The Lord is not slack concerning his promise - That is, it should not be inferred because His promise seems to be long delayed that therefore it will fail. When people, after a considerable lapse of time, fail to fulfil their engagements, we infer that it is because they have changed their plans, or because they have forgotten their promises, or because they have no ability to perform them, or because there is a lack of principle which makes them fail, regardless of their obligations. But no such inference can be drawn from the apparent delay of the fulfillment of the divine purposes. Whatever may be the reasons why they seem to be deferred, with God, we may be sure that it is from no such causes as these.
As some men count slackness - It is probable that the apostle here had his eye on some professing Christians who had become disheartened and impatient, and who, from the delay in regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus, and from the representations of those who denied the truth of the Christian religion, arguing from that delay that it was false, began to fear that his promised coming would indeed never occur. To such he says that it should not be inferred from his delay that he would not return, but that the delay should be regarded as an evidence of his desire that men should have space for repentance, and an opportunity to secure their salvation. See the notes at 2 Peter 3:15.
But is long-suffering to us-ward - Toward us. The delay should be regarded as a proof of His forbearance, and of His desire that all human beings should be saved. Every sinner should consider the fact that he is not cut down in his sins, not as a proof that God will not punish the wicked, but as a demonstration that He is now forbearing, and is willing that he should have an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life. No one should infer that God will not execute His threats, unless he can look into the most distant parts of a coming eternity, and demonstrate that there is no suffering appointed for the sinner there; anyone who sins, and who is spared even for a moment, should regard the respite as only a proof that God is merciful and forbearing now.
Not willing that any should perish - That is, He does not desire it or wish it. His nature is benevolent, and He sincerely desires the eternal happiness of all, and His patience toward sinners “proves” that He is willing that they should be saved. If He were not willing, it would be easy for Him to cut them off, and exclude them from hope immediately. This passage, however, should not be adduced to prove:
(1) that sinners never will in fact perish; because:
(a) the passage does not refer to what God will do as the final Judge of mankind, but to what are His feelings and desires now toward men.
(b) One may have a sincere desire that others should not perish, and yet it may be that, in entire consistency with that, they will perish. A parent has a sincere wish that his children should not be punished, and yet he himself may be under a moral necessity to punish them. A lawgiver may have a sincere wish that no one should ever break the laws, or be punished, and yet he himself may build a prison, and construct a gallows, and cause the law to be executed in a most rigorous manner. A judge on the bench may have a sincere desire that no man should be executed, and that everyone arraigned before him should be found to be innocent, and yet even he, in entire accordance with that wish, and with a most benevolent heart, even with tears in his eyes, may pronounce the sentence of the law.
(c) It cannot be inferred that all that the heart of infinite benevolence would desire will be accomplished by his mere will. It is evidently as much in accordance with the benevolence of God that no one should be miserable in this world, as it is that no one should suffer in the next, since the difficulty is not in the question Where one shall suffer, but in the fact itself that any should suffer; and it is just as much in accordance with His nature that all should be happy here, as that they should be happy hereafter. And yet no man can maintain that the fact that God is benevolent proves that no one will suffer here. As little will that fact prove that none will suffer in the world to come.
(2) the passage should not be adduced to prove that God has no purpose, and has formed no plan, in regard to the destruction of the wicked; because:
(a)the word here used has reference rather to His disposition, or to His nature, than to any act or plan.
(b)There is a sense, as is admitted by all, in which He does will the destruction of the wicked - to wit, if they do not repent - that is, if they deserve it.
(c)Such an act is as inconsistent with His general benevolence as an eternal purpose in the matter, since His eternal purpose can only have been to do what He actually does; and if it be consistent with a sincere desire that sinners should be saved to do this, then it is consistent to determine beforehand to do it - for to determine beforehand to do what is in fact right, can only be a lovely trait in the character of anyone.
(3) The passage then proves:
(a)that God has a sincere desire that people should be saved;
(b)that any purpose in regard to the destruction of sinners is not founded on mere will, or is not arbitrary;
(c)that it would be agreeable to the nature of God, and to His arrangements in the plan of salvation, if all human beings should come to repentance, and accept the offers of mercy;
(d)that if any come to Him truly penitent, and desirous to be saved, they will not be cast off;
(e)that, since it is in accordance with His nature, that He should desire that all people may be saved, it may be presumed that He has made an arrangement by which it is possible that they should be; and,
(f)that, since this is His desire, it is proper for the ministers of religion to offer salvation to every human being. Compare Ezekiel 33:11.
