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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:The Sixth Virtue of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit Is Goodness
Text:Galatians 5:22b (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)


Psalm 118: 1, 8
Psalm 119: 15, 26
Psalm 31: 12, 15
Psalm 100: 1-4
Psalm 23: 1, 3


Mark 10: 17 - 22
Romans 7: 7 - 20
Luke 4: 1-13

Text: Galatians 5: 22 (goodness)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 

We have come to the sixth virtue of the fruit of the Spirit, to the word ‘goodness’. It bears reminding that all these nine words which Paul has neatly lined up for us here are all part of the same fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all belong to the one fruit of the Holy Spirit. In other words, you cannot separate these virtues. You cannot boast to be patient and kind and loving and joyful, while ignoring the others. You have to possess all nine virtues. You cannot skip one or two and be satisfied. No, there is no room for laxness. 

That is quite a tall order. Many people will give up before even trying. It's too hard. They would rather throw themselves at the mercy of God, hoping he will forgive us our shortcomings. They look at this list of the fruit of the Spirit and what you are supposed to be like as a Christian, and they give up as soon as the slugging gets too hard, and think to themselves, “That that is the way I am. It’s no use trying to change. People will just have to accept me the way I am.” 

But that’s not scriptural, is it? That’s not how God wants us to conduct ourselves. We are the workmanship of the Holy Spirit. As such we must bear fruit and be good people. But what does it mean to be good? That’s what we will consider as we listen to the preaching of God’s Word summarized under the following theme:


The Sixth Virtue of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is Goodness.

          We will see that:

          1. God alone is good;

          2. Therefore man must also be good.


We are to be good people. That is what the Lord requires from us. But that presents us with quite a problem. For we just read from the Gospel of Mark and there the rich man asks the Lord Jesus a very important question. He asks him about eternal life. He asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Then the Lord Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” That is quite a profound statement: “No one is good except God alone.” In other words, there is nothing here on earth which has any measure of goodness. God alone is good. Nothing and no one else measures up. 

When we read statements like this in the Bible, is it then any wonder that most people give up before they even try? For look at what else we read together. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes the plight of man. He says there about himself, and therefore about all of mankind, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” 

So here we have quite a dilemma: God alone is good, and nothing good dwells within man.

On top of that there is another problem which we have to face. The Lord Jesus Christ also rebukes the rich man for calling him good. So it appears that even Christ himself does not ascribe to himself any goodness, and thereby it seems that he even denies his own divinity. For by saying that God alone is good, he puts himself on a lower level than God. Indeed, the Jehovah Witnesses certainly use this verse as proof that Christ is not any different than any other man. He may be one of the highest of all creatures, they say, but he is not God, he is less than God.

But now let us look at this passage carefully. It is clear that Christ is full of compassion for this young rich ruler. For we read that Christ looked upon him and loved him. But Christ also knows that there is something very superficial about this young man. This young man thinks of himself as a very good person. For he tells the Lord Jesus that he keeps all the commandments and that he has done so from his youth. Doesn’t that make him good? Indeed, that is what he thinks. He has bought into the theology of the Pharisees that a man can be good of himself. He believes that a man can earn his own salvation, or at least contribute a large part to it.

That is also what the Judaizers taught, against whom Paul is writing in this letter to the Galatians. They taught that you still have to keep the Old Testament laws such as circumcision; else you will not be saved. Your salvation depends on your good works. This makes Paul very angry. He wants the Galatians and us as well to understand that you cannot be good by keeping certain rules. That's not what the gospel is about. 

Don’t think that such thinking was prevalent only at the time of Christ. For today we encounter the same kind of thinking. People of the world believe that as long as you are a good person, that then you have nothing to worry about. Modern Christianity feeds that kind of thinking. For most Christian churches are Arminian in their theology.

There is a song that reflects that kind of thinking. Some of you will remember the words. It goes something like this:  

          “Where, oh where can my baby be?

          The Lord took her away from me,

          Now she is in heaven,

          So I got to be good,

          So I can be where she is when I leave this world.”


That is the philosophy of man today. Modern man firmly believes in the doctrine of good works. They don’t worry. They look at their own lives and say, “I am a good person. I give to the odd charity. I try not to get into trouble with the law. I can hold down a job. I don’t drink too much. I don’t swear half as much as some other people I know. I try to live peaceably with other men.” And so they focus on all their good qualities. According to them God will not reject them on the basis of their good works. They don't have anything to worry about.

That is the same kind of attitude as the rich young ruler. He thought of himself as a good person, at least somewhat better than a lot of others. And he thought the same thing about Christ. He knew Christ to be a good man. He saw all the good things he was doing. In that sense he put Christ on the same level as himself.

Then Christ says to him, “Hold on a minute. Don’t apply such a standard of goodness to me. Don’t come to me with your false ideas. If you want to talk to me about goodness, then let us use the absolute standard of goodness, which is God Himself. For only God is full of goodness. And if you know God, then you also know me.”

