Sermon #15 Series: Who Is God?
Title: The longsuffering of God
Text: II Peter 3:9
Date: Tuesday Evening - April 24, 1990
There was a day when the depravity of the human race had plunged to such depths of corruption that “every imagination of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually.” So great was the wickedness of man that when God saw it, “It repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Gen. 6:5-7). And at the appointed time the wrath of God swept across the earth in a great, universal flood, destroying every soul, except Noah and his family who were saved in the ark God had provided.
Once there was a pair of twin cities, rich, populace, and influential, perhaps the most wealthy and influential cities in the world. But the wickedness of those cities was great. Not only had the vile, disgusting practice of homosexuality become an acceptable lifestyle, it had become the predominate and preferred lifestyle! In those twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, homosexuals were no longer queer people They were normal! Sexual perverts were in the majority. It appears that there was only one man in that vast metropolis who neither practiced nor condoned the wicked practice of homosexuality. Righteous Lot vexed his soul from day to day with the deeds of those godless people. And Lot’s God was vexed too. One morning, as the inhabitants of the city awoke and began the day, God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven, scorching every man, woman, and child to death in his hot anger, except Lot and two of his daughters who were delivered by the hand of his grace.
If God destroyed the world with a flood because of the wickedness of Noah’s generation, and if God rained fire from heaven upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their crimes against nature, why has he not yet sent his Son in judgment to destroy this world? In Noah’s generation, men and women were no different than they are now. And the moral debauchery of Sodom was nothing compared to the perversion of our society. At least in that day homosexuality was confined to two totally godless cities. Today the perversion is worldwide, openly promoted by men and women who claim to worship and serve God! Why then is the world still standing? Has God changed? Has he altered his law? Has the Holy One become tolerant of man’s sin? Will God no longer punish the wicked? Let none be so foolish as to imagine such things. God never changes! His law still stands! He must and shall punish sin!
Why does God tolerate this world and the wickedness of men and women who openly defy his holiness and blaspheme his name? The answer to that question is found in II Peter 3:9. “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.”
It is the longsuffering of God toward his elect that prevents him from destroying the world in his wrath at this hour.
Tonight I want to talk to you about The Longsuffering of God. It may be that some of you are yet without Christ. If so, I want you to hear what I have to say. The only thing that keeps you out of hell at this moment is the longsuffering of almighty God. If I had nothing else to say, that ought to cause you to fall down before him and sue for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. God waits to be gracious to sinners for Christ’s sake. Today is the day of salvation. But there is a day coming when he will reserve mercy no longer. The day is coming when he will no longer restrain his wrath. He has said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen. 6:3). The days of God’s patience with man are numbered. Then you will know the terror of his fierce anger and inflexible justice. What will become of your soul in that day no tongue can describe. God help you now to trust his Son.
I want to raise and answer four questions which, I trust, will help us to understand something about The Longsuffering of God.
1. How does the Bible describe God’s longsuffering?
2. Why is God longsuffering with sinners?
3. What has God promised to do?
4. What shall become of those who despise the goodness and forbearance of God?
I. HOW DOES THE BIBLE DESCRIBE GOD’S longsuffering?
Whenever we think of God’s longsuffering, we must not suppose that it is a mere passion or weakness of nature with him. Longsuffering is an attribute of God’s nature. It arises from the goodness of his Being. It is the patience and forbearance of God.
When God revealed his glory to Moses, he said, “The LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).
Moses used God’s longsuffering as an argument with him in prayer, making it the grounds of his intercession for Israel - “The LORD is longsuffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression...Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of thy mercy” (Num. 14:18-19).
David wrote, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psa. 103:8-10).
God, speaking by the mouth of Isaiah, said, “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off” (Isa. 48:9).
The Apostle Paul reasoned with the unbeliever, who vainly imagines that he shall escape the judgment of God, saying, “despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).
In Romans 3:25 he tells us that God has setforth the Lord Jesus Christ “to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
And Peter tells us that we are to “account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation”(II Pet. 3:15).
A. These seven passages that we have read in the book of God teach us five things about God’s longsuffering.
1. It is the glory of God to be longsuffering toward sinful men.
2. God’s longsuffering arises from the goodness of his Being. God is longsuffering because he is good. Longsuffering is the exercise of his mercy and kindness. It is a part of his purpose and graced in salvation. God’s longsuffering encourages faith and hope in him. And the design, purpose, and intent of God’s longsuffering is to bring men and women to repentance (II Pet. 3:9).
3. The longsuffering of God is the moderation and restraint of his anger.
4. The longsuffering of God is an extension of his mercy to men and women who deserve his wrath.
Note: Grace is extended only to God’s elect.
Mercy is extended to all while they live in this world.
5. The longsuffering of God is the deferred execution of his justice for a season.
B. The Scriptures abound with illustrations of God’s longsuffering.
1. For 120 years God warned the old world of his sure judgment and called them to faith by the mount of his servant Noah (Gen. 6:3).
2. For many years God allowed the Sodomites to persist in their sins. He warned them of his sure judgment. But they would not heed his warnings (Gen. 18).
3. The Lord showed great longsuffering with Pharaoh. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and defied God (Ex. 5).
4. God was longsuffering with Israel for 2000 years.
5. And the Lord God has been very longsuffering with you who yet believe not. (Illustration: The barren fig tree (Lk. 13:6-9).
