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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 2:4



Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Adam Clarke Commentary

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness - Wilt thou render of none effect that marked benevolence of God towards thee which has given so many superior advantages, and that forbearance which has tolerated thy many miscarriages, and that long-suffering which, after repeated provocations, still continues to bear with thee?

Not knowing - Αγνοων, not acknowledging that this goodness of God, which has so long manifested itself in forbearance and long-suffering, leadeth thee to repentance - was designed to accomplish this blessed end; which thy want of consideration and acknowledgment has rendered, hitherto, ineffectual. This was a maxim among the Jews themselves; for, in Synopsis Sohar, it is said: - The holy blessed God delays his anger against the wicked, to the end that they may repent and be converted.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Or despisest - This word properly means to contemn, or to treat with neglect. It does not mean here that they professedly treated God‘s goodness with neglect or contempt; but that they perverted and abused it; they did not make a proper use of it; they did not regard it as suited to lead them to repentance; but they derived a practical impression, that because God had not come forth in judgment and cut them off, but had continued to follow them with blessings, that therefore he did not regard them as sinners, or they inferred that they were innocent and safe. This argument the Jews were accustomed to use (compare Luke 13:1-5; John 9:2); and thus sinners still continue to abuse the goodness and mercy of God.

The riches of his goodness - This is a Hebrew mode of speaking, for “his rich goodness,” that is, for his abundant or great goodness. Riches denote superfluity, or what abounds, or which exceeds a man‘s present desires; and hence, the word in the New Testament is used to denote abundance; or what is very great and valuable; see the note at Romans 9:23; compare Romans 11:12, Romans 11:33; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 2:4. The word is used here to qualify each of the words which follow it, his rich goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering.

Goodness - Kindness, benignity.

Forbearance - ἀνοχῆς anochēsLiterally, his holding-in or restraining his indignation; or forbearing to manifest his displeasure against sin.

Long-suffering - This word denotes his slowness to anger; or his suffering them to commit sins long without punishing them. It does not differ essentially from forbearance. This is shown by his not coming forth, at the moment that sin is committed, to punish it. He might do it justly, but he spares people from day to day, and year to year, to give them opportunity to repent, and be saved. The way in which people despise or abuse the goodness of God is to infer that He does not intend to punish sin; that they may do it safely; and instead of turning from it, to go on in committing it more constantly, as if they were safe. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” Ecclesiastes 8:11. The same thing was true in the time of Peter; 2 Peter 3:3-4. And the same thing is true of wicked people in every age; nor is there a more decisive proof of the wickedness of the human heart, than this disposition to abuse the goodness of God, and because he shows kindness and forbearance, to take occasion to plunge deeper into sin, to forget his mercy, and to provoke him to anger.

Not knowing - Not considering. The word used here, ἀγνοῶν agnoōnmeans not merely to be ignorant of, but it denotes such a degree of inattention as to result in ignorance. Compare Hosea 2:8. In this sense it denotes a voluntary, and therefore a criminal ignorance.

Leadeth thee … - Or the tendency, the design of the goodness of God is to induce people to repent of their sins, and not to lead them to deeper and more aggravated iniquity. The same sentiment is expressed in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” See also Isaiah 30:18, “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you;” Hosea 5:15; Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32.

Repentance - Change of mind, and purpose, and life. The word here evidently means, not merely sorrow, but a forsaking of sin, and turning from it. The tendency of God‘s goodness and forbearance to lead people to repentance, is manifest in the following ways.

(1) it shows the evil of transgression when it is seen to be committed against so kind and merciful a Being.

(2) it is suited to melt and soften the heart. Judgments often harden the sinner‘s heart, and make him obstinate. But if while he does evil God is as constantly doing him good; if the patience of God is seen from year to year, while the man is rebellious, it is adapted to melt and subdue the heart.

(3) the great mercy of God in this often appears to people to be overwhelming; and so it would to all, if they saw it as it is. God bears with people from childhood to youth; from youth to manhood; from manhood to old age; often while they violate every law, contemn his mercy, profane his name, and disgrace their species; and still, notwithstanding all this, his anger is turned away, and the sinner lives, and “riots in the beneficence of God.” If there is anything that can affect the heart of man, it is this; and when he is brought to see it, and contemplate it, it rushes over the soul and overwhelms it with bitter sorrow.

(4) the mercy and forbearance of God are constant. The manifestations of his goodness come in every form; in the sun, and light, and air; in the rain, the stream, the dew-drop; in food, and raiment, and home; in friends, and liberty, and protection; in health, and peace; and in the gospel of Christ, and the offers of life; and in all these ways God is appealing to his creatures each moment. and setting before them the evils of ingratitude, and beseeching them to turn and live.

And from this passage, we cannot but remark,

(1)That the most effectual preaching is what sets before people most of the goodness of God.

(2)every man is under obligation to forsake his sins, and turn to God. There is no man who has not seen repeated proofs of his mercy and love.

(3)sin is a stubborn and an amazing evil.

Where it can resist all the appeals of God‘s mercy; where the sinner can make his way down to hell through all the proofs of God‘s goodness; where he can refuse to hear God speaking to him each day, and each hour, it shows an amazing extent of depravity to resist all this, and still remain a sinner. Yet there are thousands and millions who do it; and who can be won by no exhibition of love or mercy to forsake their sins, and turn to God. Happy is the man who is melted into contrition by the goodness of God, and who sees and mourns over the evil of sinning against so good a Being as is the Creator and Parent of all.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Romans 2:4

Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness.

Earnest expostulation

I will give nothing for that preaching that is like the sheet lightning, flaming over a broad expanse, but altogether harmless. The apostle fixes his eye on a single person who had condemned others for transgressions in which he himself indulged; one who did not place his candle on his table to light his own room, but held it out at the door, to inspect therewith his neighbours who passed by. He thinks he shall escape in the future, and so despises the present goodness and long suffering of the Most High. Let me speak to thee, unregenerate man, of--

I. The goodness of God which thou hast experienced.

1. In temporal things. You have, perhaps, been prospered above your fellows. God has granted you wealth and health. You are happy in your wife and children. A thousand evils have been kept from you.

2. In spiritual things. You are in the very focus of Christian light. The Word of God is on your table; you hear the earnest preaching of the gospel. A tender conscience makes your road to perdition peculiarly hard. The Spirit has so striven with you that you were at times almost ready to drop into the Saviour’s arms.

3. He has been forbearing and long suffering for your sins. Forbearance has to do with the magnitude of sin; long suffering with the multiplicity of it. Many have been snatched from vice only to return to its deep ditch of filthiness. They have trembled on the brink of death, yet God has permitted them to recover strength. They slight His love, yet He perseveres in it. How many years you have been heaping up the loads of transgression! Yet here you are still, on praying ground and pleading terms with God. Think, also, who and what God is, who displays this long suffering. Think of His goodness: why should you provoke Him? Think of His omniscience: every transgression is committed in His very presence. Think of how powerful He is: your wicked heart would cease to beat if He should withdraw His power. Think of His purity: sin is much more intolerable to Him than to us.

II. The sin of which thou art suspected. Some despise God’s goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, because--

1. They never even gave a thought to it. God has given you life, and indulged you with kindness; yet it has never occurred to you that this patience is worthy of the smallest thanks. You have been of no service to your Maker, nor even thought of being of service to Him. Others have, perhaps, thought of it, but never meditated thereon.

2. Because they imagine God does not take any great account of what they do. So long as they avoid gross and open sin, they think it of light consequence not to love God.

3. They think the threatenings of God will never be fulfilled. They think, because the blow is long delayed, it never will come.

III. The knowledge of which thou art forgetful. The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance--

1. By giving opportunity to repent. All these years have been given you, that you might turn to God: yet you are spared only to multiply your transgressions.

2. By suggestions to repent. Life and death, heaven and hell, call upon you so to do. Every page of the Bible, every sermon, calls you to repent. Nature is full of voices warning you.

3. By leading to repentance. His mercies lead you. If they fail, He turns you by admonition. He leads you; hence He will help you, and will accept your repentance. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s goodness

The principal thoughts of these words are the wonderful things which meet our observation--the wonderful conduct of God.

I. The wonderful conduct of God. How grand is the expression! It is not merely the “goodness,” etc., but the “riches” of them all.

1. God is rich. We lay up a few thousands, or purchase a few acres and call ourselves rich; but God is the owner of all. Our world is but a speck of sand in His possessions. How stupendous, then, that He should accept the halfpence which some of you give to His cause! Then think of His spiritual wealth--the souls He owns--how much more astounding this than His material!

2. We are here directed to His wealth of goodness. Here is an ocean unfathomable. We know so little of what goodness really consists in that we can only stand and gaze on the surface. The riches of Divine goodness are more wonderful than those of Divine possession.

3. This goodness is manifested in “long suffering and forbearance.” God need not be long suffering. Why not end the long, sad, tale of rebellion and sin? Why not crush the blasphemous atoms? He could create another race. Surely, there is no theme for the contemplation of angels or men like the wonderful conduct of God.

II. The wonderful conduct of men. These words contain--

1. A charge. It is unnatural among men to manifest ingratitude and indifference in return for favour. To injure one who saves our life is inhuman. But men think little of the treatment they show to God. Sin is weak in some things, and man is powerless, but in this thing they both have strength. They can do what angels dare not do. Man can break down barriers which it cost the life of the Son of God to erect. He can withstand the love of God. Oh fatal power! Some have attempted to dare the power of God, but they have been crushed as a moth before the advance of a world. But they are more successful in resisting His love.

2. An appeal. It is as if it said, “Can you despise such riches?” etc. It is an appeal to our highest attributes of humanity. It is an appeal to our gratitude. Thanklessness is the lowest stage of inhumanity. It is an appeal to our own hearts. How should we like such a return to our beneficence? Despised! Are we not thrilled with the unnaturalness of the act? We despise that which is evil and contemptible; but the apostle speaks of despising that which is good. It is wonderful that God acts as He does; it is far more wonderful that man should treat that action with contumely and scorn. What madness for the shipwrecked sailor to despise the rope thrown to him! What folly for the inhabitants of a burning house to scorn the fire escape! But to spurn the tenderness of God is incomprehensible in the intensity of its madness.

III. Thy wonderful loss--“That leadeth thee to repentance.” He who despises the riches of Divine forbearance despises that which ought to lead to his eternal salvation. Earthly friendships are precious, how much more the friendship of God! Yet this is despised, and so lost, and with it happiness, peace, glory, eternal life. But the loss consists not only in what we lose, but in what we gain. It is easy to lose by a gain. A man had a splendid coat given him which had been worn by a fever patient. He gained the coat, but he lost his life. In despising God we not only lose heaven, but we involve ourselves in eternal condemnation. (J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

God’s goodness

As the sun sends forth a benign and gentle influence on the seed of plants, that it may invite forth the active and plastic power from its recess and secrecy, that, by rising into the tallness and dimensions of a tree, it may still receive a greater and more refreshing influence from its foster father, the prince of all the bodies of light; and, in all these emanations, the sun itself receives no advantage but the honour of doing benefits: so doth the Almighty Father of all the creatures. He at first sends forth His blessings upon us, that we, by using them aright, should make ourselves capable of greater; while giving glory to God and doing homage to Him are nothing to His advantage but only to ours; our duties towards Him being vapours ascending from the earth, not at all to refresh the regions of the clouds, but to return back in a fruitful and refreshing shower; and God created us, not that we can increase His felicity, but that He might have a subject receptive of felicity from Him. (Bp. Taylor.)

God’s riches

A favourite word of Paul’s, implying abundance, preciousness. It is applied to--

1. God’s wisdom and knowledge (Romans 11:33).

2. His glory (Romans 9:23).

3. His grace (Ephesians 1:7; Eph_2:7).

4. The glory of His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18).

5. The glory of this mystery (Colossians 1:27).

6. The full assurance of understanding (Colossians 2:2).

7. The unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).

8. The liberality of the poor (2 Corinthians 8:2). Here the riches--

God’s riches

I. In what they consist.

1. By the “goodness” of God! understand those providential mercies which surround us, and ought to lead us to acknowledge Him, and those which are manifested in His calling sinners “out of darkness into His marvellous light:” We are to bear in mind that there was no one single thing in man which could attract or merit God’s goodness, but that all sprang from God’s sovereign grace.

