Have you ever considered how important the context of the verse is to the correct understanding of truth? In the Bible it is essential. I once heard an evangelist continually pull a truth out of context throughout a sermon and I know he understood the complete truth—but he is wasn’t communicating it well.
He didn’t communicate the truth well because he didn’t present the truth in context. Perhaps you have heard someone say:
“God is not willing that any should perish.”
That is what the evangelist said.
Is this a true statement? (It comes from the Bible.) Yes, but only if it is presented in its context. No—as a stand-alone idea—it is not a true statement. Here is where the idea comes from. 2 Peter 3:9 says:
The Lord is not slack [slow] concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering [patient] to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
This promise is not a universal promise. (That would lead to universalism—the belief that eventually God will save all either on this planet or in the life to come.)
This verse is not promising that God is not willing that any should perish. We know this to be true based on rest of the Bible. In Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus said, “Except you repent you will all likewise perish.” That is very clear. From the mouth of our Lord, everyone who doesn’t repent will perish. Therefore, I must conclude that God is willing that some perish.
Who then is God not willing to perish? Who can take comfort in this promise from Peter? The context of the verse makes that clear—it is the group “us-ward.” Peter fits that group. Do you? Go back and read the introduction of the book and it is very clear Peter is writing to Christians—he is writing to people he believes have been radically changed by the power of the gospel. Within chapter three he opens with this description of the people who are part of the “us-ward”—he calls them “beloved.” He says they have “pure minds.” How did they get “pure minds?” Why are they “beloved?” They are born again. They have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters. This is why Peter can accurately describe them with pure minds and people who are beloved.
The “us-ward” is the group of people that God is not willing that should perish. God is not willing that any who come to repentance perish. This is an awesome promise of eternal security of the believer.
For the complete truth of the Word of God reveals that repentance for all is a commandment. According to Acts 17:30: God is now commanding all men everywhere to repent. The only acceptable response to the gospel is repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus the Christ. If that is not a person’s testimony he or she will perish. Hell is punishment for a failure to turn to the one true and living God. The fact is: God is willing that those who do not turn from idolatry to the one true and living God perish. The frightening truth is: Every moment, of every hour, of everyday, people are perishing. They are stepping into eternity without Jesus. Will you?
I hope this short posting did two things: First, I hope it reinforced for you the importance of teaching biblical truth within the context of the complete revelation of scripture. Second, I hope it has reminded you that “intellectual asset” is not the same as biblical belief in Christ—because “believing” always contains an element of repentance. There isn’t anyone who has “believed on the Lord Jesus Christ” who has not experience repentance toward God as a part of their Christian testimony. The word of God must always be taught within the complete revelation of truth. A failure to do so can lead to people forming wrong ideas about God and truth.