Fewer divine attributes are more clearly revealed in Scripture than God’s goodness. James, for example, tells us the Lord cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He tempt anyone (1:13). Furthermore, our Creator, in whom there is “no variation or shadow due to change” is the “Father of lights” and giver of every good gift (v. 17).
This teaching is far different from the dualism pervading many Eastern religions. Good and evil are not equal forces locked in a never-ending struggle. Instead, because the Lord is holy, goodness will one day vanquish wickedness, and there will no longer be any suffering for the people of God (Rev. 21).
Today, some deny an eternal, conscious punishment for the unregenerate because they feel the classical doctrine of hell denies our Father’s goodness. However, these individuals fail to see that the Lord’s wrath is necessary to His goodness. God is patient with sinners, but He cannot remain good and allow sin to go unpunished (Ex. 34:6–7). If good judges will not allow evil to flourish with impunity, how much more must the perfect Judge condemn the wicked? Three other attributes are related to the Lord’s goodness:
1. Benevolence. God is kind to men even though we are undeserving. He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matt. 5:45b), and He works all things for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28), even though they still struggle with sin. Yet how often do we resent the Lord for not blessing us in the same way He has blessed others?
2. Love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but this love does not eclipse His holiness and is thus not incompatible with His wrath (1:5). The Lord’s love and wrath are both necessary to His being. Love does not deny His self-imposed obligation to destroy sin and death; therefore, He lovingly disciplines His people for their evil (Heb. 12:5–11).
3. Mercy. Mercy is actually an overflow of our Father’s goodness and love. By definition, mercy is His kindness to us despite our wickedness; thus, He can be good without being merciful. In fact, God is not merciful to all, but this does not negate His goodness (Rom. 9:14–24), which is, nevertheless, enriched by His mercy.