For you see, this rich young ruler did not truly know Christ. To him he was nothing more than another rabbi. A good one, mind you, but he did not realize that he was speaking to the Son of God, indeed to God himself. If he had believed Jesus to be the Son of God then he would have also followed Christ’s instructions and sold all he had. This rich young man thought that religion is a matter of following certain rules. If you do some of the right things then you automatically please the Lord and you earn yourself a place of favour with him. But the Lord says to us, “I want your heart, brother or sister. You can’t earn your own salvation. For even the best of your good works are permeated with sin.” 

There is only one who is good, and that is God Himself. Indeed that is also what we confess. That is why we could sing together from Psalm 119: 26, “O Thou art good and, LORD, Thou doest good.” Only God is good, and therefore goodness can come from him alone.

That is how the Lord God revealed himself already in Paradise at the time of creation. For we read that when God created the earth and all that was in it, he saw that it was good. And about man he even uses the words “very good”. He created all things, including man. All good things come from him alone.

But man threw it all away. He did not just want the good from God alone. He was not satisfied with that. He wanted to know the evil as well. And so that is exactly what man received: he received the evil when he disobeyed God and ate from the tree. From then on man did not know what goodness existed of, for he no longer knew God. For man could not have it both ways. It was either the one or the other. It was either the good or the bad. It was either Satan or the Lord God. There was no middle way. Sadly, man chose for Satan. He rejected God, and so he also rejected all that is good and decent and wholesome.

Man was no longer able to do any good either. Goodness no longer belonged to him. He lost it. As David says in Psalm 14:3, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” The Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:20 says the same thing: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.

That is exactly where the dilemma comes in. For in spite of the fact that man is totally corrupt, the Scriptures nevertheless tell man to do good. It is expected from us. For example, in Amos 5:14-15 it says, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good.”

Man is expected to do good and to hate evil, even though he is incapable of any good and inclined towards all evil.

But now the question is: If man is incapable of doing good, why does God still require it from man?  Here we come to the heart of the Gospel. For we learn that in spite of man’s unworthiness, the Lord God continues to shower man with his goodness. He imputes it to you. Look around you, brothers and sisters, look at your own lives and see the goodness of the Lord. He gives you life; he gives you good food to eat; he gives you shelter; he gives drink; he gives you a father and a mother; he makes it so that you can enjoy life. And it is all from the Lord. 

There is no room for evil in the midst of God’s goodness. Therefore God only asks what is due to him alone. He asks that we use his goodness and that we give him thanks for it. It cannot be otherwise. What is the ultimate goodness that he gives mankind? God’s good gift is his law. Paul says in Romans 7:12, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 

Indeed, if you read, for example, through that very large psalm, Psalm 119, then you will note that that whole psalm is nothing more than a love song, a love song about God’s goodness, his law. Almost every sentence speaks about how good and delightful God’s law is. For example, in verse 48, “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees. And verse 72, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” And in verse 163, “I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law.”

Why is the law of God considered to be so delightful and so good? Is it not so that the law brings death? Is that not what Paul himself says? For he says in Romans 7:9, “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” 

Paul also answers that question. He asks whether indeed that which is good, that is the law, became death to him. But then he says further in Romans 7:13, “By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

The law brings life, not death. Without the law, man would be dead. For the law describes the relationship between God and man. It sets out the way man can be part of the Creator, and his creation. Without such rules participation in God and in all that he has made would be impossible. 

That is why Paul is so full of agony. He cries out in his misery that he cannot keep the law. It is no wonder that he says that nothing good dwells within him; that he can will what is right but cannot do it. For that which is good, that is the law, does not live in him. Paul is fully aware of that. It is that realization which brings him on his knees in agony.

But he also knows something else. He knows that Christ came. Christ is the embodiment of goodness, for he is also the embodiment of the law. For Christ alone can keep the law. He alone can keep the rules which keep him always in communion with the Father. For he always does the Father’s will. He never once deviated from the good. There was no evil in Christ. The beautiful thing is that Christ kept that which is good not only for himself, but he did so for mankind. That is why Paul can also be so joyful. On the one hand he knows himself to be a wretched man for he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But then at the same time he comes with his cry of triumph. For he immediately adds, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”


2.     Only those who belong to Christ can be good and do good. That brings us to the second point. By now it should be clear what it means to do good and to be good. To do good means to keep the law of God. That is the only good. That is why it says in verse 23 of Galatians 5, after enumerating the nine virtues belonging to the fruit of the Spirit, against such there is no law. That applies to all nine, but especially to the virtue of goodness. He who does good does not sin. Therefore we are to delight in that law. For the law shows us the way to the Father. It shows us life. 

