Lesson 4: The Goodness of God | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 4: The Goodness of God

In Lesson Two, we learned that God’s attributes can be logically divided into two categories: His attributes of greatness and His attributes of goodness . The key to remembering the difference between the two is the word “ share .” God’s qualities of greatness  His omnipotence, sovereignty, etc.  cannot be shared with created beings; they are exclusively His. God’s attributes of goodness, on the other hand, can be shared with created beings. While these characteristics will always shine brightest as qualities of God, mankind can reflect them to a certain degree.

[So we’re talking about qualities that God shares with mankind.]

Just as God’s greatness is governed by the fact that He is infinite, so His goodness is governed by the fact that He is holy .

[In other words, these aspects of God’s goodness are limited or governed by God’s holiness. That is, each of these characteristics that we’ll talk about today are holy. What do I mean by “holy”? Read next part.]

God’s holiness has two aspects:

1. God is separate from His creation.

The word “holy” literally describes something that has been “ set apart .” To say that God is holy means that He is not part of the universe, nor is the universe part of Him. He is unique .

[This explains how objects (e.g., furniture in the tabernacle and temple, holy ground) can be considered holy.

Also, God created the universe, and He is in the universe, but he is separate from the universe. ]

2. God is morally pure.

God’s uniqueness is seen not only in His nature (what He is like), but also in His activities (what He does). He does not act like mankind. For example, we sin  He does not. Therefore, the word “holy” came to be applied to the apartness or difference between the moral character of God and the moral character of man. Unlike us, God never does anything that is wrong; He always does what is right.

[So when you see the word “holy,” think of two things: separate/different, and morally pure. This holiness characterizes or governs the other attributes we’ll talk about today.]

In this lesson, we will learn:

1. God is holy in love .

2. God is holy in righteousness .

3. God is holy in grace .

I. God is Holy in Love.

[I.e., God’s love can be described as “holy” — set apart, morally pure.]

A. Characteristics of God’s love

1. God’s love is an act of the will , not an emotion .

Feelings are fickle — they change from day to day. When love is based on feelings, it too is changeable. Love does affect the emotions, but one should not equate the two. Biblical love is not a feeling but a choice . Thus, God could promise to love His people and command them to love as well.

I will heal their waywardness and love them freely.   Hosea 14:4

[The love we’re talking about is not romantic or erotic love. It’s different that the world’s definition of love. Rather than a feeling, godly love is a concern for the well-being of the one loved. Matt 5:44 “Love your enemies.”]

2. God’s love is governed by His other attributes .

People often think that in order to be loving, one must ignore sin and overlook error. However, true biblical love cannot contradict the other attributes of God. It always functions within the confines of truth and justice .

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.   Psalm 33:5

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. – Ephesians 4:15

[God’s love does not override his holiness. God won’t accept in his love what his holiness rejects. Christianity is big on “acceptance” these days–you need to accept people as they are, not offend them, etc. But love is not synonymous with acceptance. You can love a person and still reject their behavior–in fact, that’s what we are commanded to do.]

3. God’s love is sacrificial .

Mankind’s version of love tends to be selfish. It is preoccupied with getting rather than giving . However, true love requires giving  sacrificing one’s self for the benefit of another. The supreme example of the self sacrificial nature of genuine love is God’s gift of His Son for our salvation.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   1 John 4:9 10 (See also 1 John 3:16.)

[C.f. also John 15:13 “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”]

4. God’s love is unconditional .

It is common to find people using so called love as a bargaining tool. They say, “I will love you if . . . .” However, God loves mankind with no “if’s” attached. He does not ask what we can give Him in return. He loves us in spite of our sinfulness.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5:8

To put it another way, we tend to say, “I love you because you are lovely .” But God says, “I love you because I am love  in spite of the fact that you are unlovely .”

5. God’s love is unending .

People often speak of falling in and out of love. However, genuine love does not just happen  it is a choice. God never “falls out of love.” Love is part of His very nature. Therefore, God has said:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.   Jeremiah 31:3

B. A definition of God’s love

God’s love is the attribute which causes Him to sacrificially and unconditionally choose to do what is best for us.

II. God is Holy in Righteousness.

The words “holy” and “righteous” are often used interchangeably, but they are different concepts. As noted above, holiness emphasizes God’s separation from His creation. His righteousness is holy because it is unlike any standards of right and wrong that mankind would establish.

[“Righteous” and “just” mean “right” or “fair.” “Righteousness” is “right-ness,” the quality of being right. Justice is a result or out-working of righteousness.]

A. Characteristics of God’s righteousness

1. Righteousness is conformity to a standard.

This point is clearly illustrated in the Old Testament laws pertaining to weights and measures.

