“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” –Psalm 145:8

If God is who He says He is and if we are who God’s Word and human experience say we are…

Then how do we explain the goodness of God?

Most of us get fixated and frustrated by the presence and problem of evil, but perhaps we are fixated on the wrong problem. The real head-scratcher and mind-bender is the presence and reality of good in our lives.

Not just that good is present, but that it is present regularly, repeatedly, and abundantly!

In other words, how can a God who is fully righteous and holy act in any measure of goodness toward people who are wholly unrighteous?

We are not surprised when God exercises judgment and pours wrath on unrighteousness and wickedness – in fact, we expect it!

But what is shocking is that God sends down goodness!

And He sends it not only on the righteous. Not only on those He knows will one day become righteous. Not merely on account of the presence of righteous people.

But on people who are fully engaged and personally involved deeply in unrighteousness! People who will remain so and even increase in their commitment to unrighteous deeds!

God is good to those people!

He forbears. He is longsuffering. He sends a stream of mercy from an ocean of grace!

On people who despise that mercy and reject that grace. It comes from Him regardless – so consistently and abundantly and pervasively that we actually have a name for it: “common grace.”

So how do we explain this goodness? What does it testify about God? More importantly, how should we respond to such grace?

  1. We can’t explain this grace from any human perspective because we do not have a category for this sort of divine love. Nor do we come close to the capacity to extend this sort of grace ourselves.

All we can do is experience it and only from the perspective of a finite recipient. We have no concept of what it means to extend this kind of grace to this extent.

  1. This has huge implications for our understanding of God. He is the Holy One and His holy, just, and righteous wrath will ensure no sin will ultimately go unpunished.

But what is amazing is that this grace is extended to the most hardened of sinners destined for eternal wrath. Even to such people, God extends goodness during the time leading up their judgment. The most gracious goodness of all is the ongoing opportunity He extends to them for forgiveness.

What do we learn about a God like this? Exactly what He told Moses – I am a God of mercy, and I show that mercy for thousands of generations (Ex. 34:6-7). The full beauty of God’s splendor is revealed by His grace which comes flowing out of His goodness!

  1. So why does God extend grace and goodness in this way and to this measure?
  • Because it is who He is and what He is like! It is His nature.
  • Because He loves sinners.
  • Because His goodness is intended to lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
  • Because even we humans do the same as creatures in His image. We even treat criminals condemned to death in a gracious manner in the period prior to their execution.
  1. How then should we respond to such grace?
    • We should marvel at it and celebrate it.
    • We should rejoice in it and receive it.
    • We must never despise it – to do so is to treasure up wrath.
    • We must imitate and display it in our lives and relationships.
    • We must never begrudge it.
    • We must remember it in our darkest hour and be strengthened and comforted by it in our difficult days.
    • We must understand its intent.

So the problem of goodness should lead us to the mystery of the manifold grace of a good and holy God! How amazing – a God who is infinitely holy and infinitely good!

And we must represent the goodness of God accurately and attractively to people around us.

Sam Horn

Posted by Sam Horn

Dr. Sam Horn is the EVP for enrollment and ministerial advancement at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Prior to BJU, Sam served at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Northland International University, and various churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Sam and Beth have two children – a son in college and a daughter in middle school.