Every single individual alive today, as well as each one in future generations, is graciously invited by God their Creator to join the throng of the redeemed who, writes Jacob Arminius (1559-1609), are incited “to sing forever the high praises of God, when [he or she] beholds and enjoys such large and overpowering goodness” of God, in Christ, through the glorious instrumentality of the Holy Spirit.1
The goodness of God toward all, again, according to Arminius, “arises and shines forth illustriously the chief and infinite glory of God, far surpassing all other glory;” for “since that action is truly great and glorious which is good, and since goodness alone obtains the title of ‘greatness’ . . . then indeed the best action of God is the greatest and the most glorious.”2 Does His goodness extend to all? If we allow the authors of Scripture to be our source, we are obliged to confess that, yes, God is good to all, and the ultimate Source of all goodness in the universe. Goodness even defines God: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way” (Ps. 25:8).
God’s inherent goodness (and righteousness) motivates Him to guide sinners in the path that they should take. (cf. Rom. 2:5) We are called upon to “taste and see [for ourselves] that the LORD is good; happy are they who take refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8). The very name of God, YHWH, is deemed as good (Ps. 54:6) — a person’s name being his or her identity. Hence the very identity of God is contextualized as innate goodness. Jesus magnifies the goodness of God. (Matt. 19:17) This goodness, ἀγαθοῦ, refers to that which is intrinsically good, good by nature, a character or quality that excels in any respect; including the desire to demonstrate goodness toward others (Ps. 51:18; 84:11; Sirach 39:33).
The goodness of God relates to our helpless and desperate state — i.e., our need of being saved from the ravages of entropy, inherent sin, demonstrated in evil thoughts and actions, as well as the wrath of God against sin — is clearly stated: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16 NRSV, emphasis added). This universal offering is a tangible reality for each and every person throughout the world today. By the grace of God trust in Christ this moment.
Why mention the wrath of God when expounding upon the goodness of God and His love for the world? After all, St John writes, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Yes, but he also writes, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36 NIV). In other words, grace and goodness and love are poured out upon every individual throughout the earth, as God is offering salvation without qualification to all. However, He is offering salvation so that no one will endure the consequences of sin, an eternal-suffering separation from Him. Does that appear contradictory?
Think on the issue in this way: Apart from faith in (and union with) Jesus Christ, you are, quite stubbornly yet unknowingly, running toward a cliff, one that you will inevitably fall off of and to your own eternal destruction. What God is graciously, out of His good and loving nature, offering to you is deliverance from running off that cliff. His desire is that you, by His grace, receive that deliverance by trusting in the Work of Jesus Christ (on the Cross of Calvary, His burial, and His subsequent resurrection). This grand Work Jesus performed for each one of us, so that each one of us could, by grace, place faith in Him, His Person and His Work, and thus be saved, delivered from sin.
Why will God not save everyone apart from personal faith in Jesus? Simply stated: All aspects of life are centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Our deliverance from eternal separation from God was accomplished by Jesus. Therefore, if each one of us wants deliverance from the separation from God that we are already experiencing, then we must trust in — have faith in, believe in — Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31); Jesus was not obligated to declare our condemnation (John 3:17); we stand condemned already. We must confess verbally that Jesus is LORD and believe in our heart that God the Father raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the Cross, and His being raised from the dead three days later, was the atoning act required by the Father to the saving of one’s tainted, depraved, sinful soul.
You see, then, why God cannot deliver a person apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ. Were He to do so, then God would not only be betraying the Work of His Son, but also betraying His own established means of salvation. Moreover, the personal nature of one’s faith, even though inspired by the Holy Spirit, is indicative of one’s acknowledging the Person and Work of Jesus, and that he personally desires the application of the Work of Christ. In other words, God is searching for the individual who will worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), one who will love and trust Christ from her own heart.
God has no vested interest in love or faith by proxy: each one of us is to personally and quite individually confess Jesus as LORD and Savior and believe within the heart that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Only then is salvation effected — salvation that God desires for each and every single individual ever to exist.3 This desire originates in the goodness and love of God for all. He longs to be reconciled to all (2 Cor. 5:18, 19, 20), enjoyed by all (Ps. 34:8), and united to all in Christ (Eph. 2:12, 13). Arminius concludes:
But that is the best action of God by which He unites Himself immediately to the creature, and affords Himself to be seen, loved and enjoyed in such an abundant measure as agrees with the creature [thus spiritually enlarged by God’s goodness].4
Amen. God’s Christmas invitation to the world is reconciliation and salvation. Will you, this day, receive God’s goodness, grace, and love by placing faith in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior?
1 Jacob Arminius, “Oration II. The Author and the End of Theology,” in The Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 1:364.
3 Cf. Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11; John 1:4, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16; 1 Tim. 2:4, 5, 6, 10; 2 Pet. 3:9.
4 Arminius, 1:364.