Not willing any should perish

2 Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward [a]us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

I heard this verse come up several times in the past weeks. It was used in various discussions and sermons as proof that God desires that every person be saved but essentially isn’t able to until we accept His offer of salvation. Admittedly, it sounds that way and every time I heard it, it gave me pause. Does “all” mean every single human being in the world? Many Christians say without question yes but I believe in it’s context it does not. I laid out each position below for your consideration and the reason why I hold to the position that the ‘all’ is God’s elect people.

Who is the all? The all here is either God’s chosen people (His elect) or it’s every single human being in the world.

Position 1

“All” means everyone

If the ‘All’ means every single human being this would indicate that there is a ‘tension’ or ‘paradox’ as some would call it, between God’s sovereignty, His election, predestination, and mans free will unto salvation. We would conclude that God chooses us according to His will and human free will.

If every single human being
If this position is true and this is what Peter is saying then let’s take a look at what it would mean:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise: what is His promise? that all who believe in Him(a saving faith) are saved. (John 5:24)

Is longsuffering toward us: Who is the us? In verse 8 Peter writes ‘beloved’ so the ‘us’ is either believers or every single person in the world.

Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance: If we are to assert that it is in fact every single human being then we posit that God is not willing that any human being should perish. Meaning a universal any and a universal all..

This poses the question wouldn’t it be true then that if God is not willing (this is the will of God we’re talking about) that any human being perish wouldn’t every single human being then be saved?

Salvation according to mans free will?
If not universalism then we must assert that God is not willing that every single human perish but He can’t save us until WE (man) choose to accept Him first.

If we accept this position then we must conclude that God wills and chooses every single human being in the world and that our salvation hinges upon mans free will over God’s will to choose Him.

Position 2

The ‘All’ means God’s elect(His chosen people)

With this position there is no tension at all. God chooses some vessels for wrath, and some vessels for mercy (Romans 9). God is totally sovereign over His creation His election, predestination, are all according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1).

If we look at the very opening of the letter in 2 Peter 1:1 we see that Peter is addressing believers as he says “to those who have ‘obtained like precious faith’ meaning true believers in Christ Jesus.

Is longsuffering toward us: Who is the us? In verse 8 (and verse 1) Peter writes ‘beloved’ so he is still addressing believers as the ‘us’.

Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance: The all is still addressing believers or God’s elect. God is not willing that any of His elect should perish and they wont. This is a not a universal all.


There are 3 ways we can look at the ‘all’ here.

  • A. Universalism. God is not willing that anybody perish therefore all will eventually come to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • B. Man’s Free Will. God is not willing that anybody should perish but He simply is not  able to save us (override our freewill) unless we choose whether or not to accept Him.
  • C. The All is Gods elect. God is not willing that any perish and they wont so we must be patient and loving and longsuffering towards those who reject Christ as He was longsuffering towards us (The elect that have already come to repent.)

Position C, removes any contradiction about God’s predestination and election as it works in harmony with scripture. We don’t have any tensions with predestination, election, or God’s will.

If our salvation hinges upon the free will of man then we would have to posit that there is no such thing as election rather it would be merely God’s reaction to our free will response.

The Bible teaches us that God saves according to His will and that it is not dependent on mans free will at all. (John 1:13, Romans 9:16, Eph. 1:5, John 6:44, 10:26-28).

The truth is unless something happens we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), no one seeks God at all (Isa. 53:6),  we can’t hear or understand (John 8:43). So something must take place in order for us to respond in the first place. Jesus promises that all that the Father gives Him will come to Him and the one coming to Him He will by no means cast out. (John 6:37).

Jesus teaches us that no one come to Him unless it has been granted by the Father and guarantees all of them will be saved. (John 6:44).

If we assert that somehow our free will is mixed into all this then we are left with not tension rather contradictions in scripture. For example: John 6:44 would read: ‘no one can come to me unless the Father draws him and I might raise them up on the last day provided they freely choose to accept my free gift of salvation or not.’

It is my sincerest desire to honor God and His Word regardless of my personal feelings, or traditions. It is my prayer that even if you disagree with this position you can see how it does, in fact, fit in with the context of 2 Peter, and in harmony with all of God’s Word.