What Is the Goodness of God?

And God’s faithfulness, his kindness, and gentleness are given by him freely; because he wants to. Jesus came because he wanted to save us. He died because he was willing; because mercy is an essential part of his goodness.

Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 30, 2021
What Is the Goodness of God?

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you’ (Exodus 33:18-9). Moses asks for glory. God promises goodness. The two cannot be separated. If glory is the weight and worth of God, then goodness is the blessing and bounty of God. What Moses ‘sees’ is actually a declaration of God’s name and his character.” Kevin DeYoung published a sermon in which he explains the goodness of God. He explored what it is, objections to the idea that God is good, how God displays his goodness, and what our response should be.

In the Nature of God

Psalm 23:6 says “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Nahum 1:7 tells us “the Lord is good.” And not only is this completely true of God for all eternity, but it is untrue of us. We are not good.

In Mark 10:18, Jesus said, “no one is good except God.” So, even when Jesus says “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil,” (Matthew 12:35), we know that this goodness is a result of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), not anything in our own strength of character.

God’s goodness as displayed in Exodus is described by DeYoung as “necessary,” “voluntary,” and “communicative.” God cannot be otherwise: he must be good in actions, intentions, and thoughts. His very nature is good all the time. “God’s goodness is the opposite of harshness and cruelty. To experience divine goodness is to enjoy the sweetness, friendliness, benevolence, and generosity of God.”

While only those who trust in the Lord for salvation also experience his mercy eternally, his goodness is for everyone. Jesus was good to all, offering healing and kindness to anyone who reached out to him whether they would later profess him as Lord and Savior or not.

And God’s faithfulness, his kindness, and gentleness are given by him freely; because he wants to. Jesus came because he wanted to save us. He died because he was willing; because mercy is an essential part of his goodness. “His eternal and intrinsic goodness is necessary, but his will to communicate this goodness with others is voluntary.

In other words, it was necessary that whatever God would create would be good, but it was not necessary that God create in the first place.” (Ibid.) Therefore, his goodness can be simultaneously necessary and voluntary.

The Lord also communicates his goodness by sharing it with his people. He wants us to see his glory. He desires that we know him personally. Simply seeing someone demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit is an example of God’s communicated goodness. We experience the overflowing goodness of God when we witness kindness, faithfulness, joy, gentleness, demonstrated or felt in the lives of others around us and when we are the objects of his goodness directly.

How Can We Say God Is Good?

Arguments against the goodness of God include

1. Personal and widespread suffering (illness, war, natural disasters)

2. Global and local inequalities in the way ease and hardship of the way are distributed

3. The need for the cross

4. The reality of Hell

These objections are answered in the goodness of God itself. His love and mercy cannot be separated from his wrath because sin is horrible and must be punished. Every time we rebel against the commands of God we are committing treasons while forgetting what our sin cost our Lord at the cross. The Lord will punish the sins of the wicked for his own glory’s sake, but also because he hates sin committed against his people.

No one is angrier about injustice than God. No one weeps for a grieving parent, spouse, or friend more than God.

To not punish sin would suggest the Lord did not care about our suffering or his glory. What sort of God would simply turn a blind eye to evil? He would be inconsistent and unfaithful; untrustworthy and unglorious. We need him to be consistent and faithful; trustworthy and glorious.

As for inequality, “who is to say we see the distribution of God’s goodness in the same way God does”? Are we equipped to see as the Lord sees? Jesus classifies those who mourn, who are poor, who are weak, as “blessed” (Matthew 5). While we would not wish to experience the “blessings” of poverty, weakness, and grief, it is a reality that God is close to those who turn to him when they suffer. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

The brokenness of the world is permitted by God, but it emanates from our sin. Everything in the world was “good”; God said so. Then sin interfered with that goodness and the world fell apart at every level, from the tiniest molecule to the tallest mountain. God is still good when there is pain in our lives, and in the face of inequality, oppression, and disaster. All of these things can point us squarely to the hope of Christ and eternity with him if we choose to look.

Seeing God’s Goodness Past, Present, Future

The Lord’s goodness is eternal, evident from Creation, from present kindnesses, and promised for the future. Creation was complete and it was beautiful. Even now, though sin broke that complete beauty, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).

Today, we experience God’s sustaining presence as he attends to the minutiae of our lives on this earth. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

As for eternity future, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life”(John 5:24). Christ demonstrated God’s goodness by dying on the cross in our place and then also rising from the grave. We see by his selflessness and his power that the Lord fulfills his promises. Believers will also be raised up with Christ.

Submitting to Goodness

The Lord has shown his goodness in word, deed, and promise. He has been reliable and consistent; he is always the same. How should the Christian respond: with a mere sigh of relief?

No. As DeYoung says, there is more to it than that. Since “God is delighted to open his hand toward us” we must pray to him. Knowing that he is good, why not bring him our needs, fears, and hopes? What will a good God do with those? The Apostle John wrote, “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Next, we must do as Christ did. Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). But DeYoung says do not merely think of goodness; behave like Christ.

Finally, DeYoung urges us to think about God’s goodness and let it change us. Those who submit to him are becoming more like him all the time. We can never be good in the sense that God is good, but as we pray and copy, we can also be remembering why we do this and why we are confident of God’s promises given by Christ and brought to life in us by the Spirit, even now.

God Is Good

Importantly, we cannot convey to a watching world that the Lord is always good if we do not believe it ourselves. Adopting the instructions above is a practical way to learn, to remember, and to demonstrate the glorious character of God in authentic ways. This also takes the pressure off of us - we are not good, but Christ is and we always want to redirect the gaze of others to that truth.


The Never-Failing, Never-Changing, All-Surpassing Goodness of God

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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.

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