There is a whole series of Bible references that I have been going through the last couple of days, just looking at the question of “Is God a Good Father?” It’s a very interesting question because it’s recorded in Mark 10:18 when Jesus is confronted by a young man who comes to him and says “Good teacher,” Jesus challenges him and says to him, “why do you call me good? There is none good but one and that is God.” Now Jesus was not denying that he was good. He was getting the guy to think in a clear direction. Throughout the book of Mark, people have been directed to look on Jesus as God, and what Jesus is doing is get this guy to think. “If you’re calling me good, then you’re really calling me God, because only God is good in himself.”
There is a great phrase in Psalm 119:68 that says about God, “You are good, and you do good.” “You are good,” that is, you are goodness itself, and “you do good,” the things that you do exteriorly to yourself are always good.
Psalm 52 tells us that “the goodness of God endures continually.” I want to break down those two things that we’re told about God: One, that “you are good.” That means when we talk about God being good, we’re talking about God being essentially good. That is, God being good in himself. That’s what his nature is. We’re talking about God being perfectly good, lacking nothing. We don’t find good in our lives apart from him. We’re saying that God is lovably good. That is, when we say “you are good” it means that God is more desirable than anything else. Any of the ‘goods’ that we have in our lives that we can think of—God is the supreme good. And that he’s good to us, of course, as an incentive. Second, we’re saying that God is infinitely good. That is, that he transcends all the categories in which we think. I think ice cream is good, but God’s not the same category as ice cream, is he? I think my family are good. But they don’t come into a category anywhere near God being infinitely good.
I think people who are naturalistic and materialistic as a result of enlightenment thinking, those people never see the world the way a Christian sees the world. To the Christian, the world is an enchanted place, because we know that that it’s been made by God and that everything, including the very fact that it exists, is one of the great goods that God has done.
Infinity means not only that God is beyond all our conceptions—incomprehensibly good—but it also means that he’s good everywhere and all the time. Here’s what it says in Psalm 100:5 “for the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever. His faithfulness to all generations.”
Not only though, do we say about God that “you are good” but that “you do good.” He does good in giving us existence, for example. In him, we live and move and have our being so God has been good to us by giving us existence and being. He has been good to us Christians by giving us salvation and the things that he has planned for us: adoption into his family, our election or choosing us, his planning great things for us in the future. God the Father is good. God the Son is good to us by being our mediator, by standing in our place, by dying for us and redeeming us. He’s the good shepherd, and not only lays down his life for us, but he brings us into his fold, and he gives us pasture. God the Holy Spirit is good by bringing us to spiritual life, by being the life-giver, by being the love of God that’s poured into our hearts, by being our teacher, our comfort, our Sanctifier, and the author of every good work that we do. God is good and God does good.
But the question is, “Is God a Good Father?” The reality is we can’t separate these ideas. When Jesus answers that young man’s question and says, “There is none good but God,” he’s using the word “God” there in the absolute sense that includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we talk about God as being good, it is intrinsic to his nature as triune that he is good. When Jesus goes around and he does all these good works, he keeps telling people that he’s actually working the works of his Father. Whatever he does, which he does in himself, he’s doing by the Father. When the disciples in the upper room come to him and they say, “You’ve been talking a lot about the Father. Would you show us the father?” Jesus says, “I am the way to the Father. Nobody comes to the Father except by me.” But he also says “But the Father is in me and I’m in the Father, and if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father and therefore when I come to you the Father and the Holy Spirit will come to you.”
In all that Jesus does, we see the evidence of the Father’s love. We see the Father’s love for us when we see Jesus on the cross. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” When we see Jesus hanging in agony on the cross and crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he’s not so much lamenting the departure of God, but he is drawing to mind Psalm 22, that the Holy Spirit has placed in his mind to comfort him right at that very moment when he most needs comfort. He comforts himself immediately after saying God has forsaken him, when he says “but you have never deserted your people and you are there with me. Here I am.” As that Psalm goes on, you know that it describes the very things that Jesus is seeing as he looks down from the cross: Sees them gambling over his clothing, he sees the wildness of their rage against him, he sees all of these things that very Psalm said was going to happen to him.
We can’t really say that there on the cross the Father loved the Son more than he’s ever loved him, because the love of the Father for the Son is eternal and there is no distinction. It can’t be magnified or minimized. It is one in the same. But there we see the Father loving the Sun because the Sun is becoming our sin bearer and that’s precisely what God wants to demonstrate on the cross. As Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrates his love for us in that Christ died for our sins.”
So, we see the goodness of God, which is the source of his love for us, his mercy towards us, his kindness, his long-suffering. In Exodus 33, when God comes to Moses, God says to Moses, “I’m going to pass all my goodness before you,” everything that follows then in that passage, displays this. We see when goodness confers happiness upon us, although we don’t deserve it, it’s called grace. When goodness confers happiness on us against all our demerits, we call that mercy. When goodness bears provocation from rebels, that’s God’s long-suffering. When goodness performs its promises, that’s God’s truth and truthfulness. And when goodness supplies all our needs when we are without, that’s God’s bounty and generosity towards us.
Goodness is intrinsic in God, and every morning we receive good things from God’s hands and supremely we see God’s goodness in the coming of Christ in his death and in his resurrection. Somebody once said this: “being and being good are all the same for God.” “Being,” that is, God existing, and God “being good” are all the same for God. It is his preeminent attribute. When God says “I am,” when Jesus says “I am” he’s saying that he is the one who exists in himself. But he has not let us think of his existence without thinking of his goodness towards us. In the one God, the triune, the Father is good, the Son is good, the Spirit is good. There are not three goodnesses, but one goodness. If everything that exists in God is good, then God being good is who God is.
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