2 Peter 3:9 is a call to evangelism and missions without contradicting God's sovereignty in Election
The recent discussions and blogs about Rob Bell's new book , Love Wins and his heretical views gives us good opportunity to address these related issues on the gospel, heaven, hell, judgment, universalism, God's sovereignty, evangelism, and missions.
Context of 2 Peter chapter 3: The Second Coming of Christ (“Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4), judgment, fire (destruction of the present earth and atmosphere (2 Peter 3:7) and hell or the Lake of fire ( see also Mark 9:48, Matthew 5:22-30; Revelation 20:10-15; and Revelation 14:10 - unbelievers are tortured forever and ever in the presence of the lamb (!) ) the New Heavens and the New Earth (2 Peter 3:10, 13).
2 Peter chapter 3 is telling us the main reason why time continues to go on now.
Because God is not finished saving His elect people from all nations – Revelation 5:9 [notice that they are already, past tense, redeemed or purchased for God with the blood of the lamb!] (some out from every nation, people, tribe, and tongue”; Rev. 7:9 ; Rev. 21:3 (they are His “peoples” – a people from all peoples; some ancient manuscripts have the plural (Greek - laoi - λαοὶ )– which fits with Rev. 5:9 and 7:9) ; John 10:16 ("I have other sheep, I must bring them also; and they will hear My voice").
‘The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. “ 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord’s patience toward “you” (believers) includes the believers and their diligence in “making their calling and election sure” – 2 Peter 1:10, but also for them to be involved in evangelism and missions.
Dr. White showed the context and contrast between the mockers/skeptics/unbelievers (they) in verses 3-5 and that they are a different group from the “you” of verse 9. On the recent Dividing Line Program, at the end where he has a good discussion with a man named Lars, who is on his way, and growing in the doctrines of grace, it seems, but says he struggles with Irresistible Grace (or better, "effectual grace") the most out of the 5 points of Calvinism.
The Lord is patient toward believers (the elect in Christ, who already know they are justified and saved) to get on with being diligent in evangelism and missions, for the elect can only be saved if they hear the message and repent and believe.
“. . . regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation” (v. 15) – salvation for who? For those who have yet to repent (v. 9) , who will repent in the future at the preaching of the gospel.
The Delay of the Second Coming of Christ should motivate
1. Holiness and godliness ( 2 Peter 3:11-12, 14)
2. Evangelism and missions (2 Peter 3:9 and 15)
The elect among all nations who have not repented yet are not saved yet.
They must hear the message (Romans 10:13-15) in order to then repent and believe. (Romans 10:9-10)
"How shall they believe in Him in whom they have not heard?" And how shall they hear unless there is a preacher?" And how shall they preach unless they are sent?"
(see Romans 10:13-15)
2 Timothy 2:10 – “For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of the elect, in order that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory.” Notice the purpose of Paul’s suffering and endurance (see verses 8-9) is “in order that the elect be saved. They are not saved yet. We don’t know who the elect are. We must preach and teach and suffer and serve and endure and some of us should go and learn languages and be with people in an unreached people group that needs to hear the gospel in their own language. This is one of the clearest verses that show that God’s sovereignty in election motivate evangelism, and should motivate us to be willing to suffer and endure hardship in evangelism, discipleship, church-planting, and counseling and shepherding the flock.
The doctrine of Election does not save people, but election guarantees the results of our preaching and evangelism and missions – some people will be saved!
John 10:16 “other sheep I have, I must bring them also”
Acts 18:9-10 - “keep on preaching, do not be afraid, for I have many people in that city” (but they have yet to repent and believe in Christ)
Acts 13:48 - “they heard the message, and as many as were appointed to eternal life, believed.”
Acts 16:14 – Lydia was listening . . . “. . . And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” This, in my opinion, is perhaps the clearest verse on effectual grace, otherwise known as “Irresistible Grace”.
