What is meant by the phrase "The goodness of God"? By goodness is meant the bounty of God. In saying that a person is good, we refer to his holiness, or else to his charitable and liberal disposition in the management of his goods. The goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. It is that whereby he wills there should be something besides Himself for His own glory. God is good Himself, and to Himself, that is, highly amiable to Himself; thus He loves Himself and His own excellency.
As related to His creatures, God delights in them, and is beneficial to them. God is the highest goodness, because He doth not act for His own profit, but for His creatures' welfare, and the manifestation of His own goodness.
The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effulgence of His goodness (Exodus 33:19). God's goodness is His glory and Godhead, as much as it delightfully visible to His creatures (Exodus 34:6).
God is good by His own essence. God is not only good in His essence, but good by His essence. He is essentially good by His own essence; therefore, good of Himself; therefore, eternally good; and therefore, abundantly good.
God is the prime and chief goodness. In God there is nothing but goodness; and our goodness extends not to Him (Psalms 16:2). For the believer God is the summum bonum.
God is necessarily good, yet also freely good. The necessity of the goodness of His nature does not hinder the liberty of His actions. This goodness is communicative with the greatest pleasure. What God gives out of goodness, He gives with joy and gladness. He did not only will that we should be, but rejoice that He had brought us into being; He rejoiced in His works (Psalm 104:31).
The goodness of God is a true and genuine characteristic of God
God has always been and always will be infinitely good (Hebrew, tob; Greek, agathos). In His goodness He is prompted to deal bountifully and kindly with all His creatures. If it is God's attribute of majestic holiness that emphasises His transcendence over His creation, it is God's attribute of goodness that underscores his condescendence toward His creation. "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart" (Psalm 73:1; also Psalms 103, 104, and 107 in their entirety).
A myriad of Bible passages speak of God's goodness to all - the just and the unjust, designated by many theologians as "common grace," though this phrase muddles the issue and beclouds categories (for grace cannot, by its very nature, be common).
God is originally good
God is only originally good, good of Himself. Creatures may be good, but their goodness is derived and granted to them by God, without whom there can be no goodness, since He is the fountainhead and source of all goodness.
God depends on no one else for His goodness; he has goodness in and of Himself. He partakes of none, but all things partake of Him. He is so good, that He gives all, and receives nothing; only good, because nothing is good but by Him: nothing hath a goodness but from Him.
God is infinitely good
God alone is infinitely good, for His goodness is boundless and knows no limits; His goodness must necessarily be as infinite as His essence. All possible creatures are not capable of exhausting the wealth, the treasures, that divine bounty is filled with.
Since God is immeasureable, all His attributes or characteristics must also be without measure.
God is perfectly good
As in Him is the whole nature of entity, so in Him is the whole nature of excellency. As nothing has an absolute perfect Being but God, so nothing has an absolutely perfect goodness but God.
The goodness of God is logically the measure and rule of goodness in everything else; hence it must necessarily be perfect, as all other divine attributes are perfect.
God is immutably good
Glorified saints are now immutably good by divine power and purpose; elect angels are immutably good by God's original decree to keep them good; other things may be perpetually good by supernatural power, but not immutably good in their own nature. Only God is immutably good, from eternity to eternity, for there can be no change in God (James 1:17). The goodness of God endures for ever (Psalm 52:1).
The goodness of God is not synonymous to His mercy
Goodness extends to all, even to all the works of His hands; mercy, by its very nature, stretches itself only to a miserable creature, for mercy is joined logically with pity, occasioned by the calamity and tragic situation in which someone is found. God's mercy is exercised toward those who merit punishment; His goodness is extended to objects that have not merited anything contrary to the acts of His bounty.
Creation is an act of goodness, not of mercy; providence an act of goodness, not of mercy. We need the goodness of God to govern us, but the mercy of God to relieve us.
The grace of God reaches the rational creature; mercy the miserable creature; goodness all His creatures, animals, and senseless plants, as well as reasonable man.
Goodness is not the same as holiness
Again, God's goodness must be distinguished from His holiness, which is the rectitude of His nature, whereby He is pure, and without spot in Himself.
The goodness of God is the outward manifestation of His will, by which He shows Himself beneficial to His creatures.
The holiness of God is manifest to His rational creature, and nothing else; but the goodness of God covers all the works of His hands. The Lord is good to all (Psalm 145:9)
Is Godís goodness a communicable attribute?
