An Exegetical Analysis of 2 Peter 3:9 -- By: Thomas H. Duke

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: An Exegetical Analysis of 2 Peter 3:9
Author: Thomas H. Duke

An Exegetical Analysis of 2 Peter 3:9

Thomas H. Duke

M.Div. Graduate
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

1996 Winner of the Baxter C. Phillips
and Wanda L. Phillips Greek Exposition Award
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

“You almost persuade me to become a Christian”—Acts 26:28

Well might the staunchest Calvinist, when confronted with 2 Pet. 3:9, echo King Agrippa’s reply to the Apostle Paul in saying, “You almost persuade me to become an Arminian.” Indeed, Loraine Boettner, himself an ardent five-point Calvinist, has remarked, “It is true that some verses [including 2 Pet. 3:9] taken in themselves do seem to imply the Arminian position.”1 He is not alone in acknowledging the apparent difficulties 2 Pet. 3:9 raises for classic five-point Calvinists, particularly in regard to their conception of the doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, and limited atonement, for in ascribing to God the desire or will to save all men, this verse strikes at the theoretical—and theological—heart of the traditional Calvinistic system. Yet, the contention on both sides over the soteriological meaning of this verse presupposes Peter’s main purpose in writing, resulting perhaps in strained interpretations intended more to force the passage to fit a system than vice versa.2

Without doubt, this text, which declares that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance,”3 profoundly touches upon the nature and extent of salvation. In context, however, Peter is primarily concerned in chapter 3 with eschatology, the certainty of the second advent of Jesus Christ, and with refuting false teachers who will argue against it, not with soteriology and with fully expounding a doctrine of salvation. An appreciation of this both informs and circumscribes the following exegesis of 2 Pet. 3:9 in the hope of avoiding the error of demanding more from the text than it fairly offers.

Historical Background and Context

Though vaguely addressed to “those who have obtained like precious faith with us,” Peter’s second epistle unmistakably concerns itself with the threa...

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