Lesson 5: The Goodness of God and the Christian Life
Lessons Two and Three focused on the attributes of God’s greatness . We learned that He is infinite, while mankind is finite. This difference is known as the Creator/creature distinction. In Lesson Four, we looked at the attributes of God’s goodness . God’s goodness is all of His character qualities that can be described as holy . Although mankind can never be infinite, he can share God’s holiness. This lesson will show how the attributes of God’s goodness apply to mankind in general and to the Christian in particular.
Every moral change that God produces in the life of the Christian is an expression of holiness. It is an act of “ setting apart ” the believer. He is set apart from sin to God. The character qualities of God’s goodness, such as love, righteousness, and grace, become the marks of holiness in the life of the believer.
I. God’s Love and the Christian Life
A. The significance of God’s love to mankind in general
1. Mankind is the object of God’s love.
Future lessons will show that mankind bears the image of God. It is this image that distinguishes man from the rest of creation. God’s love is limited to that which reflects His own image, namely, mankind.
[God does not love animals or plants in the same way he loves people. People are the only creatures who bear the image of God.]
2. The supreme expression of God’s love for man is the gift of His Son .
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
[C.f. also 1 John 4:9-10.]
B. The significance of God’s love to the Christian in particular
1. Believers share the character quality of God’s holy love.
Parents pass on many of their human characteristics to their children. In a similar way, our heavenly Father passes on His attributes of goodness to His children. Love is one such attribute.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7
[Remember that true, godly love is a choice to do what is best for the one loved, not a romantic or erotic feeling/emotion. We can and should share this type of love. Lack of love shows a lack of salvation. C.f. 1 John 3:14.]
2. The presence of genuine love in one’s life is evidence of a relationship with God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8
3. The believer demonstrates genuine love for God through obedience .
If you love me, you will obey what I command. John 14:15
4. God’s love for the believer results in discipline for disobedience .
True love will not tolerate disobedience. It is in our best interest for God to require our obedience. Therefore, punishment of disobedience is really an expression of true love.
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Hebrews 12:5 6
[Apathy (an “I don’t care” attitude) is an evidence of lack of love. So what does that say about discipline received from parents, teachers, etc? If they didn’t care about you, they’d let you do exactly as you choose. Discipline and limits show they care. Lack of it shows they don’t. So be thankful that your parents, teachers, etc discipline you.]
II. God’s Righteousness and the Christian Life
A. The significance of God’s righteousness to mankind in general
1. Every person is required to live according to the perfect standard demanded by God.
The ultimate test of anyone’s actions or motives is not, “Am I better than someone else?” The ultimate test is, “Am I like God?”
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
[Contra relativism, which says there is no real, objective standard of right and wrong. Our standard comes from God, not from how I feel or the situation.]
2. Because God is righteous, all wrongs will eventually be righted .
The Bible teaches that all people ought to do right; however, wickedness is rampant and getting worse. Sometimes it seems as though the wicked get away with sin, i.e., that crime pays. The Bible does not guarantee that we will always see justice done in this life . There will come a time, however, when every thought , word , action , and motive will be judged by a righteous God.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:31
B. The significance of God’s righteousness to the Christian in particular
1. Believers share the character quality of God’s holy righteousness.
Believers are in a process of change. Every day they are increasingly being conformed to the image of Christ. This means that those who once could never do anything godly are now
enabled by God to meet His standard of right and wrong.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. – 1 John 3:7
[This texts is speaking of righteousness as a pattern of life, not absolutely sinless behavior. ]
2. The presence of righteousness in one’s life is evidence of a relationship with God.
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 1 John 2:29
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:10
3. God’s righteousness guarantees restoration when the sinning believer confesses his or her sin.
Christians are able to be righteous in their thoughts, words, actions, and motives. However, this does not mean that they will be perfect. 1 John 1:8 indicates that Christians sin. Sin in the life of a believer affects his fellowship with God. But God is always willing to forgive and restore the repentant believer.
[Sin negatively impacts our relationship with God, but it does not sever it. One of the reasons daily devotions are so important is to keep “short accounts” with God, that is, confess and repent of our sin and ask for help.]
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8 9
4. God’s justice guarantees that any good deeds that believers do for Him will not be forgotten .
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10
III. God’s Grace and the Christian Life
Theologians classify the grace of God into two categories: common grace and special grace. Common grace is a description of His kindness given to all mankind, whether saved or unsaved. Special grace is the kindness which God gives only to believers.
