FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 17
GOODNESS – A FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD
In his sermons compiled as The Glorious Feast of the Gospel by Richard Sibbes, an Elizabethan Era theologian, teacher and preacher, he makes the following statement:
Here you may see that God doth veil heavenly things under earthly things, and condescends so low as to enter into the inward man by the outward man. For our apprehensions are so weak and narrow that we cannot be acquainted with spiritual things, but by the inward working of the Spirit of the Almighty.
Simply, we cannot understand spiritual things except for His imparting that ability to us. This is precisely what we have been speaking about throughout this series. The Holy Spirit resides within us and it is He, and only He, who can teach us of the fruit of the Spirit as we allow Him to do so.
What does Scripture say?
So, turning to Galatians 5, we read:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Greek word used here is ἀγαθωσὐνη. The transliteration is agathosyne. According to Strong’s Lexicon, it means “uprightness of heart, goodness, kindness.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul notes, in the Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series from Ligonier Ministries, that goodness is a relative term and that any definition must be based on a standard. First, there is an external and an internal aspect of goodness. Externally, a good deed is one that appears to conform to the demands of the law … but this is not the full definition of a good deed. Rather, it also incorporates an element related to motivation. Internally, a good deed is one that is motivated by a desire to please God in our vertical relationship with Him. The concept of goodness as moral excellence is evidenced horizontally in our personal relationships by unwavering integrity and a generosity to others that is based on the recognition of how God has blessed us through Christ. Further, there is a new ability to appreciate excellence and beauty, this being evidence of the beauty, order and exquisite detail of God’s nature and character.
The Jews knew that to call yourself good was to take an attribute of God and apply it to yourself, something that was clearly within the definition of blasphemy and not to be taken lightly, as is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the man in Mark 10:18 where He says:
“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Paul said in Romans 3:11-12:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”
Given Jesus’ statement that only God is good, and given Paul’s assertion that no one is good on their own, it really is a futile gesture for us to look within ourselves for goodness. Why? Because of sin. Sin has robbed us of the good that God granted to us at creation.
We know that Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And, if you are like me, you have learned that sin is “missing the mark,” rather like shooting an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short.
However, John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, (Crossway Publishers, 1998) argues that the Greek definition of the word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack”. The concept focuses not so much on the missed target but on the fact that you were aiming at the wrong target. In other words, Piper says that sin is where you could have had God’s glory as a treasure but you chose something else instead.
In Romans 1:23, Paul confirms this concept when he says that people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” John Piper elaborates on Paul’s statement when he says: “This is the deepest problem with sin – it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This is the great insult” to God. We choose sugarcoated misery while at the same time we mock and dismiss as irrelevant the God upon whom our very existence depends.
How does this apply to my daily life?
While believing that we ourselves are good may be arrogance of the highest order, it is by far not a new problem. In Jeremiah 2:12-13 we read the Lord’s words saying that the people’s dismissal of God is appalling.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
The people had needs that the Lord was ready to provide, but they did not want His help – they wanted to do it their own way without realizing that their way was incapable of satisfying.
Unfortunately, the Old Testament people of Israel are not the only ones who miss the mark, who have traded a counterfeit for the only real, living God, and who sin in word, deed, and thought; it occurs today in 2016 just as it has in all the years since the fall. We may not have idols of wood or precious metals that we have fashioned with our hands, but we sin in trading God for our bank account, or for our self-confidence, or for our family, or for Hollywood stars, or for our houses, or for our successes, or … well you fill in the blank.
What does this have to do with the Fruit of the Spirit? A great deal! Rather than simply wiping everyone out in judgment and condemnation as would be His right, our living, creating and loving God is GOOD.
GOD IS GOOD. It is a fundamental characteristic of His being and it is the underlying aspect of virtually all that He does, although we do not usually think of it in that way. He is the source of all goodness. In other words, Goodness is not an abstract concept – it is personal – it is WHO — it is part of the character of God. The only reason we know anything at all about goodness is because God, who created us in His image, IS good.
Theologian J. I. Packer says God’s “sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness”. According to Packer, the supreme expression of God’s goodness is His amazing grace and inexpressible love that is evidenced by His saving sinners, who deserve only condemnation, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary.
Next we week we will speak more of Goodness, its characteristics and how it is evident in our day to day life. For now, bask in your relationship with our God who is Good and praise Him for his grace and inexpressible love extended to each of us!
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.