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THE SECOND EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER - Chapter 3 - Verse 9
Verse 9. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise. That is, it should not be inferred because his promise seems to be long delayed that therefore it will fail. When men, after a considerable lapse of time, fail to fulfil their engagements, we infer that it is because they have changed their plans, or because they have forgotten their promises, or because they have no ability to perform them, or because there is a want of principle which makes them regardless of their obligations. But no such inference can be drawn from the apparent delay of the fulfilment of the Divine purposes. Whatever may be the reasons why they seem to be deferred, we may be sure that it is from no such causes as these.
As some men count slackness. It is probable that the apostle here had his eye on some professing Christians who had become disheartened and impatient, and who, from the delay in regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus, and from the representations of those who denied the truth of the Christian religion, arguing from that delay that it was false, began to fear that his promised coming would indeed never occur. To such he says that it should not be inferred from his delay that he would not return, but that the delay should be regarded as an evidence of his desire that men should have space for repentance, and an opportunity to secure their salvation. See Barnes "2 Pe 3:15".
But is longsuffering to us-ward. Toward us. The delay should be regarded as a proof of his forbearance, and of his desire that men should be saved. Every sinner should consider the fact that he is not cut down in his sins, not as a proof that God will not punish the wicked, but as a demonstration that he is now forbearing, and is willing that he should have an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life. No man should infer that God will not execute his threatenings, unless he can look into the most distant parts of a coming eternity, and demonstrate that there is no suffering appointed for the sinner there; any man who sins, and who is spared even for a moment, should regard the respite as a proof that God is merciful and forbearing now.
Not willing that any should perish. That is, he does not desire it or wish it. His nature is benevolent, and he sincerely desires the eternal happiness of all, and his patience towards sinners proves that he is willing that they should be saved. If he were not willing, it would be easy for him to cut them off, and exclude them from hope at once. This passage, however, should not be adduced to prove
(1.) that sinners never will in fact perish; for
(a.) the passage does not refer to what God will do as the final Judge of mankind, but to what are his feelings and desires now towards men.
(b.) One may have a sincere desire that others should not perish, and yet it may be that, in entire consistency with that, they will perish. A parent has a sincere wish that his children should not be punished, and yet he himself may be under a moral necessity to punish them. A lawgiver may have a sincere wish that no one should ever break the laws, or be punished, and yet he himself may build a prison, and construct a gallows, and cause the law to be executed in a most rigorous manner. A judge on the bench may have a sincere desire that no man should be executed, and that every one arraigned before him should be found to be innocent, and yet even he, in entire accordance with that wish, and with a most benevolent heart, even with tears in his eyes, may pronounce the sentence of the law.
(c.) It cannot be inferred that all that the heart of infinite benevolence would desire will be accomplished by his mere will. It is evidently as much in accordance with the benevolence of God that no man should be miserable in this world, as it is that no one should suffer in the next, since the difficulty is not in the question where one shall suffer, but in the fact itself that any should suffer; and it is just as much in accordance with his nature that all should he happy here, as that they should be happy hereafter. And yet no man can maintain that the fact that God is benevolent proves that no one will suffer here. As little will that fact prove that none will suffer in the world to come.
(2.) The passage should not be adduced to prove that God has no purpose, and has formed no plan, in regard to the destruction of the wicked; for
(a.) the word here used has reference rather to his disposition, or to his nature, than to any act or plan.
(b.) There is a sense, as is admitted by all, in which he does will the destruction of the wicked—to wit, if they do not repent—that is, if they deserve it.
(c.) Such an act is as inconsistent with his general benevolence as an eternal purpose in the matter, since his eternal purpose can only have been to do what he actually does; and if it be consistent with a sincere desire that sinners should be saved to do this, then it is consistent to determine beforehand to do it—for to determine before hand to do what is in fact right, cannot but be a lovely trait in the character of any one.
(3.) The passage then proves
(a.) that God has a sincere desire that men should be saved;
(b.) that any purpose in regard to the destruction of sinners is not founded on mere will, or is not arbitrary;
(c.) that it would be agreeable to the nature of God, and to his arrangements in the plan of salvation, if all men should come to repentance, and accept the offers of mercy;
(d.) that if any come to him truly penitent, and desirous to be saved, they will not be cast off;
(e.) that, since it is in accordance with him nature that he should desire that all men may be saved, it may be presumed that he has made an arrangement by which it is possible that they should be; and
(f.) that, since this is his desire, it is proper for the ministers of religion to offer salvation to every human being. Comp. Eze 33:11.
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