Mark 10:18 "Good" Only a Predicate for God?

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Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, all,

I'm examining my language, trying to conform it to the Scriptural dictates I see. One of them being "who is good but God alone?" from Mark 10:18, which has caused me to not call my neighbors, "Good, honest people" and the like, and I have rather said they are, "decent people" or the like. However, I have called some Christian people "good," although tentatively, because they are united to the one who is good. However, I am struggling with this, especially because Mark 10:18. Is the predicate "good" (when speaking about people) only to be ascribed to God alone? How have you changed your language, if so, and how have you changed your language because of Scripture in general?

Thanks, brothers and sisters,
Love in Christ

Edit: I am in the Idaho wilderness, I doubt I can answer for a "good" long while.
 

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
“[Barnabas] was a good man” (Acts 11:24).
Well there you go! That establishes that it can be attached to certain Christian men. There might be a second question, then: which men might it be attached to? For example, can I attach it to every Christian who confesses Christ and I have no reason to doubt of their union with Christ? Or, is it to be attached to those who are preeminent in holiness?

Acts 11:24 might say it can only be applied to those who are full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
 

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Also, Titus 1:8; though most modern translations do not render it so.
Now that is interesting! I'm not quite sure how to understand this, but it seems like it's a love of those who are good influences, those full of the Spirit, and not those who are bad influences, since we are talking about the qualifications of elders.
φιλάγαθον is in the Masculine singular, why has it not been translated "lover of a good man," I wonder? Wouldn't it be in the neuter if it would be talking about a thing or activity (esv translates it as " a lover of good")?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
There might be a second question, then: which men might it be attached to? For example, can I attach it to every Christian who confesses Christ and I have no reason to doubt of their union with Christ? Or, is it to be attached to those who are preeminent in holiness?

Acts 11:24 might say it can only be applied to those who are full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
That is a really "good" ;) question. I think the first thing we need to realize is that in calling anyone "good," it is really only analogical and not absolute. Even Barnabas was not an absolutely good man. He was a sinner, and in that sense not good. But insofar as it relates to his union with Christ and enjoying to the fullest all the benefits which flow from that union, he was a good man.

Really, I wouldn't worry too much about whether or not the person you call "good" meets all the qualifications. A lot of it is just intuitive to the regenerate heart. Genuine, Christ-loving believers can almost instinctively detect a "good" man. I have several men (and women!) in my life whom I would call "good." My pastor, praise the Lord, is one of them.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
We can call a person wise, loving, merciful, patient, etc. and be right in doing so but as Taylor said, in no way claiming they have or display these qualities in the ultimate sense that God does. God communicates His attributes to His creation yet they do not possess them in the same way He does (else they would be God).
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It is not Jesus' intent in Mark 10:18 to forbid us from calling anyone "good." Rather, Jesus' purpose is to challenge the rich man to consider how even a good person falls short of the goodness of God—specifically, how riches can be a snare that stands in the way of the level of goodness God requires, and how it keeps people from coming to Christ in faith. Don't make a rule where no rule was intended.

In a still-imperfect sense, many people may be labelled good. Goodness is one of God's communicable attributes, so it may properly be applied to some people. It's no different from the Bible calling believers holy even though only God is the ultimate, perfect holy one. We are still able to exhibit holy behavior, albeit imperfectly, and might receive the label as a result.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Yes, we may identify fellow men as "good," so long as we are not defining good as the rich young ruler was. His was the warped sense, one that was willing to judge Jesus in the same class as himself, i.e. "good," and better than most. Jesus reply absolutizes good and takes it out of reach of the self-righteous Pharisee. He also shows that their two definitions and self-understandings puts them in very different places, as matters ought to be seen.

Jesus, in essence says to the RYR, "Don't call me good, unless you are also prepared to call me God." If the RYR would maintain his high opinion of Jesus, he is either compelled to admiration of Jesus' humility so much greater than his own; or he must needs start seeing Jesus as divine. And should he arrive at the latter, then the former would be no less true, see Php.2:6ff.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Here's a great word about this from J.R. Miller on Barnabas:

"The passage gives a word of commendation concerning Barnabas. It is not often that the Bible pays compliments. It tells the good things men do--but it says very little about the men in the way of praise or commendation. Here is an exception however. The Book says Barnabas was a good man. Goodness is better than greatness. When Walter Scott was dying, he said to a friend who stood by him, "Be a good man." Many men are great and not good. Their fame is widespread, and their names go everywhere--but they are not good. Goodness is Godlikeness. A good man is patient, gentle, kindly, humble. All the Beatitudes live in him and work out their beauty in him. He is full of gentle ministries--Jesus went about doing good. Whatever else we may be or may not be in this world, we should all try to be good. Thus we shall please God and bless the world."
 

Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
It is not Jesus' intent in Mark 10:18 to forbid us from calling anyone "good." Rather, Jesus' purpose is to challenge the rich man to consider how even a good person falls short of the goodness of God—specifically, how riches can be a snare that stands in the way of the level of goodness God requires, and how it keeps people from coming to Christ in faith. Don't make a rule where no rule was intended.

In a still-imperfect sense, many people may be labelled good. Goodness is one of God's communicable attributes, so it may properly be applied to some people. It's no different from the Bible calling believers holy even though only God is the ultimate, perfect holy one. We are still able to exhibit holy behavior, albeit imperfectly, and might receive the label as a result.
These are helpful correctives, y'all: they prevent me from calling any mere man good in the same sense as God (archetypal good), but these precepts do not prevent me from calling some men good, as they may possess the good of the creature (ectypal good). My struggle came from the nature of man after the fall being "not good" in the sense of being corrupted and lacking original righteousness. Though, as Christians are renewed in the whole man after the image of their creator in union, I thought perhaps I would call them "good" who look more like Christ.

The direct contextual meaning of the text is not always the end of its meaning, however. As Jesus showed in Mark 12, quoting Exodus 3:6 to establish the continued life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when Exodus 3 was - as God directly spoke to Moses - not contextually attempting to proving anything of the kind. I think what I was thinking of in the text of Mark 10:18 was a necessary consequence from that one text, but - as y'all have shown to me - it is ironically not at all a good one.

It's amazing how different Scriptures come to mind after you ask the question. Romans 5:7 also comes to mind,

7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—

7μόλις γὰρ ὑπὲρ δικαίου τις ἀποθανεῖται· ὑπὲρ γὰρ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ τάχα τις καὶ τολμᾷ ἀποθανεῖν·

Does this help us to understand how rare a good man is? For, it seems like Paul is saying that a good person is even more rare and valuable than a righteous person. Perhaps calling a man good is the highest honor that a man can bestow on another man? Or, is he saying that a righteous person is the one who is hated by the wicked, so that no one will die for him? If so, I'm having trouble understanding that distinction he's making between good and righteous - they seem nearly synonymous in my mind.
 
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