(Article for publication week of 1-11-2012 AD)
“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 be brought to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). This text has long been a favorite of Arminians, free-willers, and other works mongers to try to prove universal salvation. Upon examination we shall see that the text proves nothing of the sort, but rather proves the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace in the salvation of sinners.
First of all we need to see who it is that God is not willing should perish. We know from the rest of scripture that God is willing that the unsaved should perish. God has already sent countless numbers to hell for their sins and rebellion against Himself, and this is according to His holiness and justice and absolute sovereignty. God is of one mind and none can turn Him (Job 23:13). “Our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3). God is willing that the unsaved be sent to hell, or they would not be in hell, for nothing happens apart from the sovereign decree and pleasure of God.
However God is not willing that any of His elect should perish, and none will. (The use of the word “perish” in our text has to do with perishing eternally in hell for sin.) None of God’s elect shall perish eternally, for they are saved by sovereign grace alone and kept from final falling by the power of God. The antecedent of the pronoun “us” found in our text is back in the first verse of II Peter where we find that Peter is writing to those who have “obtained like precious faith.” God is not willing that any of us who have been given the grace of faith should perish. Thus we see the true meaning of our text that God is not willing that any of His people should perish, but that they would all be brought to repentance.
God was longsuffering with us when we were in our unregenerate state. We were children of wrath even as others (Ephesians 2:3). God would have been perfectly just had He cut us down while unregenerate and sent us to hell to perish eternally. But God suffers long with us. God suffered us to go on in our sins until He regenerated us and granted us repentance and faith. And God still suffers long with us even after our conversion, continually bringing us to repentance for our continual shortcomings.
Not one that God chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world shall ever perish. It is the sovereign will of an omnipotent God that they shall be saved. Not one for whom Christ died will ever be lost, for He justified them before a holy God and their record is right in heaven. Not one effectually called by the Holy Spirit will ever perish, for He works grace in them and continually graces them with His sanctifying influence, including repentance and faith.
Thank the Lord that he is longsuffering!