Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Bible see other translations

“kindness.” The Greek word is chrēstotēs (#5544 χρηστότης), and most modern English versions read “kindness.” Kindness is a fruit of the spirit and an essential ingredient to being godly. The Devil is continuing in what has been a very successful campaign to elevate the importance of people “being authentic” and “expressing how I really feel,” and downplaying kindness. Thankfully, God is kind and tolerant toward people, and it is His kindness that finally works in them and opens their eyes to the truth and leads them to repentance. If we are going to be like God, we have to learn to be kind to others even when we do not feel like being kind. (See commentary on Gal. 5:22, “kindness”).

“restraint.” The Greek word is anochē (a noun: #463 ἀνοχή), and most Greek lexicons define it as forbearance, tolerance, clemency, and patience. It refers to enduring, being patient, and holding oneself back. Richard Trench writes that it “signifies, for the most part, a truce or suspension of arms.”a The noun anochē is related to the verb anechō, “to endure, put up with, bear with.” Jesus said, “You unbelieving generation! …How long must I put up with [anechō] you?” (Mark 9:19 HCSB).

Studying the English words “tolerate” and “forbear” shows us why the English translations differ as to how they translate anochē. To “tolerate” usually refers to what you allow; what you do not forbid. In contrast, “forbear” usually places the emphasis on self-restraint and what you hold yourself back from. The Greek word anochē contains both meanings, but in Christian circles “tolerate” usually has a bad connotation, so most versions avoid it. Sadly, most of the time we use the word “tolerate,” we use it as something we do even though we are “really bothered” by the situation and are actually just waiting for the chance to do something about it. That is the world’s way of tolerating, but it is not God’s way.

God’s way of forbearing, restraint, or tolerating is the way He tolerates us: He knows He has given us free will, and so even when we are ignorant or in sin, He loves us, is kind to us, and “declares a truce” with us until we wake up to our error. If God and Christ can do that with us and others, and allow us all to live our own lives in spite of our error or sin, then we can do that too. We do not have to “tolerate” people while seething in anger, pouting, or “just waiting for the chance to straighten them out.” If we want to bring people to repentance the way God does, we have to learn to be forbearing and tolerant in a kind and loving way. It is unfortunate that the word “tolerate” has gotten such a bad reputation in Christian circles because godly tolerance is a very important part of winning people to Christ.

Tolerance is the neutral zone between grace and truth. We are forbearing or tolerant in those times when we are with people who do not want to change their disobedient ways. Most of the time we are with such people we do not teach, reprove, or correct them with truth, nor do we act like what they are doing is fine with God. Forbearance or tolerance is not “grace.” Grace is “undeserved,” but everyone deserves kindness and tolerance. Grace is that special undeserved favor that helps people walk with God, while tolerance is the “truce” that we have with people who have not yet decided to walk with God. If we confuse tolerance for grace, then we never have genuine grace.

“patience.” The Greek word is makrothumia (#3115 μακροθυμία), and it refers to patiently forbearing and remaining composed while waiting for an outcome. This idea is conveyed through the word “patience,” and sometimes the more archaic word “longsuffering.” Makrothumia is a compound word from makros, “long,” and thumos, “wrath or anger,” and it refers to putting up with people for a long time before taking any action. Thayer’s describes it as “slowness in avenging wrongs.” Generally, the older versions of the English Bible such as the King James Version, Young’s Literal Translation, Darby’s Translation, and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, use the word “longsuffering,” while most modern versions avoid it and use the word “patience” instead because “longsuffering” is not a common modern English word and is considered archaic. On a side note, another word similar to makrothumia is the Greek word hupomonē (#5281 ὑπομονή), which refers to the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial (see commentary on Rom. 2:7). Although today, we speak of being patient with things and with people, the fact that the Greek has a word like makrothumia that specifically refers to holding back one’s response to other people and circumstances is important to understand.

[For more on “longsuffering,” see commentary on Gal. 5:22.]

“is intended to lead you to repentance.” Williams’ translation has the note: “implied in the genitive present.”b What is implied is the idea that this grace is meant to lead you to repentance, which is how many versions read (e.g., ESV; NRSV; HCSB).

Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, 199.
Charles B. Williams, The New Testament: A Private Translation in the Language of the People.

Commentary for: Romans 2:4