2. The “forbearance” of God is His withholding the judgments which are due to His enemies (Romans 3:24, etc.).

3. The “long suffering” of God is manifested--

(a) By looking at the will of God. He does not desire “that any should” perish, but that all should come to repentance.

(b) By the infinite price that has been paid.

(c) By the extent to which that redemption reaches.

II. The right use of these riches.

1. The awakening of our better affections. There is a sorrow for sin which “worketh death,” and a sorrow which “needs not to be repented of.” When we realise the greatness of God’s goodness there will be a greatness of love toward God--e.g., take the history of the woman spoken of in Luke 7:1-50. When we truly understand the extent of sin which has been pardoned, the depths of misery from which we have been extricated, the heights of glory to which we are to be admitted, then, and not till then, will our hearts burn with love towards God.

2. To teach us the exceeding sinfulness of sin--that we are sinning not only against One whose eyes are too pure “to look upon iniquity,” but against One who is good, and to lead us therefore to repentance.

III. Their abuse. How common is it that men live and die despising the riches of God’s love! Take the case of temporal mercies. How many speak of their good fortune, their success, never considering that these things came from God! And if we turn to the subject of our gracious mercies, how many are there who presume upon the continuance of those mercies, and determine to indulge in sin, as if there were no reckoning time for them (Ecclesiastes 8:1-17). There are many who misrepresent God’s forbearance as though He were overlooking sin. Many are there who, when they learn the exceeding riches of His grace, suppose that sin can therefore be of no consequence (Jeremiah 7:9-10). (Bp. Villiers.)

The riches of God’s goodness

God only is originally good. All created goodness is a rivulet from this fountain, but Divine goodness has no spring. God has it in and of Himself. All the goodness that is in His creatures is but the flowing of His goodness upon them, and vast is the number towards whom it flows--angels, glorified spirits, men, etc.

there is still less manifested than is left. All possible creatures are not capable of exhausting its riches. And God only is perfectly good, because infinitely good. He is good without indigence, because He has the whole nature of goodness, not only some beams that may admit of increase of degree. As nothing has an absolutely perfect being but God, so nothing has an absolutely perfect goodness but God; as the sun has a perfection of heat in it, but what is warmed by the sun is imperfectly hot, and equals not the sun in that perfection of heat wherewith it is naturally endued And then God only is immutably good. Other things may be good by supernatural power, but not in their own nature; i.e., they are not so good but they may be bad; God is so good that He cannot be bad. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The exuberance of God’s goodness

There is not so much sin in man as there is goodness in God. There is a vaster disproportion between sin and grace than between a spark and an ocean. Who would doubt whether a spark could be quenched in an ocean? Thy thoughts of disobedience towards God have been within the compass of time; but His goodness hath been bubbling up towards thee from all eternity. (N. Culverwell.)

The riches of God’s goodness

Goodness to the innocent, or goodness to the deserving, merely displays this attribute in a state of simplicity; but the goodness which remains unequalled and unexhausted after it has been sinned against--the goodness which persists in multiplying upon the transgressor the chances of his recovery, and that in the midst of affront and opposition--the goodness which, loathe to inflict the retaliating blow, still holds out a little longer and a little longer; and, with all the means in its power of avenging the insults of disobedience, still ekes out the season for its return, and plies it with all the encouragements of a free pardon and an offered reconciliation. This is the exuberance of goodness, this is the richness of forbearance and long suffering; and it is the very display which God is now making in reference to our world. And by every year which rolls over our heads--by every morning in which we find that we have awoke to the light of a new day, instead of awaking in torment--by every hour and every minute through which she stroke of death is suspended, and you still continue a breathing man in the land of gospel calls and gospel invitations--is God now justifying His goodness towards you. And earnest as He is for your return, and heedless as you are of all this earnestness, does it call as time moves onwards for a higher and a higher exertion of forbearance on the part of the Divinity, to restrain His past and accumulating wrath from being discharged on the head of those among whom though God entreats yet no man will turn, and though He stretch out His hand yet no man regardeth. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Despising the riches of God’s goodness

I. What are the riches of God’s goodness? etc. The greatness, the abundance of His kindness and patience towards sinful men.

1. To understand this you must consider the greatness of the provocation that is given Him. Look around you--look within you! Can you help seeing how unspeakable the outrage that is offered to Him day by day! Think of--

2. And now behold “the riches of God’s goodness,” etc. How doth He act? Doth He crush every sinner? No; He sits patiently seeing and hearing all the outrage that is done to Him; yet holding back His judgments, and giving breath to all these sinners, and providing food convenient for them. True, God doth in some cases break forth and vindicate the injured honour of His name by sending instant death on the transgressor. But such instances are comparatively rare. Where is the sinner who hath not cause to say that the Lord is slow to punish.

3. But why is this?

II. What frame of mind they ought to lead us to. Who can meditate on the goodness of God and not feel that it calls him to repentance?

1. It does so, were it only for this reason, that it gives the sinner time and opportunity to turn to God.

2. While there is a time there is a call. So long as God’s forbearance gives you opportunity, His grace gives you invitation. The sinner may be sure that, whilst the long suffering of God waiteth, he is welcome to a Saviour, and cannot seek in vain (Job 33:27-28).

3. But God’s long suffering makes, on another ground, a strong appeal to guilty man. Suppose it were a fellow creature we had wronged, and he should return our injuries with kindness and forbearance, should we not be moved and melted by it? Then how much more ought we to be melted down by the forbearance of our God! As often as you have sinned against Him, so often hath He pitied you and spared you. How different His dealings towards you from your dealings towards Him! Ought not this amazing kindness of the Lord to make you feel the vileness of your sins?

III. What is it to despise them? In order to reply there is only need to describe the way in which men do avail themselves of God’s forbearance.

1. Multitudes draw courage from it to live on in sin (Ecclesiastes 8:11; Psalms 7:21). Let not, then, a man venture after reading the text to bolster himself up in sin by making God’s long suffering his pillow. If God prolong a wicked man’s life it is not because God hath a liking for that man, or because He views his conduct with indifference; it is to give him time and reason for repentance; but if the man be not led unto repentance by God’s goodness to him, that goodness will only aggravate his final ruin (Psalms 92:1-15).

2. They also despise it who consider not “that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance.” Alas! how vain for countless multitudes of sinners is the time in which God waits for them! “The three-score years and ten” are all consumed in vanity, and end as they began. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

God’s goodness despised

I. The object of God’s goodness is--

1. To exhibit His perfections and to receive His creatures’ praise.

2. To attach this to Himself in gratitude and love.

3. To lead them to obedience and a holy life.

II. God’s goodness is despised.

1. When not duly noticed.

2. When not followed by grateful acknowledgment.

3. When the end aimed at in it is disregarded. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

The heinousness of despising God’s goodness

To sin against law is daring, but to sin against love is dastardly. To rebel against justice is inexcusable, but to fight against mercy is abominable. He who can sting the hand which nourishes him is nothing less than a viper. When a dog bites its own master, and bites him when he is feeding him and fondling him, no one will wonder if his owner becomes his executioner. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s goodness, etc., not to be despised

I. The goodness, forbearance, and long suffering of God.

1. As God is good, infinitely good in Himself, so--

2. His forbearance--

3. Long suffering, i.e., slow to punish (Numbers 14:18; Joel 2:12). Many instances of this are noticed in Scripture, as towards the old world in the days of Noah (1 Peter 3:20; cf. Genesis 6:3-7; Gen_7:4). Towards the world now (2 Peter 3:7-9). Towards particular nations, as Egypt, in the days of Pharaoh (Genesis 15:13-14; Romans 9:22); the Canaanites (Genesis 15:16); the Israelites in all ages (Isaiah 5:1), especially in the time of Christ (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 13:6-9). Towards particular cities, as Sodom (Genesis 18:20); Nineveh (Jonah 1:2; Jon_3:10; Jon_4:11); Babylon, Tyre. Towards Churches that have left their first love (Revelation 2:1-6); that are lukewarm (Revelation 3:15); that are formal and dead and barren (Revelation 3:1). Towards families, as that of Ahab (1 Kings 21:29); the house of Stuart, in England, and of Bourbon, in France. Towards individuals innumerable of all characters, whom God is slow to punish, and even to chastise (Luke 13:7).

II. How these attributes, included under the name of the goodness of God, lead, or should lead, men to repentance.

1. Repentance is--

2. How does the goodness of God lead men to repentance? His long suffering leaves room for it (Revelation 2:21), which there would not be if punishment followed immediately on the heels of transgression. His forbearance, when considered, strongly invites, persuades, and must move an ingenuous mind. His goodness and bounty also afford every needful and useful help, as the mediation and intercession of Christ; the ministry of the Word; the chastisements and blessings of Providence; the strivings and influences of the Holy Spirit.

III. The reasons why the goodness of God does not produce that effect. These are--

1. Ignorance.

“Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. Ignorance of their fallen state and exposure to Divine wrath; of the worth and necessity of holiness; of the true character of God, that He is as holy and just as He is merciful and gracious; of the dignity of the Redeemer, and of His great love and sufferings: of the end of man’s creation, preservation, and redemption; of the infinite importance of this short span of human life, and how much depends on our rightly improving it, as a state of trial, for eternity.

2. Hardness, or callousness, contracted by sinning against light, and the formation of evil habits (Ephesians 4:18-19).

3. An impenitent heart, i.e., an inconsiderate, unreflecting, and therefore unrelenting heart. (Joseph Brown.)

God’s goodness: its abuse and its design

1. It is an instance of Divine condescension that the Lord reasons with men, and asks this question, and others like it (Isaiah 1:5; Isa_55:2; Jeremiah 3:4; Ezekiel 33:11).

2. God not only acts kindly to sinners, but when they misuse His kindness He labours to set them right (Isaiah 1:18; Hosea 11:8).

3. It is a sad thing that any who have seen God’s judgments on others, and have escaped themselves, should draw from this special mercy a reason for adding sin to sin (Jeremiah 3:8). From the Lord’s earnest question let us learn wisdom.

I. Let us honour the lord’s goodness and forbearance. A reverent sense of it will be a sure safeguard against despising it. It is manifested to us--

1. In a three-fold form.

2. In great abundance--“riches of His goodness.”

3. In its excellence by four considerations.

4. It has been in a measure manifested to you. “Despisest thou?”

II. Let us consider how it may be despised.

1. By allowing it to remain unnoticed--ungratefully passing it over.

2. By claiming it as our due, and talking as if God were bound to bear with us.

3. By opposing its design, and refusing to repent (Proverbs 1:24-25).

4. By perverting it into a reason for hardness of heart, presumption, infidelity, and further sin (Zephaniah 1:12; Ecclesiastes 8:11).

5. By urging it as an apology for procrastination (2 Peter 3:3-4).

III. Let us feel the force of its leadings. The forbearance of God should lead us to repentance. For we should argue thus

1. He is not hard and unloving, or He would not have spared us.

2. His great patience deserves recognition at our hands. We are bound to respond to it in a generous spirit.

3. To go on to offend would be cruel to Him, and disgraceful to ourselves. Nothing can be baser than to make forbearance a reason for provocation.

4. It is evident from His forbearance that He will rejoice to accept us if we will turn to Him. He spares that He may save.

5. He has dealt with each one personally, and by this means He is able to put it, as in the text, “God leadeth thee to repentance.” He calls us individually to Himself. Let each one personally remember his own experience of sparing mercies.

6. The means are so gentle, let us yield to them cheerfully. Those who might refuse to be driven should consent to be drawn.


