Archie Campbell had a skit on the show Hee Haw where he would describe a situation and someone would say “That’s Good!” He would reply by saying, “No, That’s bad” and then explain why. Then someone would say “That is good.” But he would reply, “No, that’s bad.” and on and on it would go. If you followed Campbell’s view, it would be hard to know what “good” is. What do we mean when we say something is good? We use the word “good” in a lot of different ways. We say, “This food is good.” We say “He made good time.” Or, “They were good to us.” Or, “I have been a good boy.” But how does the Bible define “good”?
According to my count, Webster gives at least 40 different usages of the word “good.” Among these it can mean “to be desired or approved of” (i.e., “we live at peace with each other, which is good”). It can also mean “having the qualities required for a particular role” (i.e., “the schools here are good”). It can also mean “giving pleasure; enjoyable or satisfying: “You two go and have a good time.” Another usage is “possessing or displaying moral virtue” as in “I’ve met many good people who made me feel ashamed of my own shortcomings.”
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives similar usages:
1. Possessing desirable qualities, beneficial, agreeable, e.g. “good for food” (Gen. 2:9);
2. Moral excellence, piety: “to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22);
3. Kind, benevolent: “The men were very good unto us” (I Sam. 25:15);
4. Serviceable, adequate, sufficient: “saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1:4; so Gen. 1:10, Gen. 1:12, etc.);
5. Not small or deficient (full, complete): “a good old age” (Gen. 15: 15; Gen. 25:8); “a good dowry” (Gen. 30:20);”good trees” – “land” (II Kings 3:19, 3:25),
6. Not blemished, fair, honorable: “tender and good” (Gen. 18:7);
7. Pleasure-giving, happy: “glad of heart” (I Kings 8:66; Est. 5:9).
The one which we are most concerned with here is moral excellence or moral virtue.
In order to really and fully understand “good” in this moral sense we must first understand something of the nature of God. Jehovah created the world with certain physical, spiritual and moral realities. Whatever exists is because He created it in it’s initial form or because it flows out of His nature. God, Himself, is eternal, having always existed and will continue to always exist. Eternal existence is part of His nature. Because He is eternal, whatever is His nature has always been a part of His nature (e.g., Heb. 1:12; cf. 13:8).
Equally a part of His eternal nature is His goodness. The Bible declares God is good (Ps. 25:8; Nah. 1:7; Matt.19:17). This attribute does not exist apart from His nature. That is, it is not something that He does, but is a part of His nature. In other words, Goodness is not something external to the nature of God that He must either except or reject, but Goodness is part and parcel of His nature. We can understand this because we see the good things around us with which He has blessed us (Acts 14:17).
Because Goodness emanates from His nature and always has, then Goodness is only determined by His word-revelation of Himself to man and not by any other standard. Goodness is not determined by my feelings, by the teaching or life of my parents or by what a school teacher or professor may tell me, or even a preacher, nor by tradition or even biology.
The famous scientist Jonas Salk once said: “I judge things from an evolutionary perspective — ‘How does this serve and contribute to the process of our own evolution?’ — rather than think of good and evil in moral terms. I see the triumph of good over evil as a manifestation of the error-correcting process of evolution.” How sad that he would confuse the divine nature of Goodness with the non-existent, cold, materialistic, blind processes of evolution.
The standard of moral and spiritual goodness depends entirely on God. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (III John 11). “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Eric L. Padgett