What does Romans 2:4 mean?
ESV: Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
NIV: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
NASB: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
CSB: Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
NLT: Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
KJV: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
NKJV: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Verse Commentary:
This verse contains a crucial teaching about God's kindness. Paul is addressing anyone who doesn't think themselves guilty of the kinds of sin described in Romans 1, leading them to a judgmental attitude. Paul has stated emphatically in the previous verse that these people, actually all people, deserve the judgment of God for our sins.

Who could possibly think they would be excluded from God's judgment for sin? Some Gentiles—non-Jewish people—of Paul's day followed a philosophy of morality. Paul likely had in mind, however, the religious Jews who assumed their special national relationship with God exempted them from His judgment for personal sinfulness. This allowed them to be both judgmental about "sinful Gentiles" and complacent about their own sins.

Paul now calls this attitude presumptuous. These self-righteous sinners are presuming on or showing contempt for the riches of God's kindness, forbearance, and patience. Aware of God's vast goodness, they have miscalculated that He won't ever judge their sin, even though He may judge the sins of others. In the following verse, Paul will describe just how wrong and dangerous it is to ignore God's merciful warnings. For now, though, he says something fascinating: God's kindness is meant to bring sinners, all of us, to repentance.

In modern English, we sometimes hear the phrase "do not mistake my kindness for weakness." The same is true with God. His mercy in dealing with mankind is not a sign of indifference or frailty. It's meant to inspire us to thankfulness, to faith, and to repentance. God's temporary display of patience isn't a signal that our sin doesn't matter to Him, or that He is unwilling to express His wrath. Instead, He means to call us, through His display of kindness in this moment, to turn from our sin and follow after Him forever. That's true repentance.
Verse Context:
Romans 2:1–11 springs a trap, of sorts, for every reader who thought that Paul's devastating list of sins at the end of Romans 1 was about other people. In truth, everyone is guilty of sin. Those who judge others are guilty, also, of hypocrisy. Nobody will escape God's judgment for personal sin, including religious Jews and Gentiles. God will absolutely judge each person according to what he or she has done. If someone has lived sinlessly, doing only good, he will receive rewards and eternal life. If not, he deserves wrath and fury. This point sets up Paul's explanation of how we can, in fact, obtain salvation: by grace through faith.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 2 springs a trap on any religious person who read Paul's lists of sins at the end of Romans 1 and thought it wasn't about them. Paul calls them out for making themselves judges when they are also guilty. He shows that God will judge everyone, including those under the law, based on their works. This prefaces this letter's theme of salvation by grace, through faith, rather than by works. Many benefits come with having the law, but only if those under the law keep it. Jewishness—circumcision—must be an inner state, not just an outer one. Paul will show in the following chapter that none of us really meets those conditions.
Chapter Context:
Having just concluded a list of terrible sins humanity indulges in as a result of rejecting God, Paul turns to religious people and says, ''This applies to you, too.'' Nobody can judge arrogantly, because we are all guilty. Even God's people the Jews will stand before Him in judgment based on their works. Having the law only matters if someone can keep the law. Paul asks his Jewish readers why they don't and shows that they must be Jewish and circumcised in their hearts for it to matter. In the following chapter, he will show that nobody can keep the law.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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