1. Each gift of goodness draws thee to Jesus!

2. Forbearance would fain weep thee to Jesus!

3. Long suffering waits and woos thee to Jesus! Wilt thou not turn from sin and return unto thy God, or “despisest thou the riches of His goodness?” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

And forbearance.--

God’s forbearance

The Roman magistrates, when they gave sentence of scourging, a bundle of rods tied hard with many knots was laid before them. The reason was this: that whilst the flagellifer was untying the knots, which he was to do in a certain order, and not hastily, the magistrate might see the deportment of the delinquent, whether he was sorry for his fault, and showed hope of amendment, that he might recall his sentence or mitigate the punishment; otherwise he was to be corrected the more severely. Thus God in the punishment of sinners, how patient is He! how loath to strike! how slow to anger if there be but hopes of recovery! How many knots doth He untie! How many knots doth He make in His way to justice! He doth not try us by martial law, but pleads the ease with us, “Why will ye die?” And all this to see whether the poor sinner will throw himself down at His feet, make his peace and be saved. (T. Fuller, D. D.)

The patience of God

I. Its nature. It is one of those attributes which the sins of His creatures first called into exercise. We are not to suppose that it proceeds from any ignorance in God, for “He has set all our misdeeds before Him.” Nor is it the fruit of indifference. On the contrary, it implies that “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Neither must we ascribe it to a want of power to punish. We sometimes bear with provocations because we are unable to avenge them; but the Omnipotent has at all times the means of vengeance.

II. Its source. Solely God’s goodness. These attributes are mentioned together, and the one must be regarded as the origin of the other. Goodness, when exercised in withholding vengeance is patience; and when continued under repeated provocations, is long suffering. There is, however, a distinction to be made between the goodness and the patience of God. Man, as needy, is the partaker of the one, whilst man, as guilty, is the object of the other. Goodness supplies our wants, patience bears with our sins. The one will endure forever, and is inseparable from the Divine nature; the other is adapted only to the present scene of things, and may end tomorrow.

III. Its greatness, or its “riches.” Every blessing Christ has purchased in abundance. The mercy He has obtained is “great” and “tender,” the grace “manifold and exceeding,” the redemption “plenteous,” the joy “unspeakable,” the glory “an exceeding great and eternal weight.” In regard to God’s patience consider--

1. How long it has been exercised.

2. How many sins every man commits.

3. How aggravated and daring many of our provocations have been.

4. How many sinners there are.

IV. Its designed effect. “Repentance.” The forbearance of the Almighty--

1. Gives us time for repentance.

2. Shows that the penitent may obtain forgiveness.

3. Has a tendency to produce repentance in our hearts.

Experience proves that man’s stubborn heart is much less likely to be subdued by the contemplation of vengeance, than by the influence of mercy.

V. The hanger of despising it. We are undoubtedly guilty of this sin--

1. When we are unmindful of the patience which bears with us, when we either think nothing at all about it, or think of it lightly.

2. When we draw encouragement from it to continue in sin.

And long suffering.--

God’s long suffering a demonstration of His almighty power

Long suffering is the greatest exhibition of power on this side the day of judgment. It is our evidence that God now possesses all that God shall then exercise.

1. When I am told that God is long suffering, and no limitations are placed on the attribute, you bring before me a picture as overwhelming in outline as stupendous in detail. I see at once that God can punish sin. Then vice may seem to carry it over virtue, and I may search in vain through all that is passing over a disordered creation for tokens that a moral government is still upheld; and the infidel may tauntingly refer to the triumph of evil, and infer that God has been compelled to abandon one world at least to the dominion of His foes; but fastening on the long suffering of the Creator, I am proof against all doubts as to His power. He could not be long suffering unless He could punish; He could not punish unless He were supreme.

2. To each of us He has been long suffering. Each of us has provoked His wrath, and yet upon none of us has that wrath come down to its fury. So that if the great demonstration of God’s power be His long suffering, then each of us may find in himself that demonstration in all its completeness. And thus it may be possible that after summoning suns and seas and mountains to give in their tribute to His night, that angels may be looking down upon myself as the crowning proof; and not because I am marvellous as the compound of matter and spirit, of mortal and immortal: and not because I inherit a nature that has been taken into union with the Divine; but because I have sinned and yet breathe; because I have defied the living God and not been consumed; because I have been long offending and God has been long suffering--therefore may they regard me as the most perfect demonstration that the power of their Lord is great; and assign me because spared in mine offences, a place amongst the witnesses to the almightiness of their Maker, which they give not to the marching of planets, nor to the gorgeousness of light, nor to their own beauty as ethereal beings, and rapid and masterful.

3. We have all heard of the infidel challenging God to prove His existence by smiting him, His denier. Now you can hardly picture to yourselves a being exercising over himself so perfect a command that, with all the apparatus of fiery reply at his disposal, he should not answer the challenge by levelling him who utters it to the ground. Can you measure to me the effort which it would be to a creature to keep the thunder silent, and to chain up the lightning? Yet the atheist is allowed to depart unscathed; and the proof of God’s existence, which would have seemed preeminently calculated to overspread a neighbourhood with terrible conviction is mysteriously withheld. But the believer learns God’s might a hundredfold more from the unbroken silence of the firmament than he would from the hoarse tones of vengeance rushing down to the destruction of the rebel. The atheist overthrown--this is as nothing to the atheist spared. It would have been as nothing that God should have launched the bolt--the prodigy whose height I cannot scale, whose depth I cannot fathom is that God should have withheld the bolt. I should have learnt God powerful over the elements had I seen the blasphemer a blackened corpse at my feet: I learn God powerful over Himself when the questioner of His deity passes on uninjured.

4. When I think on the difference between God’s creating a world and God’s pardoning a sin--the one done without effort, the other demanding an instrumentality terribly sublime; the one effected by a word, the other wrought out in agony and blood on a quaking earth and beneath a darkened heaven--the one is as nothing beside the other. That God can pardon is at the very summit of what is wonderful; and therefore then, O Lord, do I most know Thee as the Omnipotent when I behold in Thee the long suffering. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.--

Goodness leading to repentance

A distinguished minister on a journey was once stopped by a highwayman, and called on to deliver his purse, with the weapon of death presented at his breast. “Wait,” said the man of God, “for one moment”; and instantly fell on his knees and offered a fervent prayer for the unhappy man before him. The murderer stood silent, and listened. When the holy man had finished his supplication, he said to him for whom he had prayed: “Do you not wish for some better employment than this; some other means of a livelihood?” The answer was in the affirmative. “Come, then,” said the minister, to such a place, naming his own residence, “and without ever divulging this act of yours while you live, such a provision shall be made for you.” He confided in the assurance of one so intent on his welfare; became a member of his own family--an humble disciple of Christ: and, after a life of exemplary piety, died at the age of sixty, when, in his funeral sermon, the minister related these facts. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

God’s goodness leading to repentance

Let us--

I. Expound the text.

1. “Repentance” denotes a change of mind, inclination, and habits.

2. “Leadeth” describes the method in which the Lord deals with rational creatures. There is a sort of spurious repentance, to which men are sometimes driven. Thus Ahab was driven by Divine threatenings, Pharaoh by supernatural judgments, Felix by the dread of a future reckoning, and Judas by the terror of his own conscience; but to genuine repentance a man is led; allured by the discovery of hope, and the attraction of love.

3. “Thee.” It matters not so much what others are: the question is, What are we? The charge of the prophet is pointed: “No man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?”

4. Observe what it is that conducts to this result. “The goodness of God,” Not that this is always the case. It frequently emboldens men in transgression, and hardens them in impenitence. The text, however, expresses its natural and proper tendency.

II. Illustrate the sentiment which it contains. The goodness of God--

1. Gives time for repentance. This is implied in the “forbearance and long suffering.” It is said of one, “I gave her space to repent and she repented not.” Here was the perversion of Divine goodness. Of others it is affirmed, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Here is depravity in its most hateful form. Let us “account that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation.”

2. Provides the means.

3. Furnishes motives. Note--


1. Does not this subject remind you of the hardness of the human heart? The design of Divine goodness is apparent; its true tendency is most beneficial; but how is it perverted and abused!

2. Forget not the necessity of the Holy Spirit to produce this change. He it is who works repentance by impressing the heart with a sense of Divine goodness; and of the evil of sin, and to feel the attractions of heavenly love, as displayed in the gospel. (T. Kidd.)

The goodness of God a persuasive to repentance

1. There is much in the very nature of Divine goodness that is fitted to lead men to repentance. It lays them and all intelligent beings in the universe under everlasting obligations to love and serve God, the great Author of their being and of their mercies. It shows also, in a very affecting light, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, as committed against the greatest and best of beings. It appeals to our reason; and the verdict is that to sin against such a Being as God is a most guilty perversion of, the noble faculties with which He has endowed us. It appeals to our sense of duty; and the verdict is that no obligation is so strong as that which binds us to the love and service of Jehovah. It appeals to our gratitude, to our hopes and fears; and the verdict is that no good can be secured so great as that which flows from repentance toward God, and no evil incurred so tremendous as that which must result from continued impenitence. There is, too, a peculiarity in the mode in which Divine goodness flows to guilty man which adds inexpressibly to its tender, persuasive power. It is not goodness flowing to innocent beings through the unobstructed channels of benevolence; but goodness flowing to lost sinners through the mediation and suffering of the Son of God. Here is goodness such as was never manifested in any world but ours, nor towards any other beings but the lost children of men.

2. The goodness of God is suited to lead men to repentance, as it secures for them a respite from punishment and gives a space for repentance.

3. The goodness of God leads to repentance, as it has opened a way in which repentance is available to secure pardon and life for even the chief of sinners.

4. The goodness of God is fitted to lead to repentance, as it furnishes the best possible means of repentance, and the most powerful motives to this duty. Consider the impressive instruction poured around you from the Word, the providence, and the works of God. All these conspire to impress on your mind the same lessons of eternal wisdom and love. Notice next the invitations of Divine goodness; they must avail to subdue every heart that is not a heart of stone.

Turn next to the promises which Divine goodness has made to those that repent--promises of pardon, grace, and eternal glory. Such, then, being the tendency of the goodness of God, let us inquire what are its actual effects.

1. All who truly love God feel the constraining power of His goodness, and by it are made penitent, believing, thankful, and obedient.

2. There is another class of persons whom the goodness of God appears to leave wholly unaffected and unmoved. Is not this to despise the riches of God’s goodness, and with singular rapidity to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath?

3. There is another class who go still farther, and take encouragement from the goodness of God to sin against Him with an increased freedom and boldness. This is eminently to despise the riches of the goodness of God, and forbearance, and longsuffering. (J. Hawes, D. D.)

The Divine goodness a motive to repentance

There is no need to insist on the necessity of repentance; for nothing would appear more impious than for anyone to say, “I need no repentance.” But there is a consideration of very grave importance, viz., that all men will certainly come to repentance. In this view it is a very solemn thing to look at the thoughtless, impious, hardened, self-righteous, and think, “You will certainly repent! your repentance may be in vain--too late, but it will certainly come!” But we would speak of reasons that should enforce it now; and surely this should be a powerful one. If ultimate repentance is inevitable, under an irresistible power, how desirable it should not be left to be caused so; but be effected under the persuasive influence of more gracious causes! And of these the chief “is the goodness of God,” manifested, acknowledged, and felt. Contemplate, then, that “goodness.”

I. As beheld in the same view with the deserts of man.

1. What is it in man that is adequately correspondent to that goodness? Is it a humble, constant sense of dependence? an affectionate admiration of His beneficence? a mighty attraction towards Him? a solicitude to be conformed to Him an aversion to all that He disapproves?

2. Look at any of the particulars of His goodness--His constant provision, His watchful protection, His compassionate care of weakness. What corresponds to these? His rays of instructive wisdom falling on man--what corresponds? Love of truth? anxiety to be taught? His shining forth on them, a sovereign pattern of sanctity, and in an economy of redemption--what does this very thing imply that there is in man to answer to it?

