The Character of God:
Longsuffering = Slow to Anger = Patient

New Testament, Greek:  makrothumia

2 Peter 3:1-18
Matthew 18:21-35
Luke 18:1-8
Romans 2:1-11
1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:2-7; Galatians 5:22-23

Other Aspects of God's Character

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2 Peter 3:1-18(3/7/2011)

The Greek word makrothumia is used 14 times in the New Testament; literally it means  “long anger” or “long temper,” which is almost exactly the same as last week’s Hebrew word, arek aph, “slow to anger.”  All thirteen occurrences of arek aph are translated with a form of makrothumia in the Greek Old Testament, so we can be confident that whatever it means there, it meant the same thing to the writers of the New Testament.  Like arek aph, makrothumia is usually translated “longsuffering” or “patient.”  (Another related word is also used a couple of times and translated “patient.”)

Now, one thing I noticed last week was that the context for God’s “longsuffering” character in the OT was always the same, i.e., “The LORD is full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”  This doesn’t tell me what “longsuffering” means, unless I go back to the literal “slow to anger.”  Even less does it tell me why God is slow to anger, although there is the hint that God prefers repentance to punishment. 

Fortunately, the New Testament makes the explanation plain:  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Matthew 18:21-35 (3/8/2011)

Do you remember that we are supposed to be holy, or separate, because God is holy, or separate?  In this parable from Jesus, it appears that we are told to be patient, or longsuffering, because God is patient, or longsuffering. 

So it’s especially interesting to me that that is not the moral of the story according to Jesus, who should know what he’s talking about.  According to Jesus, the moral is that we should forgive because we have been forgiven.  This seems to be a twist on the idea that God’s patience gives us time to repent.
Luke 18:1-8 (3/09/2011)

Of the translations we normally use here, only the King James preserves the idea of “longsuffering” in vs. 7.  Most of the others have some idea like “Will God be slow to help them?”  I don’t see that in the Greek, and neither did John Wesley, apparently.  He said:
Wesley seems to me to be acknowledging that there may be a delay, just as there was for the widow, but that ultimately – in the absence of repentance – justice will be done.  This seems (again, to me) to be more in line with what we’ve seen elsewhere as we’ve looked to see what “longsuffering” means.

Jesus’ final question is crucial.  Just because God is willing to give us time to repent doesn’t mean that we should put off faith and repentance.  I’m as big a procrastinator as the next person, but in some areas the stakes are too high for delay.
Romans 2:1-11 (3/10/2011)

I really believe we are onto something with the idea that God’s makrothumia longsuffering is entirely aimed at giving us poor sinners time to repent.  We are also seeing two sidebars:  ultimate judgment, and the importance of forgiving each other.
1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13:2-7; Galatians 5:22-23 (3/11/2011)

God is patient with us because God loves us.  Little children, love one another.
Other Aspects of God's Character
Glory, Old Testament, New Testament
Holiness, Old Testament, New Testament
Longsuffering, Old Testament, New Testament
Steadfast Love, Old Testament, which is Mercy in the New Testament
Graciousness, Old Testament, which is Grace in the New Testament
Jealousy, Old Testament
Intolerance of Sin, Old Testament, New Testament

Copyright 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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