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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Great Patience of God for Our Sakes
Text:Galatians 5:22a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2008-11-23
Added:2009-04-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 145: 2, 5
Sing: Psalm 37: 2, 3, 16
Sing: Psalm 103: 1, 3, 4
Sing: Psalm 130: 3, 4
Sing: Psalm 33: 1, 6

Read: Matthew 18: 21 - 35; James 5: 7 - 11

Text: Galatians 5: 22a
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:

Once again we deal with the fruit of the Spirit, this time with the virtue of patience. However, please remember that the fruit of the Spirit is put in the singular. The text does not speak about the fruits of the Spirit, but about the fruit. That indicates to us that all nine virtues which are mentioned here in Galatians 5:22 and 23 belong together. You cannot just snip one of those virtues out of the cluster and say that you have no need of it: “As long as I have the other eight virtues, then I don’t have to worry too much. Eight out of nine is not bad.” No, beloved, all the nine virtues mentioned belong together.

Patience is one of them. Also that virtue, I am sure you will agree, is not something which we possess naturally. We are not a very patient people by nature. And yet patience is a quality which is much admired, not just by Christians, but by all kinds of people. The world admires a patient person. The people of the world admire a person who does not easily fly off the handle; someone who is calm, cool and collected, someone who is able to control his emotions, and who is able to wait for the right opportunity to act.     

But is that what Paul means when he tells us that we must be patient? Does he mean that we should become more laid back, and that we should learn to relax more, and not always be in such a hurry all the time? Should we be like those people who appear to take everything in stride, who are not easily fazed in the face of all kinds of difficulties? Or does Paul have something else in mind? 

When you study the Scriptures, you will note that God’s patience always has to do with the patience God has regarding our sins, with his slowness to anger. We could sing about that as we began our worship service with the singing of Psalm 145, stanza 2: “Slow is Thy wrath in dealing with transgression.” That is also what he says, for example, in Exodus 34:6, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” And so the one thing we must understand right away is that in the Scriptures patience has to do with holding back one’s wrath and anger with regard to sin. We are not to be hasty in pronouncing judgement on another person. The word actually means to be long-suffering.  

Note well that we are not speaking here about doing away with justice. The fact that the Lord is slow to anger does not mean that he will withhold his punishment. It does not mean either that he will soften his anger in any way. No, patience means slowness to anger. As such it has little to do with what the world understands patience to be. For the world around us does not want to deal with sin. The world – if it can help it – wants to do away with judgement, for themselves and for others. However, the Bible teaches us that if you ignore sin then you set yourself up for disaster. Patience has to do with dealing with sin properly. And so in today’s sermon we will hear about:

         

The Great Patience of God for Our Sakes

We will see:

1. How the Lord with His patience shows His compassion;

          2. How man must do the same.

We often take God’s patience, that is, God’s long-suffering, for granted. We take it for granted that we are allowed to live and that we can even enjoy all the wonderful things which bring happiness to our lives. We think that it is normal that the Lord gives us families to enjoy, good food and drink, and all kinds of luxuries. 

And yet, brothers and sisters, in reality it is a miracle that we are still walking on the earth, and that we have not been consumed by God’s anger. For look at the things we owe God. God created us in order to glorify and praise his great Name. He is the One who made us, and who gave us everything. He planted man in the midst of the garden of Eden, where he had plenty to eat and drink and all the comforts he could ever desire. Indeed all the riches of God’s creation were at man’s disposal. And yet man threw all that away. So God’s anger burned hot. He was full of righteous anger.

But did God at that time destroy man and wipe him off the face of the earth as he had every right to do? No, he did not. Instead he renews his covenant with man. He continues to bestow on mankind his favour. But what happens? Does man then say, “Thank you Lord”? Does he now acknowledge him? No, on the contrary. The Lord Jesus himself speaks about this in Luke 17:27 when he says, “People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.”

