The Goodness of God

Q: What is God?

A: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

There are those who are among us who are particularly meticulous when it comes to grammar. When they read something with bad subject-verb agreement, or they hear some speak incorrectly, they take joy in correcting the grammatical mistakes. In our culture, these people have a nickname; they are “Grammar Nazis.” One example of a classic Grammar Nazi move is found in how one responds to the question, “How are you doing?” If you respond with, “I am well,” the Grammar Nazi will go on their merry way. However, if you respond to the question with, “I am good,” prepare for the fascistical wrath of the Grammar Nazi! “Good” is inappropriate because it is an adjective, and since you are responding to a question concerning how you are doing (a verb), you need an adverb: “well.” Perhaps the deeper issue, however, is not the grammar of the statement, “I am good,” but in the theology of such a claim. When Jesus was approached by a rich young ruler, He was addressed as a “good teacher.” Jesus responds with a rebuke, “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). In this quick rebuke, Jesus highlights two truths: God alone is good; and relative to God’s goodness, no one else is good.

God is the highest good. There is a moral uprightness, a principal of purity that is foundational to who God is. From the perfect goodness of God’s being flows all His actions, which also are good. “You are good and do good…” (Psalm 119:68). Both in Himself and in His actions, God is good.

“The LORD is good to all” (Psalm 145:9). It is because of His goodness and good actions towards His creatures that we are to worship Him. “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” (Psalm 107:1). It’s because of God’s goodness to us, manifested in His saving us, that we are to attend public worship. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.” Why? “For the LORD is good, and His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 100:4,5).

Because God is the highest good, His goodness should be considered the standard of goodness. Morality is measured by God’s goodness and what He declares to be good. Our culture declares that there is no ultimate standard of right and wrong, and, therefore, every person ought to be free to live as they wish. And while our culture does not live up to this principle, making autonomous declarations left and right about what is good and what is evil, we as Christians must look to God to know what true goodness is. He has spoken in His Word and given us laws, which are a reflection of His moral uprightness. There is an absolute standard of goodness: God Himself as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

As we see the goodness of God, as we see His moral perfection manifested in Scripture, it is easy to see the truth of what Jesus said to that rich young ruler, “No one is good except God alone.” The Apostle Paul says the same thing: “No one is righteous, no, not one… No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10,12). There is nothing good in us because we are sinners. We are inclined towards evil (Genesis 6:5), even from our mother’s womb (Psalm 51:5). The clearer we see the light of God’s goodness, the clearer we see the darkness of our wickedness.

Yet God in His goodness stooped low in the person of the Son. The Son, who is the exact imprint of God’s good nature (Hebrews 1:3), bore the guilt of our evilness, and was crushed under the righteous and good wrath of His Father for those who are not good. It is in this good work of the good God that He manifests His loving kindness and faithfulness to sinners. It is in Jesus that God’s goodness shines most clearly. It is at the Cross of Christ where we can by faith “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). It is at the Cross that we can begin to praise God from a heart that has truly experienced His goodness.

For nothing good have I

  Where-by Thy grace to claim;

I’ll wash my garments white

  In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

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