II. In the same view with the manifestations of God’s mind against sin. How many they are, how decisive, solemn, just! And yet the world is not made an unmingled scene of vindictive execution. His just denunciations are sent conjoined with mercies exceeding the number of the expressions that He is offended, as if He would not send His rebukes or threatenings but by the hands of friends. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.”

III. As being contemporary with each sin in our long succession of offences. Advert to any sin in its time, there was goodness experiencing then: advert to the next, and the next; at that time there was still “the goodness of God,” and in various ways at once.

IV. By supposing it withdrawn. Deprivation is sometimes the most effectual way of verifying what and how much a thing was. So God might cause His bounty to recede on every side of the sphere of our interests. On one side a diminution just enough to be felt at first; but speedily more, and still more; the same operation on another side: something still departing day after day!--things we had scarcely thought of as mercies, leaving incurable pain, or want, behind; our condition becoming more and more miserable, till we sunk in a death without consolation or hope! Or, instead of this gradual process, a sudden general deprivation.

V. In its character of patience and long suffering. All His lengthened indulgence, His train of favours--what for? What, but that there might be increasing gratitude and devotedness? And when has there been such a degree of these, that it was anything but mere goodness in God to continue His favours? (J. Foster.)

The goodness of God an inducement to repentance

Adversity has its place in the salutary economy of probation, but God’s voice may be discerned in prosperity at least as much as in adversity, and much more frequently. The latter is His common way of addressing us; to the other mode He only resorts when for some reason it is necessary or expedient.

I. How may we abuse the goodness of God? We do so--

1. When we accept His gifts but ignore Him. How common a thing it is for men to enjoy the good things of this life, without thinking for one moment that they come from God! How many of us take our portion without a thought of thankfulness, as though it came from that office keeper, Nature, instead of from our Father’s hands! How does it cut us to the heart when our gifts elicit no grateful recognition! And where is there a man that would go on from year to year repeating his kindnesses where no sort of notice was taken of him? And what do men gain by this? nay, what do they not lose? Should we enjoy His gifts any the less if we took them as coming from the Giver, and found in each an occasion for fresh manifestation of grateful love? Where we receive the gifts of God, but disown the Giver, the gift loses the most precious part of its value. It ceases to be a gift at all to our higher nature.

2. When we accept His gifts, and find in them a substitute for Himself, and so many reasons why we should ignore Him. He gives us many good things, that we think we can dispense with Him, the Giver; so much gratification, that we have no need to seek a truer and deeper gratification in His love. But when His gifts thus become substitutes for Himself, and you turn away from Him because you enjoy them, surely you are making it necessary for Him to take them away. Rather than let you lose all, in your folly and blindness He may see fit to take away some of the many good things that you enjoy. Why not hear His voice in all that He gives you, and let the goodness of God lead you to repentance?

3. By counting upon the continuance of His goodness, in order that we may go on sinning against Him. This is the very worst abuse, and it is to this that St. Paul here specially refers--the abuse of God’s forbearance, who, though provoked, in the magnanimity of His nature goes on forbearing to smite when smaller natures must inevitably have lost patience long since. He waits because He loves; and yet this is the very characteristic that men count upon in order to sin against Him, as they hope, with impunity. Were it clearly understood by any that God’s long suffering would reach its term this very night, where is there one who would dare to defy the Majesty of heaven? Surely there cannot be any meanness so repulsive. Common manhood should lead us to say, “I can’t be at one and the same moment the pensioner of God’s bounty and the enemy of His authority.” But what are the facts of the case? What is more common than to meet with utterly godless people, who have the fullest intention of turning to God some day or other, most probably in a dying hour! But if we can’t be put out of conceit with this, by considering its meanness and unmanliness, it may be well to remember that God’s goodness is not weakness, that even His forbearance must have its term. “Because I have called, and ye refused,” etc. (Proverbs 1:24-28). He who attempts to mock God finds in the end that he is only mocked himself. It is not that you evade or escape the penalty of your base ingratitude and perfidy, but it is that you treasure it up (verse 5). Just think of the possibility of laying up treasure in hell!

II. Its use. The history of sin dates from the first suspicious thought of God. This thought Satan delights in cherishing, until those who yield to his influence get to think of God as if He were a pitiless tyrant, ever ready to diminish our happiness. On the other hand, a real repentance begins with the repudiation of all such false views of God, and to such a repentance the goodness of God, revealed in all His dealings with us, is intended to lead; and surely it will if we will only let it speak to our heart. How can God be stern and unsympathetic when He gives us so much to enjoy?

1. If He provides for the gratification of every sense with which He endows us, multiplying the fair sights and sweet sounds of nature, and sometimes stirring all our being with the vision of the beautiful or the sublime, how can He be the enemy of our happiness?

2. Or, if He enriches you with all that social wealth accumulated through the ages, so constituting society that man may become a source of untold gratification to his fellow man, surely His goodness in all this must needs show that He is the Friend and not the enemy of human happiness. Is it not to Him that we owe music, art, literature, science, and philosophy? and how much of enjoyment do all these add to life?

3. It is from Him that we derive both our faculties of loving and all those tender relations of home and friendship which call forth our love and which contribute so much to increase the joy of life; surely, then, we wrong Him when we shrink from Him as though He were the enemy of our happiness.

4. But is there not one supreme manifestation of His goodness which should move us more than all the rest and bring us to repentance? “God so loved the world,” etc. He let His own Son suffer to spare you suffering! Let His goodness carry the day triumphantly. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

God’s goodness and repentance

I. The action specified--“Repentance.”

1. Its nature.

2. Its necessity. Why is it necessary? Not because it earns the favour of God or claims the pity, but because--

II. The motive which prompts--“The goodness of God.”

1. God never drives when He can lead. The grand principle of all His dealings is to lead His people, even as He led the children of Israel, by a cloud.

2. What it is to lead us to repentance. It is goodness, and the point of this goodness is that it is--

III. The conduct enjoined. The apostle indirectly urges upon us all the duty of repentance. Not only the notoriously evil need repentance. The most humble Christian is constantly transgressing. And every act of benevolence we receive should awaken in us the sense of our deficiency and our sorrow therefore. For repentance is not a slavish, legal act. It is not degrading humiliation or desponding misery. It is a consciousness indeed of self-failure, but an expression of loved affection towards our heavenly Father. (J. J S. Bird, B. A.)

The goodness of God designed to reclaim

It has this tendency--

I. As it enforces the commandments of God. These are not merely the commands of one who governs by virtue of His power and supremacy, nor merely of one whom it is our interest or obligation to obey; they are the commands of our Benefactor. The God who, having made us of nothing, still keeps us; the God whose care and presence are ever surrounding us, who gives us friends, health, raiment, food; who provides salvation and offers heaven--it is this God who commands us to repent. Has such a God no claim on us by His mercies?

II. As it appeals to the tenderest and strongest sensibilities of our nature. There is no principle of human nature, fallen and degraded as it is, that is more obvious than that which leads us to requite kindness with kindness. Precisely on this principle does God assail the hearts of sinners. He does not rely merely on His authority over us, nor resort merely to His terrors to alarm us. He who searcheth the heart well knows that, amid all its darkness and corruptions, there is yet another and a surer spring that can be touched. God reveals Himself. God in Christ unfolds Himself in the attractive aspect of the God of mercy in order to touch sympathy, gratitude, and the secret place of tenderness and tears.

III. As it discovers to us the true character of God. God is love, and all the expressions of His kindness to us are only a manifestation, bringing that character before us. We may contemplate and admire moral excellence in another, who may never have been called to show kindness to us. But let us become the objects of that kindness, and we find a new and stronger emotion rising in our hearts, and fixing our strongest affection on Him. And if we have to such a friend been unfaithful, how will the tears of repentance flow when we come again, under a sense of his kindness! It is thus the goodness of God leadeth to repentance--it unvails in brightest manifestation the perfection of His character, directing all its cares, its solicitude, its tenderness to us.

IV. As is shown by its expressions.--

1. In their number. Would we count them? As the sands of the sea, they are without number. And for what are they bestowed? Is it that we deserve them? No. Is it that He cannot strip us of every good thing, and leave us naked before the storm of His wrath? No; it is that He may prove to us how able, how content He is to bless.

2. In their nature. Not one, nor all of them, can become a satisfying portion, but they are exactly fitted to the great end for which they are given--our probation. Every blessing comes with this inscription, “Take not this for your portion, but receive it with thanksgiving, and use it with reference to your eternal well-being. Take all these gifts as the pledge of the love of the Creator to His own creature--the proof that He longs for thy love in return, and to flow forth on thee in a pure and abundant stream of good forever.”

V. As is demonstrated by facts. What illustrations of this have we while the Saviour was on the earth! In how many hearts did He plant the dominion of His love by acts of kindness! And what multitudes, from Saul of Tarsus downwards, have been actually led by it to repentance! (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

God’s goodness means salvation

The full force of the text cannot be made to appear except by reading the catalogue of crimes in chap.

1. The apostle goes on to say, substantially, that it made no difference whether these things were committed by the Jew or the Gentile. Wrong is wrong without regard to nationality or anything else. Wrong is the violation of great laws, universal, perpetual, which defend themselves by penalties. If a man drugs himself, the drug vindicates its nature; if a man is selfish, the moral law carries a penalty of selfishness. If a man is good, the law brings forth the fruit of goodness to him. The only question is a question of how shall a man be restrained from the violation of the law of the moral economy; how shall he be developed so that he shall love the good rather than the evil? The apostle here declares that the presentation of the goodness of God is that which constitutionally tends to restrain men from evil, and to develop in them all goodness. Goodness is the working force of God’s nature, and is to be made the working force of all government; but if God’s goodness does not help men, His natural law goes right on to penalties without trial or sentence; the laws execute themselves in the moral kingdom. From this general exposition of this passage I remark--

I. God’s goodness is the grand presentation of Him from which the most influence and benefit is to be expected. It has been a current idea that God’s mercies are alternative, but that His justice is primary; that fear is the primary, mercy the secondary, instrument by which men are to work. But this is in fiat contradiction of the whole tenor of Scripture. First, middle, and last, the Scripture teaches God’s goodness as first to be preached, and if that does not avail, then the alternative comes, namely, the sure penalty of transgression. For example, let us go back to that memorable passage where Moses was about to legislate. He wanted to know (Exodus 33:13-15) what view of God’s nature he was to employ, and wished to be filled to overflowing with that view. Then God said to him, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee,” etc. Then comes the declaration in grand dramatic form, as recorded in Exodus 34:6-7. There is the staple view of the character of God. But if men will not see that, and go on still in their transgressions, let them understand that this goodness does not mean the abolition of distinctions between right and wrong. The great law of the universe will go on with its penalties, yea, by heredity for generations to come. The guilty cannot be cleared except upon their repentance and reformation. It is not a goodness that will clear a man and let him do just what he pleases, treating him as if he had been righteous and just. And so Paul at Lystra (Acts 14:17). It was the goodness of God that had to be preached to them first. And our text is the same thing. Coming in through the darkness of that terrific record of vices, Paul says that it was the goodness of God that should have led men to repentance. This is the doctrine not only of Scripture, but of good reason or philosophy; for--

II. Goodness and fear touch human nature on different and opposite sides. The double being, man, the animal and spiritual, is approached on the upper and on the under side of his nature. Goodness develops what is of its own nature, touches the spiritual side of man. The presentation of goodness to the affections of a man’s upper life helps them. When you present beauty to a man, you tend to develop the same quality in him. But the animal man cannot see anything in beauty. Such a man has to be touched and influenced by fear. You cannot teach duty to a horse or an ass, and so you put a bit and bridle in the mouth, and spurs in their sides, or make them afraid. The training of wild animals goes on wholly on the principle of fear. Therefore fear has in it a power of restraint, but not of development. All the conversions of men that have been the result of fear are hardly worth the letters that spell the story. Whenever the character of God is presented to us as goodness, it waters, stimulates, and develops that side of human nature which is most like God. But when men do net respond to that but range in their lower instincts, then you have got to bring in a restraint, and that restraint comes from fear; but it is secondary, it is alternative. Convicts who are in insurrection, are rushing out for their liberty, rush upon serried ranks of bayonets. “One step further and you are dead men, every one of you.” They draw back, but they do not become law keepers on that account. They are simply restrained. So, in the great moral government of God, men may be restrained from going further into transgression, but no man is converted by abject fear. If, therefore, human nature is to be developed in the direction of spiritual excellence, you must develop it by the presentation of those excellencies in their supreme forms in God. No view, then, of God, no view of the gospel, no view of the atonement as an element in the gospel, is a right one which does not present the hopeful side, the winning and the cheerful side. God loving and saving is the doctrine of the Bible. (H. W. Beecher.)

