of the Word we have to keep it in context...and not in context of a theological thought we want to support. God wants none to perish, just like, "For God so loved the ______ (world) that He gave His only begotten Son that none should ________ (perish), but have everlasting life." Let's look at scripture for scripture, instead of for our views to be supported. Much love brothers!

    Obviously I disagree Kyle. To wrip a statement out of its context and not follow the pronouns to examine who is being referred to is to run roughshod over the text and leaves us with a false interpretation.

    Calvanists are so lazy, they just want an excuse not to evangelize.....

    Mindy Mie,

    I am not sure you were trying to be funny, but you did make me laugh. The whole missions movement was started by "Calvinists" not Calvanists. The only reason evangelism is ever going to be effective is because God has elected certain individuals.

    "And all who were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48)

    May God have mercy on you all. When the Holy Spirit says "all," He means all. If He had meant "some" or the "elect" or the "chosen," surely He would have used one of those words.
    Furthermore, the "all" in question cannot refer to believers since believers, by definition, cannot perish. They have passed from death to life. Also, the Greek word translated as "you" in verse 9 should really be translated as "us." So what you have is an address to believers explaining that God has prolonged the Day of the Lord because he wants people everywhere to hear the gospel, repent and be saved.

    Correction: not "prolonged" the Day of the Lord, but rather, "postponed."


    May God have mercy on you all. When the Holy Spirit says "all," He means all. If He had meant "some" or the "elect" or the "chosen," surely He would have used one of those words.
    Furthermore, the "all" in question cannot refer to believers since believers, by definition, cannot perish. They have passed from death to life. Also, the Greek word translated as "you" in verse 9 should really be translated as "us." So what you have is an address to believers explaining that God has postponed the Day of the Lord because he wants people everywhere to hear the gospel, repent and be saved.

    "If God is not willing that any person perish, then what? No one would ever perish!"

    Only if you presume what you are trying to prove, namely that humans aren't free to reject the gospel! You are confused. You think sovereignty precludes permission. You've traded vain philosophy for the plain meaning of Scripture.

    Hi Scott,

    I am sorry you felt the need to use such emotive language "God have mercy on you all." That was not in any way necessary.

    You are grossly mistaken. You say "Furthermore, the "all" in question cannot refer to believers since believers, by definition, cannot perish. They have passed from death to life." Believers have, but that is when they believe.. before they put their faith in Christ, they lie under the wrath of God. Such was the condition of all the elect born into this world (Ephesians 2:1-3).

    2 Peter 3 teaches us that the reason Christ has not yet returned is because there were more of His elect to come into the fold. That's why He did not return yesterday - the full number of His elect have not yet come to faith and repentance. Christ's second coming may seem delayed (to some) but God is being very longsuffering toward us ("you," "us," "beloved") for He is not willing that any perish but all come to repentance.

    He is writing to the elect and addressing them in this text. Despite your hostiile rhetoric you present nothing that negates this obvious fact.

    The elect are not justified by election but by putting their faith in Christ. All need to come to Christ in repentance and faith to be saved. Election simply explains who will do so (John 6:37; Acts 13:48).

    Sadly it is you who is confused Scott. Man by nature will always reject the gospel unless God changes the disposition of his heart.

    so i got a question. if the elect is in the simple course of the events of God's plan both unconditionally elected and irresistably drawn to believe, then why would God have need of 'longsuffering' or patience that looks to us like slackness lest any of them perish without the opportunity to believe?

    Michael,

    I am trying to understand your question. Who is it who do not have the opportunity to believe?

    All have the opportunity to believe but because of man's disposition against God NONE will not do so unless God graciously intervenes. So though all have the opportunity and actually are commanded to believe, only the elect will actually do so.

    John 6:37 - "All (not some) that the Father gives Me will come to Me" Jesus said.

    Acts 13:48 - "and all (not some) who were appointed to eternal life believed."

