not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart
you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath
when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The apostle intensifies his warning to the person he addressed in verse 1. The moralist who dismisses his own sin while judging others does not understand God’s kindness. Its purpose is not to excuse sin but to give sinners time to repent. Take advantage now of God’s merciful delay, Paul implies, because as time goes by judgment day looms nearer.Presumption of innocence
Presuming others guilty and oneself innocent is a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the word of God. Better to face voters than God, because ignoring his holiness and taking for granted his kindness is by far the greater risk. Failure to obey a single one of God’s commands is a violation of his holy character and makes people as guilty as if they violated the entire law (James 2:10).
God’s silence and seeming inaction can give people a false security. “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). At the very least, people who have mercy on themselves should have mercy on others. Those who receive God’s mercy but do not forgive others will receive greater punishment (Matthew 18:32–35).Jewish misunderstanding
In chapter 11 Paul warns Gentiles to take note of God’s kindness and severity (verse 22). The present warning, though, is directed to a typical Jew. The Jewish people were especially prone to think God would extend his favor regardless of their sin. Douglas Moo thinks it probable that Paul has in mind an expression of this faulty attitude in the intertestamental Jewish text The Wisdom of Solomon: “But thou, our God, art kind and true, patient, and ruling all things in mercy. For even if we sin we are thine, knowing thy power.”
The problem with that assertion is this: God’s power along with his mercy and love were demonstrated in the death and resurrection of his Son (5:8). The Jews’ rejection of Christ despises the one thing that would cover their sin. If they do not repent of their hard heart they will instead experience the power of God’s wrath.
According to Moo, Paul here and in the verses that follow makes a radical departure from Jewish tradition. The apostle “implies not only a critique of the prevailing understanding of God’s covenant with Israel but also that a new era in salvation history had dawned.”Kindness, forbearance, patience
Paul says elsewhere that God wants people to be saved and waits patiently for them to come to the only one who can mediate between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4–5). But there are limits to his patience. Of these three divine attributes, kindness is Paul’s focal point and the two other terms elaborate its meaning.
God’s kindness is similar to another of his attributes, goodness. Forbearance (anochē) refers to a holding back, in this case of God’s judgment. According to Marvin Vincent, ancient Greeks used the word for a truce of arms. “It implies something temporary which may pass away under new conditions.” Patience is long-suffering, a protracted restraint against yielding to anger. Were it not for this extension of God’s kindness toward the unrepentant, his wrath long ago would have extinguished the human race.Hard and impenitent heart
Failure to seek and obey God can always be traced to the human heart. Hard is a noun NASB translates as stubbornness. The verb form is used of God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (see the exposition at 9:18). Impenitent is the opposite of repentance, which means a change of mind and conduct.
Storing up wrath for judgment
Elsewhere in the NT the verb storing up is used of laying up something desirable such as treasure (for example, Matthew 6:20, James 5:3; exceptions are here and 2 Peter 3:7). People give great thought to their 401(k)s, monitoring every dollar. Few realize that every sin stores up more wrath in their account with God. Wrath describes God’s awful judgment of evil; it is not an emotional rage against people. To be saved from God’s wrath, a person must be justified by Christ’s shed blood (5:9).
Since God seeks by his kindness to lead sinners to repentance, it is possible, R. C. Sproul observes, “that God can lead us in certain directions in which we refuse to go.” If we don’t follow God’s leading, Sproul points to what results. “In verse 5, we have one of the most terrifying verses in all the apostolic writings.”
Sproul is right about the terror that awaits those who will experience God’s judgment. If anyone tries to face this Judge alone, the sentence is certain and has already been declared: eternal death. It would be wise, therefore, to secure in advance representation by a competent counsel. There is one who comes highly recommended.
This particular advocate not only happens to be the Judge’s Son, he has also taken on himself the judgment we deserve. If the thought of contacting him hasn’t occurred to you yet, now is a great time to change your mind. Why not call on him today.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous.
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2)
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)