Romans 2:4 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?
God’s goodness, His kindness is what causes people to repent, that is, to turn from their old ways of thinking and acting. His wrath does not accomplish that goal. God’s wrath may be able to get our attention but it cannot change our hearts. Only God’s goodness and mercy can do that.
Proverbs 16:6 “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”
The fear of God will cause someone to decrease the amount of their sin, but it can’t purge them from iniquity. Mercy and truth are needed for that. An individual can actually be brought to the point of recognizing their need for salvation through the preaching of God’s wrath and judgment. But this kind of preaching is powerless to change their life. God’s goodness is what leads people to repentance.
God’s wrath has already been revealed intuitively inside of every person. Each individual has within them an intuitive knowledge of God’s wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. So, when someone wonders, “If I just tell people about the goodness of God and His kindness, what will make them understand that they are sinners in need of salvation and who need to turn from sin?” Paul’s answer is that they already know. In their hearts, people already know that they aren’t in right standing with God, but they are sinners in need of salvation.
Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
What Paul is saying here is true. Every person has an intuitive knowledge of God. Sure, they may get into some type of mind game and try to sidestep this knowledge. People can work to defend and justify themselves. But ultimately, the truth is that this knowledge has indeed come to them. Therefore, every person who has ever lived or will ever live is without excuse.
It is my opinion that we don’t have to literally bombard people with their sin and the fact that they are sinners on their way to hell to get them to pay attention to the Gospel. Deep in their hearts they already know it because of this intuitive, internal programming in their souls. It may take time in order to strike a chord in their hearts, but not like the legalistic Jewish approach that condemned people and placed greater restrictions and bondage on them, the proclamation of the gospel is effective.
It’s the Gospel – the too-good-to-be-true news that God has provided a way. It’s salvation for us by grace that empowers men to receive the forgiveness for their sins, the healing for their bodies, the deliverance from Satan’s oppression, and whatever else they need from God. We don’t need to convince people they are sinners and get them condemned; they already know that and feel condemned. We need to show them the way out of the mess they’re in.
That’s what the Gospel does. And that’s why Paul says in Romans 1:16 (the thesis statement of Romans) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.