A. The significance of God’s grace to mankind in general
1. Because of common grace, all people understand that God exists . There is no such thing as a true atheist.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20
[There are no true philosophical atheists. People deny the existence of God and suppress their knowledge of him, but they are deceiving themselves. Why do people want there to be no God? Then they’ll not be responsible for their actions. There will be no final judgment, no punishment for sins.]
2. Because of common grace, evil is restrained in the world.
The fact that all people are not as bad as they could be is due to the work of common grace. The Holy Spirit limits the wickedness of societies and individuals.
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 6 7
[During the Trib., the H. Sp. will not suppress or limit sin as he is doing now.]
3. Because of common grace, God is patient with mankind.
God could condemn the entire human race at any time. The condemnation of the race would be pure justice . It is the grace of God which prevents this from happening.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
4. Because of common grace, unsaved men are able to do cultural or civic good.
Christ acknowledged that the Pharisees, though unsaved, were capable of doing “good” (Matthew 23:23). However, such “good works” are viewed as sinful by God due to the motives behind them (Isaiah 64:6).
[Such “good works” by the unsaved are non-meritorious. That is, they have no eternal value. There is nothing an unsaved person can do to please God.]
B. The significance of God’s grace to the Christian in particular
1. The special grace of God results in the salvation of those who believe.
Christians are saved only because of the undeserved, unearned, and unwanted favor of God.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
2. The special grace of God results in the spiritual growth of those who are saved.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Titus 2:11 12
3. Believers share the character quality of God’s holy graciousness.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
[Part of that graciousness is patience with the shortcomings and failures of others. God has been and is very patient with us as sinners, and we should display the same kind of grace toward others.]
4. The presence of grace in one’s life is evidence of a
relationship with God.
[Since] you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, [since] any comfort from his love, [since] any fellowship with the Spirit, [since] any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1 4
Recap & Review
In this lesson, we have learned:
1. Because God is love, the believer is able to love God and his fellow man.
2. Because God is righteous, the believer is able to do right.
3. Because God is gracious, the believer is able to be gracious to others.
Learning to Live It
1. An organization is being established in your neighborhood called The United Church League (UCL). A representative of the UCL contacts your pastor and asks him to encourage your church to join. The representative says, “Doctrine is not an issue in the UCL. We have Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and Catholics. We believe that the UCL is the answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 that we might all be one. Won’t you demonstrate your love for God and join this worthy organization?” Your pastor asks for your advice. Based on your understanding of biblical love, how would you respond?
Love does not overlook error or sin. Love and truth are inseparable. I demonstrate my love for God by not joining up with such organizations. In order for such groups to participate, participants would have to sacrifice or compromise their doctrinal positions. Remember that love is not just acceptance. Love is conditioned/governed by holiness. God will not accept in his love what his holiness condemns.
2. Bill, a classmate at school, has just lost his girlfriend in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The charges against the drunk driver are dismissed because of a technicality. Bill meets you for lunch one day and says, “It’s just not fair! How could God let this happen?” What would you tell Bill about the righteousness of God?
Because God is just, justice will one day be served, though it may not be in this life. God will eventually make all things right. All will be justly rewarded and/or punished. It may not seem like that is the case now, but we don’t always have all the facts. God does not just “let” things happen. Things happen because God planned them to. Further, in such situations, it’s best to trust God to repay and exact vengeance.
3. The city of Detroit has a terrible tradition called “Devil’s Night.” The night before Halloween, teens burn buildings and destroy property all over the
city. However, in your community the Halloween pranks amount only to some egged cars and smashed pumpkins. How could you explain the difference between the activities in these two communities?
It could be a combination of many factors, such as population density, police enforcement, morale, community morals, etc. A factor not to be overlooked is God’s common grace. God restrains sin to some degree. The only reason every night is not “Devil’s Night” is that God restrains sin.
4. Some people grow up in Christian homes, while others have never heard of the Bible. How is God fair to those who have never heard?
Very tough question. A few thoughts: 1. Remember that salvation is God’s business. He’s in charge of who has access to His word. 2. Our conception of fair and unfair may not reflect all the issues involved. God would be totally just to condemn all people. That he saves some is pure grace. 3. God has said that all men have some access to knowledge about God, thru creation and conscience. No one can legitimately say that he knew nothing of God
- Does this mean that all Christians are perfect? No, but there should be some evidence of a desire to do right, and some progress in turning from sinful behavior.
2. If a person claims to be saved, righteous deeds of some sort should follow. If they do not, there is no evidence and no assurance of salvation. ↩