Discussing with friends on the doctrines of grace and election a girl replied with a statement phrased like a question
“But God is ‘….not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.'”
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
Anyone who has had to deal with the doctrines of Grace have had to deal with this passage. Before beginning I would remind readers of the Scriptures that we must be very careful when reading the text of Scripture, we are not reading into the Scripture something that is not there.
There are two primary ambiguities in that specific text that need to be dealt with very carefully. The words “will” and “any”.
The First “God’s Will”. “God is not willing that any should perish”. There at least two Greek words that could be translated as “will” in the New Testament. Not only that but each of those have several nuances to it. So when we read in the New Testament and the will of God it speaks of the will of God in many different aspects.
The most predominant one is the The Sovereign Efficacious Will. This is the will which God brings to past whatever He decrees. Sometimes this is called the “Decretive Will”.
Another way the Scripture speaks of the “will of God” is with respect to His law. We call this His Preceptive Will. His Preceptive Will is that you should not steal. That law or it is the “will of God” that you should not steal. Nevertheless we still have the ability to steal so his Decretive Will does not preclude us from violating his Preceptive Will.
The third way the Scripture describes the “will of God” is God’s Will of Disposition. God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. God doesn’t get his jollies from sending people to hell, nevertheless, He sends them there.
So which of these 3 is in view in 2st Peter. I think it is the 1st view. Peter is talking about the Sovereign Efficacious will of God. This makes is possibly more difficult for Calvinists to deal with the passage because, if it’s true that God in His sovereign decree are willing that none should perish then what is the obvious conclusion? None of those who are included in the category of the “any” will in fact perish. Arminians look at this text and define the “any” as “any person”. If God is Sovereignly Efficaciously not Willing that any should perish what can we conclude? Everyone goes to heaven. There is no one that is lost. Thus we can see the text proves too much for the Arminian because the Arminian doesn’t hold to universalism. Thus they have to struggle from a different perspective of the text.
The word that everything hinges on is the word “any”. “God is not willing that any…” “Any what?” needs to be asked here. Any dog, any foxes? Any what? That is that word, that when answered appropriately we find solves the apparent tension in the given text.
If you want to understand what the “any” proves you have to look to the immediate context. It is clear in the text as to what or specifically “who” the word “any” applies to here. Don’t forget what this text is dealing with. The context here is about God’s future return. “Why hasn’t Jesus come back yet?”, the church had been asking. Here Peter talks about why the kingdom hasn’t been consummated yet. The reason is because God isn’t willing that “any” should perish.
Who is the “any”? If you look at the text the “any” is “us”. The elect are the “any” addressed here. Thus Peter is talking about those people to whom Peter is writing this epistle…the elect.
God is not willing that any [of the elect] should perish. (and that is why Christ hasn’t returned)
So In the end, this text actually doesn’t undermine the Doctrine of Election but proves to be a strong verse in support of it.