Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Some of Paul’s readers misunderstood the kindness of God to be a sign of his favor. Since God had been kind to them in the past, they had no reason to think he would not be kind to them in the future—even on Judgment Day. The purpose of God’s kindness was not to give them false assurance, however, but to lead them to repentance.
Two months after my conversion, I went away to college and found myself living in temptation city. By the end of the first semester I was living an unconverted lifestyle. But toward the end of the year I went to church, and God met me there.
I allowed my mind to wander, and was surprised by thoughts of God’s remarkable kindness to me. I lived in a prosperous country, came from a loving family, enjoyed good health, and had some friends. What struck me most, however, was that Jesus died on a cross for me.
Then I began to think of the way that I had treated God. I had given up on prayer, stopped reading his word, avoided church, spurned his commands, rejected his will, and did as I pleased. When I compared the way God treated me, to the way I treated him, I found myself in tears. I agreed with God that he was good, and I was bad. I told him I wanted to change, and if he would take me back, I would never walk away again. That was over forty years ago, and God has kept me ever since. The kindness of God led me to repentance.
Romans 2:8-9 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.
Trouble and distress come from getting caught doing something wrong. For example, I knew an excellent business man, with a beautiful family, and a good reputation at church. Then he went to a gentleman’s club and got involved with a young lady who blackmailed him for money. He quickly went through his savings, then his retirement, then he stole money from his company. Then he went to prison and lost his family.
The trouble and distress he went through is hard to imagine, but nothing compares to the trouble and distress of seeing heaven slip away. Imagine the trouble and distress of losing the best of all possible worlds, and being sent to the worst. All our secrets are known to God (Romans 2:16), and now is the time come clean (1 John 1:9). There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.
Romans 2:15 [T]he requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.
Conscience has a very small vocabulary: right and wrong. Everyone knows what is right, and often does what is wrong. Conscience accuses us of breaking God’s law, even if we don’t know the Bible.
This is also a powerful argument for God’s existence, since a moral law requires a moral law giver. There can be no right or wrong apart from God, because there is no one with sufficient authority to say what is right or wrong. If an ultimate authority does not exist, everyone gets to choose right and wrong for themselves. This sounds good at first, but it goes against our better judgment.
For example, most people agree that torturing children for pleasure is wrong. It is not enough to say, torturing children for pleasure is wrong for you, but not for me. We instinctively know that torturing children for pleasure is objectively wrong, for all people, for all time.
For this to be true, however, there must be an ultimate authority to say so. The best explanation for right and wrong is God. He has written his law on our hearts, so it cannot be avoided. He has given us a conscience so that we cannot claim that we did not know.
Romans 2:24 God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.
The ancient Israelites failed to keep God’s law, so God allowed them to be defeated by the Babylonians. Since the Babylonians were victorious, they assumed the God of Israel was not to be taken seriously. So they blasphemed the one true God.
Christians can also lead people to blaspheme God if we are not careful. Whenever a Christian leader falls into sin, people will use the occasion to mock Christianity. To some degree, this applies to all believers. That is why Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19), wrote Paul.
Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
The purpose of God’s commandments are not to show us how to be good enough for heaven, but to show us that we are not good enough for heaven, and need to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only one who is good enough for heaven, and we only get in through him.
Sometimes, when I present the gospel, I like to begin with a few questions to help people see their need for Jesus Christ. First, I ask if they have ever told a lie, and if so, what that makes them—a liar. Then I ask if they have ever stolen anything, and if so, what that makes them—a thief. Then I ask if they have ever lusted at a stranger, and if so, what that makes them—a luster. Then I ask if they have ever misused God’s name, and if so, what that makes them—a blasphemer. By their own admission most people are lying, thieving, lusting, blasphemers (Ray Comfort, revised).
The truth is, we are not pretty good people, on our way to heaven. We are pretty bad people, on our way to hell. But once we understand the bad news, we can appreciate the good news. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), wrote John.
Reflection and Review
How does God’s goodness lead us to repentance?
Why does sin cause trouble and distress?
How does God’s law prepare us for the gospel?