II Peter 3:9
A certain fundamentalist website claims that Calvinism can be defeated by one Bible verse. In fact, I think they stated that every point of Calvinism can be destroyed by this one verse. I read their vitriolic rhetoric and light bulbs started flashing: “Challenge Accepted!” The verse that they held up and out of context was 2 Peter 3:9. Let’s take a look and see what it really has to say.
First, let us gain a little bit of context for the verse. II Peter 3:7-9 says, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for, 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 fire 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
The matter of context is of great importance in this passage. While verse 9 talks about repentance, the overall theme is eschatological. The eschaton – the final day – will come. The Lord has been patient, but there will come an appointed day when the anger of the Lord is unleashed in unprecedented form. The only thing similar to the kind of wrath that the world will know may be the story of Noah. Earlier, this passage alludes to just that fact. God destroyed the world through water once, but He will not do it again; thus, the rainbow. He is going to destroy the world through fire in the future. End time cataclysmic destruction and then re-creation is a fact, the fact in which this verse is set. II Peter is what we call an eschatological epistle. He is concerned with three major things: the glory of God, false teachers who will get worse and worse, and the return of Christ in judgment.
If verse nine occurred in the middle of a soteriological discussion in the book of Romans, concession to its harm to a Calvinistic interpretation would be unavoidable, but reformed soteriology is not the focus of this passage in any manner. Let us not make it say what it is not saying; this is the danger of proof-texting, something in which fundamentalists excel. We simply cannot ignore the setting of any verse of Scripture. Imagine, if you will, the phrase, “I killed Joe.” If I was seen leaving his house with a handgun you would conclude that I actually did murder him. However, if you saw me leaving the tennis court you would conclude that I badly beat him in our match. What if we ignored the context? A law enforcement officer might pick me up at an athletic competition. Context is crucial and must not be ignored.
So now take a look again at verse none.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The Lord is patient in that he has not yet brought about eschatological (final) judgement upon this world. He would be perfectly justified in doing so, but his patience has been shown in His not doing so yet. At any moment, this world would have deserved that. Adam and Eve themselves merited such wrath and yet He was patient. God allows this world to continue for a time. In that manner, His love is displayed even to the unregenerate, reprobate mind. The fact that unsaved people can live out their lives unhindered is due solely to the patience of God, patience rooted in love.
We need to explore the Greek word for “wishing”. It is boulomenos. An interesting word, it refers to an agreement between parties. In New Testamental usage, it refers to an agreement within the Godhead or Trinity. So the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have agreed to do something. For a while it is agreed that they will not do something – meaning judgement. This determination was made in eternity past before there even was a creation. Here is the rub: they agreed not to bring forth judgment yet for the sake of the elect. This is not the most common word used in the Bible for wishing something to happen or being willing. The usual word is thelw which carries the simplest meaning possible, but usage of boulomenos or boulomai is greatly significant. While they are roughly synonyms, their semantic ranges do have some differences. The patience of God is manifested because there is a set number of people that God has elected to save. Until that time has come, He will not rain forth judgment upon the world. If God judged the world in the past, then some who were elect would be destroyed. That would be counterproductive – contrary to God’s own will – and one of those things that He cannot do. God will hold off His full wrath on humanity til that point when His elective purposes are complete. Then and only then will full judgment come.
Think back if you will to Noah for the answer. God was going to bring judgement then as He will in the future. God elected to save out of humanity one family of people, He used the ark to save them. Once they were in the ark – a type of Christ – then the full judgment came. When every person who God has elected to salvation is fully in Christ, then (and only then) will he bring forth the final judgment of humanity. Therefore, this passage not only does not stand against reformed theology; rather, it proves it. Those who would site this verse only prove the case for God’s radical and complete sovereignty over all things.
II Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
While this verse is not soteriological, it does have implications in that direction. Our eschatology directly affects our soteriology; they cannot be separated. The lost can take from this passage the reality that God is in fact going to judge the world. They can do one of two things with that information. (1)They can enjoy the time they have left before death or judgment, or (2) if they are elect, they can repent and turn to Christ. Those of us who are elect, saved, and have repented, can take great comfort from this passage. Just as Noah was secure in the knowledge that he was inside the ark, we have security being in Christ. That is the great truth of this verse. As we are the elect – having been called by God and therefore repentant – God has been patient to spare the world for our sake. All of this occurs as Peter began this epistle’ to the glory of God.
Comments are always welcome.