Pure and perfect goodness is only the royal prerogative of God; goodness is a choice perfection of the divine nature.
This is the true and genuine character of God; He is goodness, good in Himself, good in His essence, good in the highest degree, possessing whatsoever is comely, excellent, desirable; the highest good, because He is the source of good. All gifts, all variety of goodness, are contained in Him as one common good.
He is the efficient cause of all good, by an overflowing goodness of His nature. "Truly God is good" (Psalm 73:1). This is written indelibly in the works of nature and His gracious acts (Exodus 34:6). "He is abundant in goodness" (cf. Psalm 145:7). His goodness is celebrated continually in the Psalter (for instance, 107:8,15,21,31).
In reaching out to His creatures, and manifesting His goodness to them, this is certainly a communicable attribute. For His goodness is not only seen but extended to others. A Christian is a good person, but his goodness is the work of God in him and through him. Whatever goodness a saint may have and exercise, he is a channel for the divine goodness to reach even to others.
God's goodness is communicative. None so communicatively good as God. As the notion of God includes goodness, so the notion of goodness includes diffusiveness; without goodness He would cease to be Deity, and without diffusiveness He would cease to be good. The being good is necessary to the being God. So the creature is relatively good, with a goodness derived from God; God alone is absolutely good.
Is Godís goodness nullified by His punishment of sin?
When offenders are punished, we do not conclude that the Judge is devoid of goodness, but rather that the Judge is righteous. God's vindictive justice is as naturally His as is His goodness; both are necessarily His, and one does not exclude the other.
God is not bad because He is just; nor unrighteous, because He is good. God being infinitely good, cannot possibly intend or act anything but what is good: "Thou art good, and thou doest good" (Psalm 119:68), that is, whatsoever God does is good, whatever it might be, pleasant or painful to the creature.
To punish evil is right, therefore good. To leave men uncontrolled in their wickedness is unrighteous and therefore bad.
It must be held firmly in our minds that:
1. The justice of God is a part of the goodness of His nature (Exodus 33:19).
2. Part of the goodness of God is to make laws, and add to them threatenings. The design of laws, and the purpose of upholding the honour of those laws by the punishment of offenders, is to promote goodness and restrain evil.
3. It follows then that not to punish evil is to be wanting in goodness. "The Lord is known by the judgements which He executes." Is it not a part of His goodness to preserve the indispensable order between Himself and His creatures?
4. Again, punishment is not the primary intention of God. When He created, His intention was fundamentally to manifest His goodness. He actually calls the act of his wrath His "strange work, His strange act" (Isaiah 28:21). That is, a work not against His nature, as the Governor of the world, but against His first intention, as Creator. Finally, He finds no pleasure whatsoever in the death of a sinner (Ezekiel 33:11).
How Godís goodness is manifested
Godís supreme goodness is displayed in:
a. The creation.
Just as His wisdom was the cause of making everything in order and harmony, His goodness was the cause of the very act of creation. He pronounced it "very good," that is, such as became His goodness to bring forth into being. So:
1. Creation proceeds from goodness; God extracted such multitudes of things from the depths of nothing. Because God is good, things have a being. By His goodness, the whole was brought out of the dark womb of nothingness.
2. Creation was the first act of goodness without Himself. The persons of the Blessed Trinity are good to each other (ad intra); the creation is the proof of God's goodness ad extra.
3. Especially in the case of man, God's goodness is made manifest. He endued him with choice prerogatives above other creatures; he was made a little lower than the angels, and much more loftily crowned with glory and honour than other creatures (Psalm 8:5).
4. God provides for man, as His supreme Benefactor. "O Lord, how excellent is thy Name in all the earth" (Psalm 8:1,4).
5. When man sinned, God, in His goodness and for man's sake cursed the creation so that it stills groans under that vanity because of man's rebellion (Romans 8:20-22). But it will finally be delivered from bondage.
b. Man's redemption.
The core of the gospel can be justly said to be a mirror of divine goodness, a special kind of goodness: "Good-will towards men" (Luke 2:14).
Goodness was the spring of redemption. It must have been a miraculous goodness that induced the Father to expose the life of His Son to those difficulties in this world, and ultimately to a death upon the cross, for the freedom of sordid rebels. His great end was to give such a demonstration of the liberality of His nature.