    You conclude with the statement:
    "God is not willing that any of the elect should perish, but that all of them come to repentance." If that's really what is meant by the passage, why didn't Peter write it that way in the first place? Why didn't he say what he really meant instead of making the passage appear to support Arminian theology? For that matter, why is so much of Scripture so vague in saying what Calvinists believe? For example, why doesn't John 3:16 say "For God so loved the 'elect' that He gave His only begotten Son?" Why doesn’t John 1:29 say, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the ‘elect’?”
    Why in John 4:42 and 1 John 4:14 isn’t Jesus referred to as the Savior of the ‘elect?’ See also John 6:33 and John 8:12.
    Why doesn’t 1 Timothy 2:4-6 read, “Who will have ‘some’ men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and ‘the elect’, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for the ‘elect’?”
    Why doesn’t 1 Timothy 4:10 say that believers are the sum total of those God is the Savior of instead of saying believers are only one portion of those God is the Savior of? “. . . . God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” Shouldn’t the verse say “only of believers” rather than “especially of believers” if they are the only ones He is the Savior of?
    Why doesn’t Hebrews 2:9 say “. . . . He might taste death for ‘the elect’?”
    Why doesn’t 1 John 2:2 say that Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of ‘other believers’? rather than saying ‘the whole world’?”
    Why are all these writers so vague about who Jesus is the Savior of? Why do the Scriptures not clearly state what Calvinism teaches?

    Gil,

    Because many people refuse to even consider the need for serious study of a text in its context, traditions reign supreme. I know this because this was true of me. But just as you would wish for your words to be considered in light of 21st century meanings and in context, so God, the Holy Spirit desires that we take the time to study the word of God with care and earnest attention - even to verses which either come before or immediately follow a text. The fact that it is easy to misconstrue original intent because we isolate verses, does not mean the writers of the New testament need to be scolded because we feel they could have been clearer.

    I have dealt with every one of the verses you mention at various times on this blog in their context, and biblical background, and none of the verses you mention deny the doctrines of grace.

    im a non calvanist because the gospel is simple an I doubt very very much if god just chooses people an the others the majority from birth have no will it seems or no chance. all means all. an god is not a repector of people otherwise why did he need to send jesus at all. makes no sense. all over the bible it talks about people who refused to believe and many who accepted. why did go put a tree that adam n eve should not eat. calvanism to me confuses an if the bible was dropped on an island with a million people they would never even see 1 iota of calvanism but jesus words simple and clear. TRUST IN ME by my words and my deeds an I will give you eternal life.tell that thief on the cross about calvanism. jesus did it all an if any trust in him there saved. period.

    Robert,

    With all due respect, I believe it is YOU who is confused rather than the Calvinism you reject. I see no point in refuting each false statement you make about Calvinism above as you seem to have already made up your mind, however, there are enough straw men errected there to have quite the bonfire.

    How is Calvin's God any different from the Nazis, who would go down a row of Jews with a pistol and shoot some and let others live? And why are you removing my comment?

    Tom,

    I am not sure if your comment was a genuine/serious question or not. However to ascribe "Calvin's God" (as you call Him) the characteristics of a Nazi criminal just shooting people is highly offensive and totally and seriously misunderstands/misrepresents the Calvinist position.

    The whole world defies God and are by choice, His sworn enemies. For God to leave some in their hostile rebellion of Him does them no injustice at all. Neither is it unjust but instead an unspeakable mercy, for God to open blind eyes and reveal the beauty of Christ and His gospel to others. In speaking of Divine election, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 9: 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

    The acts of the Nazi you describe is criminal and abhorrent. The acts of God in Sovereign election leaves some to Divine justice, while others to Divine mercy, but absolutely no one receives injustice. See this short video for further explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRGMp0md5CE

    I am absolutely serious, which is why I put Calvin right along with Darwin in his delusion and deluded followers. Calvinism makes God a Monster. What's wrong with Calvinism? 1) It makes faith a work, which it is not (ever read Romans or Galatians). 2) It removes personal responsibility, which both old and new testaments are filled with. 3) It makes many very plain scriptures have an ethereal, underpinned meaning - John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:35-36, many more. God is certainly soverign, and He soverignly allows free will - ie, Adam, Eve, etc. Thank you for addressing my comment - I really appreciate that.

    One more thing. This whole idea of "Everybody deserves hell, isn't God so wonderful to CHOOSE a few to not go there" is totally abhorrent to me and to Scripture. God chooses to let people exercise their wills in choosing Him or not. That is why those who don't are "without excuse" - Romans 1:20. If they have to be regenerated first - how can they ever choose, and they have an excuse. Thanks again for responding to me.

