2 Peter 3:9 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.
Ezekiel 18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Do these texts contradict other texts on election? Isn’t it possible that there are two wills in God? Even Arminians must admit that there are two wills in God: God desires all to be saved and yet God chooses that only those who believe will be saved. Even for an Armininian only those who believe will be saved and thus they must admit that there are two wills in God. So the first will could be summarized by these texts above–that God desires no one to perish in unrepentance and the second will could simply be summarized by saying that God only wills that those who believe will be saved.
It is true that God, in a narrow sense, doesn’t find pleasure in the death of the wicked but when you look at the wider scope of things in Scripture, God clearly hasn’t willed that everyone will be saved. In a cosmic sense, we know from Scripture that God has not willed that everyone will be saved.
It is very clear that God chooses only some to be saved but it is also true that God, looking at someone individually does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in the wider scope of things God has not willed that all will be saved. Why is this the case? I am not exactly sure–God is massive and complex and I don’t know why he does things the way he does things. When God looks at the whole of what he has ordained, he does take pleasure in it. Though God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of wicked individuals, he does look on the whole of what he has determined and find pleasure or glory in it. Here are some examples:
Deuteronomy 28:63 And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
The best way I can square Deuteronomy 28:63 with 2 Peter 3:9 is to say that God clearly doesn’t take pleasure in the damnation of individuals but when he sees the wider/larger picture of everything He has done, He does take pleasure in having always done what is right and good and just. What is best in God’s big-picture-view of things is not that all would be saved (Matthew 7:13-15). I don’t know why this is–it is a mystery.
Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
This text is difficult because we know that God else where (Ex. 20, 1 Peter 2:1-2, Col. 3:5, Rom. 8:13, Psalm 24, Leviticus 11:45) commands us to be holy and do what is right and yet God both foreknew and planned that his Son would be crucified and killed at the hands of wicked men. There are endless possibilities of things that could have happened at the time of Jesus’ death, but none of them happened because it was God’s definite plan that His Son be crucified at the hands of lawless men. Furthermore it should be noted that foreknowledge is linked with God’s definite plan which seems to again indicate that foreknowledge means more than just awareness of future events–God was sovereign in seeing this come to pass. We need to recognize here that Judas and Pilate both could have made right decisions and not betrayed and crucified Jesus. If this were the case, Jesus would not have been crucified and if Jesus is not crucified our sin would not be paid for. Jesus had to die and God saw that to completion.
The right thing for Pilate to do would have been to release Jesus because he was innocent. The right thing for Judas to do would have been to stay in the upper room and refrain from the temptation to betray Jesus. Neither or them do so. Both Judas and Pilate defy God’s desire for them-God did not desire for either of them to act sinfully the way they did. God does not desire any man to sin, sin is always against His prescriptive will. They should have done God’s desirative will and yet God’s definite plan involved these men disobeying Him and crucifiying the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, God rightly and justly holds them accountable for disobeying God’s commanded will. I can’t answer why God did this, but it is clear that he did and it is clear that God ordains for evil events to occur and yet holds those who do those evil things accountable. Let me be clear–God is not responsible for these evil events, these men chose to act wickedly and crucify Jesus–God does not sin and tempts no one (1 John 1:5; James 1:13), but it is also clear that He soveriegnly allows these evil events to come to pass and even works good out of them. It is the people who chose to do these things-God is not an evil puppet master. James 1:17 clearly tells us that God is not and never will be guilty of wrong doing. There is great mystery in God. God is sovereign over everything (Eph. 1:13) and yet He is good and works all things together for good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28).
One more example:
Acts 4:27-28 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
Christ’s crucifixion was not an afterthought of God. God didn’t think up redemption on the cross after failing to get Pilate and the Jews to release Jesus from prison–this was God’s definite plan and all these men (Herod, Pilate, the Jews) acted in accordance with what God has planned and predestined to take place. Again–God sees the big picture of things that we do not see. God’s sees His marvelously good purposes coming to pass even in the midst of the most horrific evils being allowed to come to pass. Let’s be honest–the cross from our human perspective was the most evil event in history–the only truly innocent man who was God in human flesh was brutally killed at the hands of evil men. And yet somehow God was soveriegnly working even in the midst of this event to manifest His glory and shower His grace on undeserving sinners. The cross is mysterious, but praise God for the wonderful mystery of the cross!
These truths are the basis for our prayer and evangelism–in my next post on election, I will explain this further. If you really understand radical depravity, the only hope is for God to save people. When we pray we all become reformed-“God save my friend.” We believe God hears our prayers and in His perfect wisdom answers them according to His will. God has ordained prayer and evangelism as the means by which the nations will be saved. We devalue God’s holy name when we neglect to engage in those means!