A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.
Ch. 12: The Patience of God-
Tied in with everything thus far is God's patience. This chapter made a distinction between God's patience and God's mercy. Even though they are often closely tied together, Scripture warrants a distinction. This was certainly a hard chapter to grasp for me, so I'll mostly be quoting things and giving thoughts on them.
Pink quotes Steven Charnock in saying,
[Patience] differs from mercy in the formal consideration of the subject: mercy respects the creature as miserable, patience respects the creature as criminal; mercy pities him in his misery, patience bears with the sin which engendered the misery, and giving birth to more.
This is certainly a hard distinction to draw! Patience seems to be something directed at a person in spite of what they are, and mercy directed at a person because of what they are.
Personally we would define the Divine patience as that power of control which God exercises over Himself, causing Him to bear with the wicked and forebear so long in punishing them. In Nahum 1:3 we read, "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,"
This is certainly a little bit clearer. An exercise of God's power over Himself. But how does this fit in with the unity of God? If God is one, then is it appropriate to speak of God withholding Himself, as if there was one side of Him that really wanted to do something and another that didn't? We as humans “hold ourselves back” because we know what we're doing (getting angry) is pointless (and likely sinful). This certainly isn't the same with God... so what is it exactly?
Though the creature is benefited thereby, the patience of God chiefly respects Himself, a restraint placed upon His acts by His will; whereas His mercy terminates wholly upon the creature. The patience of God is that excellency which causes Him to sustain great injuries without immediately avenging Himself.
Maybe the difficulty is picturing God responding “in time.” So in time, as we act, when we sin, we store up wrath. And in time, God is perfeclty just and righteous in smashing us. But outside of time, for His glory, He withholds that, as a power upon Himself, part of His immutable plan? That seems to make more sense, though it is hard to picture God as “patient” in that sense, but if Scripture speaks of God as patient, then He's patient, who am I to quibble?
Again, in Romans 9:22 we read, "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. . . ?" Were God to immediately break these reprobate vessels into pieces, His power of self-control would not so eminently appear; by bearing with their wickedness and forebearing punishment so long, the power of His patience is gloriously demonstrated. True, the wicked interpret His longsuffering quite differently—"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11)—but the anointed eye adores what they abuse.
This certainly makes a bit more sense. Patience is out of a desire to show His power. Ok. I think that's probably something I've missed before, and looking back at the previous passages it does seem to be there.
So it seems my earlier distinction does seem to fit, patience is shown not only to the elect, but to the reprobates (non-elect), and mercy is shown to the elect. Maybe? Kind of?
"The God of patience" (Rom. 15:5) is one of the Divine titles. Deity is thus denominated, first, because God is both the Author and Object of the grace of patience in the saint. Secondly, because this is what He is in Himself: patience is one of His perfections. Thirdly, as a pattern for us: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Col. 3:12). And again, "Be ye therefore followers (emulators) of god, as dear children" (Eph. 5:2). When tempted to be disgusted at the dullness of another, or to be revenged on one who has wronged you, call to remembrance God’s infinite patience and longsuffering with yourself.
Thus it is in view of God's patience that we depend upon Him for our patience. Knowing that vengeance is the Lord's, we wait. Give us patience to endure this sinful world! Give us patience to deal with our own sins and the sins of others. Definitely something I need more of. Yike. Patience is one of His perfections. Wow. Yet another thing I fall short in.
May our meditation upon this Divine excellency soften our hearts, make our consciences tender, and may we learn in the school of holy experience the "patience of saints," namely, submission to the Divine will and continuance in well doing. Let us earnestly seek grace to emulate this Divine excellency. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48): in the immediate context Christ exhorts us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us. God bears long with the wicked notwithstanding the multitude of their sin, and shall we desire to be revenged because of a single injury?
Labels: Attributes of God