    I praise God that He has compassion on those who raise the empty empty empty hands of faith and ask Him to save them. He is gracious and compassionate and extends His offer of salvation to ALL, ALL, ALL. Thank you, Jesus!

    Your reply to Michael - "All have the opportunity to believe but because of man's disposition against God NONE will not do so unless God graciously intervenes. So though all have the opportunity and actually are commanded to believe, only the elect will actually do so." This is really gobbledy-gook mumbo-jumbo. How can you even make a statement like this? So men are commanded to believe but only the ELECT CHOSEN will do so. How can a JUST God command people to do something that they are incapable of doing?

    Tom,

    Obviously further interchange with you would not be fruitful. You do not ask questions to seek understanding (even though you clearly misunderstand our position). I suggest therefore that we end the discussion at this point.

    Just two quotes by way of response:

    "After giving a brief survey of these doctrines of sovereign grace, I asked for questions from the class. One lady, in particular, was quite troubled. She said, 'This is the most awful thing I've ever heard! You make it sound as if God is intentionally turning away men and women who would be saved, receiving only the elect.' I answered her in this vein: 'You misunderstand the situation. You're visualizing that God is standing at the door of heaven, and men are thronging to get in the door, and God is saying to various ones, 'Yes, you may come, but not you, and you, but not you, etc.' The situation is hardly this. Rather, God stands at the door of heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction towards hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of sinners out of hell who otherwise would have been there. Were it not for election, heaven would be an empty place, and hell would be bursting at the seams. That kind of response, grounded as I believe that it is in Scriptural truth, does put a different complexion on things, doesn't it? If you perish in hell, blame yourself, as it is entirely your fault. But if you should make it to heaven, credit God, for that is entirely His work! To Him alone belong all praise and glory, for salvation is all of grace, from start to finish." - Mark Webb

    "I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will. Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    Thank you. I understand your position. I still affirm that it is not Scriptural and I don't agree with it. Thank you again for responding to me.

    Tom,

    As to your final question - here is the answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OzRdS_tdmAU

    You say that you do not agree. I say "so what?" Rejection is not refutation.

    yes

    This is a verse about Christ's second coming not salvation. My thought was if "Free Will" means salvation is up to man to make the final decision, how does God know when to send Christ back for His people? How does He know when that final decision is made? Since he chose all the elect before the foundation of the world then he knows when the last one will make that decision, because the decision was His not man. Does this make any sense to anyone else??

    Gf

    Why is it such a horrible thing to want all men to have a chance at salvation? What do you tell a person who believes they are predestined for hell? What do you say to a person who has prayed and read the Bible and fasted and studied spiritual books and yet for some reason, the Bible doesn't work for them the the way it says it will? what do you say to a person who wants to be a follower of Christ and who wants to be one who was chosen for salvation but yet can never connect with God? What do you say to a person who has tried their entire life for peace joy and freedom but yet has never come into any of those things? What do you say to a person who has never come in to the rest of God even though they have strived for it? Do you dare tell them that they are predestined for hell? it just doesn't seem to make much sense that some people would be predestined for heaven but yet we still have to go out and find him and present salvation to them. It just doesn't make sense. Why can't you see how unproductive it is to fight the theology of predestination? if predestination is real, than those who are appointed for death have no hope regardless of how hard they try or how hard they want it. they might as well just make the most of their life and try to live long. If predestination is wrong, then this theology could cause people to give up on their walks with God. It could cause people to believe that they are predestined for hell since all of their efforts have been seemingly futile so far. If you say predestination is real but it isn't, then you could cause people to leave the faith. do you really want that blood on your hands? Predestination could be real but you have to know that you could be wrong. This is a very destructive theology.

    If the All does not refer to Gods desire for all man to repent, which not all men will because He does not force his will on us, then the all can only refer to the immediate audience that was being written to. It cannot refer to people today. When the many scriptures say whosoever, all, etc. it is referring to mankind who God created for relationship of love. It is not a God of love that chooses people to go to hell before they are born. I am not a universalist. But scriptures do show that Christ died for all to be able to be saved.

    The below passage is addressed to that group. But, I believe at the end of 3:9 God used the words "ANY" and "ALL" in reference to the world.

    The verses use "YOU" and "BELOVED" up until 3:9. If 3:9 was just to that group, "YOU" and "BELOVED" would have been used again.


    This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.... 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. 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.

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