The Goodness of God

July 9th 2024

The Goodness of God

Knowing something of the goodness of God is a profound element of our faith. It is an essential characteristic of His nature. Sinclair Ferguson notes, there is “no affirmation [that is] more basic to our faith than that God is good.”[1] In brief, let’s consider…what is God’s goodness and how do we know that God is good?

The Goodness of God Eternal

God’s goodness is not simply tied to our faith or how He treats us. It extends into time eternal, before our faith even existed. God Himself is good. We see this in Psalm 119:68 as the psalmist exclaims, “You are good and do good.” Jesus affirms the exclusive nature of God’s goodness in Mark 10:18, that “no one is good except God alone.” As Herman Bavinck writes, “God is the sum total of all perfections. All virtues are present in Him in an absolute sense… His goodness, accordingly, is one with His absolute perfection.”[2]

But what is God’s goodness? We see it reflected in His nature throughout Scripture. In Exodus 34:6–7, we receive clarity into the attributes of God, but here in a particular way, the very components of His goodness. God Himself declares, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Bavinck seems to expound this passage when he concludes that “God’s goodness is found in His steadfast love, a binding kindness in action, and in His mercy, patience, grace, and the very essence of Him being love.”[3]

In seeing that God is good, we can rightly say that all His perfect attributes are either a part of His goodness, or are perfectly good in themselves. God’s omniscience is perfectly good, as is His omnipotence, omnipresence, and certainly, His holiness.

God’s works are also good because they come from perfect goodness. John Calvin ties these together with the example of Psalm 145, where he states “a summary of the divine perfections is so carefully given that not one seems to have been omitted.”[4] God’s goodness in action, as Louis Berkhof states, “is that perfection that which prompts Him to deal kindly and bounteously with all His creatures.”[5]

The Goodness of God Made Flesh

Finding the eternal and essential nature of God being good, how then is this manifest to us? How do we see that God is good? We’ve seen several Old Testament descriptions and expressions of His goodness, so now consider the Gospel itself. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:14, 29)

With that, the Gospel then represents the fullness of God’s goodness toward us. The hope of the Gospel, the actions of God’s goodness toward us, demands that “we depend entirely on His goodness.”[6]

Jesus, as the exact imprint of the Father, represents the fullness of God’s inherent goodness. He is the great shepherd of Hebrews 13:20, and says of Himself in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” And again in verses 14–15, “I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” In His identification as our good shepherd, He proclaims His goodness.

God speaks of this shepherd to Isaiah in chapter Isaiah 40:11… “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” This is the Jesus who is altogether beautiful, altogether lovely, even as we are not. This should continually overwhelm us!

The Goodness of God in Us

Being a portrait of Christ is an idea that should hit us in the face. Who are we to reflect Him? According to Paul in both Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27, we are to “put on Christ.” And the Apostle John gives an even clearer picture in 1 John 2:5–6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” As Christians, this should be our goal and prayer, to reflect Christ and “walk in the same manner as He walked.” This reflects the trueness of our union with Christ.

If we wanted a practical roadmap to such a reflection, we may want to start with two truths of God’s goodness in us. First, the fruit of His very Spirit. In Galatians 5:22–23, we see communicable elements of God’s goodness, that we are to walk in and pursue. Goodness itself is listed here, certainly a reflection of the others.

The second part of our roadmap would lead us to the attributes of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. These are a picture of goodness as well, a goodness that we are called to offer those around us as we apply the love of God Himself to the benefit of others. In considering God’s love and the Gospel, J.I. Packer points out simply that it is the “supreme expression of God’s goodness.”[7]

Such is the nature of God. That He is love (1 John 4:8), and in that love, His perfect goodness is applied by amazing grace to us, whereby we then should offer it to others. And in that offering, He is glorified.

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, Lecture 40: Good & Loving, accessed February 1, 2024, https://wts.instructure.com/courses/2914/pages/lecture-40-good-and-loving-28min?module_item_id=248269 [2]Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, God and Creation, Vol. 2, ed. John Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 211. [3] Ibid., 213–15. [4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2011), 47. [5] Louis Berkhof, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), 26. [6] Calvin, Institutes, 47. [7] J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers/Foundation for Reformation, 1993), 46.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.