Sunday, June 26, 2022

Goodness or Godhood

The following post is an edited version of a flyer created in 2016 for the author’s neighbors. He went to be with his Lord and Savior January 20, 2020, which is “far better”.

“Good” is a word often carelessly used in conversation.

Three examples: “People who work for the government earn a good wage”, or “The weather should be good tomorrow”, or you ask a friend, “How are you?” and he replies, “I’m good.”

That last one is too much for anyone to say of themselves. We have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God”. At best we are not absolutely good, though we may have done some relatively good things that we hope our neighbors appreciate.

Why Do You Call Me Good?

I invite you to look with me at Luke 18:18-23 in the Bible and note where “good” occurs. It is an example of a teacher inviting a pupil to be careful how he uses this word:

“A ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” ’ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

Is this wealthy ruler using “good” because he thinks the man he is addressing is more knowledgeable, more virtuous or more skillful in appraising the worth of things? Is he saying Jesus is good in comparison with others of the same kind: relatively good? Or is he saying Jesus is absolutely good?

Is he offering the teacher a mere courtesy or is he bordering on the edge of worship that should be reserved for God alone, as Jesus reminded him?

Veiled Glory

Jesus of Nazareth had no halo over his head to show he had come down from heaven. Instead, the Son of God had taken the form of a bond-servant and was “found in appearance as a man”. The process of the incarnation may be learned from accounts in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke. Mark begins his good news by recording Jesus’ ministry as an adult, while John declares what was true of him before he came into the world: “In the beginning the Word was with God and was God”, then adds “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The young ruler had no access to these accounts or any part of the New Testament, written under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to guide him, but he had a privilege not given to us: he had heard much about Christ’s miracles and enough of his teaching to face and answer the question Jesus put to him, “Why do you call me good?”

Jesus thus took the manner in which he had been addressed to make the young man reconsider his use of the word. If he meant it in the exclusive and absolute sense, his mind and conscience should urge him to take the next logical step and confess that Jesus of Nazareth must be the Son of God. Worship should then be given him. (Compare Peter, Thomas, Paul, Mary Magdalene and millions of others since then, including me and my wife. To us, Jesus Christ is “the express image of God”.)

He Receives Worship

Jesus Christ never demanded worship but accepted the adoration, submission, service and worship that the law demanded should be rendered to God alone. Acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God or God manifest in the flesh is an act of faith, but not a faith without logic or ample support; his unique glory is upheld throughout scripture. The scriptures also relate how his glory would be veiled in coming into this world. Philippians 2:8-11 spells out how and why he chose to enter the world that way, as well as the resulting glory for the one who is now both God and man at his Father’s right hand in heaven.

Does the young man’s second use of the word good show he mistakenly thought eternal life could be gained by some further effort on his part? According to his own estimate, he had been working along that line. That is a very commonly accepted idea found among all kinds of religious sects including many that claim to be “Christian”. It is utterly false. Jesus is the exclusive way to God, the truth about God and the life from God.

A Personal Testimony

During the discipline of WWII, I recalled my Christian heritage which until then I had treated somewhat indifferently. I believed the gospel, and prayed that I might be permitted to serve God’s Son. For over seventy years I have been privileged to point people to the Savior. I am not able to teach publicly anymore and will soon be home in the place which he has prepared for those who love him. With the apostle Paul I confess “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.” I am looking forward to seeing him.

I am concerned about you though. We may have met somewhere or encountered each other in the mall, on a bus or in the bank. You are an individual in a world that God loved so much that he gave his beloved Son so that you and others should not perish but possess eternal life. That is why you have been given this testimony and why Luke 18:18-23 and similar incidents are recorded in the Bible: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing in him who God raised from the dead, you may have eternal life in his name.”

— Colin Anderson, “Was Jesus Good or Is He God?”, November 2016

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