settings icon
share icon

What does it mean that “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4)?

goodness of God leads to repentance

In Romans 2:3–4, the apostle Paul addresses a Jewish audience (see Romans 2:17), cautioning them against hypocrisy and judgmentalism. He points out that their condemning of the Gentiles for sins they also committed showed contempt for the patience, tolerance, and goodness of God that they themselves had received: “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (NKJV).

“The goodness of God” simply refers to His kindness. In the original Greek, the term translated as “goodness” (KJV, NKJV) or “kindness” (NIV, ESV) means “the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane, gentle, and sympathetic.” Paul often spoke of the Lord’s extraordinary kindness toward us and how the goodness of God ought to motivate us to be kind to others (Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4).

King David observed how God’s people have long celebrated His “abundant goodness” (Psalm 145:7; cf. Exodus 18:9; Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 27:13). Because of His goodness, God made an everlasting covenant with Israel, saying, “I will never stop doing good to them” (Jeremiah 32:40). God blessed Israel with rich physical and spiritual resources. He gave them a “good land” flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 8:7; see also Exodus 3:8, 17; 33:3; Numbers 13:27; Deuteronomy 26:9) where He promised to shepherd, protect, and care for them (Psalm 23; 28:9; 121:3–5). In His goodness, God laid out the law so that, through obedience, they “might always prosper and be kept alive” (Deuteronomy 6:24).

God established the tabernacle (and later the temple) so His people would have a tangible reminder of His presence (Exodus 25:8; 33:9–10; 40:34–35). He gave them a system of worship and the priesthood to make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 9:7). All these Old Testament blessings pointed to God’s Son, the Messiah, whom He would send as Israel’s Savior—the ultimate demonstration of God’s goodness and kindness (Acts 10:38; Hebrews 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:15). Even though Israel rejected the Messiah and crucified Him, God continued to give them every opportunity to be saved, pouring out His grace and delaying His judgment (John 1:16–17).

It is not fear of judgment or punishment that leads people to repent of their sins and be saved, but the goodness of God and “the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us” (Ephesians 2:7, NLT). God is not a heartless dictator but a merciful, forgiving, loving God (Psalm 25:6; Daniel 9:9; Ephesians 2:4; James 5:11; 1 Peter 1:3). He is patient with sinners who deserve judgment because He “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, NLT; see also Isaiah 30:18; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9).

God’s children—those who know and have experienced the goodness of God—must never forget to show His kindness and mercy to others. Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1, NLT; see also Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 5:9). Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we ignore immorality in others (see Matthew 18:15–18; Hebrews 3:13). Both Jesus and Paul were speaking against the self-righteous, hypocritical tendency to point the finger at someone else and not realize that three fingers are pointing back at us.

Believers can evaluate the character and actions of others and recognize sin. But whenever we confront sin in someone else, we must remember that God’s goodness leads people to repentance. As we attempt to bring correction, healing, and restoration, we must maintain an attitude of love, gentleness, and humility, carefully keeping an eye on our own spiritual state (Psalm 141:5; 1 Corinthians 4:21; Hebrews 12:13; Galatians 6:1–2; 2 Timothy 2:25; James 5:19–20).

Return to:

Questions about Romans

What does it mean that “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4)?
Subscribe to the

Question of the Week

Get our Question of the Week delivered right to your inbox!

Follow Us: Facebook icon Twitter icon YouTube icon Pinterest icon Instagram icon
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy
This page last updated: February 27, 2024