Not Willing That Any Should Perish

Again, I was listening to another excellent sermon by Voddie Baucham yesterday and he pointed out the falsehood that so many use in their attempt to destroy the doctrine of election from 2 Peter 3:8-9.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Using verse 9 alone, many make the argument that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. They see it as support for their position that only the only people who go to hell are those who refuse to turn to Christ in repentance.


This is one of those classic Calvinism and Arminian debates that has raged for hundreds of years and there are a lot of underlying currents to it. Some of the questions that many have when it comes to this subject of election is: Is God still good if He can send good people to hell? If our salvation is completely up to God, then can God really send those who reject Him to hell? What about man’s free will?

You can see that there is a lot riding on this one verse for those who hold to Arminian views of Scripture. They see that salvation is really up to us making the decision to follow Christ of our own free will. The problem with this is the description we are given of ourselves before we trusted Christ does not bode well for free will at all. Plus, free will, as defined by Arminians is never supported in Scripture. What we see is that no one seeks God (Romans 3:10). We turn away from God and want nothing to do with Him. It is by His grace that He causes us to become born again first, then we see the wisdom, joy and love that is found in Christ when we turn to Him and believe. Even the faith we have to believe in Him for salvation, is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Verse 9

The real problem for Arminians and using verse 9 to say that God is not willing that any, meaning all without exception, is that the book of first Peter is not written to “all without exception.” It is very specifically written to those called by Christ. Peter is writing to believers who have trust in Him for salvation. More to the point, Peter is writing to those who are being mocked for their belief in the Second Coming of Christ. There are those saying: “Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter is writing to assure them that Christ is coming, but in His timing, not our or the scoffers.

It is in this context that he writes:

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

His patience in returning is not slack at all, and He is patient because He is not willing for any of “us” to perish. Who are those represented by “us” (“you” in NU). It is the elect, the ones who are destined to come to know Christ throughout all times, not just the days in which Peter writes, but in our day as well.

Baucham used an excellent illustration at this point to help explain the verse. He said imagine what it was like for the Christians living through World War II. They were wondering the entire time, “is this the end?” The answer was “no” because God is still being patient with “us” or the elect in seeing that none of the elect would perish. For those living during that horrible war, this verse was true because those who read this today, had not yet come to know Christ. God is patient toward the elect, making sure that none of them would perish. This is why Christ has not yet returned.

The Arminians use this verse incorrectly to prove their point in that they only take verse 9 and divorce it from the rest of the letter. You cannot do this and be faithful to the text. What so few realize is that when it comes to the letters in the New Testament, they are not written to world or non-believers. These letters written are written to those who do believe, the church, the elect, those whoare professing Christians. The Bible is not God’s love letter to humanity, but God’s love letter to His people.

Now please don’t take this too far. I’m not saying we cannot use these letters to reach the lost or preach to the lost. How many people have come to know the LORD over the years because of letters like the Epistle to the Romans? But the context of these letters is for and to those who believe. That is why Peter starts his first letter:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

What I am saying is that when it comes to developing our theology, what we know about God and our salvation, we must read the verses in context, and not strip them out in order to make our point. This is what many do when it comes to the doctrine of election. Although, I must confess, the last argument I heard from an Arminian against election was rather original. When I pointed out the election spoken of in Ephesians 1, he replied: “Well, that only applies to the original recipients of the letter.” Gee, how convenient. I never had the opportunity to hear his proof text for this level of exegesis, or to ask him exactly how we know which parts of the letters apply to us and which parts don’t. Probably a good thing.

The point to all this is that God is not willing that any of His elect should perish. This is why He is slow in His coming. Thank goodness. Had He been hasty in His return and we would not have had time to trust in Christ.

One last point, are there any verses that support what I’m saying?

John 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

John 10:38-39 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”


3 thoughts on “Not Willing That Any Should Perish

  1. Pingback: Roundup | Eternity Matters

  2. But here’s the part that continues to bother me…

    But first I have to say that I do not stress over this debate between the Calvinist types and the Arminian types. But what bothers me is the space in between the elect and those not yet believers. How does one go from one who does not seek God to being one who is called by/through His grace? It would seem that the answer is conveniently that those who come to God, by golly, obviously were drawn to Him by His grace.

    Yet, I would suggest that this possibility is not silly: that by whatever means, either through influence of peers or personal stumbling into a state by which one decides to really see what Scripture teaches, even if to find fault, that one can be drawn to God. That is to say, at some point, it all makes sense and one decides that indeed, it does so henceforth one believes. One cannot expect to be drawn without some means by which one might identify directly or suppose is a cause of one’s conversion.

    Put another way, for some, the mere logic of Christian teaching could be enough to turn them to God. For another, a life experience might do it. For another, something else.

    In any case, I can’t imagine that there is no point at which some willful decision or choice is made.

    I hope I’ve described my confusion well enough to be understood.


    • I understand what you are saying and a lot of people hold that position. We are not saying that God does not use ordinary means to draw people to Himself. What we are saying is that by the time someone “chooses” to trust in Christ, belief has proceeded this because of the Spirit’s work to change the heart in that person. Otherwise, the person would not seek God in the first place.

      So yes, I made a decision to believe in Jesus for my salvation. But the Spirit had already moved through ordinary means, the influence of a cousin, the Bible, etc., and the conversion of my heart from stone to flesh.

      The real difference between the two positions is that Calvinists are monergist in their view. The One working on the none believer is the Spirit. We are not synergist, working together with Spirit to bring about our own conversions.

      Hope that helps.


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