God’s goodness in relation to man, and man’s relation to it

I. Divine goodness, in its relation to man, is very extraordinary--

1. In its plentitude. “The riches of His goodness.” See this--

2. In its form. It is “long suffering”--forbearance. God’s goodness to brutes or angels is not “long suffering.” But His goodness to man is goodness holding back the arm of indignant justice.

3. In its design--to lead to “repentance”; to reform our souls.

II. Man’s conduct, in relation to Divine goodness, is very depraved. This is seen--

1. In his inconsideration. “Not knowing.” Men pay no attention to the moral meaning and design of all this goodness.

2. In his insensibility of heart. “Thy hardness and impenitent heart.” Pharaoh a type. His heart grew stony under the rich showers of Divine goodness.

3. In his self-destructiveness. “Treasurest up wrath.” He is transmuting those very streams of goodness into poison. See the electric cloud on the summer’s sky. It was as small as a man’s hand half an hour since, but it has grown wondrously. What is it doing? “Treasuring up.” Every fresh particle swells and blackens it. It will burst in flame and thunder soon. That cloud is an emblem of the sinner.

III. The day of judgment will be very awful in relation to such conduct. There will come such a day. There is historic, moral, and Biblical evidence enough to satisfy us of this.

1. This judgment will be a righteous judgment. “The righteous judgment of God.”

2. A universal judgment. “Who will render to every man according to his works.” How will the abuser of Divine goodness stand in this judgment? He will have “tribulation and anguish.” (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Divine love

“God is love”; consciously to know this is life. “He that loveth is born of God.” “Not knowing” it, the mind “despises” all the manifestations of God’s goodness which are adapted to lead to repentance unto life. In what way, then, shall we get an influential conviction of the Divine love which tends to produce repentance? The love of God towards us, as spiritual beings, is manifested--

I. In the character and office of conscience. Conscience is not a guide infallible. It is empowered only by faith in God, and it is true only by belief of the truth. This fact is one of the strongest testimonies for the necessity of revelation. With revelation conscience is--

1. Moral admonition. When any sin is contemplated, it whispers, “Do not that wickedness and sin against God.”

2. Moral impulse. It points to the path of duty and says, “That is the way, walk ye in it.” “You have sinned, arise and go to your Father.” Now the design of God is seen in conscience as clearly as the design of the maker in the regulator of a watch. The regulator was placed in the watch to govern its movements and keep the watch right. So was conscience in the soul. God in conscience shows His goodness by placing a power in the soul to deter us from known sin, and to lead us to repentance. Despise not His goodness! The best friend, though he follow the sinful many years, will turn back if his counsel be persistently rejected: so the voice of conscience will abate in the soul if we continue to resist its admonitions.

II. In the character and design of Divine revelation. The true test of benevolence is its design. What, then, is Revelation designed to accomplish for man? The greatest--

1. Individual good. To love God and man is the soul’s highest good here and hereafter.

2. Social good. Suppose a family obeyed the laws of God--“Husbands love your wives”; “Wives love and reverence your husbands”; “Children obey your parents in the Lord”--who will doubt but that such a family would experience the greatest good?

3. Universal good. If I loved others as myself, I should rejoice in their good as much as my own; and every blessing bestowed upon them would he bestowed upon me, and my blessings upon them.

III. In the motives He presents to incline us to repent and obey. The character of any mind is known by the character of the motives that it presents to influence other minds. Now, in the New Testament, the evil of sin and its final curse are presented to our fears to arrest us in the highway to hell. The purity and glory of heaven are presented to our hopes to induce us to repentance and faith. The heart is appealed to by infinite love. From the Cross the suffering Saviour cries, “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?”

IV. In the sacrifice of Christ. A revelation of law does not lead us to love the law that we have transgressed; but a revelation of love, which offers pardon, leads us to love the lawgiver, and thus to honour and obey the law. “What the law could not do,” etc. God could not make a law which would allow a single sin. But we are all sinners, and in our evil and helpless state Christ offers Himself “a propitiation for the sins that are past,” “that God might be just and the justifier of him that believeth on Jesus.” “In this was manifested the love of God” (1 John 4:9).

V. To lead us to repentance by the mercy of the Holy Spirit’s operation. He convicts “the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment,” i.e., He shows them their sin, points to the true standard of righteousness, and admonishes them of judgment, in order thus to lead them to repentance. Then, in the heart of Christians, He “takes of the things of Christ and shows them” (John 16:14); and as the Christian sees, he repents, worships, and rejoices. In the conviction and indwelling of the Spirit are the love of God manifested to lead men to repentance. (J. B. Walker, M. D.)

God’s goodness to be reverenced

I remember well being taken one day to see a gorgeous palace at Venice, where every piece of furniture was made with most exquisite taste and of the richest material, where statues and pictures of enormous price abounded on all hands, and the floor of each room was paved with mosaics of marvellous art and extraordinary value. As I was shown from room to room, and allowed to roam amid the treasures by its courteous owner, I felt a considerable timidity, I was afraid to sit anywhere, nor did I hardly dare to put down my foot or rest my hand to lean. Everything seemed to be too good for ordinary mortals like myself; but when one is introduced into the gorgeous palace of infinite goodness, costlier and fairer far, one gazes wonderingly with reverential awe at the matchless vision. “How excellent is Thy loving kindness, O God!” “I am not worthy of the least of all Thy benefits. Oh! the depths of the love and goodness of the Lord.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Romans 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Or despised thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Here is the third great principle of divine judgment:

III. God's goodness to sinners is not a sign that he approves of sin but that he looks to their repentance.

The goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, called here "the riches" of God, have reference to the special privileges of the covenant people, the Jews, who again were answered by Paul in the form of a diatribe. The argument which was refused is: "God has been very good to us, and therefore we shall continue to expect goodness and favor at his hands." The argument is false because it is founded on a misunderstanding of the purpose of God's goodness, which is not to show approval of people's sins, but to extend to them further opportunities of repentance, and to persuade them by means of such goodness.

Despise ... means "to look down upon," or "to place a low estimate upon" something of far greater value than is recognized by the despiser. This is exactly what was done by those people, who treated the goodness and longsuffering of God as if it had been a tacit approval of their wickedness, and made it the basis of presumption that they would not finally be condemned.

Of special interest is the revelation here that God's goodness is designed to lead people to repentance, it being apparent that if God's goodness cannot lead people to repentance, nothing else can. The response of the soul to all the mercies of heaven, the response of the human individual to all the joys, benefits, and privileges of life, as given to men by the heavenly Father that response is the God-implanted instinct of gratitude to the Creator, to the end that people should seek after God, draw near to him, and serve him with joy, and certainly not for the purpose of allowing people to feel presumptuously secure in their sins.

Thus, in this verse there is continued emphasis upon the master theme, of Romans, that of the righteousness of God, his righteous JUDGMENT being the particular aspect of it considered here. Note that this is also true of the next verse.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness,.... The apostle anticipates an objection against what he had said, taken from the prosperity of these persons; who might conclude from thence, that they were not so wicked as he had represented them; and that they should escape the judgment of God, otherwise they would have been punished by God in this life, and not have prospered as they did; which objection is removed by observing, that it was not their innocence, but "the riches of" divine "goodness, and longsuffering and forbearance", which were the causes of their prosperity: by "the riches of God's goodness", are not meant the riches of his special, spiritual, and eternal goodness, which his own people are only partakers of: but the general riches of his temporal and providential goodness, which the men of the world have commonly the greatest share of; they have it in great plenty, which is signified by "riches": and by his "longsuffering and forbearance" are designed, not his forbearance of his chosen ones and his longsuffering to them, which issue in their salvation; but his forbearance of sinners, and longsuffering towards them, in not as yet pouring down his wrath and displeasure on them; all which are "despised" by them; the riches of his goodness, when he is not glorified for his providential mercies, and in them, and when these are abused to the lusts of men. The

forbearance of God is despised, when men on account of it harden themselves in sin; and his

longsuffering, when they deny his concern in Providence, or a future judgment, and promise themselves impunity. Moreover, the apostle obviates the above objection by asserting that God's end in his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, was not to testify to their innocence, as they imagined, but to lead them to repentance, of which they were ignorant;

not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. This is to be understood not of a spiritual and evangelical repentance, which is a free grace gift, and which none but the Spirit of God can lead, or bring persons to; but of a natural and legal repentance, which lies in an external sorrow for sin, and in an outward cessation from it, and reformation of life and manners, which the goodness of God to the Jews should have led them to; who had a large share of the good things of life, a land flowing with milk and honey, and many outward privileges which other nations had not, as the giving of the law, the covenant and promises, the word and ordinances; and repentance here chiefly designs, as it may respect the Gentiles, a change of mind and practice in them relating to idolatry and superstition Now the providential goodness of God has a tendency to lead persons to repentance on this account; but of this end of divine goodness the Gentiles were ignorant; nor was this end answered thereby; which shows the wretched depravity of human nature; see Acts 14:15.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

2 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

(2) A vehement and grievous crying out against those that please themselves because they see more than others do, and yet are in no way better than others are.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance — that is, is designed and adapted to do so.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Or despiseth thou? (η καταπρονεισē kataphroneiṡ). Another alternative, that of scorn of God‘s kindness (χρηστοτητοςchrēstotētos 2 Corinthians 6:6) and forbearance (ανοχηςanochēs old word, holding back from ανεχωanechō only here in N.T.) and longsuffering (μακροτυμιαςmakrothumias late word for which see 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 6:6). ΚαταπρονεωKataphroneō is old verb to think down on (κατα προνεωkataτου πλουτουphroneō) as in Matthew 6:24; 1 Corinthians 11:22. This upstart Jew actually thinks down on God. And then “the riches” (εις μετανοιαν σε αγειtou ploutou) of all that comes from God.

Leadeth thee to repentance (το χρηστονeis metanoian se agei). The very kindness (αγειto chrēston the kindly quality) of God is trying to lead (conative present μετανοιανagei) thee to a right-about face, a change of mind and attitude (metanoian) instead of a complacent self-satisfaction and pride of race and privilege.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Despisest thou ( καταφρονεῖς )

The indicative mood unites a declaration with the question: “Do you despise? Aye, you do.”

Riches ( πλούτου )

A favorite word with Paul to describe the quality of the divine attributes and gifts. See 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16; Philemon 4:19; Colossians 1:27.

Goodness ( χρηστότητος )

See on easy, Matthew 11:30.

Forbearance and long-suffering ( ἀνοχῆς καὶ μακροθυμίας )

Ἁνοχή forbearancestrictly a holding back. In classical Greek mostly of a truce of arms. It implies something temporary which may pass away under new conditions. Hence used in connection with the passing by of sins before Christ (Romans 3:25). “It is that forbearance or suspense of wrath, that truce with the sinner, which by no means implies that the wrath will not be executed at the last; nay, involves that it certainly will, unless he be found under new conditions of repentance and obedience” (Trench). For μακροθυμία long-sufferingsee on James 5:7. This reliance on God's tolerance to suspend the rule of His administration in your case is contempt (despisest). Compare Galatians 6:7.

Not knowing ( ἀγνοῶν )

In that thou dost not know. This very ignorance is contempt.

Leadeth ( ἄγει )

The continuous present: is leading all the while thou art despising.

