John Calvin (1509-1564) on 2 Peter 3:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 2 Peter 3:9




“But the Lord is not slack,” or, delays not. He checks extreme and unreasonable haste by another reason, that is, that the Lord defers his coming that he might invite all mankind to repentance. For our minds are always prurient, and a doubt often creeps in, why he does not come sooner. But when we hear that the Lord, in delaying, shows a concern for our salvation, and that he defers the time because he has a care for us, there is no reason why we should any longer complain of tardiness. He is tardy who allows an occasion to pass by through slothfulness: there is nothing like this in God, who in the best manner regulates time to promote our salvation. And as to the duration of the whole world, we must think exactly the same as of the life of every individual; for God by prolonging time to each, sustains him that he may repent. In the like manner he does not hasten the end of the world, in order to give to all time to repent. This is a very necessary admonition, so that we may learn to employ time aright, as we shall otherwise suffer a just punishment for our idleness.

“Not willing that any should perish.” So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost. But the order is to be noticed, that God is ready to receive all to repentance, so that none may perish; for in these words the way and manner of obtaining salvation is pointed out. Every one of us, therefore, who is desirous of salvation, must learn to enter in by this way. But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

But as the verb choresai is often taken passively by the Greeks, no less suitable to this passage is the verb which I have put in the margin, that God would have all, who had been before wandering and scattered, to be gathered or come together to repentance.

Calvin, Commentary, 2 Peter 3:9


They seem to raise a stronger objection on the basis of a passage in Peter: “God does not will that any should perish but that he should receive all to repentance” [2 Peter 3:9 p.]. But the solution of the difficulty occurs immediately in the second phrase, because the will to receive to repentance can only be understood in the sense generally taught. Conversion is obviously in God’s hand: when he promises that he will give a certain few a heart of flesh but leave the rest with a heart of stone [Ezekiel 36:26], let him be asked whether he wills to convert all. It is indeed true that unless he were ready to receive those who call upon his mercy, this statement would be out of place: “Be converted to me… and I shall be converted to you” [Zechariah 1:3]. But I assert that no mortal man approaches God unless God anticipates him. And, if repentance had been man’s to choose, Paul would not have said: “In case God may grant them repentance” [2 Timothy 2:25]. Indeed, unless the same God who urges all to repentance with his own voice also drew the elect to himself by the secret moving of his spirit, Jeremiah would not have said: “Convert me, O Lord, and I will be converted… For when thou didst convert me, I repented” [Jeremiah 31:18-19, cf. Vg.].

Calvin Institutes, 3.24.16.


There is perhaps more color in the words of Peter, that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” if, however, there is any ambiguity in the former clause, it is removed by the explanation, which is immediately subjoined. Certainly in so far as God would receive all to repentance, he would have no one perish. But in order to be received they must come. Now, the Spirit every where proclaims, that divine grace first comes to men, who till they are drawn remain the willing slaves of carnal contumacy. If had the smallest judgment remaining, would you not perceive the wide difference between these two: that the stony hearts of men, become hearts of flesh, so as to lose all self-complacency, and suppliantly entreat for pardon; then, when they are thus changed, that pardon is received. God declares that the these are the gifts of his kindness, the new heart for repentance and the gracious pardon of the suppliants. Unless God were ready to receive all who truly implore his mercy, he would not say, “return unto me, and I will return unto you.” But if repentance were the effect of the will of man, Paul would not say. “if peradventure God ma give them repentance.” Nay, unless the same God, who with his own voice calls all to repentance, drew his elect by the secret influences of his Spirit, Jeremiah would not say, “Turn me, Oh Lord, and I shall be turned; for when thou turned me, I repented.”

Calvin, The Secret Providence of God, trans., by John Lillie (New York: Carter Brothers, 1840), 29-30.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 10:40 pm and is filed under 2 Peter 3:9. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far


Updated by adding his comment from his Institutes

February 8th, 2008 at 1:23 pm

I have updated Calvin on 2 Peter 3:9; see the comment from his “The Secret Providence of God,” entry #3.

February 13th, 2008 at 8:35 am

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