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“And behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:16-17.
Isolate this text, take it exactly as it reads, and it furnishes a good refuge for those who are hunting for excuses for not being sanctified. Isolate another segment of the Word in the <191401> fourteenth Psalm, and we have the astounding statement, “There is no God.” It is either suggestive of ignorance or maliciousness when one takes an isolated statement and teaches from it some doctrine contrary to the general tenor of the Scriptures. “The Bible, its own commentary,” is certainly a suggestion worthy of all our attention. Comparing Scripture with Scripture will frequently solve very hard spiritual problems and unlock great mysteries. Following this course in the present case, we shall See the thought that was in the mind of the Savior. Do the Scriptures teach goodness as a moral quality in any one but God? If they do, then we are shut up to One of two things: either the Bible contradicts itself, or else the text under consideration doe. not mean what some opposers of holiness claim that it means. Let us compare it with some other Bible statements: “And behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor, and he was a good man, and a just.” Luke 23:50.
If there were no good people, how could any one despise those that are good? Can one despise a nonentity? “For a bishop must be a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate.” Titus 1:7-8.
Perhaps we have given enough texts to show the true teachings of the Scriptures in this regard.
We come back to our former text and seek for reconciliation with these others. “There is none good but one, that is, God.” We have already written a chapter on “There is none righteous, no, not one,” and have shown that in the natural or unregenerate state there is none righteous; and with the same method of proof we would see that there is none good in his unregenerate state. David informed us in the fifty-first Psalm that he was shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin. He was not the exception, but the rule. He has no reference to some sin on the part of his mother at that time, or that she was counted a bad woman, as some suppose, for the declaration is made in another place that she was God’s handmaid. He simply made use of an expression that shows that depravity has been rolling down the ages, and every one that comes into the world is tainted with it. The mighty stream has been coming on since our first parents, and neither David found, nor have the rest of us found, any exemption from it. We were born into this world neither good nor bad. The tendency or bias toward sin was in us, but we were not sinners. No one is a sinner till he sins. An infant cannot sin, for it knows neither good nor bad. “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” Sinfully inclined, but not sinners. There are two erroneous ideas prevalent concerning the state of an infant — one is that its heart is pure, and the other is that it is a sinner. A little thought ought to convince any one that neither is correct. The manifestations of anger, self-will, pride, jealousy, etc., are prima facie evidence that the root of sin is in the heart, and this in time will lead it into actual sin when the knowledge of sin becomes apparent That it is not a sinner in its infancy we know, for God does not hold one guilty where there is no capability of knowledge. Sin must meet with its proper penalty, unless it is repented of and forgiven. But if a baby were a sinner it would of necessity have to remain such till it could understand repentance and pardon. Then, if it died before that time came, it would necessarily be lost, for sinners cannot go to heaven. So, all dying in infancy, would have no possibility of being saved. Thank God we have better knowledge of the future life of our precious babies!
He will continue destitute of all goodness as long as he lives, and throughout eternity, unless he receives it from Him who alone has inherent goodness. God only has goodness, as a natural attribute of His being.
There is no possibility of any one becoming good except as he derives it from God. It is beyond the power of human attainments, either by resolution or moral deeds, to make one’s self good. There is none good but one, that is, God. When Paul testified to his sinful state as a Jew under the law, he said: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” Romans 7:18.
This was not only Paul’s experience, but that of all of us in our unregenerate state. The sooner the sinner wakes up to the fact that there is nothing in him that measures up to the Scripture standard of goodness, the better. The quality of goodness does not exist in him, and never will till he gets in union with Christ. We may speak in kindly terms of a friend, and say that he is a good man, or that he has a good heart, but the Word of God will not substantiate the statement unless he is a Christian. Goodness cannot be found apart from Him who is the Author of it. Just as there is, apart from Christ, no holy, righteous, Christian man, so there is, apart from Him, no good man.
Again, we may look at this text from another standpoint. The experience of perfection is taught in the Word, and numerous examples of it are mentioned; but perfection in the absolute belongs only to God. While all should measure up to Christian perfection, no one will ever be absolutely perfect. So it is with goodness. The way has been provided for all to be good, but absolute goodness will never be enjoyed by any human being here. Thus, if Christ meant there was no one good in the absolute sense but God, there is no apparent contradiction or mystery. So, in either sense, if we say there is none good in his natural state, or none absolutely good even in grace, the statement is harmonious with the rest of the Scriptures.
Some would try to prove that Christ is not divine, because He uses the phrase under consideration. If there were none good but God, then, according to His own statement, some say, He was not God. Properly understood, He no doubt was trying to fasten the fact of His divinity upon the mind of that young man. The thought evidently is this: “You have called me good. God is the One who is good. Do you recognize me as divine?”
In concluding this chapter, we wonder if any who are hiding behind this passage of Scripture, as an excuse for not being holy, ever expose their inconsistency by referring to another as being a good man. Consistency would never use the expression in relation to mortal man. O, for a proper understanding and appreciation of the Holy Word!