The Patience of God -- Romans 9:22-24 (Beyond the Pulpit)
I noted in last weeks message (and the previous message) that the "keyword" in Romans 9:22-24 was "patience" and to be more specific: God's patience with us. In last weeks message, we started by making the case that God is holy meaning that God hates sin because it is contrary to his decree. Where God has declared or decreed something to be right and true -- sin perverts this and asks, "Did God really say or decree that?" The point in this line of thinking was to get us to think seriously about sin in the kingdom of God. The fact is, in God's kingdom sin is declared to be a treasonous act against the King - an act which is a capital offense. The King of all kings is just, meaning that treasonous acts in His kingdom must be dealt with or justice would be perverted.
When we see sin in this light, it begs the question: Why would God withhold judgment? There are at least two possible reasons God's delay.
First, it could be that God is incapable of curbing the rebellion that is taking place in his Kingdom. This would explain why God hasn't crushed the uprising against him - he is incapable of doing so. Of course, there is an obvious problem with this view, and that is God would not be omnipotent - He would not be all powerful. God's omnipotence is declared over and over in the Scriptures. Jeremiah 32:17, for instance, states, "Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you." If nothing is too hard for God, it would seem foolish to suggest that God is incapable of dealing justly with sinners guilty of treason. A Second reason for God withholding judgment from those who are guilty is that God is only withholding judgment for a time. In other words, God is very capable of squashing the rebellion toward Him that exists in the world today and is being patient with those who are guilty.
James Montgomery Boice has become one of my favorite pastors and theologians, and he points out three observations that we must keep in mind when thinking about God's patience toward those who are clearly guilty and deserve the due penalty for their crimes.
First, Boice says that God is patient for a reason. The fact is, according to Boice, if you are not in hell today (a future you deserve) it is because God has been patient with you and the purpose of his patience is to lead you to repentance. God's patience with us must be seen as a good thing because it is God who has determined to be patient with us and it is God Himself that gives that purpose for His patience (2 Peter 3:9). Just take some time to reflect on how God has been patient with you. Some see God's patience with them and abuse that patience, but even when we have taken advantage of God's patience - He is still patient with us.
Second, Boice tells us that God will not be patient with us forever. God's patience toward us is a beautiful thing, but it will not last forever. The wrath of God is building like the waters behind a great dam and one day that dam will open. We see this truth as Jesus was crucified between two criminals (presumably deserving criminals) - God had been patient with them until the final moments of their lives and that patience led to the repentance of one but the condemnation of the other. Yes God is patient with us, and that patience is meant to lead us to repentance, but it is not unending patience and one day all accounts will be settled and judgment will come.
Third, Boice rightly tells us that since God is patient with us, we should be patient as well. In Paul's writings, the word "patience" isn't found very often. It is only seen three times in reference to God, but the interesting thing is that it is found six times listed as a virtue that Christians are to nurture. The first two observations that Boice makes seem to be directed more toward unbelievers in that God's patience is meant to lead to repentance, and it will not last forever - therefore now is the time to repent. The third observation is applied to believers. The fact is, we as believers tend to be impatient with one another. We tend to be impatient with our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those we are trying to win to Christ. Perhaps we should reflect for a time on how God has been patient with us and how we should be patient with other people. It is interesting that in Romans 9:22-24 that God's attributes of wrath, power, patience, and mercy are all listed, and we are not called to exemplify the first two. As believers, we are not to be characterized by wrath and power, but we deal with others patiently with all of the mercy we can muster because that is how God has dealt with us.
Pastor Coalt Robinson