Thoughts on the Epistle to the Romans (33)

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Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Romans 2:4.

“Decent” people and moralists are still being addressed here. Such people frown upon others who are even worse than they themselves. Moreover, they commit a further error: they speak of God’s goodness, forbearance and long-suffering, without ever thinking seriously about God’s intention in displaying such characteristics.

The Jews had experienced God’s goodness, patience and long-suffering to a great extent (cf. Exodus 34: 6.7; Matthew 5:45), and Paul preached to the heathens that God had done them good, giving “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness” (Act 14:17).

Alongside these outward proofs of His goodness people had also experienced God’s forbearance and long-suffering: He was prepared to postpone punishment for their sins and did so for a lengthy period. But that led to a wrong conclusion: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Man misjudges God’s intention, disdainfully passing by His goodness. That he still fails to see God’s judgment causes appalling nonchalance regarding sin. 

The apostle Peter also emphasizes that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He also speaks of “scoffers” (v.3); who consciously ignore God’s past judgments and assert that none will occur in the future.