You see, the sin of mankind was not only the things that they did, but also what they didn’t do. They enjoyed all the gifts of God such as food and drink and companionship but not a word of praise came from their mouths. They took it all for granted. They did not glorify God. They lived as if God did not exist, as if it was a normal thing that they should receive all these things. They lived as if they had a right to all the good things that came their way. 

Yet, it took a long time before God finally acted and destroyed the world through the flood. He waited and waited. No doubt the believers cried out to the Lord, “How long yet Lord, how long will you tolerate this wicked people?” It says in Genesis 6:5, the passage just before the flood took place, that “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 

The Lord waited and waited until the measure of his anger was full. Noah and his family were the only people on the earth who still wanted to serve the Lord. Why did he wait so long before he sent his flood? He waited so that every man on earth had a chance to repent from his wickedness. He did not want anyone to perish before his time. That, beloved, shows the long-suffering, the patience of the Lord.

We continually see that throughout the history of redemption. He is a patient God. Do you remember how the people of Israel murmured and complained against the Lord God and Moses in the wilderness? There were many times that the Lord was filled with indignation and outright anger because of the rebelliousness and thankless nature of the people of Israel. He had brought them out of Egypt. He had given them their freedom back. He gave them what they needed every day: food and drink, and companionship. They lacked nothing. And the Lord performed many miracles. He showed them what a mighty God he is. He even parted the waters of the Red Sea so that they could pass through on dry land, unmolested by the Egyptians who were snapping at their heels. And yet, do the people get down on their knees and praise God for all that he has done? Do they remember his mighty acts? 

Not too long after that mighty miracle of the Lord, men are sent to spy out the land of Canaan. When they come back, all of the spies, except two, report the great strength of their opponents. They advise against conquering the land. Then when Caleb and Joshua remind the people of the might and strength of the Lord, the people are ready to stone them. Therefore the LORD said to Moses in Numbers 14:11-12, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” In other words, he says to Moses, “Moses, I am so angry with this people. Stand aside, I am going to wipe them off the face of the earth.”

But what does Moses do? Moses, the mediator of the Old Testament, pleads with God and says to the Lord, and reminds him of his own words, “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” And so the Lord relents. He listened to Moses. The Lord forgave the people, again. And he continues to gather his people. He holds back his wrath. 

But that is not only with the nation of Israel; the same thing is true of the heathen nations. God is also slow to anger with them. He is patient. Remember the story of Jonah. The Lord sent Jonah out to the city of Nineveh, to pronounce God’s judgement over that wicked city. Reluctantly Jonah set sail to that city. And when he finally arrived there, after having been swallowed up by the great fish and being spewed forth on dry land, he pronounced God’s judgement upon that city. The Lord’s anger had reached its boiling point. Then the people repent. They cover themselves with sackcloth and fast en masse. 

But that is not what Jonah wanted. He did not want Nineveh to repent. He wanted that heathen city to be destroyed. As a loyal Israelite, he wanted that heathen capital of Assyria to be wiped off the face of the earth. But the Lord had a different mind. He was patient with the people of Nineveh. Indeed there comes a time when he does destroy that city. For it appears that their repentance was only temporary. They soon go back to their wicked ways. But that is much later. In the meantime, the Lord waits. He is patient. He waits for their wickedness to be so great that there is absolutely no hope any longer for that city.

A lot of people have difficulty with the anger of God. When Israel is about to enter the land of Canaan, the Lord tells them in no uncertain terms that they are to wipe out the nations that live in the land of Canaan. They are to be shown no mercy. Why would God order such a cruel thing to be done?

But actually we should wonder why it is that he allowed them to exist as long as he did. We should wonder why he waited so long. For also with these nations he showed enormous patience. But they utterly rejected him. They practised every abomination under the sun.

We should wonder further how it is that God still allows the people to enjoy his goodness on earth for there is so much wickedness in this world. Listen to what it says in Romans 9:22. Paul writes, “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” Here we get some inkling of the enormous patience of God. He is bringing this world to an end. The end will come when the Lord Jesus Christ will appear on the clouds to put an end to all immorality, the enormous disobedience of the world. He is waiting and in the meantime he is patient. He holds back his wrath. 

