(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.
2 Peter 3:9Probably the most used verse in scripture to argue against election is 2 Peter 3:9. Like with all the problem verses, the onus on the Reformed perspective is not to demonstrate that these passages teach election, but to show that they are consistent with that view. Let us examine that verse, but in context:
1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 3 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 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. (2 Pet. 3:1-9)Verse nine, 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, is offered, stand alone, to demonstrate that far from God wishing to save a select and privileged group of sinners, God wishes to save all.
Note that we could argue on the same basis as we did for 1 Tim. 2:4, namely that what God “wishes” is not what he wills. God does not decree that “nobody should perish”, otherwise nobody would perish. However, we can argue against the Arminian view of this passage on other solid ground as well.
When compared to the “pro” predestination verses of, for example, John 6 or Ephesians 1 or Romans 8 and 9, one thing is immediately apparent. Unlike the writers of those passages, The Apostle Peter is not discussing salvation but the second coming of Christ.
It is perhaps good to recall to whom Peter is writing this letter. He refers to his first letter, which we assume is 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 1:1 we read: To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. And, at the start of Second Peter: To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter’s audience consist of Christians, particularly those suffering from false teaching, probably (based on 2 Peter 2:13-19) a form of antinomianism –or the gross abuse of Christian liberty when it is taken as a license to sin. In the critical chapter three passage provided above, we find that another charge against the false teachers is that they scoff at the Second Coming.
It is this false teaching on the Second Coming that is particularly germane. The false teachers are criticizing the delay, as they perceived it, in Christ’s return. Peter tells the faithful that they should not allow this false teaching to weaken their faith. In verse eight he famously states: But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Before looking at verse nine, let us enumerate different ways in which Peter refers to the “you,” that is the audience, of his two letters:
- Elect (1 Peter 1:1)
- Born Again (1 Peter 1:3)
- Guarded through faith to salvation (1 Peter 1:5)
- Lovers and believers of Jesus (1 Peter 1:8)
- Recipients of Grace (1 Peter 1:10)
- Chosen (1 Peter 5:13)
- Faithful (2 Peter 1:1)
- Called (2 Peter 1:3)
- Partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
- Beloved (2 Peter 3:1)
In summary, Peter is using:
- You to mean the elect
- We to mean the apostles
- They to mean everyone else
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. (2 Pet. 3:9)Notice to whom the Lord’s patience is directed: toward you. The Lord, in “delaying” his return, is displaying patience to the elect. I suppose, in fairness, it comes down to which interpretation seems more reasonable, in light of the ways we enumerated in which Peter referred to his audience:
The Lord is patient toward you, (the elect), not wishing that any of you (the elect) should perish, but that all (of the elect) should reach repentance.
The Lord is patient toward you, (the elect), not wishing that any (person in the world) should perish, but that all (people in the world) should reach repentance.
Since the “you” is clearly established as the elect, it would seem odd that patience toward the elect (or the saved) had anything to do with the salvation of the lost—instead you would expect the passage to read: The Lord is patient toward them.
In effect, Peter is saying, to the elect of his own generation, you must be patient so that God's elect of all generations can be brought to repentance and to salvation. We are saved, at this moment, thanks in no small part to the fact that, in spite of it appearing as a discouraging delay to these early Christians, Christ has not yet returned.
Let's look at one more "problem" passage.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt. 23:37)This passage is not so much brought up against election, but against the related doctrine of irresistible grace. It is used to argue that God’s grace can be refused. This is an attack, as it were, on God’s sovereignty.
The questions for this passage are: (1) Who is Jerusalem? (2) Who kills the prophets (3) who are the children (4) who was unwilling (would not) and (5) of what were they unwilling?
Note it’s not the children would not, but the “you.” The usual Calvinistic answers are:
- Jerusalem refers to the leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees.
- The leaders are the one’s who kill the prophets sent to them, including in just a short while, Jesus.
- The children are the Jews
- The leaders are unwilling
- They were unwilling to permit their children to gather and worship Christ
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Matt. 23:13)Why is Jesus lamenting in Matt. 23:37? We need to back up a few verses:
34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matt 23:34-36)And in the next chapter:
1Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matt 24:1-2)Bracketing the passage in question (Matthew 23:37) are two statements about prophesies concerning the then current generation. That the blood of the prophets shall be on the hands of the leaders, and the Temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed. A severe punishment was about to be meted out, and the people of Jerusalem would be caught up in it, and it is clear that Jesus places a huge burden of the blame on the false teachers of the elite classes.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt 24:34)
Next: Lesson 5: Free Will