The "Sheer Goodness" of God


"…none has ever returned to the divine favor except through the sheer goodness of God."  

 This quote from A.W. Tozer's classic little book, The Knowledge of the Holy, was a deep comfort to me recently. It reminded me in no uncertain terms that my salvation comes only from the very nature of my Savior and in no way from my own "flesh-righteousness" (an oxymoron, by the way, if there ever was one!) I was especially captivated by "the sheer goodness" part of this 20th century Christian thinker's statement of the truth.

The word "sheer" is often used in conjunction with another word, "strength." When so used, it conjures up an image of a strength that is singular and perhaps unlimited. The term "sheer strength" can certainly be applied to God as well, but there is something about the idea of His sheer goodness that somehow is a far greater boon to my sense of well being. That God has unlimited power is one thing, but for Him to also possess unlimited goodness is wonderful beyond words.

The fact that our Lord has both is a blessed source of joy to those who love Him. This is mostly because we know deep inside ourselves that we would not be able to love Him if he had not first loved us and that this love is a function of His goodness. It is good to love, and no one is better (and thus more loving) than Jesus Christ.

For me, sheer goodness also defines a particular attribute of the divine. By definition, all attributes of God are linked with all others. In this case, His goodness is most linked in my mind with two in particular, the infinite and the eternal attributes of deity. As such, God's goodness neither runs out nor ends in the lives of His children-not ever. This is good to know when we find ourselves frightened by our own seemingly endless reservoir of darkness and wrong belief. We were initially saved from both by our encounter with our Lord's sheer goodness, and we continue to be delivered from the tenacious but dying remnants of both by that same sheer goodness.

"Sound Theology 101" tells us that it is God who makes us acceptable to Him, not us. Salvation by grace through faith in the Son of God is the cardinal distinctive of Christianity, and we spiritual workaholics need to be constantly reminded of this fact. Otherwise we continue to get caught up in "works-righteousness" and forget who we are in Christ in the most tragic way. Every so often (and perhaps more often than that) we need this truth to be communicated to us in some fresh new way in words we have not heard before.

The Tozer quote I shared at the beginning of this essay was such a new word for me. Somehow the idea of God's "sheer goodness" seemed to transcend and dissipate some of the spiritual anxiety I happened to be feeling in a way which, for instance, a purely theological declaration that "salvation is by faith alone" would not have.

This is why I rejoice in many extra-biblical writings that are biblically faithful but express the truths of scripture in different ways. The Bible is the only book I read every day, and may it never be otherwise, but I am also so thankful for men like A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers who help me to see the singular truths of the Word of God from new angles. I am indebted to them for the many times some insight they have shared in a fresh way has lessened the burden of my fearful heart.

So perhaps that is why I am referencing this particular quote of Tozer's so freely and often in this article. Maybe it will free you in a difficult moment the way it freed me. If so, let us both presume that it was the sheer goodness of God acting on my heart that made me want to share it with you.

© Shea Oakley. All Rights Reserved.

Converted from atheism in 1990, Shea Oakley has written over 350 articles for electronic and print publications since 2002, including Disciple Magazine (and Pulpit Helps Magazine), The Christian Herald, The Christian Post, Christian Network and In 2003 he graduated from Alliance Theological Seminary with a Certificate of Theological Studies. Shea and his wife Kathleen make their home in West Milford, New Jersey.

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