2 Peter 3:9
“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.”
This scripture is frequently cited in in-house debates regarding soteriology, the study of salvation. But, this article is not about soteriology. It’s about repentance, so I am not going to waste any time attempting to convince those who read this verse in a universal sense, the thinking that Peter is addressing all of mankind. I am going to treat it as it reads, from the perspective that Peter is writing in a specific sense. In other words, Peter is writing to the brethren exclusively.
(Ok, I can’t resist: Please notice who the Lord is patient towards, which verifies who Peter is addressing.)
Anyway, what I wanted to focus on was encouraging the brethren to always keep in view that repentance is solely God granted. Repentance is not something that the believer can cause in an unbeliever, nor should the believer even expect such from the unbeliever, unless God has predestined it. As for repentance regarding the brethren, since God has granted us repentance, it is appropriate to expect such from one other. It is why correction is encouraged amongst the brethren in the New Testament. (Matthew 18:15-20, 2 Timothy 3:16)
In writing to Timothy, Paul hints briefly at the origin of repentance with respect to the unbeliever:
2 Timothy 2:23-26
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
If it’s true that God grants repentance, then why do we (Christians) sometimes get angry or frustrated with unbelievers when they wrong us? What I mean is, directly expressed frustration on our part at the unrepentant for being unrepentant towards us personally, when they wrong us, is actually akin to us talking to a wall, no? I mean, without Christ, how can we expect from them what we expect from each other, when they are not really capable of offering it?
Such moments actually require maturity, discernment, and wisdom on our part; not immaturity, anger, and resentment.
Look again at Paul’s advice to Timothy:
“…the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to EVERYONE, able to teach, PATIENTLY ENDURING EVIL, CORRECTING HIS OPPONENTS WITH GENTLENESS. God MAY PERHAPS grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they MAY come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
We need to always keep in view that such people are ensnared by the devil. The unrepentive need the Gospel, not our wrath.
Check out how Peter follows up his encouragement to the brethren, and how we should properly handle Paul’s writings:
2 Peter 3:9-18
“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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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