Calvinism and 2 Peter 3:9 – “all should reach repentance”

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Some argue that Calvinism and 2 Peter 3:9 are contradictory because 2 Peter 3:9 teaches that God wishes “that all should reach repentance.” They argue that this contradicts with the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. However, there is a very reasonable interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 that does not at all contradict the doctrines of Calvinism.

2 Peter 3:9 and Calvinism

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 Peter 3:9

Calvinism’s Answer to 2 Peter 3:9

Peter is writing this letter specifically to believers, and it is quite clear that when he says, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” he is not referring to every single person in the world, but rather to God’s church, or, all who will end up believing in Christ.

In verse 8, Peter says, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved,” making it clear that he is specifically addressing the Christian church. Then, he writes that “the Lord… is patient toward ”’you”’, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

So, the most natural interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 is that the Lord is patiently waiting for his entire church—or, all of his elect (“To those who are elect exiles…”, 1 Peter 1:1)—to “reach repentance” because he does not wish that “any [of his elect] should perish.”

Context is key when interpreting any Scripture passage, and the context of 2 Peter 3:9 helps us understand who Peter is referring to when he uses the words “any” and “all.”

The Meaning of “All” and “World”

The meaning of words such as “all” and “world” is not as simple as Arminians sometimes assert. More often than not, the Bible uses the words “all” and “world” to refer to groups of people, rather than to every single individual person. To read more, see Calvinism and the Meaning of “All” and “World.”

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