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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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GOODNESS.—As resignation is the ideal of the Buddhist, and valour of the Mohammedan, so the essence of Christianity is goodness. Its Founder was the absolute personification of this characteristic quality. Nothing short of this could have so inspired the Apostles and Evangelists. Veiled within the few imperishable pages of the Gospels, and perhaps seen only by the meditating mind, is the figure of a perfect goodness once realized upon earth. It is not the novelty of His teaching that has attracted men, nor His deep sympathy with humanity, nor any spiritual utterances to the Father (which are all too rarely recorded). Behind the words and deeds of the four biographies stands a shining personality, a living type of goodness—One of whom they could speak as being ‘without sin.’ The Evangelists knew nothing of the dogmatic spirit, and could probably have given no clear definition and explanation of the sinlessness of Christ. To them He was the human expression of the Divine Goodness, and it mattered little whether a man should say that the Goodness was from eternity, so that by its nature sin had never been a moment’s possibility, or that at birth Christ had been uniquely endowed with a passion for goodness that turned naturally from everything selfish, injurious to others, or sinful either to God or man; or that at His baptism He had been set aside to that brief ministry (which is nearly all men know of His earthly life), when the voice from heaven was heard saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). However its genesis might be spoken of, the ‘sinlessness’ of Christ is the utterance of the measure of His goodness as it affected the disciples. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount they would hear that note of human tenderness blended with unhesitating virtue which constitutes goodness. This alone could be the source of that merciful utterance which is perhaps His only new doctrine—‘Love your enemies.’

In His message of the Divine Fatherhood they would behold that goodness sending ‘rain upon the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45), forgiving the penitent as the father forgives the prodigal son (Luke 15:11 ff.), and even forgiving those whose repentance is yet to come (Luke 23:34). Such conceptions would be born of the goodness within Himself, that breathed out in the intense sympathy of the story of the woman taken in sin (John 7:53 to John 8:11), or the defence of Mary Magdalene in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36 ff.), or in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 ff.). The same spirit marks the greater number of the miracles. None could be considered as entirely separated from human interest and influence, and the great majority (thirty-one out of thirty-seven recorded) were wrought openly and intentionally for the good of others. The blind, the deaf, the palsied, the lame, the lepers, the lunatic, the hungry crowd, the timid fishermen, the mourners for the dead,—all shared in the effective power of the innate goodness of our Lord. It was as though, in His purity and sinlessness, the very forces of nature became obedient to His transparent will,—the one will that sin has never overcome, the one luminous purity in which sin has found no vitalizing atmosphere. He had been tried at the beginning of His mission, but the temptations of the desert had ended in triumph. The goodness that was the breath of His being rose instinctively above the low promptings of a selfish wonder-working, or the presumption of pride, or the vanity of power, even though over ‘all the kingdoms of the earth’ (Matthew 4:1 || Luke 4:1, Mark 1:12). He spoke harshly to the Tempter, for goodness does not always win by mild passivity against evil. He who knows that God is the beginning and the end of all goodness will waste little time in diplomatic parley with the powers of darkness. Victory will often lie in swift attack. So the goodness of Christ is not lessened by His fierce handling of the money-changers and traders within the Temple (Matthew 21:12 ff., John 2:13 ff.), for He knows that lower ideas of God and goodness will unconsciously prevail if the house of God becomes a place for barter and bargain. It is part of the same zeal that had kept Him about His ‘Father’s business’ in the days of His boyhood (Luke 2:49), though it takes the more vigorous form we might expect in manhood. The inward knowledge of the simplicity and holiness of His motives makes fear not only impossible, but non-existent; and this is the spirit that inspires every true missionary. He also, as his Master, would show the winning charm of the visibly good—the goodness embodied in a life rather than in doctrines only—that which in Christ could say to the world, ‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6:35; John 6:48), ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), and ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12, John 9:5), the witness of which is described by St. Paul, when he says that the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth’ (Ephesians 5:9).

The goodness of Christ brought a new force into Jewish religion, one that changed the nature of it. Judaism was formal, ceremonial, mainly an external worship. Its prophets had striven to kindle it into a moral and spiritual faith. But prophet and priest had stood apart. In Christ the middle wall was broken down, and into the old religion was poured the new spirit. Henceforth religion could not be separate from the moral life. A man could not be unrighteous, an evil-doer, and yet be religious. Goodness became a synonym for true and undefiled religion. For man, having once seen the perfect manhood of the Christ, and felt His power to overcome sin and death, had gained a vision of religion that might perpetuate such a type, and the vision would not lightly fade. Through failures from within and tyrannies from without the Christian would bear witness to his Lord and to his faith, by a life of goodness modelled on that of his Master. This was the highest evidence he could offer of the Divine Incarnation.

Edgar Daplyn.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Goodness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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Goodness (Human)
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