How long did it not take until the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, came in the flesh on earth? The righteous cried out in anticipation of the coming Christ. Come, Maranatha, come O Lord. And Christ did come. It took a long time, thousands of years, but he came. And then God visited his wrath on him. It is then that God unleashed all his anger against the sin of mankind on his only Son. You may wonder how it is possible that God held back his anger for so long. He did so only because his beloved Son was willing to have God’s anger visited on him.

That is still the only reason why he holds back his anger against his own people right now. He holds back his anger against us, against you and me, because of Christ’s great sacrifice. For let us remember: we too deserve to be utterly destroyed. There is no redeeming quality in us. O what a great and merciful God we have, brothers and sisters. How blessed we are!

But, beloved, there is still a second coming. Christ will come again. And then God will once more unleash his fury, not against the elect, but against those who right now make light of the Lord God. For you see, the world around us laughs. They do not believe in the great wrath of God. They think that it is a cruel hoax invented by the Christians. Therefore they want to ban the Bible from the classrooms and from being read on the airwaves. Why? Because, they say, it is too violent a book, too judgmental a book. They don’t understand God’s wrath; they want nothing to do with it.

The psalmist tells us how the world tries the patience of God, by saying, “Where is their God?” Where is God indeed? Well, Peter answers that question. He says in 2 Peter 3: 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The Lord our God is waiting. He is waiting for man to come to repentance. He is also waiting for those of us who have not repented from our sins, who continue to live in the same sins, not wanting to change. It is a good thing that God is patient with us. 

However, let us all remember one thing: there comes a time when God will visit his wrath on those who do not want to acknowledge that there is a God in heaven. Let none of us get too comfortable. For it is also a wonder that the Lord continues to bless all of us, God’s church here in [insert city here]. For in how many ways do we not try his patience? Think about it. Are we not all a sinful bunch of people, a miserable lot? Look at all the trouble we cause every day. Look at the troubles in our families, in the church. There is jealousy, envy, backbiting, slander. You name it, we do it. None of us is without guilt.

Therefore, is it not wonderful that have a Mediator in heaven who pleads our cause, every moment of each day? Christ, our flesh in heaven, continually intercedes for us. He says, Father, be patient with them. Do not consume them in your anger! Father, look at me. I have paid for that miserable lot down there. They are mine.

 

2.       If God has such patience with us; if he even sent his own Son to appease his anger against us, how do you think we should treat each other? We come to our second point. 

In the parable which we read together, the Lord Jesus teaches us how we should apply patience in our own lives. In the answer to Peter’s question how often we should forgive each other, the Lord gives his parable dealing with the law of forgiveness. And there twice the word patience is used. 

You know the story. A servant owes an enormous amount of money to the king, which he could not pay even if he had a hundred lifetimes to pay it. And the king now wants to settle accounts. He wants him to pay up or else he will be thrown into jail. Then we read, “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.” And then the king cancels all his debts and lets him go free. 

But then a fellow servant, who owes only a small amount of money to that same servant whose debts have just been forgiven, also gets down on his knees and beseeches him saying, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” But the first servant has no mercy on him. He has his fellow servant thrown in prison until he pays his debt. The conclusion of the parable is that the king finds out about this and has no mercy on him.

This parable teaches us about the patience of our heavenly Father. He forgives our debts completely. He wipes them out. But don’t take his benevolence for granted. You do that by not being patient with your fellow man. 

How do you show patience? What truly is that fruit of the Spirit which is called patience? God’s patience teaches us that we must be ready to forgive our brother, not just once, not just twice, but seventy times seven times. That is to say, ad infinitum. There may be no end to our forgiveness. That does not mean, of course, that we overlook the sins of others. Patience does not mean that we just shrug it all off and say, “who cares?” Patience does not mean resignation. It does not mean that you ignore sin. No, it means that you are patient in the way that you deal with sin. 

