For some reason — from the very beginning, in fact; check Genesis 3 — we have always decided that we know better than God.
We decided that God’s limits on us were oppressive. We rebel against our Creator and we sin. We blame Satan. We blame each other. We rationalize our actions and justify our sins. We argue with God about it. And in our sin, he clothes us. He covers us. He protects us and provides for us.
We kill our brother. And God puts a mark on us so we won’t be destroyed.
Every other chapter in Judges paints a dark picture of the rebellion of God’s people. They only do what’s right in their own eyes. They’re worshiping Ba’al; this is no little thing; this is full-blown apostacy. They forsake the Lord. They turn their backs on him. And God delivers them again and again and again. Even the deliverers are lousy. Barak refuses to obey God so Deborah gets the credit. Jepthah was a fugitive outlaw who sacrificed his daughter. I can’t find one redeeming thing about Samson. Even Gideon made a golden idol out of the people’s earrings. And God keeps rescuing his people. Again and again.
We see it all through the kings and the prophets: idolatry and rebellion and sin, pride and arrogance and defiance, doubt and disbelief. And, again, it’s been this way from the start.
After God makes a covenant with Noah, Noah gets drunk and naked. After the covenant with Abraham, Abraham panics and takes Hagar so he can have a son. God makes vows to Israel and they respond by building a golden calf before the words on the tablets can even set. After the covenant with David, the great king attempts to break all Ten Commandments in one weekend — and nearly does!
After 1,500 years of these adulteries, surely the Lord our God is going to sue for divorce. Certainly he’s going to destroy these ungrateful, unfaithful, stubborn people and start over. Or just quit.
No. The Lord our God sends Jesus. In an act of astonishing grace and incredible patience he sends his Son.
He. Sends. Jesus.
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” ~2 Peter 3:9
Our God is eternal. He always was and always will be. God is more than willing to let entire centuries go by, to let whole milennia pass, as he carefully works out his eternal purposes.
God is still patient. God is still waiting. He is patiently waiting for people to repent. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everybody to be saved. In Romans 2, Paul says it’s this patience of God, the richness of his kindness and tolerance and patience that leads to repentance. God’s patience is a big part of what saves us! In 1 Timothy 2, we’re told that God wants everybody to be saved. That’s why he waits. Praise God for his patience!
“Our Lord’s patience means salvation.” ~2 Peter 3:15
God is indeed patient with sinful humanity. If He were not, we would have vaporized us long ago.
I do want to point out to you the context of 2 Peter 3. I often see verse 9 ripped out of context and used to support the notion that God wishes, like a child upon a star, that all of those little people on earth would repent. This paints a picture of a weak, incapable-of-saving-a-person God that we simply do not find in the Bible. Look at 2 Peter 3. What is the context? Judgment against the ungodly. In verses 1 through 6, Peter reminded his recipients that scoffers will come, mocking the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. They, however, neglect to remember how God wiped out all of humanity (save 8 souls) with the judgment of the flood. Verse 7 tells us that the next judgment is by fire. In verses 8 through 10, Peter’s tone changes. He stops referring to “them” and “they” and addresses his recipients directly, calling them “beloved”. We then see verse 8, which tells us that God has a unique concept of time (and more, but what that is can be debated).
Finally, in verse 9, we find that “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.” Verse 10 shows us again that God’s fiery judgment will come unexpectedly and fiercely.
Let’s make some observations from verse 9. First, what is this promise that the Lord is not slow to fulfill? Verse 4 tells us that it is the return of Christ. Second, who is He patient toward? “…[B]ut is patient toward you,” (verse 9). Who does “you” refer to? Let’s do the diligent work of exegesis and trace the antecedent. 3:1 – “beloved”; 1:1, Peter’s greeting – “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”; we also find that this is Peter’s second letter to this group (3:1). How did he greet the recipients in the first letter? “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood,” (1 Pet 1:1b-2). We find that Peter is writing to believers, and that they are classified as believers according to the foreknowledge of God and are being sanctified by the Spirit for the purpose of obeying Christ.
This changes our understanding of 2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is patient toward you believers, not wishing that any [of you] should perish, but that all should reach repentance. God is waiting for all of the elect folks to repent before unleashing His holy wrath upon the unbelievers. This should be a great comfort for us who believe, knowing that God will preserve us until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).
“He wants evertbody to be saved,” (as you wrote). Can you honestly say this? Is God not happy with His judgment that He rightfully pours out upon sinners? Do you think that God regretfully casts a soul into the pits of hell? Don’t you see that we all deserve this end, and yet God has been gracious to some and has saved them through Christ. Think about it.
If you want to discuss 1 Timothy 2, we can do so. Paul was referring to, just as John in 1 John 2, people from all around the world. All people = all peoples. If God wanted for every person to be saved, then every person would be saved.
For the Gospel and for the folks in Amarillo,
Indeed, the biblical author is writing this last part of 2 Peter to Christian disciples within the Church of God and, yes, in a judgment context. While it’s true that God does not want these scoffers to perish, we do know that our risen Lord is coming back to judge the world. And at that point, repentance will be too late. He is patient with you. He has brought you lovingly and mercifully to this point, to this day. But none of us is promised tomorrow.
The believers need to repent of their doubting the promise of God. This scoffing at God’s delay in sending his Christ back in judgment has apparently resulted in these Christians living sinful lives. These Christians are “following their own evil desires” because they don’t think God’s going to do what he said he would. With these points I think we both agree.
I disagree, however, with your assertion that all believers — even the scoffers living in rebellion and sin — are going to be saved at that coming judgment. The exhortation “to live holy and godly lives” and “to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him” is so these believers will escape the judgment and live. “The Lord’s patience means salvation.” That message is to you, the elect, the believers, whatever. Take advantage of this patience, brothers; repent!
“Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3:17).
Yes, Greg, I can honestly say that God wants everybody (all; panta) to be saved. He won’t force it on anybody. He wants it. Thus, his great patience with believers and non-believers alike.