Repentance ( μετάνοιαν )

See on Matthew 3:2; see on Matthew 21:29.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Or despisest thou — Dost thou go farther still, - from hoping to escape his wrath, to the abuse of his love?.

The riches — The abundance.

Of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering — Seeing thou both hast sinned, dost sin, and wilt sin. All these are afterwards comprised in the single word goodness. Leadeth thee - That is, is designed of God to lead or encourage thee to it.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

The riches of his goodness, &c. The Jews always regarded themselves as the special objects of the divine compassion and favor.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4.Dost thou despise the riches? etc. It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma ,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.

Not knowing that the goodness of God, etc. For the Lord by his kindness shows to us, that it is he to whom we ought turn, if we desire to secure our wellbeing, and at the same time he strengthens our confidence in expecting mercy. If we use not God’s bounty for this end, we abuse it. But yet it is not to be viewed always in the same light; for when the Lord deals favorably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone: when he treats the transgressors of his law with the same indulgence, his object is to soften by his kindness their perverseness; he yet does not testify that he is already propitious to them, but, on the contrary, invites them to repentance. But if any one brings this objection — that the Lord sings to the deaf as long as he does not touch inwardly their hearts; we must answer — that no fault can be found in this case except with our own depravity. But I prefer rendering the word which Paul here uses, leads, rather than invites, for it is more significant; I do not, however, take it in the sense of driving, but of leading as it were by the hand.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.’

Romans 2:4

‘The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.’ God is very good to us. He gives us time for repentance. He waits to be gracious. He spares men who provoke Him to anger every day, that He might see if they will return and repent. But God will not always wait.

I. Let the goodness of God touch your heart!—Think how good God has been to you—how many, no worse sinners than you, have been cut off in their sins, and you have been spared! ‘God spared not the angels which sinned; but cast them down to hell, and delivered them unto chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment’—yet He has spared you, although you have sinned so often and hardened your heart against His love. God struck down Ananias and Sapphira with instant death because they told a lie; how many lies have you not told, and yet God has spared you? Why?—that His goodness might lead you to repentance. Is it not by the goodness of God that we are all of us alive here to-day? Suppose you had died last night, what would have become of you? Where would your soul have gone? Or suppose in that illness, years ago, when you were really frightened about yourself, and thought you would never get better, suppose you had died then, were you ready? Would not you be even now among those who are, with the fallen angels, reserved unto judgment? with the rich man, tormented in the flame? If you had died, as some have died, as some of you might die almost at any time, with an oath on your lips, with a lie on your tongue, or roaring out some ribald song or jest as you reeled home from the beershop, where would you be now? Why are you spared? By the goodness of God, you are spared that you might have time to repent.

II. God’s goodness is shown also in His willingness to forgive us if we do repent.—We have every encouragement to repent given us by the goodness of God. Sinners need much encouragement to lead them to repentance. For repentance is a humbling and distasteful work. A man does not like to own even to himself that he has done wrong. He is afraid to call to mind his sins and to confess them to God. He would rather forget them as quickly as possible, and flatter himself with the vain hope that God has forgotten them too. He says to himself, ‘God is merciful, He will not be hard on me.’ But mark this, brethren, there is no encouragement in God’s Word to believe that God forgives, or ever will forgive, sin, until it has been repented of and confessed. But there is every encouragement to believe, and be assured that God does freely forgive us when we repent and confess our sins. It is not enough to say that we are sinners—that is easy enough, there is nothing humbling in it, because we comfort ourselves with the thought that we are only like other people. We must confess, not merely that we are sinners, but we must confess our sins.

III. The voice of Satan hinders.—But, ah! something whispers to you that it is too late for you to repent; that God would not forgive you; that you would be sure to go and do just the same wrong things again. Whose voice is it? Who is it that tempts men and women to sin, and then whispers into their ear doubts of God’s goodness, and tells them that it is too late? It is the voice of a liar—of the liar of all liars, the Devil. Don’t listen to that evil voice; don’t believe that lying whisper. Believe Jesus, Who says, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’ Believe Him Who has silenced those lying whispers for ever by the beautiful story of the prodigal son, showing the readiness of God to forgive the penitent immediately upon his confession, by the father in the parable running to meet the poor lad as soon as he arose and went to his father to say, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ Do not let the malice of a lying Devil keep you back from repentance. Believe the good of God, and let it lead you to repentance. Never despair of the mercy of God. Have you committed the sins of adultery and murder, like David? and yet hear his witness to the goodness of God to the vilest sinners: ‘I said I will confess my sins unto the Lord; and so Thou forgavest the wickedness of my sin.’ Repent, then, at once, with humble confession of such sins as you can remember, and with a hearty resolution to forsake them by God’s help.


‘During one of the London Missions a poor girl, living a very sinful life, went into one of the churches, and a Sister, who was there, went and spoke to her, as she did to many others like her, and entreated her to repent and leave her bad life. The girl refused; but next day she was riding in a cab which met with an accident. The girl was not hurt, but her little dog, which she held in her arms, was killed. The poor girl thought, “What if I had been killed instead of that little dog?” She saw so clearly in it the goodness of God leading her to repentance, that she went back to that church and declared herself willing to forsake her wicked course of life, and entered one of those refuges for fallen women, where they are sheltered from temptation, are taught the way of salvation, and have the means provided them of making a fresh start and gaining an honest living. “Was not this a brand plucked from the burning?”’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Ver. 4. The goodness of God] Gr. το χρηστον, his native goodness, ready to be employed to the behoof and benefit of the creature, Titus 3:4. Now as the beam of the sun shining on fire doth discourage the burning of that; so the shining of God’s mercies on us should dishearten and extinguish lust in us. This is so equal and needful a duty, that Peter picks this flower out of Paul’s garden, as one of the choicest, and urgeth it upon those to whom he writes, 2 Peter 3:15.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Romans 2:4

I. The Jews thought that St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, was tempting them to despise the privileges of their birth and election. He retorts the charge. He asks the Jew how he could dare to despise the riches which God had bestowed upon him. What were those riches? The Law and the Covenant were the pledges and witnesses of their wealth; they could be converted into wealth, but they were not the thing itself. They spoke of a living God near to the Israelite; of a God of goodness, forbearance, longsuffering. These names were given to him in every page of the Divine oracles; the names were illustrated by a series of facts. To boast of the Law and the Covenant and the Scriptures, as if they were not revelations of Him, was to deny and despise them. To accept them as revelations of Him, and not to believe that He was good and longsuffering and forbearing, was to deny and despise both them and Him. To admit that He was good and forbearing and longsuffering at all, and not to believe that He was so at every moment, to themselves and to all men, was to play with words, to despise their sense, their power, their blessing.

II. It is even so with each one of us. Our New Testament, our Baptism, our Communion, testify of a God good and forbearing and longsuffering. Now, if this goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering belong to the very name and character of Him in whom we are living and moving and having our being, they constitute a wealth upon which we may always draw. The more we call them to mind, the more we believe in them, the more truly and actively they become ours. We may become moulded into their likeness, we may show them forth. This is that kingly inheritance which the Scriptures and the Sacraments make known to us. If we enter into the meaning of the festival of Epiphany, we shall believe that Christ's glory may be manifested in the greatest weakness, because it is the glory of goodness, of forbearance, of longsuffering. We shall ask that that glory may humble us and lead us day by day to repentance. We shall be sure that there will be at last a full revelation of those riches which eye hath not seen nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, but which God hath prepared for them that love Him.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 97.

References: Romans 2:4.—J. Foster, Lectures, p. 351; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1714. Romans 2:4, Romans 2:5.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 187. Romans 2:4-6.—Homilist, vol. v., p. 423; new series, vol. iii., p. 522; W. H. Brown, Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 149. Romans 2:5.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 269; W. Dorling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 200. Romans 2:7. Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 327; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 39. Romans 2:8.—Ibid., p. 247. Romans 2:9-11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 18; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 373. Romans 2:11.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 3152. Romans 2:12.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 98.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Romans 2:4. Goodness and forbearance, &c.— Taylor observes, that goodness is here to be understood of the mercy and goodness of God, which bestowed superior light and advantages upon the Jews. Goodness is used in the same sense with regard to the Gentiles, chap. Romans 11:22. We may observe, that the Apostle uses general terms, that the Jew may not too plainly see that he is speaking to him. When he says, leadeth thee to repentance, the meaning is, ought to lead thee: for it should be carefully noted, that it is very common in the sacred writings, to express not only our Christian privileges, but also the duties to which they oblige, in the present or preterperfect sense; or to speak of that as done which only ought to be done; and which, in fact, may possibly never be done. See Matthew 5:13. 1 Peter 1:6. Hebrews 13:14; Hebrews 13:25.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The indulgent carriage of Almighty God towards poor sinners, discovered in the vast expence of the riches of his goodness and bounty upon them, and in the patient exercise of his forbearance and long-suffering towards them.

Observe, 2. The gracious end and design of God in his expense of his goodness, and in the exercise of his patience and forbearance; namely, To lead sinners to repentance. The end of goodness is to oblige and engage persons to love and serve their benefactor; this is the most natural and unconstrained consequence that the mind of man can infer from God's bounty and sparing mercy; The goodness of God leadeth to repentance.

Observe, 3. The unanswerable and undue returns, which sinners make to God for the exercise of so much goodness and forbearance towards them: They despise the riches of his goodness and long-suffering. They despise it by being unthankful for it, by not improving it, and by misimproving or sinning against it: They melt the mercies of God into bullets, and shoot them at the breast of the Almighty.

Observe, 4. The sad and fatal consequence of these undue returns made to God by sinners: Hereby they treasure up wrath, against the day of wrath. As if the apostle had said, "The more patience God expends upon thee, if perverted and abused by thee, the greater wrath is treasured up for thee; which the longer it has been treasured up, will break forth the more fiercely and violently to consume thee."

Observe, 5. The description given by the apostle of the day of judgment; he calls it, A revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The judgment of God is righteous now; but it is not always revealed and openly made manifest now: therefore a time shall come, when there shall be a revelation of his righteous judgment fully.

From the whole, note, 1. That the goodness of God is a natural and genuine motive to repentance.

2. That not to be persuaded by, is in God's account to despise, his goodness.

Note, 3. That this despising of goodness, by delaying our repentance, is a treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath: As sinners have teasures of sin, so God has treasures of wrath for sinners.

Note, lastly, that the day of judgment will be a day of revelation, a day in which the righteousness of God's proceedings shall be universally manifested and magnified; then will all the divine attributes be conspiciously glorified; his wonderful clemency sweetly displayed; his exact justice terribyly demonstrated; his perfect wisdom clearly unfolded; all the knotty intrigues of providence wisely resolved; all the mysterious depth of divine counsels fully discovered, and to the dreadful consternation and confusion of the wicked and impenitent world: Oh how well might the apostle call this day, The revelation of the righteous judgment of God!

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

4.] , or (introducing a new error or objection, see ch. Romans 3:29; Romans 6:3; Romans 11:2), ‘inasmuch as God spares thee day by day (see Ecclesiastes 8:11), dost thou set light by His long-suffering, ignorant that His intent in it is to lead thee to repentance?’

πλούτου,—a favourite word with the Apostle (see reff.),—the fulness, ‘abundance.’

χρηστ., as shewn by His ἀνοχή and μακροθ. (reff.)

ἀγνοῶν, not knowing,—being blind to the truth, that … Grot., Thol., al. would render it ‘not considering:’ but as De Wette remarks, it is a wilful and guilty ignorance, not merely an inconsiderateness, which is blamed in the question.

ἄγει, is leading thee: this is its intent and legitimate course, which thy blindness will frustrate, ‘Malo deducit quam invitat; quia illud plus quiddam significat. Neque tamen pro adigere accipio, sed pro manu ducere.’ Calvin.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 2:4. Or—in case thou hast not this illusion—despisest thou, etc. The draws away the attention from the case first put as a question, and proposes another; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 9:6, and often elsewhere, Baeumlein, Partikell. p. 132.