II. WHY IS GOD LONGSUFFERING WITH SINNERS?
If God does not immediately execute his wrath and justice upon those who break his law and despise his gospel, there must be some reason for it. He must have some purpose and motive for deferring his anger. What is it? Why is God longsuffering with wicked men?
A. God is longsuffering with wicked men and women for Christ’s sake.
Every blessing of grace comes to sinners through the hands of Christ, the Mediator between God and men. Were it not for the mediation of Christ, every sinner would perish immediately.
1. God bore with the sins of his people in the Old Testament, with great patience and forbearance, not imputing their trespasses unto them, in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15).
2. God is longsuffering with sinners today for the same reason.
a. There stands between us and God the God-man Mediator; and our names are written upon his heart.
b Between God’s elect and the law of God stands the cross of Christ.
c. For Christ’s sake God was and is longsuffering to us.
He has put up with our sins, born our insults, and been patient with our unbelief because Christ died for us; and he must have us!
B. But I want you to see this too - God is longsuffering with sinners for their sake.
It is the good pleasure of God to show mercy to sinners upon the earth. God allows the wicked to live that he may give them space for repentance. Do not despise his goodness and forbearance.
1. You deserve to be in hell right now!
2. But God has put off the execution of his wrath for a season.
3. He has done so because he is willing to be gracious - God is willing to save sinners (Isa. 30:18; Ezek. 18:23, 33; 33:11).
Let us be precise in our theology. But do not let your understanding of God’s sovereignty, predestination, election, effectual redemption, and irresistible grace become twisted and perverted, causing you to imagine that God is hard. He is not! Our God delights in mercy!
a. He invites the guilty to repent and believe on his Son.
b. He promises salvation to all who believe.
c. He has given you the means of grace.
d. He has given you opportunity to repent.
e. He has warned you of wrath to come.
God is longsuffering to sinners, not because he is unable or unwilling to punish, but because “he delighteth in mercy!” Judgment is his strange work.
C. God is longsuffering with men for the sake of his own glory.
By his longsuffering and willingness to save, the Lord God vindicates himself from all charges of unrighteousness, cruelty, and injustice.
1. If you die in your sins, your guilt is inexcusable.
Your damnation is just and righteous. God has given you light. But you despise the light. God has shown you Christ by the gospel. But you despise his Son. You are without excuse (Rom. 2:1, 4, 5; 3:9-19).
2. In the day of judgment, no one will charge God with injustice. He will stop your mouth!
D. And God is longsuffering with sinners for the elect’s sake (II Pet. 3:9).
You will notice that Peter makes a clean and deliberate distinction between “us” who believe and the scoffers who believe not. God is longsuffering with them. But his longsuffering is “to us-ward,” his own elect. He is not willing that any of his elect should perish, but that they all repent and obtain salvation by Christ. Therefore, he is longsuffering with all men.
(Illustration: Lot in Sodom)
1. God is not willing for one soul to perish whom he has chosen to save.
2. God is not willing for any to perish for whom Christ died.
3. God is not willing that any perish to whom he has promised eternal life (II Tim. 1:9).
4. To us the longsuffering of God is salvation (II Pet. 3:15). Because God is not willing for us to perish, we shall not perish!
III. WHAT HAS GOD PROMISED TO PERFORM?
Peter says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise.” That is to say, What God has promised , God will do. And the promise here spoken of is the glorious second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A. Christ will come again, the second time, without sin, unto salvation.
This is the blessed hope of God’s saints (Tit. 2:13). We sometimes grow weary of waiting. But we should not. Let us wait patiently for our Redeemer (Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37).
Christ will come again...
1. At the hour appointed.
2. To gather his elect from the earth.
3. In his glory.
4. To judge the world.
B. But this is also promised - Christ will not come to destroy this world until all of God’s elect have been brought to repentance by his almighty grace.
We sometimes get into a hurry. But not God! He will not send his Son to judge the world until the time appointed (v. 8).
1. When will Christ come again? I can tell you exactly when he will come - Christ will come again when...
a. The last sheep has been brought into his fold.
b. The last stone is place in his holy temple.
c. The last member has been united to his body.
d. The number of those who believe tallies exactly with the names registered in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
e. The last jewel has been placed in the King’s crown.
2. Until then we will patiently wait, for God is not willing that any perish, and neither are we!
a. God would not send the flood until Noah was safely in the Ark.
b. God would not destroy Sodom until Lot was safely out of the city.
c. God would not allow the Red Sea to close until every Israelite was safe on the distant shore.
d. And God will not destroy this world until everyone of his elect have been saved by his grace.
IV. WHAT SHALL BECOME OF THOSE WHO DESPISE THE GOODNESS AND FORBEARANCE OF GOD? (Prov. 1:23-33).
It is written, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Prov. 29:1).
A. The day will come when you will seek mercy, but none shall be found (Lk. 13:24-25).
B. In the day of judgment everything and everyone will proclaim the justice of God in your eternal damnation.
1. The law of God.
2. The gospel of God.
3. The Son of God.
4. The servants of God.
5. The people of God.
6. The angels of God.
7. Even your own conscience! “Righteous and true are all thy ways, O King of saints.”
C. The hottest place in hell shall be reserved for you who have heard but refused to believe the gospel of the grace of God.
1. Children of God, give thanks to God for his longsuffering, by which you are saved!
2. Sinner, be warned (Gen. 6:3).