Romans 2: 4 – “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” NKJV
If you have been in church any length of time, I am sure that you have heard, “God is good all the time,” and then someone will reply, “And all the time, God is good”! Well, it’s more than just a saying, it’s the absolute truth! I like to add to that, “God is good on purpose, and He is good to me!”
Let’s look today at verses 3 and 4 of chapter 2, in the Message Bible to get continuity of thought:
You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.Romans 2:3-4 MSG
I like the sound of that! Last time, I shared about the pointing of fingers, or the judgmental attitudes that we can sometimes adopt in life. In the Message Bible, written by Pastor Eugene Peterson, who is currently with the Lord, we see a down to earth paraphrase of what Paul was trying to get the Roman church to understand. God is not letting us off the hook because He is a good God! Sin is serious business with Him. He doesn’t ignore our sin because He loves us, but His heart of kindness towards us is that we would be drawn to Him and repent.
When I was growing up, we were constantly reminded that our sin would separate us from God. We were told that we didn’t want to get involved in sin because if we died in it, we would go to hell. We were basically told that God was waiting to get us if we sinned. While it is most definitely true that God hates sin, and sin does separate us from Him, that is only part of the equation. The other part is that He is a loving God, a good God! And when we respond correctly to Him and to sin, we get to experience the loving side of Him.
Israel Houghton wrote these lyrics in one of his songs: “You’re not mad at me, Your’e not mad at me, You’re madly in love with me!” How wonderful to hear that about God! He truly loves us! But because religion tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, we tend to think that we can continuously sin and be alright with God! Isaiah’s words are still true today:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;Isaiah 59:2
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
This is too important, to make light of it, or to have a casual attitude about it. Sin will keep you from all that you can have through Christ Jesus. Make no mistake, His grace is not a license to sin! But we will get into that a little more further in the letter to the Romans.
The Jews were God’s special people, and as such, they had come to believe that would always be the case. Look at what Moses wrote:
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.Deuteronomy 7:6
Even today, the nation of Israel believes that they are God’s chosen people, and rightly so. But here, in this verse and chapter, Paul is letting it be known that God isn’t letting anyone off the hook, Jew or Gentile, just because He is good, or because He loves us! Jew and Gentile alike, must come to a place of repentance before the living God!
In Paul’s question, he asked if they despised the goodness, forbearance and patience of God. Let’s look at these three words:
The word “good”, in the Greek has two words it is translated from, “agathos” and “chrestos”. Agathos is the goodness of someone that may result in punishment; while “chrestos” is the goodness of Someone who is always kind. I’m sure you can figure out that “chrestos” is the one that refers to God. He is always kind and He is always good! Many try and take advantage of that kindness, and that is the idea that Paul is conveying when he asks if they despise the goodness of God.
Our word “forbearance” in the Greek is the word for truce. In the Vine’s, “anoche” means a holding back or delay of punishment. Some people feel that because they didn’t die when they ate of the forbidden fruit, that death wasn’t knocking at their door! One commentator said it like this:
Paul, in effect, is saying to the Jews: ‘You think that you are safe because God’s judgment has not yet descended upon you. But what God is giving you is not complete freedom to sin; He is giving you the opportunity to repent and to amend your ways.’The Letter to the Romans, William Barclay, Logos
And then we have the word patience. “Makrothumia” means to have patience with people. John Chrysostom explained this word as “the characteristic of someone who has the power to avenge and deliberately does not use it”. In other words, the fact that punishment does not always immediately follow the sin is because of His patience, not His inability to deal with it, or His approval of it.
I love the way Rick Renner breaks down a verse using the Greek meanings. I’m no Rick Renner, but I want to try and consolidate these meanings for us:
Do you hold in contempt the abundance of God’s nature which is always kind towards you, or His ability to send down His wrath; yet He delays it, because He is exercising much restraint in not quickly judging your sin; and yet you think He is okay with you? Don’t you know that it is His nature of kindness that causes Him to withhold His wrath from you in hopes that you might repent of your sins and come to Him?Romans 2:4-My paraphrase
Let me put it in everyday terms for us. God’s goodness, that is intended to draw us to repentance, is like a wife who has been caught in adultery by her husband. Although he knows that she has cheated on him, he offers her his complete forgiveness. She then has a choice to make. She can arrogantly throw it in his face and leave the marriage. She can say she’s sorry but continue in her relationship as if he will just forgive her again. Or she can see the goodness and love he has extended towards her, repent of what she has done, and live up to his trust in her.
Basically, that is how good God’s goodness is to us, only better. Some people see His goodness, as an excuse to continue in their sin; while others recognize the importance of His goodness extended towards them and respond to it with a changed heart. His goodness was never meant to give us the freedom to sin, but to demonstrate how good He is so that we may experience a radical change of life.
This study is really causing me to be grateful for my salvation. It is also causing me to reflect on my life before Him, making sure I have the right attitude towards God. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t rejoice in how good He is to me! Yet, as I am studying and blogging, I can’t help but be aware of the simple truth, “but for grace”! Wonderful Jesus!