Summary: The Holy Spirit wants us to grow in the quality of goodness. But what is goodness? How can we find the path of goodness?
For the past three weeks we’ve been focusing on two verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul wrote, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law’ [Galatians 5:22-23]
In these famous verses Paul lists nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. They are nine wonderful characteristics of God, and they are characteristics the Holy Spirit wants to develop in us.
This is our fourth talk on these verses. The first talk was an overview of Galatians. In the second talk, we looked at the first three fruit: love, joy and peace. In the third talk, we looked at patience and kindness. This week, we’re going to look at just one fruit, goodness.
The sixth fruit of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s list is goodness. But what is goodness!?
Many years ago, I memorized these verses in Galatians. I’ve reflected on the qualities of character which the Holy Spirit wants to develop in us. And I’ve often thought that the fruit of goodness is difficult to understand.
We use the word goodness in a casual way. We say, ‘Oh, my goodness’ or ‘Thank goodness’ or ‘For goodness’ sake.’ In those phrases the word goodness doesn’t mean anything. But we understand that the word goodness comes from the word good. Goodness is the quality of being good. But what does ‘good’ mean!?
It’s tricky! But we know that the Holy Spirit wants to develop this quality of goodness in us. So, we need to think about goodness.
WHAT GOODNESS IS
Goodness is the quality of being good. That’s clear. The problem is, how can we know what is good?
Let’s suppose you sit an exam, a GCSE, for example. A couple of months later you get the result. You got a grade of 3. Sorry! That’s a fail. Let’s suppose you then appeal. You write, ‘My answer to that question was correct in my way of looking at it. It was a good answer!’ However, the examining board will have their own view on what a good answer is. It doesn’t matter very much what you think. It matters what the examining board thinks.
It's the same in life. God is the creator of the world. Being the creator gives him the right to judge. He decides what is good and what is evil. We don’t have to go very far into the Bible to see God judging. In Genesis 1, when God has finished creating, we read, ‘God saw everything that he had made, and behold, IT WAS VERY GOOD’ [Genesis 1:31]. God made a judgment. His creation was good. But by Genesis 6 the situation has completely changed. We read, ‘The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY’ [Genesis 6:5]. Once again, God made a judgment. People’s thoughts were evil. It wouldn’t matter if those people thought they were righteous. What mattered was what God thought. God is the judge.
God, as judge, is the arbiter of what is good.
Each year, exam boards publish a document written by the people who mark papers. In that document, they say what they like to read and they give you examples of what not to do.
Does God do something like that? Absolutely! God has published a document saying what he likes and doesn’t like. It’s called the Bible. We could take Micah 6:8 as an example:
‘He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?’
In this verse, God tells us three things that are good.
Each year, most exam boards publish model answers to questions.
Does God do something like that? Absolutely! God has sent his model answer into the world. He is called Jesus. Is Jesus good? He’s more than good. He’s perfect!
On one occasion, a man came up to Jesus and addressed him ‘Good teacher.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one is good except God alone’ [Mark 10:18]. Jesus might have meant that he wasn’t good. But Jesus didn’t think that. On one occasion he asked his disciples, ‘Which one of you convicts me of sin?’ [John 8:46]. Jesus was good. But if only God is good then Jesus WAS GOD!
The point for us is that Jesus was absolutely good. There was no sin in him. So, Jesus is the model answer! He shows us what goodness is like.
Let’s recap. An exam board publishes a document to say what a good answer will look like. And they provide model answers from previous years. God has done the same. He’s given us the Bible. That tells us what is good and what is evil. And he gave us his son to be an example to us of how we should live.