Summary: Today I want to study three attributes of God mentioned in Romans 2:4, namely, God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.
Let’s read Romans 2:2-4:
2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:2-4)
Today I would like to study three attributes of God. Specifically, I would like to examine the attributes of kindness, tolerance and patience.
I have a number of books in my library that deal with the attributes of God. However, as I look at my books I notice that there is little in them concerning two of the three attributes we are going to study today: tolerance and patience. Why is this?
Author A. W. Pink calls attention to this, saying, “It is not easy to suggest a reason . . . for surely the (patience) of God is as much one of the divine perfections as is his wisdom, power or holiness, and as much to be admired and revered by us.”
The reason many of us ignore these attributes may be precisely what Paul suggests when he asks, “Or 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 often of God’s tolerance and patience is perhaps our insensitivity to sin and our reluctance to turn from it.
Today, I want to study the three attributes mentioned in Romans 2:4, namely God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.
I. The Kindness of God
First, the kindness of God.
I have said that two of the three attributes mentioned in our text are frequently neglected: tolerance and patience.
But the first of the three attributes—kindness—is not usually ignored, although it is often translated as “goodness.”
Why is this word often translated as “goodness”? The word God gives us a clue. The word God comes from Anglo-Saxon speech, where “God” originally meant “The Good.” In the minds of the Anglo-Saxons, God was not only “the Greatest” of all beings but he was also “the best.” All the goodness there is originates in God. That is why the apostle James could write, “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). In the language of philosophy, the simplest of all definitions of God is summum bonum, the chief good.
Yet, when Paul speaks of the goodness (or kindness) of God in Romans 2:4, he is not thinking of this as having to do primarily with what God is in himself, but as having to do with God’s actions toward us. This may be why the New International Version renders the Greek term chrestotetos as kindness rather than “goodness,” as it is in the King James Version.
The first place at which the goodness of God is seen is in creation. Remember that on each of the successive days of creation, after God had made the heavens and the earth, the sea and the land, and all the creatures that live in the sea, inhabit the land, and fly in the air, God said, “It is good.” And it really was good—and continues to be, in spite of the increasing spoilage of creation that has come to it because of human sin.
The world about us is good, and this is a great proof of God’s goodness. Every time we breathe God’s good air, we demonstrate how indebted we are to this goodness. Every time we use the resources of the world to make homes and clothes and to grow food, we show that God is kind toward us. And what about our bodies? How suited are our hands to perform useful work! How valuable are our arms and legs! How amazing are our eyes! How marvelous our minds! Paul Brand’s study of the wonders of the human body – cells, bones, skin, and motion—Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, highlights some of this goodness.
God’s goodness is also revealed in providence, that is, by his continual ordering of the world and world events for good. Providence is seen in what theologians call “common grace.” Jesus spoke of this when he observed that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45b).
C. The Gospel Call
But God’s kindness toward us is seen not only in the physical creation and providence. It is also seen in many spiritual matters. Above all, it is seen in the widespread proclamation of the gospel. To be sure, the gospel has not yet penetrated everywhere. There are still many millions of people who have not heard that God has provided a Savior in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. But you have! You at least know God’s kindness in the gospel.