The Long Suffering God

We never have to be afraid of our sin, and the condemnation that comes with it, if we willingly come to God with an attitude of repentance because he is a kind, tolerant, and patient God who forgives.

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 2:4

4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

Boice opens up this chapter talking about the many books he has in his library about the character of God. These books include: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer; The Attributes of God and Gleanings in the Godhead by Arthur Pink; The Christian Doctrine of God by Emil Brunner; The Doctrine God of by Herman Bavinck; God, Revelation and Authority by Carl F. H. Henry; and Knowing God by J.I. Packer. What Boice finds is there is littler in these volumes concerning two of the three attributes we are going to study in this chapter, tolerance (forbearance) and patience (longsuffering). Why? The reason might be as Paul suggests when he asks, “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” The reason we do not think about God’s tolerance and patience is our insensitivity to sin and our reluctance to turn from it.

  1. The Goodness of God
    1. As previously mentiond the attributes “tolerance” and “patience” are often over looked, but not “goodness”.
    2. Boice believes this is so becasue “goodness” is much more desirable. “God” in Anglo-Saxon speech originally meant “The Good.”
    3. All the goodness there is originates from God. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
    4. The simplest of all definitions of God is summum bonum, the chief good.
    5. When Paul speaks of the goodness of God in Romans 2 he is not thinking of this as having to do primarly with what God is in himself, but as having to do with God’s actions toward us.
    6. This is why the NIV probably translates the word chrestotes as “kindness” rather than “goodness”.
    7. Creation
      1. The first place where we see God’s goodness is in his creation.
      2. After each successive day of creation God delcared “it is good”. It continues to be good despite what man does to that creation.
      3. Every time we breath, every time we use earth’s resources, everytime we grow good, we demonstrate God’s goodness through his creation.
    8. Providence
      1. God’s goodness is shown through His providence.
      2. Providence has to do with the continueal ordering of the world and world events for good by God.
      3. Providence is knows as “common grace”. Jesus recognizes this when he says that God, “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
    9. The Gospel Call
      1. Above all things, God’s kindness is shown in the widespread proclamation of the gospel.
      2. While the gospel has not spread everywhere, it is important to note that you have heard of it. How do you respond to the goodness of the gospel?
      3. Spurgeon wrote, “Now the word of God lies upon your table, and you have a copy of it in almost every room of your house. Is not this a boon from God? This is the land of the open Bible, and the land of the preached word of God. In this you prove the richness of God’s goodness. Do you despise this wealth of mercy?” (Spurgeon, “Earnest Expostulation” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 29)
  2. The Tolerance of God
    1. Greek word is anoches, variously translated “tolerance,” “forbearance,” “holding back,” “delay,” “pause,” or “clemency.”
    2. The idea introduced here is that of human offense to God’s goodness that should evoke an immediate outpouring of fierce judgemnet, but which God actually endures.
    3. This idea of tolerance can be shown at the beginning of the Bible:
      1. God told Adam and Eve if they eat of the tree of knowledge they would surely die that day.
      2. When God came to confront Adam and Eve He did not carry out the excution of the sentence.
      3. This first great sin and God’s dealing with it show God’s tolerance
    4. We all sin, but God does not immediately implement the judgement we deserve. God bears with us, enduring the affront to his holiness and He offers us salvation.
    5. Many times we do not appreciate God’s tolerance, instead we turn His tolerance into an accusation against him.
      1. Luke tells the story of those who witnessed evil in the day of Christ.
      2. Some worshippers were killed by soldiers of Pilate in one incident.
      3. In a second incident some were killed when a tower fell on them.
      4. It was asked of Jesus how it was possible that something like this could happen in a world ruled by a just yet merciful God?
      5. Did this happen because these people were worse sinners than other? Or was it because God was either too weak to avert the tragedies or just didn’t care?
      6. Jesus replied, “Do you tink that these Galileans were worse sinners that all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:2-5).
      7. Christ’s point was that our way of asking the question was wrong. The question isn’t why God somehow “let’s down” and allows others to peris, but rather why he has spared us, we being the sinners we are.
      8. If we could understand how sinful we are then would understand that the soldiers should have killed us, or the tower should have fallen us.
      9. We should be suffering in hell because of our sinfulness. That we are not in hell is evidence of God’s tolerance.
    6. God’s tolerance should lead us to repentance, before it is too late.
  3. The Patience of God
    1. This is linked to the call for repentance in that God spares us for a very long time that we might do so.
    2. Here is how Robert Haldane sums up these three attributes:
      1. Goodness imports the benefits which God hath bestowed.
      2. Forbearance denotes God’s bearing with us, without immeiately executing vengence–His delaying to punish.
      3. Long-suffering signifies the extent of that forbearance during many ages.
    3. Boice considers the three terms as aspects og God’s goodness:
      1. God’s Kindness – Goodness to man without any specific relationship to sin.
      2. God’s Tolerance – Goodness in relation to sin’s magnitude.
      3. God’s Patience – Goodness in relation to sin’s endurance or continuation.
    4. Patience means that God bears with sin a long time. Here are some examples.
      1. God was patient with those who sinned in the early ages of the race before the great flood.
      2. God was patient with Israel through their entire history of the Old Testament. He sent deliverer after deliverer, prophet after prophet, only to be ignored.
  4. Repent or Perish
    1. God is not simply just longsuffering, just for the sake of being longsuffering. God is longsuffering also to lead us to repentance.
    2. We can go two ways, repentance or defiance. One leads to life and the other leads to death.
    3. Three reasons why you should allow these attributes to lead you to repentance and should no longer despise the goodness of God.
      1. If God is a good God, then whatever you may think to the contrary in your fallen state, to find this good God will mean finding all good for youself.
      2. If God is tolerant of you, it is because he has a will to save you.
      3. If God is patient with you in spite of your many follies, it is because he is giving you an opportunity to be saved.

