God’s Forbearance is Not Infinite

[A] central myth of our time is that God is infinitely tolerant, that Jesus is infinitely tolerant. There is of course a smidgeon of truth in such assertions. Despite his unlimited power and untarnished holiness, the tolerance of God is displayed in his forbearance with sinners (Romans 3:25; Acts 17:30). He might be expected to provide instant justice, but instead he is long-suffering (to resurrect a word that has largely gone out of use), longing for our repentance (Romans 2:1-4). Scripture repeatedly says he is “slow to anger” (e.g., Exodus 34:6). He is so much more forbearing than his own people are that sometimes they are driven to question his justice (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 13).

Nevertheless God’s forbearance is not infinite. Scripture also declares that “he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7). The Bible anticipates the coming of a day of wrath “when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16; cf. Acts 17:31; Revelation 14:18; 19:1-3; 21:8). More important yet: God is better than tolerant. He does not merely put up with our sin and anarchy; rather, he is unimaginably kind and loving, demonstrated most overwhelmingly in the fact that he has sent his Son to pay the price of our sinfulness and restore us to himself. To talk about the tolerance of God apart from this richer biblical portrayal of God is to do him an injustice. His love is better than tolerance; his wrath guarantees justice that mere tolerance can never imagine.

D.A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Kindle Edition)

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