Word Study on Forbearance and Patience

Do you need it? Do you dare pray for it? Learn what it means, and you will pray for it in your family and at your job.

Let’s get started.

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the noun translated as “forbearance” in Gal. 5:22 is makrothumia (pronounced mah-kroh-thoo-mee-ah, and it is used 14 times in the NT). One can see the word makro (or macro) in it. In Greek it means “long,” as in a long distance or far away or a long time. For example, makrobios means “long lived” (a word in early Christian literature, not the NT), and makrochronios means “long time” or also “long-lived” (Eph. 6:3). The King James Version has the right idea when it translates the noun in v. 22 as “longsuffering,” which means long allowance or putting up with annoyance for a long time.

So now what does the other half mean? In the Greek language long before the NT was written, thumos meant “the soul, breath, life … heart”; it could mean a “strong desire for food or drink”; to wish with “all one’s heart”; “mind, temper, will”; “the seat of anger … hence anger, wrath” (Liddell and Scott). A Homeric warrior was said to have heart when he fought bravely. It is the lively spirit in a man.

In the LXX (3rd to 2nd century translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and is pronounced sep-too-ah-gent), says it is mainly an attribute of the LORD. He is slow to anger (e.g. Num. 14:18; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13; Nah. 1:3). It denotes restrained wrath (DNTT, p. 353).

In NT Greek thumos retained the latter definition: “An intense expression of the inner self, frequently expressed as strong desire, passionate, longing” (Rev. 14:8; cf. 18:3; 16:19 cf. 19:15). It can also mean “a state of intense displeasure, anger, wrath, rage, indignation” (Rom. 2:8; Heb. 11:27; Eph. 4:31; Luke 4:28; Acts 19:282 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20 (BDAG). It is now easy to see why we need makrothumia. The passionate-anger side of us needs taming and self-control, the last fruit (Gal. 5:23).

So now let’s put the two words together. BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it defines makrothumia thus: “state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome, patience, steadfastness, endurance”; and “a state of being able to bear up under provocation, forbearance, patience.”

The verb makrothumeō (pronounced mah-kroh-thoo-meh-oh and used 10 times) can be translated as “delay” You delay your flying off the handle. It is usually translated in the NIV as “be patient” or variations on patient.

Another noun is hupomonē (pronounced hoo-poh-mo-nay and used 32 times). It literally means “remaining under.” It is usually translated as “endurance.” Job endured his afflictions (Jas. 5:11). We can exhibit persistence or endurance in seeking glory, honor and immortality (Rom. 2:7). We need to be patient in affliction (Rom. 12:12).  It is a characteristic of love (1 Cor. 13:7). Hupmonē produces good character (Rom. 5:3-5).

BDAG defines the noun as “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance.” The latter term means to “hang in there! Don’t give up on your faith in God!” Another definition: “The act or state of patient waiting for someone or something, expectation.” That latter meaning is interesting. Be expectant that God will see you through tough times.

The verb is hupomenō (pronounced hoo-poh-meh-noh and used 17 times). It too literally means “remaining under.” BDAG says that it means “to stay in place beyond an expected point of time, remain / stay (behind)” (Luke 2:43; Acts 17:14). It also says the verb means “To maintain a belief or course of action in the face of opposition, stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13; 2 Tim. 2:12; Heb. 12:7). It is usually translated by the NIV thus: stand firm (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13); stayed behind (Acts 17:14); patient (Rom. 12:12); perseveres (1 Cor. 13:7); endure (2 Tim. 2:10; 2:12; Heb. 12:2, 3, 7; 1 Pet. 2:20, twice); stand (their) ground (Heb. 10:32).

So how does this post help me grow in Christ?

Let’s face it. Some humans outside of Christ can be naturally patient. Maybe you know someone like that. His personality shows him to be very relaxed as he goes through life. Let’s not discount that. Encourage it in him.

Now what about the rest of us? We need divine help—God himself through Christ—to be patient and put up with annoyance. Gal. 5:22 says that the fruit of the Spirit is makrothumia, which grows in your naturally-supernaturally. The Spirit has to produce this in you.


Do I Really Know God? He Is Patient


Works Cited

At that link, look for Mounce.

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