God of Patience

Looking over humanity’s brief history, we see an extraordinary degree of God’s patience with mankind. After all, humanity alone was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), and it was humanity who reasoned through the serpent’s arguments against God and decided disobedience was the pathway to greater Godlikeness. So it was, that sin and death was introduced by humanity (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-19).

God would have been justified in executing the promised death penalty upon Adam and Eve right there in the garden of Eden. Yet, that’s not what we see. Instead, we see God’s mercy patiently working with independent humanity. Yes, immediate judgement was enacted upon Adam and Eve. And yes, death was initiated immediately, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). But the Lord restrained the extremity of His justice, displaying mercy that would work through His patience, leading to Christ’s substitutional death on the cross.

Nowhere in Scripture is this explained more clearly than in Romans 9:22-23. What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. Even though we feel the tensions created by sin, human will, judgment, and God’s purposes, the Holy Spirit states that these all work for God’s glory. Therefore, mankind are both vessels of wrath and of mercy. The Lord’s indomitable will employs the worst of man’s rebellion to exercise patience that endures long after a defiant person passes away. God continues broadcasting His grace to the very sinners who live under His wrath, waiting for their response of repentance.

As believers who can look back at our salvation, the Lord patiently spoke into our lives through others, through God’s Word, through life’s events, and through Holy Spirit conviction. God’s patient grace was investing in His glory through our lives, and we didn’t realise it. We thought the gospel was all about us. Therefore, Paul told Timothy, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16). The patience of Jesus Christ is gospel mercy in action towards the unsaved for the purpose of bringing them to eternal life. Just as Christ patiently brings sinners to repentant faith, so we must be patient in prayer, then engage with the lost. Every interaction with the unsaved which exposes them to the loving gospel is God glorifying.

Although grace is patient, we need to be careful not to presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4). Divine patience has purpose and destination in mind. Even unwilling sinners are drawn by grace under the Lord Jesus Christ for God’s glory through repentance. Although repentance seems to have fallen on hard times lately, God intends repentance of sin to remain a key expression of faith in Christ, for God’s glory.

As we mature in Christ, the unsaved should be able to observe Christ continuously changing us; again, this takes time and gracious patience by the Lord. As always, Christ is our template, patiently leading us through the internal ministry of the Holy Spirit to greater Christlikeness. May we be increasingly grateful for the Lord’s gracious patience with us, and quick to tells others of it.

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