Redemption is out of pure goodness. God was under no obligation to pity our misery, and repair our ruin. It is the gospel of a God abounding in His own blessedness (2 Timothy 1:11).
Hence was may consider the height of this goodness in salvation to be much higher than that of creation.
His goodness in redemption is greater than any goodness expressed to the fallen angels. It is the wonder of His goodness to us, that He was mindful of fallen man, and careless of fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16).
The Father's goodness is proved when we properly consider whom He "gave."
1. His Son is a greater gift that worlds, or all things purchased by Him (Hebrews 1:3).
2. He is the Only-begotten, the Unique Son of God, not an angel.
3. He was given to rescue us from eternal damnation; He was made poor that we might become rich in Him (2 Corinthians 8:9).
4. In bestowing this gift on us, divine goodness gives whole God to us: the epitome of goodness!
Psalm 107 is calculated to celebrate the goodness of God in the continued course of His providence throughout all the ages. It ascribes to divine goodness all the advantages men meet with. God helps them in their actions, presides over their intentions, inspects their different situations, and perpetually cares for them. Everything is ordered by Him in the place where He hath set it.
1. This goodness is obvious in the care God exercises over all creatures. There is a peculiar goodness to His people; but this does not take away His general goodness to the world. The earth is still "full of His riches" (Psalm 104:24).
2. His goodness is seen in the preservation of all things. "O Lord, thou preservest man and beast" (Psalm 36:6; also 65:9,10; 107:35,36). Every day He "spreads a table" for us (Psalm 23:5), and proves to be the "strength of our life" (Psalm 27:1). He sets "hedges about our estates" (Job 1:10).
3. In His goodness He employs His angels on our behalf, to help and assist us, in ways most often unknown to us (Hebrews 1:14).
4. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the meanest rational creatures; as servants and criminals. Widows, orphans and foreigners are under His care.
5. His goodness is evident in the preservation of human society. It belongs to His power that he is able to do it, but to His goodness that He is willing to do it.
Application of Godís goodness
1. Because He is good, we may expect His instruction: "Good is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in his way" (Psalm 25:8). His goodness makes Him stoop down to tutor worms.
2. His goodness impels Him to remove the punishment due to our crimes, and bestow benefits not due to our merits: "Thou, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive" (Psalm 86:5). He does not act according to the rigor of the Law, but willingly grants His pardon to those they flee to the arms of the Mediator.
3. Because God is good, we may have comfort in addressing Him, for being accepted in His beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6), His eyes are now upon the righteous, and His ears attentive to their cry (Psalm 34:15).
4. His goodness urges us to know Him and have fellowship with Him. "Acquaint thyself with God, and thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21).
5. His goodness is a comfort to us in all our afflictions. What can we fear from the conduct of Infinite Goodness? Can His hand be heavy upon those that are humble before Him? He withholds nothing good from those that walk uprightly (psalm 84:11). And since God is love, love thinks no evil (1 Corinthians 13:5).
6. God's goodness is a ground of assurance of happiness. If God be so good, that nothing is better, and loves Himself, as He is good, He cannot be lacking in love to those that resemble His nature, and imitate His goodness.
7. Because God is good, he is a stronghold in the day of trouble, whether it be physical or spiritual (Nahum 1:7). We are persuaded that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).
1. Our moral obligation is to endeavour all the more after the enjoyment of God as good. How earnestly we should desire him!
2. We must seek God, since all things else that are desirable have their goodness in Him. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I can desire beside thee?" (Psalm 73:25).
3. Meditate often on the Good Lord. It would be strange to look constantly upon the earth, and everything in it, and yet overlook that which it is most full of, that is, God's goodness (Psalm 33:5).
4. A right sense of God's goodness would dispose us to an acceptable worship of God. It was God's lovingkindness that made David all the more resolute to "worship towards His holy temple" (Psalm 138:2).
5. As "the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand" (Psalm 95:7), we ought to pray earnestly with strong faith and feeling, being convinced that our heavenly Father will not give us a stone if we ask for a loaf of bread.
6. God's goodness ought to make us all the more thankful, as we consider our station in life, our condition, our bodies, our great salvation in Christ. In every respect, "I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14).
7. We are meant to be imitators of God, of His holiness but not least of His goodness. "Do good to them that hate you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good" (Matthew 5:44,45). "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).