The despising the divine goodness is the contemptuous unconcern as to its holy purpose, which produces as a natural consequence security in sinning (Sirach 5:5 f.).

τοῦ πλούτου τῆς χρηστ.] πλούτος, as designation of the “abundantia et magnitude” (Estius), is a very current expression with the Apostle (Romans 9:23, Romans 11:35; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:16, Colossians 1:27), but is not a Hebraism (Psalms 5:8; Psalms 69:17 al(592)), being used also by Greek authors; Plat. Euth. p. 12 A, and see Loesner, p. 245.

χρηστότητος] is the goodness of God, in accordance with which He is inclined to benefit (and not to punish). Comp Tittmann’s Synon. p. 195.

ἀνοχή and μακροθ., patience and long-suffering—the two terms exhausting the one idea—denote the disposition of God, in accordance with which he indulgently tolerates the sins and delays the punishments. See Wetstein, and the passages from the Fathers in Suicer, Thes. II. p. 294. Comp Tittmann, Synon. p. 194.

ἀγνοῶν] inasmuch as it is unknown to thee, that etc. By this accompanying definition of the καταφρονεῖς the (guilty) folly of the despiser is laid bare as its tragic source. Bengel says aptly: “miratur Paulus hanc ignorantiam.” The literal sense is arbitrarily altered by Pareus, Reiche, de Wette, Maier, and others, who make it denote the not being willing to know, which it does not denote even in Acts 17:23; Romans 10:3; by Kollner, who, following Grotius, Koppe, and many others, holds it to mean non considerans; and also by Hofmann: “to perceive, as one ought.” Comp 1 Corinthians 15:34.

ἄγει] of ethical incitement by influencing the will. Plat. Rep. p. 572 D, al(596) See Kypke and Reisig, a(597) Soph. O. C. 253. Comp Romans 8:14. But it is not to be taken of the conatus (desires to urge), but of the standing relation of the goodness of God to the moral condition of man.(599) This relation is an impelling to repentance, in which the failure of result on the part of man does not cancel the act of the ἄγει itself. Comp Wisdom of Solomon 11:23; Appian. ii. 63.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 2:4. , or). Men easily become despisers of goodness, while they are not sensible of the judgment of God. The particle , or, properly acts as a disjunctive between the vain thought [on their part] of escape, and the palpable treasuring up of wrath in consequence of their abuse of goodness itself.— χρηστότητος, ἀνοχῆς, μακροθυμίας, goodness, forbearance, long-suffering) since thou hast both sinned, and art now sinning, and wilt sin. [By goodness, GOD restrains His wrath, Romans 2:5 : by forbearance, He as it were, keeps Himself unknown, until He is revealed, Romans 2:5 : by long-suffering He delays His righteous judgment, ibid.—V. g.] Presently after, τὸ χρηστὸν, the goodness of God, implies all these three. Even those, who shall be condemned hereafter, had the power, and it was their duty, to have repented.— ἀγνοῶν, ignorant). Paul wonders at this ignorance.— ἄγει) leads pleasantly; does not compel by necessity.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Here he taxeth such as thought God approved of their persons and courses, at least that he would not regard or punish their evil actions, because he had hitherto forborne them, and heaped up abundance of worldly blessings upon them, as he did upon the Romans especially, above other people. It is common for men to grow secure, and promise themselves impunity, when God forbears them, and gives them outward prosperity: see Psalms 50:21 55:19 Ecclesiastes 8:11 Hosea 12:8.

Despisest thou? the word signifies, to think amiss; he despiseth the goodness of God, who thinks otherwise of it than he should, that it is extended to him for other ends than it is: or, to despise the goodness of God, is, to turn it into wantonness.

The riches of his goodness; i.e. The abundance of his goodness: see Romans 9:23 Ephesians 1:7,18 2:4,7 3:8.

Forbearance and long-suffering; God’s long-suffering is a further degree of his forebearance: the Scripture speaks much of this attribute of God, and of his abounding therein, Exodus 34:6 Numbers 14:11,18 Psa 86:15 Matthew 23:37 Romans 9:22 1 Timothy 1:16 1 Peter 3:20.

The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; that is one great end of God’s goodness and forbearance; see Hosea 11:4 2 Peter 3:9. God’s goodness is abused when it is not used and improved to this end.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Or despisest thou; they who take occasion from God’s long-suffering to go boldly on in sin, throw contempt upon his goodness.

Not knowing; it is a willful and guilty ignorance, for it has its ground in forgetfulness of God. When the goodness, patience, and long-suffering of God encourage men in sin instead of leading them to forsake it, it is fearful evidence that they are ripening for ruin.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

4. χρηστότητος. The word has special reference to GOD’S generous gifts to men; cf. Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4. Here = the generosity which has conferred graces and benefits which the man, who presumes to judge, mistakes for special excellences of his own, and so makes light of the Giver; e.g. cf. Romans 2:17 f.

τῆς ἀνοχῆς, ‘forbearance,’ Romans 3:26; cf. Acts 17:30. μακροθυμία = the long continuance of χρηστότης and ἀνοχή in spite of men’s ways: a favourite word with S. Paul Cf. Psalms 7:11, the adjective freq. of GOD in O. T.; cf. 1 Peter 3:20.

ἀγνοῶν. Once more man misses the aim which GOD proposes.

τὸ χρηστὸν. The neut. adj. for the abstract subst. = ἡ χρηστότης. For the thought, 2 Peter 3:15.

ἄγει, ‘is (always) leading thee,’ a good instance of the linear action of the present, describing tendency not fulfilled.

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"Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Or do you despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?’

These men themselves do what they condemn in others, and yet somehow they feel that God will do nothing about it. They even argue that God is good and forbearing and longsuffering and will therefore condone their sins, the consequence being that they continue sinning without abatement, thus ‘despising’ His compassion. So he now calls on them not to treat casually ‘the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering’, by taking them for granted and assuming that they will go on for ever. They should recognise rather that God is like this, not because He is willing to allow them to carry on freely, but in order to give them a chance to repent. Indeed they should recognise that because they are themselves also guilty of things of which they accuse others, they will all the more be called to account.

In consequence, as a result of recognising and acknowledging the goodness of God which is giving them a second opportunity, they should be led to repentance. At present God in His rich goodness and longsuffering is being forbearing. Let them then look at His goodness and see that for them it is a call to repentance before it is too late. For one day that forbearance will cease.

The thought is not that they openly and consciously despise God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, but that they despise it in their hearts by neglect, not allowing it to count as important in such a way that it alters the way they live.

Paul is bringing out an important principle here. Men tend to think of the goodness and forbearance of God as something which indicates that they can carry on as they are because God does nothing about it. They see the goodness of God in showing forbearance and longsuffering as guaranteeing that they will not be called to account. Paul is now pointing out that their viewpoint is wrong. The reason for God’s delay is not because He does not care, but because He wants to give man time to repent. For there is an appointed day coming when God will call all men into judgment (Acts 17:31). When God will call into account the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16). One would have thought that the Jews at least would have recognised this from their history. The prophets constantly warned of what would come. Lamentations and the destruction of the Temple was the proof that it did come.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Goodness. — This is the best translation of the word. Mr. Tholuck says that it signifies love in general. But the idea expressed is more general than love. An object of goodness may be very unworthy of being an object of love. A distinction must be made between goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering. Goodness imports the benefits which God hath bestowed on the Jews. Forbearance denotes God’s bearing with them, without immediately executing vengeance — His delaying to punish them. It signifies the toleration which He had exercised towards them after extending to them His goodness; so that this term implies their ingratitude after having received the benefits which God had bestowed, notwithstanding which He had continued the course of His goodness.

Long-suffering signifies the extent of that forbearance during many ages, denoting a degree of patience still unexhausted. Their sins were not immediately visited with the Divine displeasure, as would be the case in the government of men. The term goodness respects their first calling, which was purely gratuitous, Deuteronomy 7:7. Forbearance respects what had passed after their calling, when, on different occasions, the people having offended God, He had, notwithstanding, restrained His wrath, and had not consumed them. It is this that David celebrates in <19A310> Psalm 103:10, and 106. Long-suffering adds something more to forbearance; for it respects a long course of ingratitude and sins on the part of that people, and imports an extreme degree of patience on the part of God, — a patience which many ages, and a vast accumulation of offenses, had not exhausted. The Apostle calls all this the riches of His goodness, and long-suffering, and forbearance, to mark the greatness of their extent, their value and abundance, and to excite admiration in beholding a God all-powerful, who has no need of any of His creatures, and is infinitely exalted above them, striving for so long a period with an unrighteous, ungrateful, rebellious, and stiff-necked people, but striving with them by His goodness and patience. This language is also introduced to correct the false judgments of men on this patience of God; for they are apt, on this account, to imagine that there is no God. If, say they, God existed, He would not endure the wicked. They suppose that God does not exercise His providence in the government of the world, since He does not immediately punish their sins. To repress these impious thoughts, the Apostle holds forth this manner of God’s procedure as the riches of goodness and patience, in order that the impunity which it appears that sinners enjoy, might not be attributed to any wrong principle. Or despisest thou. — God’s goodness is despised when it is not improved as a means to lead men to repentance, but, on the contrary, serves to harden them, from the supposition that God entirely overlooks their sin.

The Jews despised that goodness; for the greatest contempt that could be shown to it was to shut the ear against its voice, and to continue in sin.

This is acting as if it were imagined that the justice which lingers in its execution has no existence, and that it consists solely in empty threats.

The interrogations of the Apostle in this and the preceding verse add much force to his discourse. Thinkest thou, says he, that thou canst avoid the judgment of God? By this he marks the erroneousness and folly of such a thought. Despisest thou the riches of His goodness? This is added to indicate the greatness of the crime. Not knowing. — There is no necessity, with Professors Tholuck and Stuart, to translate this ‘not acknowledging.’ The thing itself the Jews did not know, and the bulk of those called Christians are equally ignorant of it.

The whole of the Old Testament was sufficiently clear on this point, but the Jews excluded the light it furnished. They did so by the presumptuous opinion they entertained of their own external righteousness, in which they made the essence of holiness to consist, imagining that by it they would obtain acceptance with God. They likewise did so by the confidence they placed in the promises that God had made to Abraham and his posterity, flattering themselves with the vain thought that these promises acquired for them a right of impunity in their sins. And, finally, they did so by the gross error into which they had fallen, that the sacrifices and other legal expiations were sufficient to procure the pardon of their sins. By reason of these delusive prejudices they remained in their state of corruption, and did not penetrate farther into the design of God, who, by lavishing on them so much goodness, loudly called them to repentance. Leadeth thee to repentance. — It has been already remarked that the Apostle said nothing like this when speaking in the first chapter respecting the Gentiles. He did not ascribe to God either goodness, or forbearance, or long-suffering in regard to them. He did not say that God invited, or called, or led them to repentance. This shows, as has also been observed, that in the dispensation of providence which regarded them, there was no revelation of mercy. But if there was none for the Gentiles, it was otherwise with the Jews. The Old Testament contained in substance all the promises of the Gospel, as well as the temporal covenant which God had made with the Jews, which was a figure and type of the spiritual covenant made in Christ; and even all the rigors of the law indirectly conducted the Jews to the grace of God, and consequently called them to repentance. This call was all along accompanied among some of them by the spirit of sanctification, as appears by the example of the prophets and others. But with respect to the greater number, it remained unaccompanied with that spirit, and consequently continued to be merely an external calling, without any saving effect. The Apostle, in the following verse, declares that the Jews by their impenitence drew down upon themselves the just anger of God. From this it evidently follows that God externally calls many to whom He has not purposed to give the grace of conversion.

It also follows that it cannot be said that when God thus externally calls persons on whom it is not His purpose to bestow grace, His object is only to render them inexcusable. For if that were the case, the Apostle would not have spoken of the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, — terms which would not be applicable, if, by such a call, it was intended merely to render men inexcusable.

