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:

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