10 Key Bible Verses on Patience

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

Be Long-Suffering as He Is Long-Suffering

God is unendingly patient with us, his children. In turn, we can exhibit grace and patience with others through the help of the Holy Spirit. Be encouraged by the following Scriptures with commentary from the ESV Study Bible.

Psalm 86:15

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

The faithful need not despair, since they have no grounds for worry that God will abandon them to enemies because of their sins: God is merciful and gracious, and therefore his faithful ones can trust him to forgive and to guard. Therefore the singer is bold and finishes by repeating his request. When the enemies realize that the true God actually cares for the pious, they will also realize that they have relied on a false basis of hope; this may actually lead to their conversion. This lament does not, unlike most others, end with a certainty of being heard, but that certainty has been implicit throughout.

Romans 8:23–25

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Creation is personified, showing that it also longs for the day when the salvation that has already begun in God’s children will be completed. God’s people also groan and long for the completion of his saving work. The tension is seen here between the already and not yet in Paul’s theology. Christians already have the firstfruits of the Spirit, but they still await the day of their final adoption when their bodies are fully redeemed and they are raised from the dead. Their adoption has already occurred in a legal sense (Rom. 8:15), and they already enjoy many of its privileges, but here Paul uses “adoption” to refer to the yet greater privilege of receiving perfect resurrection bodies.

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?

“Do you presume” is probably directed against Jews who thought that their covenant relationship with God would shield them from final judgment. After all, they had often experienced his kindness and forbearance and patience. They thought such blessings showed that they were right with God and had no need to trust in Christ, but Paul says the opposite is true: God’s blessings should have led them to repent of their sins.

James 1:19–20

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James encourages the church to pursue hearing the word, and to avoid hasty speech and unrighteous anger.

James echoes Jewish Wisdom tradition on the misuse of the tongue and the anger that can result (cf. Prov. 10:19; 11:12; 15:1; 17:28). Lack of listening, combined with lack of restraint in speech, leads to ill-tempered action. Slow to anger does not mean that all human anger is sinful (cf. Eph. 4:26), but the quick-tempered, selfish anger of the world (“the anger of man,” James 1:20) betrays lack of trust in God and lack of love for others.

The self-reliant anger of man, even when directed against some wrongdoing, fails to recognize that mere human reproach cannot change another person’s heart, and thus it does not produce the righteousness of God; nor indeed is such anger fully righteous itself. God is holy and righteous, requiring that his people emulate his righteous character (e.g., Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). “Righteousness” here is not Pauline legal or forensic righteousness proclaimed in God’s court of law (e.g., see notes on Rom. 3:20; 5:10) but is closer to the usage of the Old Testament (Isa. 61:3) and Jesus (Matt. 3:15; Matt. 5:6, 10, 20; Matt. 6:1, 33; Matt. 21:32), in the sense of conducting one’s life by the will of God, according to his standards.

Galatians 5:22–23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

The Spirit fights against sin not merely in defense but also in attack by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus in the Gospels. Love appears first because it is the greatest quality (1 Cor. 13:1–13; 2 Pet. 1:5–7) in that it most clearly reflects the character of God. Joy comes in at a close second, for in rejoicing in God’s salvation Christians show that their affections are rightly placed in God’s will and his purpose (see John 15:11; 16:24; Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8; Jude 24; etc.). Peace is the product of God having reconciled sinners to himself, so that they are no longer his enemies, which should result in confidence and freedom in approaching God (Rom. 5:1–2; Heb. 4:16). Patience shows that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work. Kindness means showing goodness, generosity, and sympathy toward others, which likewise is an attribute of God (Rom. 2:4). Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself; Paul mentions it again in Galatians 6:10. Faithfulness is another divine characteristic; it means consistently doing what one says one will do. Gentleness is a quality Jesus attributes to himself in Matthew 11:29; it enables people to find rest in him and to encourage and strengthen others. Self-control is the discipline given by the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to resist the power of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:17). Against such things there is no law, and therefore those who manifest them are fulfilling the law—more than those who insist on Jewish ceremonies, and likewise more than those who follow the works of the flesh surveyed in Galatians 5:19–21.

James 1:2–4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Trials are “tests” that challenge faith (James 1:2–5). When trials occur, one should count it all joy—not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.

“Testing of your faith” defines the meaning of a trial for the Christian: as Jesus was “tested” in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–13), so believers are tested. The Greek dokimion (“testing”) denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith “genuine” (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7). The result is steadfastness, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions.

Steadfastness leads ultimately to perfection. Believers grow in holiness but are not yet perfected in it; such perfection will be realized only when Jesus returns.

Colossians 3:12–13

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Paul calls the Colossians to a holy lifestyle, consistent with their new identity. Believers have been chosen by God and stand before him as his beloved holy ones. They are to live up to what they are in Christ.

Tolerance is a virtue within the Christian community, although Paul clearly does not want the Colossians to tolerate the false teaching. When wronged and betrayed, Christians are called to forgive others, even as they have been forgiven for their betrayal of Christ. See Matthew 6:12, 14–15; 18:21–22.

James 5:7–8

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

The attention turns from rich to poor, from the evil oppressors to the righteous oppressed, from presumption to patience. Rather than fighting back, they are called to patient endurance and to trust in God to vindicate them.

The righteous are to wait until the coming of the Lord (see 1 Thess. 4:15), when he will right all wrongs. The early and the late rains describe the Palestinian climate, in which the autumn rains occur just after sowing and the spring rains just before harvest (Jer. 5:24; Joel 2:23). Even though three-fourths of Palestine’s rain fell from December to February, these two rains were the most critical.

2 Peter 3:11–15

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.

“Hastening (Gk. speudō, “hurry [by extra effort]”) the coming of the day of God” suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return. That does not mean, of course, that the Lord has not foreknown and foreordained when Jesus will return (cf. Matt. 24:36; Acts 17:31). But when God set that day, he also ordained that it would happen after all of his purposes for saving believers and building his kingdom in this present age had been accomplished, and those purposes are accomplished when he works through his human agents to bring them about. Therefore, from a human perspective, when Christians share the gospel with others, and pray (cf. Matt. 6:10), and advance the kingdom of God in other ways, they do “hasten” the fulfillment of God’s purposes, including Christ’s return.

The hope of Christians ultimately depends, though, not on their works but on God’s promise. Their hope is not in the destruction of the wicked and their works, even though that is a necessary part of God’s final judgment. Their hope is in the promise that God will bring about a new heavens and a new earth (see Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1–22:5), which will be the eternal abode of the righteous. “New” could mean “newly created” but probably means “renewed, made new” (see notes on Rom. 8:20–21; 2 Pet. 3:10).

2 Peter 3:8–9

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The Lord’s patience determines the timing of his return. The Lord’s perspective on time is different from that of humans. It is not that God is slow in fulfilling his promise, but rather that he is patient.

“Beloved” (cf. note on 2 Pet. 3:1) introduces a new paragraph. Peter explains that the delay of the second coming is not a long time from God’s perspective. He then explains further that the delay is also because God is patient, and he has not quickly brought the present period of history to an end because he does not wish that any should perish (see note on 1 Tim. 2:4; cf. also Rom. 2:4). Though Christians long for Christ’s return and the defeat of all evil, as long as the present period of history lasts, an opportunity remains for people to turn to God in faith.

All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.


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