Does God Desire That All Be Saved?

3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:3-13 (ESV)

The initial focus of the passage in 2 Peter 3.3-13 is upon ungodly scoffers with sinful desires in the last days as indicated by the flow of Peter’s description in verses 4-7and his use of “they” to refer to the unbelieving scoffers. In verse 8 Peter suddenly shifts the focus of his passage from the “they” to the “beloved” by addressing them. Thus the focus of verse 9, in contrast with the preceding verses of the passage, is on the beloved of God rather than the scoffers. The Lord is described as being patient toward “you” where “you” refers to the beloved that Peter has started to address and the “any” and “all” of verse 9 are qualified by the context in the same way. Therefore, verse 9 can be understood as follows: “[Beloved,] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you [beloved], not wishing that any [of you] should perish, but that all [of you] should reach repentance.” The focus of the passage remains on this group of people through the end of the chapter. Peter is writing concerning how the elect of God are to live in light of the day of God which is postponed only by God’s patience toward those chosen ones who have not yet become believers. Were God waiting for each individual to come to repentance in a universal sense then He would never bring history to an end since, given the testimony of Scripture, not every single individual will ever come to repentance. Far from contradicting the doctrine of election this passage actually confirms it since God is sovereign over history and all of the elect of God reach repentance in accordance with the wish and will of God.

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7  For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

1 Tim 2:1-8 (ESV)

In 1 Timothy 2.1-8 Paul commands believers to pray for people without distinction. If Paul is referring to every single individual  with his use of “all people” in verse 1 then he is being redundant in specifically mentioning “kings and all who are in high positions” in verse 2 since such authorities are included in the “all people” of verse 1 when “all people” is taken to refer to every individual. It is better to understand Paul as not being redundant because Paul does not refer to every individual in his use of “all people” but rather to all kinds of people including, for example, kings and those in high positions. He specifically mentions those in authority presumably because they are in a position to prevent persecution.  Paul is not being redundant (“kings and all who are in high positions” is already covered in “all people”) but rather defining what he means by “all people”. Paul uses “all people” again in verse 4 when he states that God desires them to be saved and it is to be understood in the same way due to context. Additionally the work of Christ as mediator in verse 5 is not on behalf of every single individual, but on behalf of the same men (all people) of the aforementioned verses who are the elect of God. Offering the types of prayer Paul mentions for every single individual is more than a spiritually impossible task; it is physically and mentally impossible for any finite human being to do. So it must be concluded that God desires all kinds of people to be saved, not just Jews or Gentiles or poor or wealthy or lower or upper class, and this use is certainly not outside of the reasonable uses of “all”.


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