Or do you 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
Believers have the privilege of seeing all of life as designed and ordained by the sovereign will of God. By that sovereignty, each person’s eternity is set (Rom. 9:18). By that sovereignty, all our troubles and woes serve a purpose (Gen. 50:21, Eph. 1:11).
By that same sovereignty, sinful people across the world live to see another day. “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). Instead of blotting out humanity due to its rebellion against Him, God does not simply tolerate the lives of sinful people. He grants favor upon them, because God’s sovereignty is tethered to God’s benevolence. The Lord surely does all that He pleases (Ps. 145:3), and it pleases Him to be “kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Lk. 6:35).
The kindness of God is impartial, powerful, and always purposeful. His kindness is not random or inconsistent with His character. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works” (Ps. 145:17). God’s people have always extoled and worshipped Him in accordance with His everlasting, unchanging benevolence. The chief psalm of praise is anchored in God’s loving-kindness (חֶסֶד). “Give praise to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1). God’s kindness is not pithy, uncalculated, or unintentional. Kindness is who He is. God is חֶסֶד. He is merciful, good, benevolent, and kind.
The certainty of wrath and condemnation for sinners in the future does not negate the reality of God’s kindness and hospitality toward them in the present. The simplicity of a verse like Romans 2:4 is profound in that it allows us to see the depth of God’s goodness for what it is: present and purposeful.
Romans 2:4 sits as a diamond amid a heap of coal. In the first chapter of this epistle, Paul lays out the imminent wrath that is coming for the ungodly and unrighteous (Rom. 1:18). Having developed the downward spiral of a pagan culture, Paul turns to the “foolish person”—one who rightly perceives the immorality of the world, condemns it, all the while living in the same filth (Rom. 2:1-3). It is the believer who sees the sin in everyone but not in himself. He has a high moral code but a broken spiritual compass.
How does someone get to that place, you might ask? Paul’s answer is straightforward: through a diminishment and disregard for the kindness of God. These believers “think lightly” of the riches of His goodness.
Where the benevolence of God is undervalued and underestimated, sin and deception will abound.
In the words of Pastor John, “Sinners get used to goodness. They become comfortable with goodness. They become comfortable with kindness and grace.”
We are so prone to miss His kindness. We grow accustomed and desensitized to it, we don’t have a palate for it, and we don’t appreciate that under God’s reign we are afforded His goodness day-in and day-out. Worst of all, we forget that we do not deserve any kind consideration from the Lord, be it through the gospel of Christ or through the breath in our lungs.
Awaking us from spiritual slumber or, at the very least, warning us of its danger, Romans 2:4 pleads that we do not abuse the good and perfect gifts that comes from above (Js. 1:18). The implied message of Romans 2:4 is that one who regards and recognizes the fresh mercies of God day-after-day is known by sweet communion with Christ through repentance. Those who have experienced God’s kindness feel less and less entitled to it. Charles Spurgeon said it this way:
The dearer Christ is to us, the blacker is sin in our sight. The sweeter the love of God is to us, the more bitter is the thought of having so long sinned against it. The more you see, in these shoreless, bottomless deeps, what divine grace has done for you, and to you, the more you smite upon your breast, and cry, “How could I ever have sinned against the Lord as I have done; and how can I sin against him as I still continue to do?”
In other words, experiencing the goodness of God purifies us. It causes us to see ourselves for who we are, in light of who He is. Those who have tasted of His goodness are both regenerated and renewed (Titus 3:4-7). They are satisfied in Christ and dissatisfied with themselves. Perceiving His kindness, we ought to be moved toward holiness. As believers ever-growing in the knowledge of God, we should also long to grow in His grace. Our affections and devotions to Christ will be cultivated insofar as we understand God and experience His mercies anew every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).
What are you to do today with His mercy, goodness, and kindness? Will it be of use to you? Perhaps today you are to repent before God for the first time. Perhaps the thousandth time. Nonetheless, in this very moment, the King of Heaven has decreed that His goodness would be yours. I pray that you would not waste it. I pray that you would see His kindness as the means by which He seeks to turn you away from all unrighteousness and unto Himself.