The beautiful news is that we know right off the bat that the law has already been kept for us. Christ did so. We do not have to despair. We do not have to be good in our own strength. Indeed we can't. Goodness we already have because we belong to Christ. That's our starting point.

That doesn't mean that we don't have to be good ourselves. Oh yes. But we do that in the knowledge that we are already good in Christ. And now we must try to live up to that ideal. Now Christ becomes our model. He is the one we must imitate.

Please don't think that it was easy for the Lord Jesus himself to be good. When he was on earth he experienced the weakness of the flesh just like you and I. That is why when Satan tempted the Lord Jesus, they were real temptations.

In Luke 4 we read about the way the Lord Jesus was tempted at the very beginning of his ministry. Then he was tempted three times. The first temptation had to do with selfishness. We read in the verses 3 and 4 that the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” Here Satan is trying to get the Lord Jesus to focus on himself and on his own needs. That is what Satan did already in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve. He wanted to have them look at their own situation, rather than God's. He wanted them to be concerned about their own well-being first. And that is where everything went off the rails.

Isn't that what we are like as well? Are we not concerned about our own well-being before we are concerned about anybody else's? As long as we have what we need, only then we will think about somebody else. As long as we have enough food and nice clothing and a beautiful home and a nice shiny car and nice toys and are able to live in comfort, then we are content. If there's something left over for anybody else, then that's nice. But “Me first.”

The Lord Jesus, however, does not fall for Satan's tricks. Even though he was extremely hungry, having fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, he did not give in to his own personal needs. It would have been very easy for him to do that. It was very tempting. But if he had given in to his own desires at that particular time, then he would never have been able to do what he came to do, namely to die for our sins. That act of his was the most unselfish act ever performed here on earth. On the cross he was concerned about you and me and therefore he allowed himself to be treated like a common criminal, and as if he had committed all the sin that we had committed.

The second temptation dealt with the power of possessions. The Bible describes Satan as the prince of this world. This evil world belongs to him. He said to the Lord Jesus, I have control over the people of this world. They are serving me. And so he says, Let's make a deal. I will give you this world if you worship me. You don't have to go through all your suffering and pain and sorrow. Make a deal with me and we will rule together.

The lure of our earthly possessions and the power that comes with it is great. Just look at the lineups behind the lottery counters. People dream about buying new houses and new cars, taking exotic vacations and enjoying all the things that this world has to offer. That is how Satan tempts us as well. He wants us to be in love with the things this world has to offer. He wants us to forget that the Lord God himself is the owner of everything. He wants us to serve Satan.

Who is ruling your life? If you were to show your elder your bank account what would that show? What would that show concerning your priorities? Where does your money go? Does that money go, first of all to serve you, and your needs and pleasures? What's on the top of your list in your budget? What does that show about your priorities in life? How is Satan tempting you

The Lord Jesus answered Satan that it is written: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." That is how the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the law. That is how he was good. Are you good in that same way?

The third way in which the Lord Jesus was tempted concerned the temptation of popularity. Satan wants Jesus to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple so that the angels of God would come down and catch him before he hits the ground. He is tempting the Lord Jesus to do something spectacular in order to amaze the crowds and show them his power. If he did that from the temple area then all the important people of Israel would be there and they would all stand amazed. Then the Lord Jesus would be popular. He wouldn't have to go to Israel for 2 1/2 years with a few disciples as followers. No, he could avoid much pain and sorrow. It would be so easy for him to do what Satan wants him to do and then the people will follow him everywhere

That same temptation was given to the Lord Jesus when he was hanging on the cross. Then the people cried out, "Jesus, if you are really the Messiah, then come down from the cross and save yourself. Then we will believe in you. Show us really that you are the Son of God. And we'll follow you. What a temptation that must've been for the Lord Jesus, for he could have done it. He could have saved himself. But he could not have saved himself and then us too. And so the Lord Jesus says to Satan, "do not put the Lord your God to the test."

The temptation of popularity is great also for us. We too want to be admired by others, don't we? That's often what motivates us. We're out to make a name for ourselves. That’s why we want certain possessions, and that is why we get so angry when our own personal name is not treated with the respect it should be. That is why we hide things from other people. We want to project an image of competence and purity. We don't want people to see the real person that we are. We want people to be convinced of our own inherent goodness. So we do many things in order to enhance our own reputation. We make ourselves out to be an idol to be worshiped

The Lord Jesus withstood all these temptations of Satan. That is how Christ fulfilled the law. That is how he was good. He wants you and me to do the same. He wants us to bear fruit, the fruit of goodness that God has given to us. He wants us to serve him.

Brothers and sisters, don't throw in the towel. God is good and he imputes his goodness to you so that you can imitate him. Your own goodness will not get you into heaven. Only Christ's goodness can. But when you do good, then you show that you belong to your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. His goodness will be yours for ever. Do good and show that you are a child of God. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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