Someone who loves his brother or sister points out their sins; he kindly shows them where they are going wrong. But with what aim? The aim is the same as the Lord’s, to bring another person to repentance. For if a person does not truly repent, as was the case with that first servant, then the wrath of God will nevertheless still come down on us. Patience does not mean that we have to overlook sin, but that we are forbearing with one another. 

That is so hard for us. Patience is not something which we possess naturally. Remember it is a fruit of the Spirit. It has to grow; it has to be nurtured along. How then do we obtain patience in dealing with the sin of others?   

In the first place, you need to get down on your knees and implore your heavenly Father to grant it to you. Time and again you must ask him to give you a heart of compassion. And he will give it to you. Ask, and you shall receive. 

Secondly, be humble. Learn time and again to take a close and hard look at yourself, and realize how great your own sin is. Someone who is not fully aware of his own sinfulness will never become a patient person. We have to be aware of our own great debt which we owe the almighty God. Only once we do that, brothers and sisters, will we have the strength to be patient with others. For what is our old nature? It is that we are like that first servant. We overlook the great debt which we owe, but have no difficulty with seeing, and extracting if we can, the small debt others owe us.

The real problem with us is that we see the debts of others in relation to ourselves, and not to God. We want our pound of flesh. We want others to pay, not because they have wronged God, but because they have wronged us. That is our old nature. We are a very self-centered people. We do not treat others the way the Lord treats us.

One of the big problems in Galatia was the self-righteous attitude of the Judaizers, the circumcision party. They were legalistic in their attitude. They proclaimed to have a very high view of the law. They were more precise in applying the law of God than the others in the church, or so they claimed. But they abused God’s patience by judging others harshly, and by boasting about their own self-righteousness, their own ability to keep the Old Testament laws of God. They understood nothing about their own sinfulness, or about the fulfilling of the law by Christ. And so they brought a curse upon themselves.

The Lord has many ways to teach us patience. He does that by confronting us with our own sins, and by reminding us about the results of sin. He teaches us to wait for him. That is ultimately what patience is all about. The one thing we note from the Scriptures is that the Lord teaches us to be patient by testing us through trials and tribulations. Patience, the ability to withstand the brokenness of human life, comes only with time. For it is not so hard to be patient when things are going well, and when everything is going the way you want it, but it is especially hard to be patient when there is difficulty.

Think about what James wrote. He says, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains” (James 5:7). He writes these words in the context of the suffering of the elect who are waiting for the Day of the Lord. God’s elect are constantly tested as they wait for the coming of the Lord. They are tested by the injustices around them, which abound. For James notes how the poor are so often oppressed by the rich. 

And James strongly warns the rich. He says in the beginning of chapter 5, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

But to the downtrodden he says, “Be patient.” Do you see how the Lord tests those whom he loves? He takes everything away from them. He takes away their health, their wealth, their earthly security, and he makes them wait. What do we wait for? We wait for the Lord, brothers and sisters. You see, suffering, instead of drawing us away from the Lord, is designed to bring us closer to him. It is designed to make us expect all things from God alone.

Someone who has learned to be patient in this way takes a more sober approach to life. A patient person knows that God is with him, always, and he is also able to bear the shortcomings of those around him. 

We still have a lot to learn, brothers and sisters. We have short fuses and our anger at others is so easily ignited. We are so impatient, especially with our loved ones. We flare up at the drop of a hat, particularly when there are problems in our life. And it is hard to be patient when constantly we face ill health, or when we have to suffer injustices at the hands of others. We can even be angry with God, and cry out, “Why Lord, why me?” And then the Lord says, “Be patient, I am coming. I will vindicate you. I will rescue you.”  

One thing we know. There comes an end to all the afflictions we have to bear. The Lord will test us in this life. He is preparing us for the day of the Lord. In the meantime, brothers and sisters, we wait. We wait for the Lord. And we do so together. Together we go through the tribulations that this sinful world will bring. Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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