I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that God desires all people to be saved, not just the elect. I think this is clearly shown in several scripture passages. Let me start with this one
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:8-9 NIV)
I believe that this verse is a clear statement That God wants even the damned to be saved. However, there are many of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with this interpretation. They would say that this verse means that God wants only “everyone” who is elect to be saved. They would base this interpretation on the use of the word “you” in verse 9, which clearly stands for those who are saved brethren. However, I still think that despite this, the last part of the verse still refers to everyone, since it is the judgment of the whole world that is in view here (II Peter 3:7).
I believe that my interpretation is backed up by a parallel passage in II Timothy:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:1-4)
This passage too, is saying that God wants even the damned to be saved. My brothers and sisters of the opposite persuasion will once again say that these “all people” are all the elect. But it is clear from this passage that they are not. I think that it is obvious that verses one and two are saying that we should pray for all the unsaved. After all, most “kings” and “those in authority” are not elect. (I Corinthians 1:26). It seems clear to me that verse four is talking about the same group of people as those in verses one and two.
Finally, let me turn to another well-known passage in I John:
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins,and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2)
In this passage there is a clear transition in discussion from the saved to the unsaved. The “anybody” mentioned in verse one means anyone who is one of “my dear children,” meaning the elect. However verse 2 clearly says that Christ did not die only for “us” but also “for the sins of the whole world.”
Once again my brothers and sisters of the Calvinist persuasion will insist that “the whole world” means “all the elect in the world.” But I think that the transition from the elect to the unelect in the second half of the verse is extremely clear. A straightforward reading of this passage clearly shows that God sent Jesus to die for everyone.
Now, John is not saying of course that everyone in the world will be saved. He makes that very clear throughout his epistle (I John 1:10, I John 3:8, 14-15). But He is saying that Christ died for all people, which backs up my thesis that God wants all people to be saved.
The reason why many of my Christian brothers and sisters do not accept this, is because they believe that this teaching undermines God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness to the elect. If God wants everyone to be saved, then God must be a failure, they would argue, because not everyone will be saved.
However, the failure is not God’s: it is man’s. God is not responsible for evil in this world nor the consequences of evil. God’s desire to save all people is genuine, but He is limited from doing so by His own perfect righteousness and goodness. It is man’s evil that makes judgment necessary.
My dear Calvinist friends: I am not attacking God’s sovereignty or his faithfulness to the elect. I understand that both doctrines are fundamental to Christianity and are easily supported from scripture. I am trying to strengthen, not harm your faith. What I disagree with is the teaching that God’s sovereignty means that God does not want everyone to be saved. This leap in reasoning is made by an error in human logic, it cannot be backed up from Scripture. I believe both that God loves everyone while at the same time being Sovereign and in control of who is saved, since that is what the Bible teaches.
If I have still failed to convince you, please realize that all people, are, in a sense, God’s children (Acts 17:28) since they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). God will judge his children with hellfire if it is necessary, but He most surely does not want to do it. No decent person enjoys seeing their children suffer, even if their children deserve it. God, who is the ultimate standard for true Goodness, does not desire any of his children to perish. But perish some must, because of their own sins and unrepentant hearts.
Here are some final verses for thought:
“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)
‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)