The Lord is not slack - They probably in their mocking said, "Either God had made no such promise to judge the world, destroy the earth, and send ungodly men to perdition; or if he had, he had forgotten to fulfill it, or had not convenient time or leisure." To some such mocking the apostle seems to refer: and he immediately shows the reason why deserved punishment is not inflicted on a guilty world.
But is long-suffering - It is not slackness, remissness, nor want of due displacence at sin, that induced God to prolong the respite of ungodly men; but his long-suffering, his unwillingness that any should perish: and therefore he spared them, that they might have additional offers of grace, and be led to repentance - to deplore their sins, implore God's mercy, and find redemption through the blood of the Lamb.
As God is not willing that any should perish, and as he is willing that all should come to repentance, consequently he has never devised nor decreed the damnation of any man, nor has he rendered it impossible for any soul to be saved, either by necessitating him to do evil, that he might die for it, or refusing him the means of recovery, without which he could not be saved.
Finite Vehicles of Thought—The Lord speaks to human beings in imperfect speech, in order that the degenerate senses, the dull, earthly perception, of earthly beings may comprehend His words. Thus is shown God's condescension. He meets fallen human beings where they are. The Bible, perfect as it is in its simplicity, does not answer to the great ideas of God; for infinite ideas cannot be perfectly embodied in finite vehicles of thought. Instead of the expressions of the Bible being exaggerated, as many people suppose, the strong expressions break down before the magnificence of the thought, though the penman selected the most expressive language through which to convey the truths of higher education. Sinful beings can only bear to look upon a shadow of the brightness of heaven's glory (Letter 121, 1901). 7BC 946.1Read in context »
I hope, my dear brethren and sisters, that you will not pass your eye over these words without thoroughly considering their import. As the men of Galilee stood looking steadfastly toward heaven, to catch, if possible, a glimpse of their ascending Saviour, two men in white apparel, heavenly angels commissioned to comfort them for the loss of the presence of their Saviour, stood by them and inquired: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” 2T 194.1
God designs that His people shall fix their eyes heavenward, looking for the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. While the attention of worldlings is turned to various enterprises, ours should be to the heavens; our faith should reach further and further into the glorious mysteries of the heavenly treasure, drawing the precious, divine rays of light from the heavenly sanctuary to shine in our hearts, as they shine upon the face of Jesus. The scoffers mock the waiting, watching ones, and inquire: “Where is the promise of His coming? You have been disappointed. Engage now with us, and you will prosper in worldly things. Get gain, get money, and be honored of the world.” The waiting ones look upward and answer: “We are watching.” And by turning from earthly pleasure and worldly fame, and from the deceitfulness of riches, they show themselves to be in that position. By watching they become strong; they overcome sloth and selfishness and love of ease. Affliction's fire kindles upon them, and the waiting time seems long. They sometimes grieve, and faith falters; but they rally again, overcome their fears and doubts, and while their eyes are directed heavenward, say to their adversaries: “I am watching, I am waiting the return of my Lord. I will glory in tribulation, in affliction, in necessities.” 2T 194.2
The desire of our Lord is that we should be watching, so that when He cometh and knocketh we may open to Him immediately. A blessing is pronounced upon those servants whom He finds watching. “He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Who among us in these last days will be thus specially honored by the Master of assemblies? Are we prepared without delay to open to Him immediately and welcome Him in? Watch, watch, watch. Nearly all have ceased their watching and waiting; we are not ready to open to Him immediately. The love of the world has so occupied our thoughts that our eyes are not turned upward, but downward to the earth. We are hurrying about, engaging with zeal and earnestness in different enterprises, but God is forgotten, and the heavenly treasure is not valued. We are not in a waiting, watching position. The love of the world and the deceitfulness of riches eclipse our faith, and we do not long for, and love, the appearing of our Saviour. We try too hard to take care of self ourselves. We are uneasy and greatly lack a firm trust in God. Many worry and work, contrive and plan, fearing they may suffer need. They cannot afford time to pray or to attend religious meetings and, in their care for themselves, leave no chance for God to care for them. And the Lord does not do much for them, for they give Him no opportunity. They do too much for themselves, and believe and trust in God too little. 2T 195.1Read in context »
The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. Matthew 25:4. SD 118.1
Let every youth consider the parable of the ten virgins. All had lamps, that is, an outward semblance of religion; but only five of them had the inward piety. Five of them were wanting in the oil of grace. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, was not abiding in their hearts. Without the oil of grace, of what use was it to bear about a lamp of profession? However high may be the profession, however high may be the position held by a professor of religion, if the oil of grace is wanting, he has nothing with which to feed his lamp, and it cannot send forth clear, shining rays of light.... SD 118.2Read in context »