Results tagged “goodness” from Reformation21 Blog

For the Lord is good

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"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 34.8)

The goodness of God is a topic that repays careful contemplation. Vast tracts of biblical teaching are devoted to this theme (Exod 33.19; Pss 34.8; 100.5; etc.), and the singular desire of the saints is to look upon the goodness of God (Ps 27.13). The goodness of God is multifaceted: the rays of divine goodness shine forth in "steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exod 34.6), but also in refusing to "clear the guilty" (Exod 34.7); and the goodness of God is eternal: his steadfast love "endures forever" (Ps 106.1). There is a sense, moreover, in which God alone is good (Mark 10.18) insofar as he is the supreme good, the source of all good, and the good apart from which no other goods are good (Ps 16.2). 

God's goodness can be contemplated under various categories. God is good in relation to his creatures. "The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (Ps 145.9). All God's creatures are good (Gen 1.31). And all God's works in and towards his creatures--in nature, grace, and glory--are expressions of his goodness (Ps 136; Acts 14.17), flowing as from a fountain of unmixed goodness (James 1.5, 13, 17; 1 John 1.5). God is good in his plans toward his creatures, in his execution of those plans, and in his approval of their results. 

God is also good in an absolute, metaphysical sense. According to Turretin, God is "autogathon"--good in and of himself. All the goods of God's creatures are but derivative and limited expressions of the good that God has (better: is) in underived and unlimited fullness. Bullinger describes God as "the everlasting well of all good things which is never drawn dry." God's "blessedness" or "happiness" (1 Tim 1.11; 6.15) accordingly consists in the fact that "he lacks nothing and enjoys in himself the fullness of all good things and abides in himself" (Synopsis Purioris Theologiae 6.43).

We need both "relative" and "absolute" categories of divine goodness in our theology. Leave one out and our theology will be incomplete. Confuse one with the other and our theology will founder. Relate the two categories properly and the rewards multiply. Consider three examples of how contemplating God's absolute or metaphysical goodness helps us better appreciate the nature of God's goodness toward his creatures. 

(1) Creation. We sometimes think of creation as God's plan for personal self-realization. God was lonely, so God decided to make human beings in order to experience relational fulfillment. God's absolute goodness suggests otherwise. Because God is supremely good in and of himself, and because he has always enjoyed his goodness within the perfect life of the Trinity (John 1.1; 17.5), he had no need to create us (Acts 17.25). 

If it was not in order to obtain something that he lacked, why did God create us? God created us in order to communicate a share of his supreme goodness to us. God's motive in creation was wholly altruistic: "The impelling cause of the creation of the world is God's highest goodness, whereby he was moved to communicate and reveal himself as the highest good to the things he would create" (Synopsis Purioris Theologiae 10.18).

(2) Consummation. As I have said before, we sometimes think and talk as if the greatest blessing of the new creation is . . . the new creation. Given God's absolute goodness, however, that cannot possibly be true. 

As in the doctrine of creation, God's absolute or metaphysical goodness does important work in eschatology. Augustine summarizes the matter with eloquence: "God himself . . . shall there be its reward; for, as there is nothing greater or better, he has promised himself. What else was meant by his word through the prophet, 'I will be your God, and ye shall be my people,' than, I shall be their satisfaction, I shall be all that men honorably desire,--life, and health, and nourishment, and plenty, and glory, and honor, and peace, and all good things?" 

(3) Redemption. Adam's sin unleashed disastrous consequences upon his offspring. Chief among these is the state of bondage in which we are alienated from the alpha of divine goodness and in which we have no hope of inheriting the omega of divine goodness. The problem is compounded by the fact that, according to the scriptures, we are far too poor to buy our way out of this bondage: "Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and not see the pit" (Ps 49.7-9). 

The only solution to our plight lies in the absolute, metaphysical goodness of God. From within the inexhaustible treasury that is God's triune life, God has provided the resources to ransom us from our slavery to sin: "you were ransomed . . . not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet 1.18-19). 

