Now we move on the 2nd chapter of 2 Peter to see if the Arminian view of 2 Pet 3:9 accords well with the context. As we saw last week, Peter uses the 1st chapter to exhort believers to good works, as this serves as evidence of one’s genuine conversion. Toward the end of the chapter, in vv16ff, he encourages believers to pay close attention to the “prophetic word,” the Scriptures, reminding them that the Word is not composed of cleverly devised myths or man’s own prophecy, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
The purpose of chapter 1 becomes clearer once we read chapter 2. The two main points of chapter 1 – a) be assured of your election by bearing fruit, and b) stay close to the Word – perfectly setup the teaching in chapter 2 regarding false teachers. He warns in 2:1 that just as false prophets have come in the past, so there will be false teachers in the future. They will bring in destructive heresies. That is why it is so important for the believers to be sure of their election and to know the Word – so that they will not be caused to doubt their salvation due to false teaching and so that they will not be lead astray from the truth of the Word due to false teaching.
[Rabbit trail: In this chapter there are a couple of references that classical Arminians use to argue that a person can lose his or her salvation. Lest someone accuse me of ignoring this, I’ll address it. 2:1 speaks of the false teachers “denying the master who bought them.” V20 then speaks of them escaping the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord only to become entangled in them again.
This is easily understood, if we look at the context. Remember why Peter exhorted the elect in chapter 1 to diligently pursue fruit? Because it is the evidence of their election (1:10). If they failed to show fruit, would that mean that they were previously elect, but lost their election when they failed to show fruit? No. Their lack of fruit would be evidence that they were never elect, although they may have claimed to be. This is precisely what we see in chapter 2. The false teachers claim a false or counterfeit salvation. Though they once claimed to have been bought by Christ, they will eventually deny Him, proving that they were never redeemed to begin with.
Some would say that the wording of 2:20-21 is conclusive for the Arminian argument, speaking of the false teachers as having escaped the world “through the knowledge of our Lord,” and that it would have been better for them to never have “known the way of righteousness.” But this word - knowledge - does not refer to a deep abiding knowledge, like I have of my wife, but to recognition or acknowledgement. Essentially, these false teachers have recognized the truth and have turned away from it.
We find multiple times in the NT that there will be those in the church who claim to be believers and for a time even appear to be, but who will fall away, proving that they were never redeemed in the first place (1 John 2:19; John 6:66, 13:10-11, 15:2, Gal 2:3-4). God has clearly promised that true believers will never fall away because He will keep them (John 10:27-29, Rom 8:28-39, Phil 1:6).
So these false teachers spoken of in 2 Peter 2 are not former genuine believers who lost their salvation. They are those who falsely claim to be believers but whose actions show that they are not. End of rabbit trail.]
It is important to note that from v1 on, Peter is speaking of the future false teachers, not the false teachers of old. Just follow the language, “there will be false teachers among you,” future tense (v1). And yet, he says of them in v3, “their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Future false teachers with condemnation from long ago. What is the point? Their condemnation is sure. It’s not idle. It’s not asleep. It’s not being held in reserve just in case they don’t get saved. The thrust of the paragraph is that they will be destroyed.
This is a big problem for the Arminian: how to deal with the clash of tenses – future false teachers with certain condemnation from long ago. The classic way of dealing with this problem is to say that the condemnation from long ago represents God’s foreknowledge. He knew from eternity past that they would bring condemnation upon themselves, so He went ahead and condemned them. That’s not what it says, but lets pretend for a minute that it does. If God condemned them from long ago, in what sense does God will “that all should come to repentance,” as the Arminian interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 suggests? He has condemned them from long ago, based on His foreknowledge (according to the Arminian) which cannot be wrong. There is therefore no hope for their repentance.
So the appeal to foreknowledge may get the synergists out of a tough spot in 2:3, but it destroys their interpretation of 3:9. Here we see that the context is not on their side. But it gets worse for them as we continue on in chapter 2.
Peter has now spoken of two different groups, the elect and the false teachers. Vv4-10 are dedicated to establishing the certainty of the Lord’s rescuing “the godly from trials” – the elect from chapter 1 – and the certainty of the Lord’s destroying the unrighteous – the false teachers from chapter 2. Peter establishes this certainty by reminding the readers of God’s prior works of saving the godly and destroying the wicked. His point is that if God did those things in the past, then He will certainly save the godly believers and destroy the false teachers in the future. The words used of the false teachers’ destruction are chilling: He will “keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.”
These references to certain destruction are starting to pile up. And yet, the synergistic/Arminian understanding of 2 Peter 3:9 demands that “all” means “all humans without exception,” which would have to include the condemned false teachers. So to keep their interpretation of 3:9, they would have to say, “God is not willing that any false teacher should perish, even though Peter wrote that God condemned them from long ago. Rather, God is willing that all false teachers should come to repentance, even though Peter wrote that they are being kept by God for destruction.”
When all the context, syntax, and lexical evidence is weighed, it becomes clear that 2 Peter 3:9 does not deny the idea of God’s intention to save the elect. Instead, the evidence affirms that. Christ has not returned because He is patient toward those He has chosen, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
...but what about 1 Timothy 2:4?