5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:5–9, NKJV)
Christ’s call to repent or perish in Luke 13:1-5 is urgent. When we repent, we will bear its fruit – a changed life (Lk. 3:7-14). This sets the scene for the parable of the barren fig tree. The Lord looks for the spiritual fruit of repentance in our lives. Like a fruitless fig tree, we are just taking up space when we fail to bear good fruit (see verse 7). Even so, the Lord is longsuffering toward us. He intensely desires our salvation, not our destruction, and so He gives us time and opportunity to repent (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Each of us should ask ourselves the piercing question, “Am I just taking up ground or bearing good fruit?” If our answer is the former, may we quickly repent and start bearing its fruit. If not, we will surely perish (Lk. 13:1-5, 9; 2 Pet. 3:9-10).
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16, NKJV)
God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. Note what motivates, mandates, and maintains God’s forgiveness of our sins. 1) God’s love. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and he considered himself to be the prototype, the chief of sinners. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us by His death (Jno. 3:16). Without God’s love, we cannot be saved. 2) God’s mercy. Forgiveness is the compassion applied, and God is rich in mercy toward all who call on Him for forgiveness (Eph. 2:4; Rom. 10:12). 3) God’s longsuffering. His forgiveness hinges on His longsuffering toward sinners. He does not want anyone to be lost. He wants every sinner to come to repentance. That’s why He is longsuffering toward us (2 Pet. 3:9). He could punish us all for our sins without patiently giving us opportunities to repent. His “forbearance and longsuffering” ought to “lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Do not think God cannot save you. Paul’s forgiveness is an example for all believers. Like Paul, have faith to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Do not take God’s love, mercy, and longsuffering for granted. The day of the Lord will come, and we must be ready (2 Pet. 3:10-13). His longsuffering is for our salvation (2 Pet. 3:14-15).
strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; (Colossians 1:11, NKJV)
The fruit of the Spirit is incomplete without longsuffering (Galatians 5:22). It is faithful fortitude in the face of incitement. Longsuffering is patient when provoked. It is being “long-tempered” – the opposite of having a short temper (a short fuse). It is self-restraint that does not hastily retaliate against a wrong that prevents wrathful revenge. It has been described as “that quality of self restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy” (Vine, 377). God’s longsuffering toward sinners is His compassion in action, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). We must develop the same trait in our treatment of others, balancing compassion with patient persuasion and gentle mercy when wronged. Longsuffering does not fail to react to sin and wrongdoing; it does not overreact to it. Longsuffering is about bringing our passions under the control of God’s truth, patiently and mercifully dealing with one another, instead of hastily saying and doing things that hurt and harm. Longsuffering shows the character of Christ and enhances the opportunity for righteousness to prevail in our treatment of others (see Colossians 3:12-13).
14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, (2 Peter 3:14–15, NKJV)
The coming day of God will be a day of divine wrath and reward (2 Peter 3:10-13). In today’s passage, the apostle exhorts us to look forward to the events of the Lord’s return with anxious anticipation. By doing so, we will diligently live holy lives, to be found by God in peace when He comes. The fact that the Lord has not yet returned is no proof He will not return (He has promised to return, 2 Peter 3:4). Instead, it is proof of His longsuffering toward us. The Lord is giving us opportunity to repent of our sins to be saved (see 2 Peter 3:9). Christians must avoid negligent apathy, and instead, be careful to be holy every day. We are looking for “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Lives filled with worldliness are completely out of harmony with the hope of eternal life. God wants your salvation. Repent, and live a holy life, “to be found by Him in peace without spot and blameless” when He returns.
And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3, NKJV)
In the centuries leading up to the flood, the hearts and lives of men and women became increasingly wicked. They turned their attention and affections away from God and toward sensual, sinful desires and violent conduct (Gen. 6:1-7). God responded with the judgment of a worldwide flood, but not before extending His longsuffering toward sinners. Although their condemnation was certain and just, God extended His patience for 120 years leading up to the flood. God saw man’s wickedness, yet still the “Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah,” while this preacher of righteousness built the ark (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5). Evidently, Noah was occupied with building the ark during the last 100 years of this 120 year period (Gen. 5:32; 7:6). There is a limit to God’s contending with evil people. He desires their salvation, but His justice also demands judgment against evil (1 Tim. 2:3-4; Rom. 2:1-11). The fact that the Lord has not yet destroyed the world in the promised judgment of fire is once more a token of His longsuffering toward sinners (2 Pet. 3:9-12). Now is the time to repent of your sins. Judgment is assured. Time is running out.