2 Peter 3:9 vs. Calvinism
Many people say that Calvinism is unbiblical and a key verse they will use to prove this is 2 Peter 3:9. For most people just quoting the verse will end the discussion but it shouldn’t. Here is what 2 Peter 3:8-10 says:
3:8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. 9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. -NET
The people quoting this passage will emphasize the phrase, “because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” When this phrase is isolated it could mean what the Arminian/non-Calvinist wants it to mean. They want us to believe that the atonement of Christ was “unlimited”. The atonement of Christ was for every single person not just for a specific group of people. The problem is this phrase isn’t isolated.
First, we need to recognize that this passage is addressing the second coming of Christ. Peter is highlighting that people were persecuting believers by saying:
‘Where is his promised return? Forever since our ancestors died, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.’ -2 Peter 3:4
Peter’s response is, “a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day.” That is the main concern that Peter is addressing. The coming of Christ is delayed for a reason. God said that he is coming soon but that doesn’t mean he is coming soon in the way we use the word. Soon could be any finite number to God. When someone quotes this passage we need to make sure the main purpose does not get lost. Now, some may say, “Yes this is about Christ coming back but Peter still said that God wants, ‘all to come to repentance‘.”
My response to that is, “God wants all to come to repentance. But what does ‘all’ mean?” That is the question that needs to be addressed. I have heard many times from preachers who say, “All means all and that’s all all means.” Well…uh…yes…all does mean all but all can be, and most often is, limited. Let me give you an example:
Hey Josh, give me all of those books.
Josh would never think that I am asking him for every book ever written. “Those” modifies “all” in this example. In the same way “all” in 2 Peter 3 is modified or limited. Lets quote verse 3:9 again:
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Here we see Peter is responding to the question asked by the unbelievers when he says, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness.” Then, we have Peter limiting the range of all in the next phrase when he says, “but is being patient toward you.” Who is the “you”?
The “you” are also called “dear friends” in verse 8. Peter is addressing believers. The “you” Peter talks about are the elect of God. The point Peter is making is that God wont come back until all of his elect are brought to repentance. “You” modifies both “any” and “all” in verse 9 just like “those” modified “all” in the example I gave earlier. If “you” refers to believers, also known as the elect, then it follows that “any” and “all” would refer to the same thing. Jesus’ return is delayed because he wants every single elect person to come to faith before he returns.
Think about it. If Jesus came back in the time of Peter you and I would never have been born. We would never have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We would not be saved. That is Peter’s point in this passage. Taking into account the argument I made allow me to clarify the passage for you:
The Lord is not slow concerning his promise to return, as some think of slowness, but is patient toward you, because he does not wish for his elect to perish but for all to come to repentance.
I want to emphasize that this is not to trump the Bible, rather, it is to highlight Peter’s point.
Many believe that this passage goes against the Calvinistic teaching of limited atonement but, in reality, this passage affirms it. God has his people all around the world and in every generation. And we should all thank God that he is patient towards us.
Thanks for reading.