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The Absence of Good

Posted By admin On July 31, 2009 @ 3:38 pm In Christian Thinking,God's Attributes | Comments Disabled

The Absence of Good

What does good mean? This is a question that can take us on a long journey in our mind if we will let it. We think about good things and, in conversations with others, we many times will classify people, things, and events into “good”. The writer, that’s me, on many occasions, will say something like the following: “these are good people”, “something good happened today”, “it is good that so and so did that”, “talk about something good”, “that is sure good cake”, or “he is a good person”. So if we take the time to examine our thoughts and words, we’ll find that they are saturated with the word good. The issue on the table is to define “good” and think about the absence of “good”.

So the question before us is “What is good?” “Good is anything good”, may be a reply. (I hope you can see some humor in that sentence, good is anything good.) Of course that is no definition at all. It is only a way to ignore defining good by telling us about objects, people, things or events that are good. In reality the way that the question is stated can certainly plant in one’s mind that things classified as “good” define “good”. Not so!

Now to a serious discussion of “Let’s define ‘good’.” I must say there is purpose in this writing and that purpose is to bring to mind “What is the ultimate good in my life?” “Why?” you may ask—because the answer to that question is the difference between life and death. And the difference between life and death is the difference between the presence of good and the absence of good in our lives.

First it must be said that defining “good” is very difficult, as we will see from dictionary definitions. From Webster’s 1913 dictionary we read this:

Possessing desirable qualities; adapted to answer the end designed; promoting success, welfare, or happiness; serviceable; useful; fit; excellent; admirable; commendable; not bad, corrupt, evil, noxious, offensive, or troublesome, etc.”

Now looking at the word “good” in scripture I find there is only one Hebrew word in the Old Testament for good and that is TOWB with variations on it. This word means good in the widest sense such as prosperity, ready, sweet, wealth, welfare, etc. In the Greek language of the New Testament there are three words which are translated “good”. These are AGATHOS which seems to be the most common. It means a benefit to others in any sense. It means possessing moral excellence or virtue. It is used by our Lord and by Paul often. Then there is DOKEO. Its meaning is to be of reputation. And lastly there is EU which means to do right or to commend. This word is part of the English word eulogy which means to ‘speak well of’.

All of these words, English, Hebrew and Greek, can only be defined from context. But they do have something in common. Look carefully and you will see that each has to do with our reputations and with the state of human life whether it is happy or troubled, whether it is well or ill. Life is celebrated when speaking of something good. So the very heart of meaning for “good” is life itself in all aspects. We see this when Jesus is responding to the Pharisees regarding healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. In Mark 3:4 Jesus says, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” Something good promotes or saves life. Good as it relates to all aspects of life is a comparative term. It is used in the relationship of one thing to another. The essential quality of good is how it is used in thinking about the good or bad of life activity, the life of us humans. Only we creatures on this earth can think of good. No other creature has the ability to process comparative information as to how decisions and activity affect our well being in the present and future. They do not have the language ability, which is the vehicle for thinking that has been given to us who are made in the image of God. So to further define “good” we must make comparisons between self, others and God. I recall that in my public school days in English I saw on the black board the words “good”, “better” and “best” many times in learning how to use words in a sentence. It seems from the dictionary definition and the fact that good is a comparative qualifier of our life state that we have to define it by examining relationships between self and God, who is the final end of good. God’s Word tells us that only God is good.

Jesus in Matthew 19:17 says this: Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (NASB) Mark says it like this in Mark 10:17. “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Paul in Romans 3:10-12 when talking about the condition of man says, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.(NASB) (my underlining)

So here in the New Testament a bleak picture is painted of man in relationship to God and even in relationship to man. Here is the comparison and contrast between man and God. God is good and all good comes from Him, while man on the other hand is sinful to the very marrow of his bone and can do no good. We are totally depraved in our being. If we put our thinking caps on and we believe God’s Holy Word then we will arrive at the conclusion that for me and you to do good then any good that we do MUST come from God and Him alone. You may counter this with, “But non-believers or non-Christians do many good things.” I will not disagree, but I say in return that is only because God shows favor to His created world. Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:45 that the sun shines and the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust. It is through God’s marvelous providence and rule that any good that exists in His created world is because of Him. Now let’s connect this to the Ten Commandments.

In Exodus 20, God spoke the Ten Commandments to Moses. These commandments showed to the Israelites the very essence of God. (Remember, only God is good.) He wrote these on tablets of stone and gave them to Moses to take to the people. Read Psalm 119 to get a mental picture of how David loved God’s laws. How good they were for David! They were the essence of God to him and showed the very heart of God to him. They were to David his salvation. They were life. They were GOOD. Stop to think about the absence of truth, which is lying, the absence of care for our fellow human, the absence of love, the absence of life, the absence of friendly relationships, the absence of any civil discourse with our fellow human beings, the absence of God. The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites for their spiritual, mental and social good. They were to help God’s people live in harmony with Him and each other. They were given to them as a means of good. Now let’s turn to some things good that God does for us.