Personal Reflection

I think one of the great examples of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience at work is found in the book of Judges. Throughout the book of Judges we read about God raising up a leader for the Israelites, and when that leader dies we read how the Israelites did evil in the eyes of God. A leader would come up who would cause Israel to return to God, this happened on over ten separate occasions. The leader would pass away and almost immediately the people of Israel would return to worshipping other gods, indulging in sin, and constantly breaking the covenant they had with God. God showed tolerance for the covenant breaking of Israel and did not destroy them. God showed patience as he did not destroy the Israelites immediately, but instead their punishment was being handed over to the enemy. God showed kindness in that after years of captivity the Israelite would cry out to God and God would hear there cry, raise up a leader, and deliver them from the hands of their enemy. Remind you, this happened at least on 10 separate occasions in the book of Judges alone. If you look at the entirety of the Old Testament you will see nothing but kindness, tolerance, and patience on the part of God. This continues today with God’s people.

We, who live by faith, deserve immediate punishment for the sin we commit. God instead shows mercy and grace to his people. He not only shows kindness, tolerance, and patience to his chosen people, he also shows those same qualities to the unsaved. I recognize that I am a sinner and a day does not go by in which sin is a part of my life. I wish sin was not a part of my life, but it is. I also recognize that God has the right to dole out His wrath toward me at any time He chooses. I’m fully aware that I am deserving of that wrath. I deserve God’s judgement. I thank God daily for His kindness, tolerance and patience toward me, because I do recognize who I am, a sinner. As Romans 2:4 reads, His kindness leads me to repentance. I repent because I am a sinner and God shows His attributes of kindness, tolerance, and patience toward me. He not only shows these attributes toward me, but He shows them in great abundance. When Romans 2:4 talks about the “richness of His kindness, tolerance, and patience” it talks about the depth and magnitude of those attributes. Knowing who I am, a sinner, and the depth of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, how can I not cry out to him in repentance when I allow sin to enter my life? If I did not do this then I am doing nothing but taking advantage of a good God. If I did not do this, then I would continue to store up wrath from God toward me (We’ll look more closely at this idea of stored up wrath soon).

I embrace the guilt of my sin because it drives me to come to a good and merciful God in repentance, knowing in His kindness there is forgiveness. Many people look at feelings of “guilt” as bad, condemning it as an unhealthy emotion. All feelings of guilt are not bad, some guilt should be embraced. What makes guilt bad is when it is misplaced, when it is allowed to linger, when it is allowed to smother us. Real guilt should compel us to fall to our knees in repentance, knowing that we do have a God who desires to show mercy and grace. He shows us mercy and grace because He is a good God, He is kind. We never have to be afraid of our sin, and the condemnation that comes with it, if we willingly come to God with an attitude of repentance because he is a kind, tolerant, and patient God who forgives.


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