Monday, May 9, 2011

Not willing that any should perish...2 Peter 3:9

Too often the non-Calvinist likes to quote the following verse:

[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.

(2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

as a prooftext against limited atonement, but they miss the forest for the trees, basically, because they're prooftexting.

How about we look at this passage a little close to see what Peter is really talking about here.

1) He speaks of a promise. What is this promise?

[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.
(2 Peter 3:4-7 ESV)

It seems to me that the promise being referred to in vs. 9 is revealed in vs. 4. If you go back earlier in the book, you'll see that Peter is warning against false teachers in the church. He's continuing this teaching by counteracting the false teachers who are claiming that Jesus is not coming back. Okay, so, we nailed down the promise part.

2) He is patient toward you. Since this letter is written to believers, then the you should be referring to them, obviously.

3) Therefore, since we have established the subject of this letter, further made referenced by the "you" in the previous statement, when it is written that not any should perish, it is actually referring to the believers. How can we say that? Well, in larger context, Peter is counteracting the false teachers that are telling the church that Jesus is not coming back and the believers are now worrying about perishing (this is implicit in the text). Peter is encouraging them by saying that Jesus will fulfill his promise in coming back and is not willing that any believer will perish and that all believers should reach repentance. If one reads into this the idea of nonbelievers, then will all nonbelievers reach repentance? That's ludicrous because then you have an outright statement of universalism. No, this passage is directly addressed to the church as referenced in the following:

[1:1] 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.

(2 Peter 1:1-2 ESV)

Don't excuse the passage as speaking of unlimited atonement because some preconceived idea, but examine in the context of the passage and the entire book. Context is king and too many people excise the context for an idea.