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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. Riches of his goodness—These men abase the goodness of God by holding that it will not condemn such goodness as they possess. Paul admits the copious affluence of God’s goodness. But that goodness is amply displayed, and will be fully exhausted, in the exercise of God’s forbearance and long-suffering with their persistent decent sinfulness.

Goodness and forbearance and long-suffering—Form a beautiful climax.

Leadeth—Not drags, but attracts. (See note on John 6:44.) Leads those who follow with willing steps.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 2:4. Or despisest thou, etc. A new error. ‘The despising of the divine goodness is the contemptuous unconcern as to its holy purpose, which produces as a natural consequence security in sinning (Ecclesiastes 5:5 f.).’ Meyer.

Riches; referring to abundance or magnitude; a favorite expression with the Apostle, especially in the Epistle to the Ephesians (see reff.).

Goodness: the general and positive term (taken up again), which is further explained by forbearance and long suffering; the negative terms referring to God’s tolerating sin and withholding punishment. ‘To the present hour in each life, the series of the Divine Goodness may be counted by the succession of a man’s sins’ (John Foster).

Not knowing. ‘Inasmuch as you do not know.’ Not the same word as Romans 2:2. Culpable ignorance; ignoring the fact that might be known, is perhaps implied.

Is leading thee to repentance, This is its purpose, and its tendency, but it is thwarted by man’s wilful ignorance. This verse is a question; but in the next verse, which is so closely joined with it, this interrogative form is gradually lost.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 2:4. states the alternative. Either he thinks he will escape, or he despises, etc. χρηστότης is the kindliness which disposes one to do good; ἀνοχὴ (in N.T. only here and in Romans 3:26) is the forbearance which suspends punishment; μακροθυμία is patience, which waits long before it actively interposes. τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ summarises all three in the concrete. It amounts to contempt of God’s goodness if a man does not know (rather, ignores: cf. Acts 13:27, 1 Corinthians 14:38, Romans 10:3) that its end is, not to approve of his sins, but to lead him to repentance.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

"Despisest" -"think lightly" (NASV). The word "or" states an alternative. Either he thinks he will escape, or he despises God.

-to contemn, disdain, think little or nothing of (Thayer p. 338)

The Jew or "moral" Gentile who continued in what they knew to be wrong, actually looked down upon the generosity of God. They may have been thinking, "I don"t need that forgiveness stuff like the rest of men".

"Riches of His goodness.."-God had been mighty good to the Jewish people, despite their stubbornness. Other nations had passed by the wayside, lost their cultural identity, or lost their homeland.

"the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"-in some people God"s kindness, demonstrated in second chances, time to repent and escape from the physical consequences of some sins, only makes them more presumptuous. Unfortunately, some will always view "time and opportunity" as time to get into more sin. (2 Peter 3:9) Whatever time and second chances that God gives mankind, man doesn"t deserve them. "Time" between now and the Judgement, is undeserved and it is a demonstration that God is kind and patient. The Jewish people were under the mistaken impression that God would never punish them.

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

riches. Compare Romans 9:23; Romans 11:33. Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16. Philippians 1:4, Philippians 1:19. Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2.

goodness. Greek. chrestotes. App-184. (a).

forbearance. Greek. anoche. Only here and Romans 3:25.

not knowing. Greek. agnoeo. See Romans 1:13.

goodness. Greek. chrestos. App-184. Neut. adjective used as noun.

repentance. Greek. metanoia. App-111.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and ('his') forbearance and ('his') long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth (or 'is leading') thee to repentance - is designed, as it is adapted, to do so. It is a sad mark of depravity when all that is designed and fitted to melt, only hardens the heart (cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

4. Or perhaps you despise. They did despise God's love, because they did not understand. The fact that God did not punish them immediately for their sin caused them to think they would never be punished. Therefore they despised the Law, because they believed it was inoperative. But God's kindness was intended to make them repent. See 2 Peter 3:9.

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Riches.—In this metaphorical sense, with reference to the divine attributes, this word is peculiar to and characteristic of St. Paul. It is thus used twelve times in his Epistles, and not besides in the rest of the New Testament, including the Epistle to the Hebrews. This is one of those instances where the evidence of style is important. Of the twelve places where this use occurs, eight are in the Epistles of the Imprisonment, three in the Epistle to the Romans, and one in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The later and earlier Epistles are thus linked together. A similar use is not found in the Pastoral Epistles, but it should be remembered that arguments of this kind are more important on the positive side than on the negative. It is an inference of some strength that if a peculiar word or usage is found in two separate books, those books are by the same author, but the absence of such a word or usage goes a very short way towards the opposite negative conclusion if other resemblances on characteristic points are not wanting.

Forbearance and longsuffering.—We may compare with this the Sinaitic revelation given in Exodus 34:6-7, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering.” The moral character and relation to His people thus attributed to the Deity was a feature which specially distinguished the religion of the Old Testament from that of the surrounding heathen nations.

We may observe that the fallacy against which the Apostle is protesting in these verses is not yet extinct. The goodness of God—i.e., His disposition to promote the happiness of His creatures—is insisted upon as if it were unconditional, as if it were a disposition to promote their happiness simply and without any reference to what they were in themselves. We do not find that this is the case; but rather the constitution of nature, as well as revelation, tells us that happiness is annexed to certain acts and a certain frame of mind, and that it is withheld from all that is not consonant with this. The bliss of the Christian is reserved for the Christian, and is not showered promiscuously upon all men. Otherwise free-will would have no office, and righteous dealing no reward.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
6:1,15; Psalms 10:11; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Jeremiah 7:10; Ezekiel 12:22,23; Matthew 24:48,49; 2 Peter 3:3
9:23; 10:12; 11:33; Psalms 86:5; 104:24; Ephesians 1:7,18; 2:4,7; 3:8,16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:17; Titus 3:4-6
3:25; 9:22; Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalms 78:38; 86:15; Isaiah 30:18; 63:7-10; Jonah 4:2; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 3:20
Job 33:27-30; Psalms 130:3,4; Isaiah 30:18; Jeremiah 3:12,13,22,23; Ezekiel 16:63; Hosea 3:5; Luke 15:17-19; 19:5-8; 2 Peter 3:9,15; Revelation 3:20

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering? That is, admitting the general principle, that those who do what they condemn in others are themselves exposed to condemnation, do you expect exemption on the ground of the peculiar goodness of God? That this was the expectation of the Jews is plain from the apostle's argument here and in the following chapter, and from Romans 9 and 11. Comp. also Matthew 3:9, "Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father," and John 8:33. Despisest. To despise, καταφρονεῖν, is to form a low estimate of. They despise the goodness of God, who form such a wrong estimate of it, as to suppose that it gives them a license to sin; who imagine that he will not punish, either because he long forbears, or because his goodness towards us is so great that we shall escape, though others perish. The words χρηστότητος, ἀνοχῆς, and μακροθυμίας, express the Divine goodness under different aspects. The first means kindness in general, as expressed in giving favors; the second, patience; the third, forbearance, slowness in the infliction of punishment. The reason why the Jews, as referred to by the apostle, and men in general, thus abuse the goodness of God, is expressed by the clause, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. ἀγνοῶν, not knowing, not understanding; and here, not comprehending the true nature and design of. Men abuse the goodness of God, because they do not rightly apprehend that instead of indicating a purpose not to punish, it is designed to lead them to forsake their sins. The goodness of God leads us to repentance, because it allows us our duty towards a Being who is so kind, and because it gives us ground to hope for acceptance. "The word ἄγει, leads," says Dr. Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster, in his elegant and scholarly work on the Greek Testament, "intimates not only the will of God, but the will of man. God leads, but man may refuse to be led: ‘Deus ducit volentum duci' as Bengel says, ‘Ducit suaviter non cogit.'" Very true; but who gives the will to be led? Is there no preventing grace? Does not God work in us to will, as well as to do. Surely there is such a thing as being made willing without being forced. There is a middle ground between moral suasion on and coercion. God supersedes the necessity of forcing, by making us willing in the day of his power. The apostle, however, is not here speaking of gracious influence, but of the moral tendencies of providential dispensations.

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Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians.

: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

In verse3Paul asked a question. Did the Jews think they could escape God's punishment? Verse four contains a second question: Didn't the Jews know that God's kindheartedness (which is here described in three different ways) was designed to lead them to repentance? The Jews apparently drew a wrong conclusion. They persisted in sin, God didn't punish them, and they concluded the lack of punishment meant everything was okay. The Jewish people should have sensed this conclusion was not right but they didn't. The reason God allowed the Jews to continue in sin is found in verse4. A waiting period was given so the Jews could change their minds and return to God (a). God's patience is described as "goodness," "forbearance," and "longsuffering." God's goodness was supposed to lead people to "repentance" (this term occurs only here in this book). For a definition of repentance, see the commentary on Acts 3:19. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul said repentance comes from true sorrow. Thus, since these Jews would not repent, they did not possess true (godly) sorrow.

The words goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering are preceded by the word "riches" (ploutos), a term that elsewhere describes wealth ( Matthew 13:22; James 5:2). Here Paul used the image of wealth to describe "the abundant generosity of God in Christ" (CBL, GED, 5:224). God offered the Jews plenty of leeway and time. Yet, in spite of His graciousness, they refused to change. They took God's goodness and used it as a license to sin.

The word goodness (chrestotes) meant "goodness, kindness, generosity" (Gingrich and Danker, p886). The noun forbearance "occurs only here and in (v26 in the Greek). It comes from anecho, which means ‘hold back.' So here it suggests ‘a delay of punishment.' It was used in classical Greek for a truce of arms" (Earle, p141). "Only God is in a position to declare a truce or to provide clemency for mankind" (CBL, GED, 1:291). God delays and holds back His wrath so people have an opportunity to turn to Him. If lives are not changed, this delay will eventually end ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8) because judgment is suspended, not cancelled.

The third word used to describe God is longsuffering (makrothumia). This word described a person who was "long-tempered" instead of "short tempered." This term occurs fourteen times in the New Testament. It is the word Peter used in 1 Peter 3:20. Hogg and Vine say, "Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God" (First Thessalonians Commentary, pp181-182). More information about this term is in the commentary on Galatians 5:22.

Another important term is "despise" (kataphroneo). Jesus used this word in places like Matthew 6:24; Matthew 18:10. Paul asked the Corinthians if they despised the Lord's church ( 1 Corinthians 11:22). Timothy was told to not let others despise his youth ( 1 Timothy 4:12). Slaves were forbidden from despising believing masters ( 1 Timothy 6:2). Here the word means "Think scornfully, regard as nothing" (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:270). The Jews had a horrible attitude toward God and His goodness. This was wrong.

This section of letter helps answer some common questions. Many want to know why God allows wicked people to live. If God is all-powerful, why doesn't He destroy horrible people so good people are not hurt? When our criminal justice system fails to dispense justice, why doesn't God take matters into His own hands? Those professing atheism frequently ask these questions because the existence of evil men is allegedly contrary to the existence of a kind and loving God. If a good and benevolent God exists, why does He not punish those who are a detriment to society?

In Romans 2:4 we are told why evil people are allowed to live. God gives these people life ( Luke 6:35 b) because He wants them to change. God wants all people to find salvation and go to heaven. This may not be what society wants, but this is God's will.

What Paul wrote is found in other parts of the Bible. Peter spoke about God's interest in saving everyone ( 2 Peter 3:9), as did Jesus in the parable of the tares ( Matthew 13:36-43). In the parable of the tares the field represents the world (verse38). The righteous and the wicked are normally allowed to continue until the end of their earthly lives so all have an opportunity to find salvation.

The goodness and forbearance of God are blessings that are sometimes misused. There are those who want to "live like the world" and then just prior to death find salvation. There are also those who want to seek salvation only in their old age when they have little else to do. These attitudes and tactics misuse God's goodness and patience, and anyone who abuses God's goodness sins. Those who have abused God's mercy have often died in a lost state because the day they intended to use for repentance never arrived.

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Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans".

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