Sometimes I have found that Christians will accept that God is "good" in a qualitative sense, in that he might be better than most people. However, it is sometimes easy to think that God might not be completely, 100% good. We might think of God as a grandfather figure up in heaven who is generally good, but also can be harsh or angry or punish us arbitrarily if we don't do what he wants. This impression is wrong, and in this article I will explain how we can have faith that God really is absolutely 100% good. This will help us learn to trust God for everything, will help us love God more, and will show why God is worthy of worship.
God's Holiness means absence from all Evil
The Bible says about God that "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing." (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV). This is because God is holy - it is part of his nature, and he cannot change it. Just as we cannot stop being human, God cannot stop being holy. Holiness means many things. As explained in the book "The Pursuit of Holiness" by Jerry Bridges, God's holiness means God always knows what is right, and always does what is right, and he simply cannot do otherwise [1, p.22]. Holiness means there can be absolutely no evil in God at all (see 1 John 1:5). God's holiness also means God's thoughts and actions will always be consistent with his holy nature [1, p.23]. Therefore, God cannot think anything evil, and cannot do anything evil, and his actions and thoughts will always be perfectly good. God can't tempt anyone, because that would be evil (James 1:13).
Jerry Bridges says that we must never complain that God is being unfair or unjust toward us, and we should not worry that God might not do what is right, no matter how the situation appears to us. In fact "It is less injury to Him to deny His being, than to deny the purity of it; the one makes Him no God, the other a deformed, unlovely, and a detestable God...he that saith God is not holy speaks much worse than he that saith there is no God at all" [1,p.23-24]. So it is worse to claim that God is not holy, than to claim God doesn't exist at all, because to say God is not holy is to insult his character. If God wasn't holy, then he would be an arbitrary, unjust, evil God, which would not make him worthy of our love and worship. It is only because God is perfectly holy that he deserves our worship.
Thus, Christians must never doubt God's holiness or God's goodness, or we are insulting God! We should instead have faith that whatever God does is absolutely 100% good, with no hints of evil at all, and no hidden dark sides. This gives us confidence that we can trust God with our whole lives, since God only wants what is good for us: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
God might discipline us when we have sinned or are disobeying him, but this is for our own good, in order to help us realize our mistake and turn back to him: "do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:10-12, NIV). Similarly "God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:10-11). God's discipline is therefore not evil, but meant to correct us for our own good. In heaven we will look back on our lives and thank God for his discipline which kept us on the right path, instead of God not providing discipline and letting us fall away and end up in hell. If God did not discipline us, then he would be no better than a deadbeat parent who does not care for their children.
God is Exactly Like Jesus
While it might be hard to relate to God the Father, we can learn what God is like by looking at Jesus: "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like" (John 1:18).
Jesus said "I tell you for certain that the Son cannot do anything on his own. He can do only what he sees the Father doing, and he does exactly what he sees the Father do."(John 5:19). Since we never saw any hints of evil in Jesus during his time on earth, and if Jesus is a perfect representative of God, then we can trust that there are no hidden or evil sides of God, because Jesus is God. This means we don't have to fear that Jesus might forgive our sins but the Father might not, or that Jesus loves us but the Father might not, or that Jesus wants to save us but the Father wants to punish us. We can have trust that Jesus' actions and the Father's actions are the same, and both are the same as the Holy Spirit - the entire Trinity acts as one, always in perfect agreement.
When I was younger I was told that when we are judged in heaven, God the Father will be the "judge", Satan will be the "prosecutor", and Jesus is our "defense attorney". However, this gives the impression that Jesus has to convince God to forgive us, and makes it seem like God could say no to Jesus. However, this is completely wrong, because the Bible says that Jesus is the one who will judge everyone (John 5:27). Therefore, it's better to use the image of a judge who sentences a person to a harsh fine for their crimes. But then because the judge loves the criminal, he steps off the judges bench and comes down to the criminal and writes a check to the criminal to cover the fine. This is what Jesus has done for us. God's goodness and holiness demands that he punish sin and evil, which he does, but then he sent Jesus (the second member of the Trinity, and equally God) to come take that punishment for us so that we can still be saved. Therefore in this way both God's holiness and justice are preserved and so is his love toward us. We don't have to fear that Jesus forgives us and God doesn't, because Jesus is God and all members of the Trinity act at the same time to forgive our sins, which occurs when we place our faith in Jesus' death on our behalf.
God's Goodness and Holiness means he must punish Evil
Just because God is good, and absolutely 100% good, doesn't mean he can't punish sin and evil. Some people might think if God is good and loving then he shouldn't punish anyone. But in fact, because God is holy and good and perfectly just, then he must punish sin and evil. God cannot tolerate evil at all due to his perfect holy nature. For example, if a police officer saw someone abusing a child, his nature as a police officer requires him to go arrest that person and punish them. To let the child abuser get away without being punished would mean the police officer is not upholding justice, and we would say he is a bad police officer, and he would be complicit in the crime of child abuse by not punishing it. Similarly, if God let sin go unpunished forever, we could question his goodness and his justice, because to allow people to do evil without any consequences would indicate God is uncaring or perhaps even partly evil himself. However, since God is completely 100% good and holy, then we can have faith that all sin and evil will be punished justly, if not in this life then in the afterlife.
Therefore, God is just and good when he condemns people to hell, because it is punishing sin and evil with what it deserves. Fortunately, although we all deserve to suffer in hell for our sin, God loved us so much that he created a way for us to be saved by having Jesus come to earth to die for our sins. God absorbed his own just wrath at sin by having Jesus become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21), who then died in our place and suffered the penalty of separation from God which we deserve. Due to God's wrath at our sin being dealt with on the cross, now God can forgive us and welcome us into heaven, as long as we believe in Jesus. This again shows God's goodness, because he did not have to send Jesus to save us, but did out of his goodness and mercy and love for us.
If God is Good, then why doesn't he punish evil now?
So if God is good, then why does he allow evil and suffering on earth now? Why doesn't he just wipe out all evildoers the moment they make a mistake? This is due to our free will, which God gave us at the very start with Adam and Eve. Free will is how Adam and Eve could freely sin against God. God had to give them free will if he wanted a genuine relationship with them and for them to freely love him back. If God had wiped them out after their first sin, then we would not be here today. It is God's mercy which allowed Adam and Eve to keep living after their sin, although there were consequences for their sin, which we all live with today in this fallen world.
Sometimes God will punish evil in this world, but sometimes he will allow us to see the consequences of sin and how it negatively affects others and ourselves. However, we can trust that all unforgiven sinners will be punished in the end, and God's punishment of sin in the afterlife will be more severe than any punishment that could be received in this world. Perhaps now God is merciful in waiting to bring punishment on sin and evil to give the sinners a chance to realize they have made a mistake, to see the negative consequences of their mistake, and to repent from it. Because God is perfectly just and holy, we must trust that whatever his reason is for not punishing sin immediately on earth, he will punish it in the afterlife, and his judgement will be completely fair and perfect.
One of my favourite hymns is "Great is thy Faithfulness", which has one verse that goes like this:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
This helps me remember that God has no evil shadows in him, he never changes his holy nature, and will never become unloving or unfaithful to me, because I have faith in Jesus for salvation. I am so grateful that God is holy, and absolutely 100% good, because this lets me trust him completely with my whole life and my eternity, and I am able to worship him and love him without any fear that he might have a hidden evil side. I am so glad that God is holy, because his holy nature ensures he only does what is good and perfect, all the time, and for this he deserves all of our worship forever and ever.