The Gulf Between Good and Godly

There seems to be a common phrase among many church-goers.  It goes something like this: “They’re some good people down there at Insert Church Name.”  Yet, if you actually went “down there” to some of these churches you would find out quite quickly that their definition of “good” is not so good.

While we all understand what is meant by this, I have thought about the biblical accuracy of such a phrase.  I have concluded that there is absolutely no biblical foundation for making such a statement, and I hope to demonstrate my claim with three basic points from Scripture:

  1. There is no good personPaul, quoting the Old Testament, reminds us of our depravity before a holy God when he says, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12).
  2. Only God is goodJesus teaches us this plainly when He says to the Rich Ruler, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone” (Luke 18:19)
  3. By God’s grace, believers are godlyAgain consulting Paul, he reminds us that believers are to be separate from the world.  We are to be godly and that is only possible by God’s grace.  For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1:12).

Based on this simple three point approach, I believe we need to re-orient our belief on what constitues “good” and “godly” for there is a world of difference between the two.   Good, by the world’s own estimate, falls far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  For God calls us to be more than “good”, He calls us to be godly.  Peter says it like this, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

So, I guess the point I’m getting at is this, who cares if the folks down at the local church are “good” if they aren’t godly?  Is it not of far more importance that God’s church be known in the community as being godly and holy people?  Is not God’s gracious imputation of His righteousness the only thing that separates believers from unbelievers?  Lest we be godly, we will be nothing more than the world around us is? (1 Peter 2:11-12).  So let God’s people, who have been saved by His grace, be godly.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta

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3 thoughts on “The Gulf Between Good and Godly

  1. Jeremy, thanks for helping us get our point of reference off of other people and onto God. When we compare people to other people, there certainly are some who are good compared to others, but when we compare people to God, none are good. My regular saying to illustrate this is that next to the Hillside Strangler, I look holy, holy, holy, but next to God, I’m a wretch.

    I once had a man who used to attend WMBC in 2009 challenge me by email after I preached about how nobody is good. He didn’t like me saying that because he believed that people by doing good things are made good. He was from a RCC background, which helps us understand where he was coming from. I gave him a lengthy biblical response proving my position and then posted it on my blog so that others could be helped by it. It can be accessed at . This misunderstanding that people are morally good is probably one of the most pervasive ones we face.

    Romans 14:23 is the verse that helps us understand how even good deeds are like filthy rags. That verse says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Even selling all that I have and giving it to the poor is tinged with sin if I’ve not done it in faith to God.

    Most importantly, you’ve urged to pursue godliness where true goodness is found. Many times people pursue a culturally defined goodness, but that always falls short. Thanks for pushing us toward God!

  2. Thanks for your comments. There was more that I wanted to say in the blog but was trying to keep it short and simple. Your comments enriched the discussion to be sure. Glad you and your family are feeling better.

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