How Long is Long?

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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Speaking of his salvation, the Apostle Paul said,

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:16).

But if the word “longsuffering” means to suffer long with someone, how can Paul say that Christ showed forth “all longsuffering” to him? As Saul of Tarsus, he didn’t join the rebellion against God until Acts 7:58, less than a year before he was saved. God certainly hadn’t suffered with Paul for very long!

But in saving Saul, the Lord didn’t just show longsuffering to him alone, He showed it to all mankind. In the past, “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah” (I Peter 3:20), but it only waited 120 years (Gen. 6:3). After God judged mankind with the flood, He started all over again with Noah, the father of all nations (Gen. 10:1-32). God endured those nations for 200 years, showing more longsuffering. But when they built a tower in rebellion against Him, He saved Abraham, and made his seed His favored nation, putting up with them for 1500 years. Even more longsuffering!

After God sent His only begotten Son to His favored nation and they crucified Him and stoned His prophet, you would think that God’s longsuffering would have been exhausted. You would think God would have given up on mankind and judged us with the worst judgment the world had ever seen, the Great Tribulation (Mt. 24:21). Instead He saved Saul of Tarsus, the leader of the world’s rebellion against God, to show forth all longsuffering. Paul’s salvation was the culmination of all the longsuffering God had shown in all human history. It was one small step of longsuffering for a man, one giant leap of longsuffering for mankind.

But God did not show forth this longsuffering merely as the culmination of all His longsuffering in the past. He also showed it forth “for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” in the future, and the longsuffering the Lord showed Paul is the same longsuffering He has shown to mankind ever since.

“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that…” (Titus 3:3,4).

After that, what? After that you’d think the wrath of God would fall on us, just as you would have thought it would have fallen on the world when they stoned Stephen. Instead we read, “after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (v. 4)—and it’s still appearing some 2,000 years later! Now that’s “all long-suffering!”

Have you believed on Him to life everlasting? The Lord Jesus died to pay for your sins and rose again (I Corinthians 15:3,4), and all He asks is that you believe He died to pay for your sins. Why not “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” right now “and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

To the Reader:

Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:

"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."

To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.


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