Peter tells his hearers that Paul has written in all of his letters of the longsuffering of God yet I don't recall much, if anything on that subject in his letters. What in Paul's letters would this be a reference to?

2 Peter 3:14-16 (KJV)

14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.


4 Answers 4


Peter isn't merely saying that Paul uses the word longsuffering frequently. He is referring to Paul's themes along these lines. And not only the theme of God's patience, but the others he has been writing about:

A. God's patience in finally fulfilling his promises (v9a): "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering..."

B. God's patience in his plan of salvation (v9b), "The Lord ... is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

C. The coming judgment (7): "But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."

D. The consequent command to holiness (11): "Therefore, ... what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness"

The theme of God's patience in His salvation work, wherein he will both punish evil AND reward godliness at the Judgment, is great encouragement to believers to persevere in holy living. This is most certainly the theme of nearly all the Epistles of Paul (with the exception of Philemon). For example:

Romans: Ch.1 well details the wrath of God (A.) which "is being revealed from heaven against the godlessness of men…" His theme turns to the judgment of God (C.) against both Jew and Gentile in ch.2. Then in chs.3 and 4, he establishes that salvation is entirely by faith, as it was for Abraham, who "believed the Lord, and it was credited to him for righteousness". Since these words "not written for his sake alone … but also for us" [4:23], in ch.5 he says, "we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (or longsuffering) (B.). He comes back to these themes in ch.8, esp in v.18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope. (B. and D.)

From chs.9 to 11, he answers the giant question of how the Jews fit into God's great plan, despite their present rejection of the Messiah, demonstrating from the Scriptures how God has both used them, hardened them for a time, and will "graft them back into their own olive tree" in due time… (B.)

Then in ch.12, he calls on Christians to be holy, to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…" And he details what this means in the remainder of his letter. (D.)

The "riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience" [Ro 2:4] (A. and B.) is a theme describing the whole of God's redemptive history. Paul patiently weaves this through 16 chapters in Romans, and several of his letters.

It is also this pattern – doctrinal truths about God and his patient work in history, followed by a call to holiness – that Peter may also be referring to, not the mere word makrothumia.

Ephesians: This letter doesn't have the same degree of discussion of such themes, but some of them recur, highlighting the patience, longsuffering, ages-long plan of God, and the same resulting call to holiness:

B. God's plan from before creation: "1:4The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself."

B. God's plan for future ages: "2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

D. Which behooves us to holy living: "4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called"

Colossians: Paul touches on these themes again in this letter,

A./B. "1:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith"

A./D. "3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

D. "23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality."

1 Thessalonians:

D. "4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: … 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness."

A. "5:2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night."

D. "5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A. "5:24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."

2 Thessalonians: The whole 1st chapter is a missive on the "flaming fire and vengeance" [8] God has in prepare "when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints" [10] (A., B., C.) This continues in ch.2 in the descriptions of the great apostacy,

A. "2:11strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

B. "2:13 God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth"

As a matter of interpretation, to miss the gist of a man's writing by focusing too narrowly upon the words is quite an important question. The question is quite a good one, and deserves to be discussed, since it is clearly a matter of interpretation about Peter's references to Paul. I do hope the discussion will not be stifled (as a few seem to want.)

  • I marked this as the answer BUT I must qualify... It appears to me that Paul thought Jesus was coming in his lifetime so we don't see anything in his writings suggesting that we need to be patient for thousand years or two while God is being longsuffering. When he speaks of longsuffering he's mostly talking about in the past.
    – user10231
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 23:50
  • Thanks for the acknowledgement, @WoundedEgo. Perhaps Paul didn't speak of millennial longsuffering. Nonetheless, he was keenly aware that the redemptive history of God had played out over thousands of years, up until Christ. It would be illogical to not foresee the possibility (at least) of a future stretching out for millennia. And Paul had impeccable logical ability. Peter scolded those who scoffed after a few decades, "Where is this promised return?" [2Pe 3:4] Even John didn't really expect to live until Jesus' return [Jn 21:22,23].
    – C. Kelly
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 15:55

The term in question is μακροθυμία, elsewhere translated "patience" or "endurance". (See also the related adjective μακρόθυμος and the verb μακροθυμέω). The term is barely attested in pre-Jewish Greek literature (only once in a fragmentary remain from the 4th C. comic Menander1), but is rather common in both its nominal and verbal forms in the LXX and, following suit, in the NT.

