“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, [a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 [a] Some manuscripts say on account of you.
How can we figure out what this verse means?
- The most important thing is to keep it in context. In the verse itself “you” refers to those belonging to the Lord. The letter is addressed, “To those who have received a faith equal to ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:1. God does not will that “any” of the “you” who have “received a faith equal to ours” perish. Nor will those perish, who will receive this faith as God has decreed according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:5). This will come to pass because God will bring to completion what he started in them. And what he will start in those future generations like ours. His work of grace and timing are always in perfect harmony as you will see below in the life of Saul who became Paul.
- The greek word pantas used for “all” does not mean every single person in the world. A quick word study throughout the New Testament will prove this to be true. Such as in Matthew 10:22 when Jesus uses the same word saying, “everyone will hate you.” Not one follower of Christ is hated by every single person in the world.
- Even if not a Calvinist, most theologians agree that God is all knowing. Therefore he knows who will and will not reach repentance. Whether that repentance is the initial response for salvation, or repentance in the sanctification process caused by God. Caused by his loving discipline that produces holiness in those who belong to him (See Hebrews 12).
- Those who reject absolute monergism, as the means by which a person is born again, claim that God does not force his will on anyone. Monergism teaches that without man’s cooperation ONLY God saves, regenerates, and gets all the glory. Man then responds with repentance from the state of their new life which has been received from him. Just as the “received faith” in 2 Peter 1:1 comes from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). There are plenty of Scripture references that refute the idea that God does not force his will on anyone.
“declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” Isaiah 46:10
“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Romans 9:16 (This entire chapter says God forces his will on people, even before they are born or have done any good or evil)
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me,…” Galatians 1:15-16
- Based on the fact that God is all knowing, he is not fraudulently being patient (long suffering), refraining from judgement, for people that he knows for a fact will not be saved. This should be understood even by those who hold the false perception that he will not force his will on anyone. If he knows they will not be saved, and he isn’t going to force his will on anyone, he cannot be patiently waiting for something that is never going to happen. He is God!
- One might rightly make the application that the text infers repentance is not automatic. The reason it is not automatic is because everyone is born in sin as enemies of God, until he decides to reveal the Son to those he atoned for by his grace. It is not automatic because they cannot repent until he replaces their wicked heart with a new heart at their spiritual birth (regeneration). Man cannot “see” the kingdom of God until the new birth takes place. God is not waiting on man, man must wait on God.
“was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” Galatians 1:16
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-17
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,…” Titus 3:5
“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:7
- God is being patient and withholding judgement on earth because he is working in the lives of those who belong to him to complete what he started, those who have “received a faith equal to ours.” And he is being long suffering for all kinds of people (pantas), Jews and Gentiles, that he specifically atoned for and provided sanctification for. Even those who have yet to be born–because he is not willing that they perish. God doesn’t hope for things he knows will not come to pass, he wills the things he has decreed in Eternity as stated above in Isaiah. When Jesus died on the cross, he no more atoned for the sins of those already in hell, than for the ones who would later be there. It is important to understand that Jesus did not merely provide an opportunity for people to be forgiven, he actually atoned for them. He did not only pay the price for their forgiveness, his body was offered for their sanctification:
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10
All Scripture must be understood in light of the specific and overall context of the Bible itself.