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The Goodness of God

Jesus was once addressed as ‘good Master’ by a rich young ruler. The response of Jesus might surprise us. He said to the ruler, ‘Why do you call me good. There is none good but God.’ When we think about that response, we can see that Jesus did not want the man to speak in an unthoughtful way. We can also see from his words that it is correct to think of God’s goodness. Goodness, we might say, refers to both character and action. It describes who a person is and what a person does. When used of God, it must be seen through the fact that he is perfect. God is not only the best out of a range of levels of goodness. He is infinitely good, the highest good, continuously good, uniquely good. His goodness expresses his wisdom as well as his love, his intentions as well as his actions. God is good in himself, although it is very difficult for us to grasp this reality. But we can safely assume several features of his goodness. One is that each person of the Trinity will be involved because t

Kindness

It is obvious that there are very many kind people in the world. Probably everyone shows kindness at some stage in their lives, whether to those they know or to strangers. Such kindness is an expression of God’s common grace or general grace that is given to make life in this world pleasant, and it can be shown in many different ways. Luke mentions in the Book of Acts how the people of Malta showed a lot of kindness to the crew and passengers of the boat that was taking Paul to Rome was shipwrecked.  But that expression of kindness is not what the Bible means by kindness in the Christian life. After all, a kind person in the general sense may not believe that Jesus is the Saviour. God still enables that person to be kind, but it is not the product of saving grace. It is kindness in another sense that is described in the Bible, kindness that is the product of the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, Christians will show the kindness connected to common grace as well as the expressions of

Paul — the Unknown Years

One of the difficulties of the Book of Acts is that Luke does not say what year an event took place in or how long there might be between two dates. He does not tell us in what year the Day of Pentecost took place, nor does he tell us how many years had passed between it and the conversion of Paul. Nor does he say how long Paul was away from Jerusalem in Damascus and thereabouts (over three years).  What he does tell us about Paul is that he was sent back to Tarsus by the disciples in Jerusalem and then later on Barnabas went to Tarsus and found him and brought him to serve in the church in  Antioch. Were those years in Tarsus important or was he in a kind of wilderness? Does Luke indicate anything about them and does Paul himself say anything about them in his letters? We can start by noticing what Luke says in Acts 9:26-30: ‘And when [Paul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But

Peter’s Profound Description (1 Peter 3:18-22)

Peter said on one occasion that Paul’s writings contained some things hard to understand. Here he has written his own equivalent of some things hard to understand, especially his comments about Christ preaching to the spirits in prison and what he says about the meaning of baptism. Some scholars even regard Peter’s comments here as much more difficult that anything Paul wrote. Yet we are not to assume that Peter decided to say something difficult, to mention details that he knew his readers would not understand. After all, he is writing to encourage them in their persecutions. What Jesus did for us Peter mentions three aspects of the work of Christ, and we are familiar with each. We should note that he is describing Jesus as the Messiah, the one promised in the Old Testament. He suffered once, which is a reference to the cross where he was punished by God because of our sins. This took place even although he was totally righteous whereas we are unrighteousness and sinful. The intention

The Kindness of God (Psalm 65)

As is usually the case, we can think of God’s kindness in two ways: his kindness as the Creator and his kindness as the Saviour. Or we can approach it in another way and think about his kindness in the past, in the present and in the future, and doing this would provide us with many examples of his kindness. A third possible way is to think about his kindness personally and communally. I will use the first option, but aspects of the other two will also appear. God’s kindness as Creator The garden of Eden was an expression of God’s kindness because there he provided for Adam and Eve all that they needed for life as his creatures. Sadly, they rebelled against him and were cast out of the garden. But they were not destroyed, although they were punished by becoming liable to death. And God continued to show kindness to his creatures. Nevertheless, his creatures continued to rebel against him, and things got so bad that God decided that society had to be brought to an end, which happened at

Patience (James 5)

We live in the instant generation. Push a button and we can have immediate entertainment. Send an email and have replies in a few minutes. Type to a robot via a messaging service and you can have a bank loan, whether you need it or should have it. Whatever the benefits in these things, they don’t really have a parallel in the Christian life. How many prayers are answered immediately apart from the request for pardon? One of the most helpful comments I heard in theological college was this: we overestimate what God will do in six months and we underestimate what he will do in ten years. That statement is true.   When Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress was given a tour of the Interpreter’s House, he was taken to a small room where sat two little children, one called Passion and the other called Patience. Passion was very discontent whereas Patience was very quiet. The Interpreter tells Christian that Passion depicts the men of this world who want its treasures now. Patience, in contrast, wa