Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
In this section of his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote as if speaking to those who have generally moral lives, yet don’t think they need the salvation only God can give. They think that because they are better morally than many people, they can be good enough to earn a right standing with God.
Paul points out that this generally moral person presumes upon the goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering of God, which all should bring the moralist into a humble repentance instead of an attitude of superiority.
Goodness may be considered God’s kindness to us regarding our past sin. He has been good to us because He has not judged us yet though we deserve it.
Forbearance may be considered God’s kindness to us regarding our present sin. This very day – indeed, this very hour – we have fallen short of His glory, yet He holds back His judgment against us.
Longsuffering may be considered God’s kindness to us regarding our future sin. He knows that we will sin tomorrow and the next day, yet He holds back His judgment against us.
Considering all this, it is no surprise that Paul describes these three aspects of God’s kindness to us as God’s riches. Strangely, these riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering are despised by many people.
Sometimes people think of these as examples of weakness in God. They say things like “If there is a God in heaven, let Him strike me dead!” When it doesn’t happen, they will say, “See, I told you there was no God.” Men misinterpret God’s forbearance and longsuffering as His approval, and they refuse to repent.
Knowing how great God’s kindness is, it is a great sin to presume upon the graciousness of God, and we easily come to believe that we deserve it.
God’s purpose in all this goodness is to lead us to repentance. Wise men and women see the riches of God’s forbearance and longsuffering and understand:
– God has been better to them than they deserve.
– God has shown them kindness when they have ignored Him.
– God has shown them kindness when they have mocked Him.
– God is not a cruel master and they may safely surrender to Him.
– God is perfectly willing to forgive them.
– God should be served out of simple gratitude.
All this should lead us to faith and repentance, instead of presuming that God will forever hold back His judgment.
Are you waiting for God to drive you to repentance? He doesn’t work like that; God leads you to repentance. Don’t despise the riches of His goodness to you. Instead, regard every new day as a generous gift from God, giving humanity more time to repent from their sin and trust in Him as Creator and Redeemer.