"The Lord is long-suffering to youward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."—2 Pet. iii. 9.
AFTER Paul had urged that supplications,
prayers, and intercessions should be made for all men, he reminds us that we may do so in confident assurance that it is good and acceptable to God, because He vrilleih that all men should be saved. The knowledge and faith of God's will for all is to be the motive and the measure of our prayer for all. What God in heaven wills and works for His children on earth we are to will and work for too. As we enter into His will for all, we shall know what we are to do to fulfil that will. And as we pray and labour for all, the faith in His will for all will inspire us with confidence and love.
Perhaps the question arises—If God wills the salvation of all, how is it that it is not effected? What of the doctrine of election, as Scripture teaches it us? And what of the Omnipotence of God, which is surely equal to the Love that wills the salvation of all? As to election, let us remember that there are mysteries in God and in Scripture which are beyond our reach. If there are apparently conflicting truths which we cannot reconcile, we know that Scripture was not written, like a book of science, to satisfy the intellect, but as the revelation of the hidden wisdom of God, to test and strengthen faith and submission, to waken love and childlike teachableness. If we cannot understand why His power does not work what His will has purposed, we shall find that, as the endowment of the creature with a free will is an act by which the will of God has limited itself, all that God does or does not do is decided by conditions far beyond our ken, and which it needs a Divine wisdom to grasp and to order. We shall learn that God's will is as much beyond our comprehension as God's being, and that it is our wisdom and safety and happiness to accept every revealed truth with the simplicity and the faith of little children, and yield ourselves to it to prove its living power within our hearts. Let us not fear to yield ourselves to the uttermost to this blessed word: God willeth that all men should be saved.
God is love. His will is love. As He makes His sun to shine on the good and the evil, so His love rests upon all. However little we can understand why His love is so long-suffering and patient, and does not take its power and reign, we believe and know the love that God hath to us—a love whose measure in heaven is the gift of His Son, and on earth every child of man. His love is nothing, but His will in its Divine energy doing its very utmost, in accordance with the Divine law by which His relation to His creature is regulated, to make men partakers of its blessedness. His will is nothing but His love in its infinite patience and tenderness delighting to win and bless every heart into which it can gain access. If we only knew God and His love, how we should look upon every man we see as one upon whom that love rests and for whom it longs. We should begin to wonder at the mystery of grace that has taken up the Church, as the body of Christ, as a partner in the great work of making that love known, and rendered itself dependent upon its faithfulness. And we should see that all living to do God's will must lead up to this as its central glory: our doing the will that wills that all should be saved.
God willeth that all men should be saved. This truth is a supernatural mystery, not to be apprehended but by a spiritual mind through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. It is in itself so Divine and beyond our apprehension, the difficulties that surround it are so many and so real, it needs so much of time and of the sacrifice of the humble loving heart to master its teaching, that to very many the words carry but little meaning. To the believer, who in very deed seeks to know and do all God's will, they give a new meaning to life. He begins to see that this call to love and to save his fellow-men is not something accidental or additional that, along with other things, goes up to make his life, and to which he can devote as much of time and thought as he sees fit. He learns that just as this loving, saving will of God is the secret source of all His will, and rules it all, so this loving, saving will is to be the chief thing he lives for too. I have been redeemed and organically united to and made a member of the saving Christ, who came to do this will of the Father. I have been chosen and set apart and fitted for this as the one object of my being in the world. I begin to see faintly that the prayer, Thy will be done! means above everything that I give myself for this loving, saving will of God to possess, to inspire, to use, if need be to consume me. And I feel the need of spelling out the words of the sentence till my heart can call them its own: God —my God, who liveth in me—willeth, with His whole heart, in that will which He has revealed to His people that they may carry it into effect —that all men, here around me, and to the ends of the earth—should be saved, should have everlasting life.
Paul wrote these words in connection with a call to prayer for all men. Our faith in the truth of God's loving, saving will must be put into practice. It must stir us to prayer. And prayer will most certainly stir us to work. We must not only seek to believe and feel the truth of these words, but must act. This will of God must be done. Let us look upon those around us as the objects of God's love, whom His saving will is seeking to reach. Let us, as we yield ourselves to this will, go and speak to those around us of God's love in Christ. It is possible that we are not succeeding in doing God's will in our personal life because we neglect the chief thing. As we pray to be possessed and filled with the knowledge of this will of God, let us, in our Sunday-school class, or Gospel work, in our efforts for young or old, for poor or rich, seek to have hearts filled with this love, tongues that speak of Jesus and His salvation, and a will that finds its strength in God's own will—that all men should be saved. So will our life, and our love, and our work, and our will in some measure be like that of Jesus Christ—a doing of the Father's will, that none of these little ones should perish.