Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Taz.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Does 2 Peter 3:9 Really Teach That God Wants to Save Every Person?

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).

On it's face, this looks pretty cut and dried. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That is what it says. And if this were all it said, it would be case closed. But when I was in school, I learned that the first three rules of Biblical interpretation were "Context, context, context." In context, this verse says something very different that what people make it say.

2 Peter 3 talks about the state of those who deny the coming judgment of God. Let me break this passage down in context and show you what I mean.

In verses 1 and 2 of this chapter Peter tells his readers that is this second epistle he wants to remind them of what had been spoken by the prophets and the apostles. Now this is what he wanted them to remember.

First of all "that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation." (2 Pet. 3:3b-4). Notice ... there would be "scoffers" who deny the coming judgment. They say that everything (in creation) is continuing just as it always had. The sun rises and sets. People are born and die. Death and taxes have not gone away. Everything seems to just keep on keeping on. So they ask "Where is the promise of his coming?"

Peter assures his readers that the judgment is coming. Peter says in verse 5a that these scoffers are willingly ignorant of the things of which they speak. Because God created the earth, and life was going on as normal then, and that world was destroyed by water. And just as that world was destroyed by water, this present world, the world that now is, is reserved to be destroyed by fire against the day of judgment of ungodly men.

But these scoffers scoff because things keep on going as they always have. Time seems to keep on stretching out just as it always has. So Peter adds this next verse to remind us that God does not see time like we humans do. "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8). No, God doesn't see time like we do. Be that as it may, why is God withholding his hand of judgment?

Because the Lord is not slack concerning his promise. What promise? He is longsuffering or patient towards "usward", not willing that any should perish (the context supports the fact that those he is not willing should perish are those included in the group called "usward"), but that all should come to repentance (and again, those God wants to come to repentance are those who God does not want to perish, again ... the "uswards" in the first part of the verse). So, the proper interpretation of this passage hinges on identifying who are the "uswards" talked about in this verse.

The following verses go on to affirm that when all the uswards come to repentance then the judgment of God is sure to follow.

So, what is God's promise that he is not slack about? This verse is telling us that God is patient to see that his promise comes to a full fulfillment. So, first of all, the passage cannot be teaching that God wants to save every single human, because if God is going to bring his promise to a complete fulfillment he has failed in light of the fact that people go to hell. And very few groups claimed that God has promised to save every single human. And all the groups who do affirm that are considered to be outside historic orthodox Christianity. But God has told us about who he will save.

He will save his people (Matt. 1:21), those who believe (John 3:15-16), those the Father has give to him (Christ)(John 6:37), all that the Father draws to him (John 6:44), his sheep (John 10:11), those that the Father has given him (John 17:2), as many as are ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48), his Church (Eph. 5:25), and other verses. If God has made a promise that he is being patient to fulfill, it is to his elect people.

This passage teaches us about two groups of people, the scoffers who deny the coming judgment, and "us" who are preparing ourselves for the judgment that we know is coming. The group that God has made a promise to, that he is being patient to fulfill, is to the "us" group, not to the scoffers.

So what is our conclusion? God is not unfaithful about his promise. Therefore, God is patient towards "us." He is not willing that any of "us" should perish, but rather that all of "us" should come to repentance and therefore, have everlasting life. And who has the promise of everlasting life? John 3:16 says that everyone who believes .... believers ... no matter what nation or people they are from, they will be saved from God's judgment and have everlasting life. It is not the scoffers, but the believers who have the promises of God for life in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have to conclude that 2 Peter 3:9 does NOT teach that God wants to save every single human being but that God has promised to save believers, and that is a promise he is keeping. He is holding off his final fiery judgment until his promise is kept. Because in the end, God cannot deny his word.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post...

What church do you pastor in Springfield? My family is from the Ozarks... I miss it greatly. We lived in Springfield, Nixa, and Mtn. Home Arkansas.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



6:11 AM  
Anonymous Pastor Jeff said...

Okay, I'm starting to get it.

3:13 PM  
Blogger john said...

msvoboda, I pastor Victory Baptist Church in Springfield. It is a small and young congregation. But they desire both the milk and tne meat of the word of God, so I have high hopes for their future faithfulness to Christ.

Dr. Foltz, thank you for that alternate view. It is one I had not considered before.

May you both be blessed.


8:13 AM  
Blogger Baptist Girl said...

Amen John,
Well said.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, You're most welcome. we must ever keep in mind while a verse may have a Historical, or, Doctrinal meaning, it may also have many applications. Example;The
7 churches in the Book of the Revelation.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Greg Alford said...


I think you are correct… the proper interpretation of this passage hinges on identifying who are the "uswards" talked about in this verse.

In the same manner the promise in John 3:16 is not given to the “world”, but the promise is given to the believers throughout the world: “whosoever believeth”. It is a promise that believers shall not perish but have everlasting life, whosoever they may be.

I once had a young man in my office that was struggling against the doctrine of election ask me if I could identify the elect for him. I said well of course I can identify the elect, I happen to know where there are some right now. I led him to the sanctuary and opened the back door just a little bit and said “peek in there… some of the elect are gathering for worship right now.” He looked at me with a sheepish grin and I said, “Yes, it’s that simple – Believers are the Elect, or if you prefer, the Elect are Believers.”

Grace Always,

12:59 PM  

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