The Big Three (Part 1) - Understanding 2 Peter 3.9 in Context
In response to a recent post, I have had someone respond with one of "The Big Three" of Arminianism. These are typically the three verses quoted (out of context) by Arminians to defend a liberal human free will. So I have decided to write 3 blog posts dedicated to "The Big Three" to respond to them individually. This is my first.
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.
(1) The Subject of this Verse is Not Salvation.
The subject is not salvation, but the return and the timing of the Lord Jesus Christ. It also closes by dealing with repentance.
Explanation - This verse is not meant to build doctrine on salvation, but rather to build understanding that Jesus will indeed return, that He hasn't forgotten about His own, and He will return at the right time, being patient for those who will come to repent.
(2) Who is “You”?
Any true Bible student must begin an elementary study of this verse by asking "Who is 'you'?". Let me explain: The verse says that the Lord is patient toward "you". Arminians typically assume that the "you" is each and every single individual person of the world. However to assume this without any investigation is to gravely miss the point and disqualify any doctrinal meaning produced from their reading of this verse.
Explanation - Once read in context, the "you" that Peter is writing and specifying because plainly obvious. Let me show you:
2-a) 2 Peter 1.1 -
"Simon 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.
Who is Peter writing to? To those who HAVE obtained a faith of equal standing with OURS... of OUR God... Simply put - Peter is writing to born again Christians. He is not writing this to "the world" or to the lost. He is writing to the church in Christ.
(2-b) 2 Peter 3.1 -
"This is now the SECOND letter that I am writing to YOU, BELOVED.
Here we see 2 very important clues to the contextual audience that Peter intended the "you" of his audience to be. The first and most obvious one is the last word listed above "beloved". This is a reference used over and over in Scripture to define the children of God. The second clue is that Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3.1 that this is his second letter (hence it being called 2 Peter) that he has written to "you". So let's look at the first letter and see if we can find the exact audience that Peter is referring to:
(2-c) 1 Peter 1.1 -
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are ELECT"
Oops. There is that "Calvinistic word" that some don't care for - elect. Unfortunately its in the Bible many times... so let's deal with it. :) Let's stay focused here. Who is 2 Peter and 1 Peter's intended audience then? The elect, the beloved, to those who have obtained a faith!
Let's be clear here, Peter wrote both letters to born again Christians. The "you" in 2 Peter 3.9 are believers. So we could understand it to read like this: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward believers, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." That sheds new light on that verse, doesn't it?
(3) The Words "Any" and "All" then Must be Defined by the Prior "You".
This is fundamental and elementary to contextual comprehension of Biblical text. The first defines the following general references. Let me show you what I mean: "The Smith Family went jogging and then they all went to a movie." By saying "they all went to a movie" should you interpret that I meant the entire world? Or should proper grammar assume that "all" should refer to the previously mentioned group? Of course, you understood that to mean like this: "The Smith Family went jogging and then all of the Smith Family went to a movie." This is basic in grammatical understanding. Even any children's author would understand this basic and common rule for comprehension.
In other words, the "any" and "all" in the text of 2 Peter 3.9 must be understood by first defining the prior group known as "you". We have already established them as the elect. Therefore it literally means that the Lord is "not wishing that any of His elect should perish, but that all of His elect should reach repentance."
(4) Identify the Third Party Group Mentioned
We must also look at some terms that would further implore the exclusivity of the group that Peter is writing to. We find this in the verses just before 2 Peter 3.9...
(4-a) 2 Peter 3.3 -
"SCOFFERS will come in the last days with scoffing, following THEIR OWN sinful desires."
This is another group that is referenced that would not be included in the original "you" group. Peter specifies them as those who are scoffers, also known as mockers. We see that they are following their own (not God's) sinful desires. This sounds like unbelievers to me. So how do they scoff? How do they mock? And who do they mock? Let's find out...
(4-b) 2 Peter 3.4 - "THEY will say, "Where is the promise of His coming?..."
They are mocking Jesus, and they are mocking those who follow Jesus! They are calling God a liar. Paraphrasing their statement, they are saying He isn't coming back. They are just like in the days of Noah. Mocking the coming judgment that righteous men warn them of: "Jesus is coming back. The kingdom is near. Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Their response is scoffing that they might face a returning Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. These are not believers, nor are they the "you", the "any" nor the "all" that Peter was referencing directly in 2 Peter 3.9. No it is obvious that "THEY" are the scoffers referenced in the previous verse. They are mockers who only follow their own sinful desires.
(4-c) 2 Peter 3.5 -
"For THEY deliberately overlook this fact..."
Again, further proof of a 3rd party referred to not as "you" but as "they". This letter is not written to them, but to us and those who will soon be grafted into God's family and will find out that they are the "elect" of God chosen before the foundation of the world.
The "they" in v.5 is not the lost who will soon be saved, but the lost who always scoff and mock God. They overlook facts and obvious proof of God's existence and His promises.
(4-d) 2 Peter 3.7 -
"...being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the UNGODLY."
Let's be clear here. It doesn't get any more plain than this. This proves that the "scoffers" (also the "they" group in vv. 4&5) are not of the "you", "any", and "all" group in v.9. How can I be so sure? Simply by seeing that the judgment and destruction of the ungodly is coming for all those who scoff and mock our God and those who follow Him. How will God bring this about? Verse 7 tells us that by the same word that deluged the godless world in the flood of Noah's time will bring the ungodly of the last days are stored up for fire.
They are being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. Obviously this is the "they" group referred to above. These are scoffers, the mockers, those who deny and make fun of the return of our Lord. These are the ungodly who will never repent.
(5) "Pas" the Greek Please
This part may go over some heads a bit, but it is important. A brief study of the Greek word for "any" shows that it means "certain" and "some" many more times than it means "any" or "anyone". This is why we must define it based on the set group or people that was expressed to first. Another study in the Greek for the word "all" shows us that this is the Greek word "pas". This can be understood to mean "all" or "the whole" or "any". Again this then must be grounded based on the originator word used to define the group first. Pas typically is understood to mean "all types of people groups".
So to best understand the exegetical understanding intended for 2 Peter 3.9 we should read it will full understanding to mean:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as the unbelievers count slowness, but is patient toward His elect, not wishing that any of His chosen ones should perish, but that all of the elect should reach repentance.”
Child of God, I have good news for you today! God has postponed the return of Christ for you! The Lord has been patient toward you and I, so that we may have time to be saved. So we should not perish, but that we, who are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, should reach repentance.
Come quickly Lord Jesus!
Pastor Bob Turner, River of Life Church