October 4, 2008

O. Palmer Robertson on the Noahic Covenant and 2 Peter 3:9

God's commitment to maintain a universal witness to the whole of humanity through the ordering of creation later plays a significant role in the missionary mandate of the apostle Paul. In establishing that the gospel should be proclaimed among all nations, he appeals to the universal witness borne by God through creation (cf. Rom. 10:18 in its reference to Ps. 19:4). The world-wide scope of the testimony of creation provides the foundation for the universal proclamation of the gospel. The God who has commissioned the witness of himself to the ends of the earth through creation also has shown himself to be "Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon him" (Rom. 10:12).

This universal witness of the ordering of creation roots deeply in the covenanting word to Noah. By the provisions of the Noahic covenant God committed himself to a course of universal testimony. Creation's witness of grace toward sinful man still provides the platform from which the universal proclamation of the gospel should be launched.18
18. II Pet. 3:3–10 also appears to establish its base for the universal proclamation of the gospel on the covenant with Noah. Sinners may mock the word of new covenant prophecy concerning a consummating judgment (vv. 3, 4). But Noah's flood indicates the certainty of God's ultimate intentions (vv. 5, 6). As "by the word of God" (τω του θεου λόγω) the world first came into being, so "by the same word" (τω αυτω λόγω) the present universe is being sustained for the judgment of fire (vv. 5, 7). The reference to the "same word" refers broadly to the word of God which had been manifested so powerfully at creation. But it also appears to refer more specifically to the covenanting word spoken to Noah. On the basis of this post-diluvian word, the earth continues to be maintained to the present.

The longsuffering of God, who does not wish any to perish (v. 9), manifests itself in the context of this covenanting word that God will maintain the whole of creation until the judgment of fire (vv. 7, 10). In the cosmic context of these verses, describing the purposes of God respecting the whole of creation (vv. 6, 7), the "desire" of God that "all" should come to repentance should be interpreted universally. The fact that God may "desire" what he has not explicitly "decreed" simply must be taken as one of those areas of God's purposes that cannot be comprehended by the finite mind. The context would not favor the limitation of this desire to the "elect," despite the possibility that "longsuffering to you" could be interpreted as meaning longsuffering to the believing recipients of Peter's letter. The point of the text is not that God is longsuffering toward the elect, not willing that any of the elect should perish. The present delay of judgment on the world indicates his longsuffering to the whole of humanity, despite the fact that ultimately not all shall be saved. Cf. John Murray and N. B. Stonehouse,
The Free Offer of the Gospel (Phillipsburg, n.d.) pp. 21–26
O. Palmer Roberson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg: NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1980), 122–123.

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