God isn't the “Big Man Upstairs.”
We tend to imagine God as the “Big Man Upstairs.” He is someone like us, only bigger, smarter, and more powerful. Yet, God is in a class all by himself. In the God of Scripture we find a Lord who is all-powerful and supremely good! This is good news for us, because a God who is great but not good is an all-powerful monster. A God who is good but not great cannot save us. Sadly, many people think they have to choose either/or, but that does not have to be the case.
God's goodness is the very foundation of his greatness. His power is not arbitrary or capable of evil. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, his goodness is his power to create us for himself:
God has no needs. Human love... is caused by a real or supposed goal in its beloved which the lover needs and desires. But God's love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all the goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence, and then into real, though derivative, lovability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense, his love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give, and nothing to receive (The Problem of Pain [HarperOne, 1996], 43).
In the eternal love of the Trinity, God has existed in perfect harmony, peace, love, and faithfulness. His greatness is seen specifically in the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). This is also his goodness. In his independent, unchanging nature, he has decided to share that love with us. He brings the whole world into a relationship with himself according to his eternal purpose and wisdom.
God created the world in real freedom and love, giving humans the power to choose good and evil. Even though we have chosen evil for ourselves, God does not change. Mysteriously, God’s eternal plan governs all things, including our free actions.
God’s goodness and greatness are inseparable.
God’s goodness and greatness are inseparable. His goodness surpasses our wildest expectations in the face of a rebellious world. He tells us, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). What’s more is that he actually provides the way for the ungodly to turn and live!
Had he given the justice we immediately deserved, no one would be left standing. From his love he is just, holy, and jealous, and yet also compassionate, faithful, and merciful.
God is so great that he can love those who show him only hatred, evil, and contempt, because he does not depend on what they think, feel, or do. He is love. God’s boundless, limitless love is what compelled him to send his own Son to die for such a world as this (John 3:16). Since God’s goodness and love have no need, he can give what is lacking in us unendingly, which is exactly what he has promised to do.
To learn more about God's greatness and goodness, check out Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story by Michael Horton.
Episode 333 | Dr. Michael Horton and Adriel Sanchez with special guest Derek Rishmawy explain the justice and mercy of God.