Augustine contemplated this divine economy, whereby "the one who made man from the dust and breathed into him (Gen 2:7), for the sake of this piece of pottery gave up his only Son to death," only to conclude, "Who can possibly explain how much he loves us, who can even think about it worthily?" The goodness of God transcends all creaturely goodness, unsearchable and unfathomable. We can contemplate the divine goodness, but we cannot explain it. We can however join the chorus of those who "shall pour forth the fame" of his "abundant goodness" and "shall sing aloud" of his "righteousness" (Ps 145.7). And that is a happy chorus indeed.

Why?

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"Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

So asked William Cowper. And so might each child of God ask, with a thousand more questions besides.

Why was I chosen to receive life, when many die in their sins? Why did the Lord show mercy to me? Why was I not made a mere beast? Perhaps, why was I born into a Christian home? Or, why did God send a true friend to preach the good news to my needy soul? Why was I even made to feel my need? Why does the Lord bear with me so patiently? Why am I not cast off on account of my continued sins? Why is forgiveness so freely and readily extended? Why does God love me? Why did God ever love me? Why does he love me still? Why did he send his beloved Son to suffer and die in my place? Why was the Lamb of God sacrificed for me? Why is a sinful wretch like me not in hell?

Why did I end up in a church where my soul is cared for and fed, or at least good spiritual food is offered? Why, if there is no church which can care for my soul, am I sustained? Perhaps, why were Christian friends, a Christian spouse, Christian fellowship provided for me? Why am I fed and clothed? Why do I have any measure of physical and spiritual health? Why have pastors and preachers been sent to minister to my heart? Why are they faithful to me when I make it hard for them? Why was I not set in a place where I would never hear God's saving truth? Why do I have so many resources available as a means to my growth in grace? Why do I receive so many warnings about temptation and sin? Why do I receive so many counsels toward holiness? Why do I hear faithful sermons? Why do they do me good?

Why do so many seeming coincidences work out for my blessing? Why do so many seeming tragedies work a likeness to Christ in me? Why does the medicine, though often bitter, always do me good? Why am I sustained amidst persecutions? Why, though tempted, do I stand? Why, though falling, do I rise again? Why, though sinning, am I restored? Why does the ever-flowing, over-flowing fountain of Christ's blood remain open to me? Why, though despised, am I not cast down? Why do all things work together for my good?

Why are my prayers heard? Why do I receive what I need when I do not know what to pray, have no appetite to pray, or forget to pray? Why do I have opportunities to serve the God of my salvation? Why do my efforts secure any good? Why does God draw a straight line with such a crooked stick as I am? Why am I never alone? Why does he never leave me or forsake me? Why does the devil not readily devour me? Why do I advance? Why do I even stand?

Why do I not need to fear death? Why do I have comfort when other saints die? Why has the grave lost its ultimate sting? Why do I have any hope in this world or for the world to come? Why do I anticipate full and final likeness to Jesus Christ? Why do I have the promise of eternal bliss? Why shall I inherit an unshakeable kingdom? Why am I an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ? Why do I look forward to heaven?
And the answer to it all is, the grace of a loving and faithful God revealed in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - what Matthew Henry called, "God's free favour and all the blessed fruits of it."

My friend, do you ever marvel at the goodness and grace of the Lord toward you? You might, with perfect justice, have been forever cast into the depths of the pit. You might, with absolute equity, live and die without ever knowing that there is salvation for a sinner like you. You might, without any dent in or damage to the reputation of the Holy One of Israel, have been immediately and forever abandoned to your doom.

So, Christian, have you given thanks to the God of mercy this day? Have you cried out with gratitude to the Triune Jehovah for sparing you and pouring out his lovingkindnesses upon you? Will you realise afresh, and respond afresh to, the blessings which are yours in the Son of God, those unsearchable riches of Christ?

Or, if you are no child of God, will you repent of years of ingratitude and carelessness, held back from destruction while you have no thought of salvation? Will you appreciate, perhaps for the first time, what God has done in sending the Lord Christ, his only Son, to die in the place of the ungodly? Will you grasp that the offer of mercy is held out this day to you, in the face of all your sin and rebellion? Will you realise now that God is gracious, and seek his face?

Let each one who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good lift up heart and voice to the Lord: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph. 1.3).