Centered on Christ
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Centered on Christ

Do You Despise the Goodness of God?

A hand raised up in front of the light on a dark night.
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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)

After warning that no one escapes the judgment of God, Paul asks a question.

Those who thought they could escape the judgment of God were actually despising the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering by their actions.

Despising God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering.

Some were looking down on the riches of God’s goodness. The ESV says they “presumed” upon the riches of His goodness.

By their behavior, they showed their profound contempt for the things of God and for the blessings He had extended.

Goodness.

God’s goodness refers to His moral goodness. This word is also translated as “kindness.” We are alive today thanks to the kindness of God.

Even though God offered an abundance of kindness and moral goodness, some presumed upon Him and continued living however they wanted. They thought He would never judge them for their sins.

Forbearance.

[Forbearance] is a word which means toleration. In classical Greek it is generally used of a holding back, a delaying. It is as though the Lord had lifted in His one hand the thunderbolt of His wrath against man, and had then with His other hand restrained Himself from the judgment that is so surely merited. — Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 2, 26

They thought themselves above the judgment of God — so they assumed themselves to be above needing His mercy and forbearance as well.

Longsuffering.

Longsuffering “is characteristic of the man who has it in his power to take revenge and choose rather not to do so” (Wacaster, Studies in Romans, 70). Longsuffering involves being slow to avenge wrongs.

They incorrectly thought that God being slow to avenge injustice and sin was a sign that they were alright — nothing was wrong.

They had completely missed the point of the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering.

To miscalculate the significance of the time which God grants for repentance and mistake God’s longsuffering for approval will be disastrous. — Reese, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 81

The goodness of God should lead you to repentance.

Paul pointed out that the goodness of God should have motivated the sinner (Jew or Gentile) to repent of their sin.

Repentance can be easily misunderstood — so it’s essential to consider what it means to repent.

You must erase from your mind the false definition that has grown up on the fringes of Christianity that looks upon repentance as being a sort of self-chastisement for sin. To go to the mourner’s bench [or front pew] and weep and wail is not of necessity a sign of repentance. There can be a true repentance that is dry-eyed. The original word indicates a change of mind. It is the soldier’s command: About face! — Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 2, 29

To repent means “to turn.” Imagine going in one direction and then realizing you are going the wrong way and turning around to go a different direction.

That’s the idea of repentance.

God’s goodness was not approval of sin — God’s longsuffering and goodness allowed for the opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But some had looked with scorn upon God’s goodness and missed the point.

When man rebelled and disobeyed God, it was an attempt to cast off the rule and authority of God over the human heart. Man wanted to be God himself. The entrance of sin was a cry from the heart; and it was not a cry for God to move over in order to let man share the throne, but it was a cry for God to get off the throne and let man have it all to himself. And if you are going to be saved, there must be a complete reversal of position. You must get down off the throne and acknowledge that God alone is God, and that you are a creature subject in everything to Him. — Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 2, 26–27

The Judgment Day has not yet arrived — why?

Because God is powerless to stop the evil in this world? No.

Because God doesn’t care what happens in this world? No.

The Judgment Day has not come because God, in His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, desires sinners to repent and come to Him.

Even some of the same people who had been there when Jesus was crucified were told to repent — God wanted them to repent.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

Those who continue to reject God’s goodness demonstrate that they despise His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering — even if they claim to be religious (like many of the Jews were).

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