“Evangelism and missions are not imperiled by the biblical truth of election, but empowered by it, and their triumph is secured by it. “ (John Piper, The Pleasures of God, Multnomah, 1991, p. 149)
On that same Dividing Line program, Lars was bringing up the issue of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem ( Luke 19:41-44) He (and many others) seems to confuse that with Matthew 23:37, which it actually does not say Jesus wept. Dr. White has a good discussion of that in The Potter's Freedom.
To help him think through the issue, Dr. White asked Lars, “Will God be weeping in eternity?”
“The tears of Christ are not tears of frustration of not being able to save them . . .”
In the John 11 passage, where “Jesus wept”, “they are the tears over the consequences of sin and His entering into our experience of death and separation.”
John Piper’s book, The Pleasures of God is one of the best books I have read on the issue of God’s delight and pleasure in His own glory and "being God"; and it is the deepest book on God's sovereignty that I have read. ( I am still on page 30 of Jonathan Edwards book, The Freedom of the Will, after starting it over 10 years ago! The syntax and sentences are just too cumbersome for me.) Piper explains how God can both delight in His own will in saving people from all nations, and delight in judging other wicked sinners. He shows how God does not delight in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11) But Piper also shows that God also delights in His exercise of righteous justice and judgment in the death of the wicked. (Deuteronomy 28:63)
John Piper's book, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
Piper discusses Psalm 135:6, Ezekiel 18:32, and Deuteronomy 28:63. The Biblical writers use the same Hebrew word in these passages for “delight” or “take pleasure in” or “please”.
The Lord does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115:3, 135:6
“The does not delight or take pleasure in the death of the wicked” Ezekiel 18:32
So this shows that God is not a sadist or a sinner, when He punishes the wicked by eternal death in hell. It is justice.
When God judges sin - “The Lord does delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you” (Deuteronomy 28:63)
“So we are brought back to the inescapable fact that in some sense God does not delight in the death of the wicked (that is the message of Ezekiel 18), and in some sense he does (that is the message implicitly of Psalm 135:6-11 and explicitly of Deuteronomy 28:63”. (Piper, ibid, p. 65, my emphasis)
“Election is the guarantee that God not only invites people to be delivered, but also actually delivers them. 'You shall call His name Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins.' (Matthew 1:21) God undertakes with omnipotence to save His people. He plans it in election, and he achieves it through the work of His Son, and He applies it infallibly by His Holy Spirit through faith. The predestined are called, the called are justified, the justified are glorified.” (Romans 8:30) The destiny of God’s people, rooted in election, is unshakable sure.” (Piper, ibid, p. 143-144)
Peter goes on 2 Peter 3:15-16 to indicate that God's patience with the people of God in them getting out and serving and witnessing and evangelizing the lost, and God's work in saving people; and desiring their repentance, but also that He is sovereign in election and predestination, is what the apostle Paul has already written about. Peter affirms all of Paul's letters as Scripture. That would seem to point to passages that deal with the mystery of God's sovereignty, and His patience and goodness that leads people to repentance. We are reminded of such passages as I Timothy 2:4; Romans 2:4; 9:15-18; 9:22-24; and 11:22-26 that Peter may have in mind. (possibly also relating to 2 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians chapter 1; Colossians 1:24-27)
Peter exhorts the elect people of God scattered throughout areas of Asia Minor, Bythinia, Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia (1 Peter 1:1-2) [all areas in modern day Turkey] and 2 Peter 3:1 says it is the second letter he is writing to them.
Obviously God is omniscient, and has the events of the future fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:6-8), but it seems from a human perspective, Peter is exhorting the church that holiness, godliness, evangelism, and missions, make it seem like we are "hastening" (NASB, ESV) or "speeding" (NIV) the coming day of God. 2 Peter 3:11-12 Whatever that might mean, it certainly shows us in context one of the reasons why time continues until the second coming of Christ. God uses the means of holiness and godliness and service and love and suffering and evangelism and missions in accomplishing His purposes in the world.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat." (2 Peter 3:11-12 NIV)