The word group is used to describe both God and people (usually the latter receiving such a virtue by the grace of God). Its use as a descriptor for God is based on a key passage in Exodus 34:6, when Yahweh reveals himself to Moses on Sinai and is shown to be:

אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן אֶרֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת

θεὸς οἰκτίρμων καὶ ἐλεήμων, μακρόθυμος καὶ πολυέλεος καὶ ἀληθινὸς

God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.2

This illustrates the "basic" sense of the Greek word ("μακρός" = long; "θυμός" = anger) and its connection with Hebrew thought ("אֶרֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם" = lit. "long of noses", a common Hebrew idiom often translated "slow to anger"). As for Paul, Romans 2:4 and Romans 9:22 provide the best examples:

ἢ τοῦ πλούτου τῆς χρηστότητος αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς ἀνοχῆς καὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας καταφρονεῖς, ἀγνοῶν ὅτι τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς μετάνοιάν σε ἄγει;

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?

εἰ δὲ θέλων ὁ θεὸς ἐνδείξασθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ γνωρίσαι τὸ δυνατὸν αὐτοῦ ἤνεγκεν ἐν πολλῇ μακροθυμίᾳ σκεύη ὀργῆς κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν...

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction...

Jesus Christ's patience is also referred to thus in 1 Tim 1:16:

ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην, ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν, πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

1. "μακροθυμέω" in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDTTE). Ed. Moises Silva (Zondervan, 2014), 2:209-214.

2. Hebrew is BHS; all Greek is Rahlfs; all English is ESV.

  • Thank you @Susan. Would it be fair to say that the example you cite does not refer to God "waiting" (enduring the stress of an uncomfortable delay) but rather "resisting the urge to avenge", given Paul's very brief life as "sinner-in-chief"? Also, the "example" is of mercy, not of endurance. And regardless, does this answer the question? Was Peter not reporting Pauline writings that either don't exist or are not extant?
    – user10231
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 16:46
  • @WoundedEgo I'm not sure I understand the question. Although the contextual meaning isn't totally clear in 1 Pet 3:15, the sense described in 3:9 seems to me quite similar to the Romans examples and, indeed, the Hebrew sense: "slow to anger", a trait consistently associated with his mercy.
    – Susan
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:35
  • ignoring mercy vs patience for the moment, do you agree that Peter's statement that Paul wrote about longsuffering "in all his letters" is patently false?
    – user10231
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 21:58
  • No. Leaving aside the issue that "all" doesn't always mean "all", and that we don't know for sure what letters he had, the sentence doesn't even say, "he wrote in all his letters that God is longsuffering". καθὼς καὶ ("in the same way as") and ὡς καὶ ("just as") are very much about the "sense" of the thing, and περὶ τούτων ("about these things") has an unclear and very much "sense" referent. He's drawing together themes.
    – Susan
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 22:07
  • while "all" can refer to "most" I don't think it can refer to "none" or "one". So are you suggesting a large body of non-extant Pauline letters that dwelt on that theme such that the absence in the extant letters is trivial? Isn't that special pleading?
    – user10231
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 22:19

I think the OP has completely misunderstood what Peter is saying.

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

The "longsuffering of our Lord" doesn't constitute "these things". It is one thing, about which Peter says Paul "hath written unto you". Unto whom? Well, since the reference to the "longsuffering of the Lord" is only specifically mentioned in Paul's letter to the church at Rome, then this is evidence that the principle recipient of Peter's letter was also the church at Rome.

Peter uses the expression "these things" eight times in 2Peter, the last time in his concluding remarks, which I have quoted above. It seems pretty clear to me that all "the things" that Peter mentions in his letter are "the things" he says are to be found in all the letters of Paul.


Great answers, all. It is best when context is involved. So here is my attempt at a short answer.

The obvious place is 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Here it is explained why a loving God allows wars and death. It is for the sake of bringing us into His kingdom. Look around and you can see that no longer can we remain neutral.

The deal is closed as Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5, verse 22 - as he explains what it means to strive for the mind of Christ and thusly to receive the fruit of the Spirit

Gal 5:22 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith


  • You realize that the question, "Where does Paul write...?" cannot really be answered with a quotation from the 2nd epistle of Peter, or are you trying to argue that Paul wrote 2 Peter?
    – C. Kelly
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 19:27
  • Whoops. Senior moment. ;-) Really I wanted to write a whole page on how we work our way towards obtaining the mind of Christ, which Peter writes about so well in this section. Then to summarize what that means, Paul writes about the Fruit of the Spirit, which is given by the Spirit of God. In trying to discern whether others are belivers, one merely looks for the fruit of the Spirit. Speaking in tongues is the lesser of the gifts. It is an occasion. The true fruit of the Spirit is all spelled out in a single verse, in his letter to the Galatians. Cheers
    – SDsolar
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 2:56

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