Do not use dishonest (lit. “unrighteous”) standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest (lit. “righteous”) scales and honest weights.   Leviticus 19:35 36

Scales are called righteous (honest) when they conform to an established standard.

2. God Himself is the standard of right.

There is no standard of right and wrong one may impose on God. He is the standard. He is righteous because all that He does is completely consistent with His character.

I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.   Deuteronomy 32:3 4

[If there is no God, can there be a true standard of right and wrong? No. You can see then how atheism has brought about the idea of relativism.]

3. Righteousness requires the punishing of disobedience (failure to conform to the standard).

The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.   Daniel 9:14

[God would not be just if he ignored the breaking of the law. God punishes sin because crime (sin) is worthy of punishment. A punishment equal the crime must be made. Think of a judge who ignores criminals–he is unjust. So God has to respond when someone sins, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be just/righteous. It’s God’s nature to react against sin.]

4. Righteousness requires the rewarding of obedience (conformity to the standard).

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

Both 3 and 4 are expressions of God’s justice . Because God is righteous, He will always do what is just in light of our actions, handing out punishment or reward.

[Why is it that sin often seems to go unpunished? Because God is gracious, and because God often reserves punishment and reward for later (hell and heaven).]

B. A definition of God’s righteousness

God’s righteousness is the attribute which ensures that all that He does conforms to His character. It also demands that all others conform to His perfect standard. God’s justice is the aspect of His righteousness in which He rewards obedience and punishes disobedience.

III. God is Holy in Grace.

“Grace” is one of the most misused and abused words in theology, yet it is a very simple concept. A biblical word translated into English by the word “grace” means “to

stoop ; to bend down.” It communicates the idea of reaching down with condescending favor or kindness.

A. Characteristics of God’s grace

[Remember that even God’s grace is governed by his holiness. God will not overlook sin just because He is gracious.]

1. God’s grace is undeserved .

God extends His grace to sinners though they do not deserve it.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.   Romans 3:23 24

[Grace is receiving something we do not deserve–favor. Mercy is not receiving something we do deserve–punishment, condemnation.

Even unsaved people benefit from God’s “common” grace. Common grace restrains sin generally and allows people to do good generally. Without it there would be no limit to the sinfulness of man.]

2. God’s grace is unearned .

Most people feel that they can do something to earn God’s favor. However, God cannot be manipulated. Nothing can obligate Him to mankind. God’s grace is a free gift. If you have to do something to earn grace, it can no longer be grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith  and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God  not by works, so that no one can boast.   Ephesians 2:8 9

[Earning God’s favor is the basis of every other religion in the world. Works is the basis of favor for most other people. But there is nothing a sinful person can do to earn God’s favor. C.f. also Rom 11:6.]

3. God’s grace is unwanted .

Contrary to popular belief, mankind does not want anything to do with God. When an unsaved person speaks of a desire for God, he is really referring to a desire for the benefits that only God can give. The two are not the same!

There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.   Romans 3:11

[Before a person is saved, he is dead in trespasses and sin. He is unresponsive to God. He hates God. So he is unconcerned about receiving any favor from God.]

B. A definition of God’s grace

God’s grace is His undeserved, unearned, and unwanted favor given to condemned sinners.

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned that God is holy. That is, He is separate from His creation and morally pure. This attribute governs all the attributes of His goodness. We have learned three of these attributes of goodness:

1. God is holy in love. He always does what is best for us.

2. God is holy in righteousness. Everything He does is right.

3. God is holy in grace. He extends His favor to us, although we do not deserve, earn, or want it.

Learning to Live It

During a lengthy discussion of the gospel with an unsaved friend, the subject of hell is mentioned. He responds by saying, “I don’t believe in hell. After all, God is love. How could a loving God ever send anyone to hell?” How would you answer this question?

God is love, but He is also just and holy and righteous. His justice demands eternal punishment because man’s sin is against an infinite God. If one will not obey God (be saved), then he will suffer the punishment for his sin. God in his love has provided a way of salvation. It’s not God’s fault if someone ignores that way. The degree of punishment is based on who the crime is against, e.g., killing an ant vs. murder. Sin is against an infinite, holy God; thus the punishment fits the crime.

Later in the same conversation, your friend says, “I’m not worried about my soul  I’m as good as anyone else!” Based upon your understanding of righteousness, how would you respond to this statement?

Man is not the standard, God is. The standard is perfection. The state and destination of your soul does not depend upon how good you are compared to someone else. It depends upon how good you are in God’s eyes. The only way you can be good with God is to be saved (2 Cor 5:21).

Finally, your friend says, “Well, I may not be perfect, but I’ve

taken care of that by attending church, taking communion, and being baptized.” What misunderstandings does he have about grace?

salvation is by grace–It cannot be earned through good works (Eph 2:8-9)

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