THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: GOODNESS

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Gal. 5: 22

Over the past weeks, we have been studying the verse of scripture above, looking closely at each of the parts of the fruit. This piece brings us to goodness.

WHAT IS GOODNESS?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines goodness simply as the quality or state of being good. But therein lies the difference between our usage of the word and what the Bible means when it uses it as a fruit of the Spirit. We make use of phrases like “I’m good”, “All is good”, “O my goodness!” and “I had a good time”. For us, anything that brings pleasure or positive feelings is considered as good, even though such things may not be inherently good in themselves. For instance, if I love the taste of sugar and consume lots of ice cream, thinking “I’m having a good time”, it doesn’t mean I am doing good to my health.

The Easton Bible dictionary says goodness is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all  moral good. We can say that goodness is a God-enabled balance in the various parts of the personality.

The word goodness has synonyms such as decency, morality, rectitude, rightness, decorum, etiquette and virtue. These are all commendable qualities to possess and exhibit. But again, they can be external and have nothing to do with the essence of who the individual is.

The Easton Bible dictionary says goodness is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all  moral good. We can say that goodness is a God-enabled balance in the various parts of the personality. It passes without saying that the fallen, natural man is incapable of such a life. Only the work of God, indwelling the believer by His Spirit, can make one good.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

“You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” – Ps. 119:68 (NKJV).

The Psalmist is clear: God doesn’t just do good, He is good. The good things that God does are expressions of His essential goodness. When He created the world, God looked back and “saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Because the creator of the earth Himself is good, all that He made was also good. A good tree produces good fruit. Psalm 33:4-5 says “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Everywhere you turn, there is ample evidence to prove this fact: the free air we breathe, the beauties of creation that we behold, the hairs on our heads that are all numbered, the salvation that is ours in Christ, the ravens of the air and the mountain goats that God cares for, to mention but a few. The goodness of God is seen in His giving and forgiving. Someone has said the expressions of God’s goodness are as varied as the Spirit is creative. He doesn’t just express goodness, His motives are good.

The Psalmist is clear: God doesn’t just do good, He is good. The good things that God does are expressions of His essential goodness. When He created the world, God looked back and “saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

When Moses found favour with God, he said “Now show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18). In response, the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (EX. 33:19). God had shown Moses wonderful instances of His goodness in being reconciled to Israel: but that was only goodness in the stream. He would show him goodness in the spring – all His goodness. “Show me your glory,” says Moses. “I will show you my goodness,” says God. God’s goodness is His glory. (Matthew Henry).

When the Levites considered the goodness of the Lord to Israel, they concluded that it was great:

“They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness” (Neh. 9:25).

Those who know that God is good come to Him in the light of that knowledge. “Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love” (Ps. 69:19); “Give me a sign of your goodness” (Ps. 86:17); “Out of the goodness of your love, deliver me” (Ps. 109:21).

All that God does is only but a manifestation of His essential goodness. The goodness we are dealing with here as a part of the fruit of the Spirit is the God kind of goodness – being before acting.

SPIRIT-PRODUCED GOODNESS

Why is goodness so important that it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit? Here’s the verdict of scripture on human depravity: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5); “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Rom. 8:7). The unregenerate mind is essentially evil, and does evil. The Bible says it does not and cannot submit to God’s law. It is incapable of willing to, and if it does will momentarily, it lacks the power to see it through.

In such a powerless and hopeless state, we need something beyond us to produce goodness in us. The Holy Spirit does that. He creates a perfect blend in the various parts of the personality of the believer He indwells and the result is goodness. These virtues blend together to reflect the overall character of God. As God made us in His image and lives in our hearts by His Spirit, when we love others in our actions or words, we spread His goodness. But it is not just the actions that matter. The believer is first of all transformed by the work of the Spirit into an essentially good person before they are prompted and enabled by the same Spirit to act good: “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thess. 1:11, NIV 2011, emphasis added). Paul was writing to the believers in Rome when he said, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness…” (Rom. 15:14). Where did the fullness of goodness that they possessed come from? The Spirit, “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9). God doesn’t expect the natural man to be good. He first fills the believer with goodness before they are expected to manifest it. Only the Spirit of God can cause a man to “do good to those who hate [him]” (Lk. 6:27). The result of this work of the Spirit is that you become good in essence and not passively. This innate goodness causes you to prefer right to wrong; to resist all moral evil and consistently choose to follow all moral good. These choices are manifest in your private moments, in your thinking, speaking and acting. This goodness oozes out and permeates things and people.

The unregenerate mind is essentially evil, and does evil. The Bible says it does not and cannot submit to God’s law. It is incapable of willing to, and if it does will momentarily, it lacks the power to see it through.

WALKING IN GOODNESS

“Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace? Then learn to know him better and better. For as you know him better, he will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and goodness with us! And by that same mighty power He has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness around us, and to give us His own character.

But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough.” – 2 Pet. 1:2-5a (TLB)

It is wonderful that God chooses to share His own goodness with us, but there is more. Are you a person of faith? That is commendable, but not enough. The Bible says “supplement (complement) your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence”; “work hard to be good.” After all, you “are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph. 2:10). All of us are inherently corrupt. When we believe in Jesus and receive the gift of the Spirit, He begins the life-long work of transforming us into the likeness of Jesus. That work, including producing goodness in us, requires our cooperation. That is why scripture says “you must also work hard to be good”. Becoming good is hard work. It is hard not least because first, you are born and have become acquainted with sin. Secondly, that the Spirit is working within you does not eradicate evil around you. You will always be confronted with the choice of right and wrong. Many times the options that sin will present will be enticing but wrong things that you have hitherto benefitted from. It is as the “resident boss”, the Spirit, works to transform you, to create the desire for good in you, and you listen to His guidance and choose moral good over moral evil, that you will walk in goodness. That you chose right yesterday won’t stop right and wrong from presenting themselves to you today or tomorrow. It is the persistent, consistent resistance of all moral evil that keeps you on the path of goodness.

You will always be confronted with the choice of right and wrong. Many times the options that sin will present will be enticing but wrong things that you have hitherto benefitted from. It is as the “resident boss”, the Spirit, works to transform you, to create the d

Another way to grow in goodness is by the power of good examples. “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God” (3 Jn. 1:11). Is there a good example that God has graciously placed before you? Copy it!

This battle takes place primarily in the mind. To help with this hard work, the Bible admonishes that you “fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and good, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Phil. 4:8, TLB). Another translation renders it this way: “Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good” (Phil. 4:8, Phillips).

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