The Goodness of God Leadeth to Repentance

"But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth... And thinkest thou this, O man... that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" [Rom. 2:2-4]

The goodness of the Creator is something that many people live their entire lives with little or no regard for. They are unaware of how gracious and longsuffering He is and has been toward mankind in allowing them to continue to exist on this earth despite their wickedness. The purpose of God's eternal goodness and His forbearance with mankind is in fact to give them the opportunity to find Him and lead them to repentance as the Apostle Paul so emphatically declares in the passage from Romans 2, quoted above.

The Apostle Peter also speaks to the goodness of Yahweh in this same context:

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise... but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." [2 Pet. 3:9]

Can we conclude then that this is the goodness of God - that He has graciously withheld His judgment upon the earth and the rightful destruction of all wickedness to give more of His creation opportunity to repent and follow His will? But, how much longer will be allowed, before the day of the Lord comes?

His Character is Goodness. We do know Yahweh's goodness and character are inseparable. This was evident when the LORD manifested His glory to Moses, which was in fact described as His "goodness". "I will make all my goodness pass before thee and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." [Ex. 33:19]

All of God's promises to man, we believe, emanate from the essential goodness of His nature. His promises were made to His people Israel. Unfortunately, most despised the riches of His goodness, straying from the covenants of promise, failing Him miserably time and time again. But, Yahweh did not utterly destroy them despite their continued disobedience. Indeed, God is gracious and longsuffering. To Israel, He is goodness and truth, and for the sake of the faithful remnant, He will keep His covenant with them. [Isa. 1:4-9]

His Goodness has been extended to us. Likewise, those who have been grafted in, can and do fail our Father in heaven all too often. We, as spiritual Israel, suffer under the same burdens of the flesh as natural Israel. We are also experiencing the same trials that they and our brethren before us have gone through, only in different forms perhaps. And we know all too well that none are immune from falling away in these last days. It is so very critical then to be constantly aware of Yahweh's goodness, forbearance and longsuffering "to us-ward."

We are indeed very thankful that Yahweh has condescended to invite all those who believe in the promises to share in them as "fellowheirs" [Eph. 3:6-9] and that His goodness has been extended to us in this age. But, we must remain faithful until our Lord's return. "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." [Rom. 2:7]

The goodness of Yahweh promises resurrection from the dead and exaltation to the highest state, even immortal life in His kingdom. Yet, it is more than eternal life. It promises wisdom and knowledge and strength, equality with the angels, glory and honor with the Father forever. Who would not respond to such a potential state of blessing? -- For "The LORD is good, ... His mercy endureth forever". [Ps. 106:1]

Godly sorrow worketh repentance. How should we respond? The Apostle Paul exhorted the brethren in Corinth: "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance... for godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death." [2 Cor. 7:9-10] Godly sorrow, resulting from the trials and tribulations of the last days, will manifest itself in repentance and the experience of divine grace. The Apostle contrasts the godly sorrow that we should have with worldly sorrow that is self-centered and does not recognize the consequences of continuing in sin (i.e., eternal death).

This brings us back to the passage that we began with and the essence of its message -"Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering?" What an utter travesty to lead a life that 'despisest' the blessings offered to all that love Him and obey His word. How can anyone despise "the riches of His goodness"? We should be willing to make any sacrifice to obtain such riches, but we have a myriad of individual reasons for not making them.

Earthly versus Heavenly: Most of us have found ourselves at some point (perhaps more than we would like to admit) devoted to the world and what it has to offer for enjoyment of the flesh. We must stop setting our affections on earthly things and become completely devoted to heavenly things as Paul admonished the brethren in Colosse. [Col. 3:1-5]

For a moment, let us consider an analogy. Let us suppose that we are looking for a place to build our home and come upon a beautiful plot of land. After seeing it, we become overwhelmed by a desire to own it as the perfect spot for the home of our dreams. We know that our desire will be granted but only on certain conditions. So, we accept the terms and receive the rights to the property from the owner. However, we will not actually possess it until the appointed time and when the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. But, what about the "Promised Land"? Shouldn't our hearts be overtaken instead with the desire to be part of the "heavenly Jerusalem" and fulfilling our contract with our Father in heaven?

The goodness of Yahweh, which leads to repentance, is manifested in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It will be realized in His kingdom upon this earth and nowhere else. Christ and his apostles preached this 'goodness' set forth in the gospel to lead those who believed to repentance that they might possess "the Promised Land" at the appointed time. We are admonished to repent because God "hath appointed a day, in the which He will rule the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained." [Acts 17:31]

Goodness and Severity: To the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul declared, "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell severity; but toward thee, goodness, If thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shall be cut off." [Rom. 11:22] In verse 20, Paul also said, "thou standest by faith". If then by faith one stands, by unbelief and lack of repentance one falls.

Indeed, when Christ returns "shall he find faith in the earth"? As Peter reminds us, the world was once destroyed by water and all save eight perished. There is another Day of Judgment coming for the destruction of ungodly men. [2 Pet. 3:5-6] The day of the Lord will come as irrevocably as the day of the floodwaters came in Noah's day. From Yahweh's initial announcement of impending judgment to its final execution when He closed the ark, there was a period of grace that extended 120 years. Likewise, "the day of the Lord" will appear at the time He has appointed. As Peter warns, some will scoff and question the coming of this day [vv. 3-4]. Yet, that day will come and then time, as we know it, will be no longer, "there will be no more delay" (Rev. 10:6- RSV)

Apparent Delay? "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness..." [2 Pet. 3:9] Why then does God continue to apparently delay the return of our Lord? The cause of the "delay" surely does not stem from indifference or inattentiveness to the condition of this world or the trials of His children. On the other hand, it is easy to become disheartened and impatient, beginning to fear that Christ's coming will never happen. "Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation". [v. 4]

Peter very clearly provides the reason for the apparent delay in the second half of verse 9 - "...longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Is he saying then that the "delay" should be regarded as evidence of God's goodness - that is, time for repentance as an extension of His grace and mercy towards us as sinners; that we should be saved from the destruction coming upon the earth? Behold then the goodness of God! Indeed, this "respite" is proof that Yahweh is merciful and forbearing even in this present, very dark age.

Let us pray that there will be a few faithful remaining at the end of the Gentile times and we may be among them. But, it is only through the goodness of God that there will be a faithful remnant - and only if it has led to repentance in their lives. Let us also pray that we will not despise the riches of His goodness but redeem the remaining days before the coming judgment.

Ken Wood

Landenberg, PA