In Jeremiah 5:23-25 we read these words. ‘But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed. ‘They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the LORD our God, Who gives rain in its season, Both the autumn rain and the spring rain, Who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” ‘Your iniquities have turned these away, And your sins have withheld good from you.’” (NASB) God is telling Jeremiah that in His Sovereignty (He controls the weather), He is going to bring judgment on Israel and Judah because they no longer fear Him as their God. They have closed their eyes and no longer see Him or listen to Him. Thus they will no longer get the good rain from Him for their crops so that they will have a bountiful harvest. No more rain will come, which is life giving. Without water all things die. In the Old Testament we read many references to God saving His people. In the New Testament we read many accounts of the God Man, Jesus, healing the physical ailments and forgiving the sins of people. Only good comes from God, and only God saves. Only God gives life and we can have no claim to power over life. The presence of good means life. The absence of good means death. And where did death come into the picture for us humans?

In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam that when he eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that he would die. Here is the first indication that the absence of good would be death. You may be asking, “Well how come Adam and Eve did not physically die when they ate of the tree?” That can bring on another discussion about what death is. But suffice it to say that death is not just the mere stopping of breathing where we are declared dead. It is not that simple. It is a state where we humans are cut off from our Creator. Now that is death in the purest sense of the word because God gives life. Actually God was telling Adam “when you eat of the tree all vital phenomena within you will cease to be, and you will not be capable of any relationship on your part with Me your Creator. Life will no longer be possible for you. None of my essence or goodness will be available to you.” Pay careful attention to what God was saying. He did not say when Adam would physically die. In Genesis 3:19, He tells Adam about physical death and when it would occur. It was part of the punishment for violating God’s command. (Romans 5:12) God’s righteous judgment was a death worse than physical death. That was spiritual death which was the cessation of interacting with God until a rebirth took place. God rejected man and put him outside the garden. Adam would no longer have a life line connected to God his Parent. There are those who say that after physical death God will just annihilate us and we will not exist in any form so we will never know or have the awful sense of being separated from our Creator. God in His Word does not teach this. Did Jesus experience death? Did He experience a complete and utter separation from the Father? Did He go to Hades for a period of time? Why did Jesus in praying say, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” in Luke 22:42?” (Now things get kind of scary here when I think of that.) There is that word (“Hades” or “Hell”) that is seldom preached, taught or talked about except in profane language. It seems to be used by unbelievers often, so it MUST be part of their belief system. But in teaching scripture we tend to stay away from it.

Hell, the Bible teaches is real. Read Mark 9:43,45,47 for what Jesus says about Hell. Hell is a fire that will never be quenched. It is a place separated from God. There is no longer a connection to the only GOOD in the universe. Good is GONE. Those who go to hell will experience the ABSENCE of GOOD forever and ever. How can they avoid this ABSENCE of GOOD. By throwing themselves on Lord Christ’s great mercy and begging for the forgiveness of their sins (rebellion against Him). Jesus puts it this way in John 3:16 when He was talking to Nicodemus came at night to Jesus and was asking questions of Jesus. “so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” The only way we can experience the Goodness of God is to throw ourselves at the feet of our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, and experience eternal life. Hell will become real if we don’t and the ABSENCE of GOOD will be our reward.

All of us have an imagination, It is one of those wonderful things that God gave us so I would like for you to use yours. Imagine that good is not in your life, period, Zip, Zero. It ain’t there. No rain, no truth, no love, no compassion, no car, no house, no food, no smiles, no handshakes, no appreciation, no one to depend on, no trustworthiness of things or people around you. Nothing of GOOD exists in your life, period. You have been rejected by all people. There is only bad and evil. You cannot escape the bad or evil that surrounds you. There is no way out.

Now these words I have used are very incomplete and poor at painting a mental picture of the absence of GOOD, and our imagination cannot create a picture of nothing good in our life because we experience some good. (Our minds cannot deal with nothing nor create nothing. It only deals with something.) I cannot paint a picture of the AWFULNESS of “Absence of Good.” It does not exist in this world because our Great, Almighty God is in charge of this world and His love is all around us. Notice I did not say “in us” because whether good is in us is determined by His redeeming us. So good could be around us or in us. BUT there is a place where GOOD does not exist. God’s presence will not exist in Hell and there will be no good there. And it IS a place. Where there is a presence or absence of something then that is a place. The most accurate statement I can make is the “place is you or me or some other person”. That is where God is or is not. And, if you and I do not give our being to Him in worship for His Glory on this earth then we will worship the absence of Him when we physically die. That worship will be directed to the ABSENCE of GOOD (no God). What a horrible thought, the ABSENCE of GOOD. I tremble at that thought and cry out, “Precious Lord never leave me or forsake me.”

We can throw ourselves on His mercy and surrender all to Him while physically alive, or beg Him for a cup of cold water after we cease to exist on this earth. But the sad, frightening, thought that He cannot respond to us is terrifying. We won’t get a cup of water in Hell. Read Luke 16:24-26. Our Lord Jesus says when talking of Abraham’s response to the rich man in verse 26 these words. “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” Please dear friend go to our Wonderful, Loving, Compassionate, Kind, Righteous God of the universe and beg for mercy for life eternally. Believe in the goodness alone that Christ Jesus can give. A LIFE everlasting can only come from Him. Run to Him.


Sola Deo Gloria

In Him alone is Life,

Dewey Wise

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