Principles of Divine Judgment (2)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

In last weeks’s bulletin we began looking at principles of God’s judgment as taught by Paul in Romans 2. Principle #1: People are condemned when they practice what they condemn in others (v. 1). Principle #2: God's judgment will be according to the truth of the word of God, that is, His revealed word in the Bible (v. 2).  (See last week’s bulletin for discussion of these principles.)

As we continue our study, let’s observe Principle #3: God’s goodness to sinners is NOT a sign that He approves of sin, but that he looks to their repentance. “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and  longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (v. 4). The goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, called here "the riches" of God, have reference to the special privileges of the covenant people, the Jews. Their argument was something like this: "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.

Peter explained this same principle in his second epistle: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).

God has given every inducement for man to repent. Consider the following things He has done to lead us to repentance: His great love (John 3:16); His great grace (Eph. 2:8-9); His Son as sacrifice and propitiation (I John 2:2); the Church (Acts 20:28); the revealed truth (II Tim. 3:16-17); Heaven as a reward (Rev. 22:14); hell as a detriment (Rev. 20:15); and time to repent (II Pet. 3:9). It seems apparent that if God's goodness cannot lead people to repentance, nothing else can.

Even though the purpose of the goodness of God was to lead to repentance, it does not always bring about the desired results. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (v. 5). In the case of the Jews, it had not led to their repentance. They had become hardened. They had impenitent hearts. They treasured (stored) up to themselves wrath. Unless they repented, this wrath would be poured out on them at the Day of Judgment.

The very goodness of God, which should have produced penitence as intended, produced instead an arrogant, hard-hearted impenitent, who by such misuse of God's goodness had treasured up for himself a terrible weight of wrath in the last day. The same paradox is evident in the influence of the gospel, as Paul said:  “Because of Christ a sweet fragrance we are to God, in those being saved and in those being lost; to the one, indeed, a fragrance of death to death, and to the other, a fragrance of life to life; and for these things who is sufficient?” (II Cor. 2:15-16  YLT).  

Let each of us accept God’s gracious gifts and use the time wisely to prepare ourselves for the judgment to come.

Paul M. Wilmoth