“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”
In His reply to the rich young ruler, Jesus made a statement concerning God’s character. There is none good but Him. In the context of the story, Jesus was making the point that if the ruler called Him good, then he must also acknowledge His deity. Jesus’ command to sell all and give to the poor was an exercise of His deity, and the ruler’s reaction to it shows his heart toward God.
The concept that God is good is important. Since God is eternal, it must be that God has always been, currently is, and will ever be good. Everything He does is good. As recorded in Genesis 1, everything that He created was declared to be good, with the ending assessment that it was all very good. In Acts 14:17, Paul told the people in Lystra that God, “…left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The blessings we receive, like rain and harvest, are evidences of God’s goodness.
But even Bible-believing Christians may balk when they put this concept along-side God’s judgments, recorded in the Old Testament. Many lives were taken, either through war or famine or pestilence. None of these things were outside of God’s control. And, God commanded Moses and Joshua to spare nobody, man, woman, or child, while taking the Promised Land. We fail to see how these things were good, as we think about it. But God is still good. Our estimate of what is good is faulty.
In human government, imperfect though it may be, judgment falls on those that have broken the law, and are found guilty. It is not good if someone is found guilty of a crime but goes unpunished. The punishment of crimes is good; it is a benefit to mankind. Any government that does not apply judgment is considered corrupt. Any judge that does not administer justice is despised.
So, God’s judgment was always good. He was never slack at administering justice. Many scriptures give God’s commandments. Disobedience to His commands brought and will bring judgment. As Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “…every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Leviticus 18 provides a listing of the sins of which the nations in the Promised Land were guilty. In verse 24 the LORD says, “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.” The nations were guilty before God, and He used the Israelites to execute His judgment. In this God was good.
But God did not act without warning or in haste. When God told Abraham that He was going to give the land to Israel, He said that the Israelites, “…in the fourth generation …shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:16) There was timing to God’s promise. The coming of Israel into the land would be delayed until the Amorites were ready to be judged. That was about 470 years after God’s promise to Abraham. He was not in a hurry but was longsuffering. The sins listed in Leviticus 18 were why God judged them, and He used Israel to do it. This explains God’s command to judge the people in the land as He did. His law was broken by them, and He judged them. In this God was good.
God will again judge sin. Speaking of the whole human race, Romans 3:10-12 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” All of mankind is guilty before God. None of mankind is good. There will be a time when His judgment must fall again. And He will be good in doing so because justice must be served. He is good in everything.
This is hard truth. But it is hard because we don’t properly understand what is good. Jesus said that none is good but God. Believers must always hold that it is so, no matter how things may look. On the occasion of his loss, Job famously commented in Job 1:21, “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” God’s comment concerning this in Job 1:22 is, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” C.H. Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” God is good.
Good Thou art, and good Thou dost,
Thy mercies reach to all,
Chiefly those who on Thee trust,
And for Thy mercy call;
New they every morning are;
As fathers when their children cry,
Us Thou dost in pity spare,
And all our wants supply.
Mercy o’er Thy works presides;
Thy providence displayed
Still preserves, and still provides
For all Thy hands have made;
Keeps, with most distinguished care,
The man who on Thy love depends;
Watches every numbered hair,
And all his steps attends.
Who can sound the depths unknown
Of Thy redeeming grace?
Grace that gave Thine only Son
To save a ruined race!
Millions of transgressors poor
Thou hast for Jesus’ sake forgiven,
Made them of Thy favor sure,
And snatched from hell to Heaven.
Millions more Thou ready art
To save, and to forgive;
Every soul and every heart
Of man Thou wouldst receive:
Father, now accept of mine,
Which now, through Christ, I offer Thee;
Tell me now, in love divine,
That Thou hast pardoned me! (Charles Wesley)