NT Proofs for God’s Perfect Goodness Part I

As the previous posts indicated, these responses are too big for a single post. The answer will be divided into two parts. This is the first of two parts.

The previous chapter considered God’s perfection while using the word good and perfect as found in Old Testament passages. The section examined the idea of God’s perfect goodness. The previous section also discussed the concept that God is an absolutely perfect being with perfect goodness as an attribute. God’s perfect goodness exists in all possible worlds making it a necessity not a contingent quality. Also, when good (tob) appears concerning God or by God the word carries the same weight as the word perfect (tamim).

This chapter will focus on God’s perfect goodness using New Testament passages. The most succinct statement made concerning God’s perfection in the New Testament comes from the mouth of his son, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

As with the previous chapter, the first step is to understand the word usage by the authors of the New Testament as it relates to perfect and good. There are thirty-four occurrences of the word perfect in the New Testament. The New Testament uses ten different Greek words translated as perfect. Of the thirty-four occurrences, twenty-six of them are traceable back to a single root, τέλειος téleios.[1] This source contributes to the two most used adjectives for the word perfect, τέλειος and τελειόω.

Τέλειος carries the most weight indicating a sense of completeness, being in need of nothing. In general, this can give the meaning of being blameless or possessing all required qualities. Spiros Zodhiates states, “When used in a moral sense referring to God’s expectation of us, it means entirely blameless. A ‘perfect gift’ in James 1:17 means one that has all the necessary qualities. In James 1:4, ‘that ye may be perfect’ means that you may keep yourself ‘unspotted from the world.’ It has a similar meaning in Matthew 5:48; 19:21; Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:28.”[2] It is this word Matthew uses to quote Jesus as he referred to the Father as perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Τέλειος is also used to refer to a sense of completeness. Τέλειος can refer to an adult as fully grown, complete in mind, ethics, and morals.  Τέλειος is also used to refer to perfection in both an absolute and relative sense. God’s perfection is absolute, while man’s perfection is relative.[3] Finally, the usage can be comparing the complete to the partial, Zodhiates declares:

Tó téleion, perfect, in the neut. means the complete one in contrast with tó ek mérous (ek [1537], of; mérous [3313], a part), that which is in part. Tó téleion, therefore, indicates the ultimate goal of heavenly perfection as contrasted with the immediate and merely partial experience of saints on earth (1 Corinthians 13:10). In 1 John 4:18 teleía agápē ([26], love), the perfect love, means the love which is mature, not lacking boldness or confidence and therefore not hampered by the insecurity or anxiety which are characteristic of immature love.[4]

Τέλειος is an often used Greek word found in the New Testament as perfect. One could use this word to describe any attribute of God. For instance, one could declare God’s knowledge is Τέλειος because it lacks nothing. This is the word Jesus used to refer to the Father (Matthew 5:48 NA28).

The next most often used Greek word for perfect is τελειόω teleióō.[5] The primary meaning relates to completeness, such as being perfect for completing a task. Gerhard Delling details some of the usage of τελειόω:

In the NT τελειόω means a. “to fulfil,” “to carry out,” e.g., a required course (→ τρέχω) in the sense of a received commission, Acts 20:24. It also occurs in this sense in John. Deuteronomy 8:3 (cf. Matthew 4:4) is reconstructed in Johannine fashion in John. 4:34 and referred to Jesus. The life of Jesus consists in doing the will of God (→ III, 55, 17 ff.), i.e., in carrying out the work of salvation (→ II, 642, 37 ff.), in doing this in the works, the preaching and the deeds which are given Him by the Father and the performing of which is witness that He is sent by the Father, 5:36.[6]

John uses τελειόω mainly in the active aorist form. Elsewhere Delling details the use of τελειόω in the passive perfect:

In Jn. τελειόω (→ lines 17 ff.) occurs in active aorist forms, but elsewhere we find passive perfect forms, e.g., in 1 John., where τελειόω denotes the completeness or perfection of the love of God or of the Christian in love, 4:18. The ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ has “come to entirety” in the man who keeps God’s Word, i.e., His commandments (v. 4), 1 John. 2:5, in those who love one another, 4:12.[7]

Gelling further defines the ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ:

What is meant by ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ is God’s love for us, which manifests its completeness in the fact that it allows us to look forward without fear to the Last Judgment, 4:17; → 75, 13 ff. If a man lives in this fear, his being is not fully controlled by love (→ 81, 27 f.), 4:18. The choice of the verbal form instead of the adjective underlines the fact that only in παρρησία (→ V, 879, 33 ff.) in the judgment, only in brotherly love, in obedience, does the love of God achieve totality in the lives of Christians.[8]

Delling completes his discussion on this usage as it relates to completeness:

The verbs τελέω and τελειόω coincide in the NT especially in the sense “to carry through,” “to complete” (→ 59, 13 ff.; 81, 16 ff.). Whereas this is the chief meaning of τελέω, the thought of totality is stronger in the case of τελειόω, → 81, 27 ff. The findings suggest for τελέω the meanings of τέλος, “goal,” “issue,” “end” (→ 54, 17 ff.) and for τελειόω those of τέλειος, “whole,” “complete,” “perfect” (→ 73, 26 ff.).[9]

Not all uses of τελειόω are to speak concerning flawless, but some as listed speak to the idea of completeness. Even though there are other words in Koine Greek one can find, these two represents a major portion of the usage of the word perfect as found in the New Testament.

The word good, translated from the Koine Greek, appears over two-hundred-fifty times in the New Testament. Two words account for two-hundred-and-one times. The two roots are ἀγαθός and καλός. Another word translated as good news is used fifty-four times in the New Testament (εὐαγγελίζω). The word, εὐαγγελίζω, while being important does not directly affect the discussion at hand.

The prior chapter pointed out the most common word for good in the Old Testament is טוֹב. The LXX is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. By far the word most often used in the LXX for טוֹב is ἀγαθός. Of the four-hundred-thirty-nine times good appears in the LXX two-hundred-sixty-six times טוֹב translates directly into ἀγαθός.[10] Therefore, many of the comments from the previous discussion concerning טוֹב found in the last chapter apply to ἀγαθός. These different usages are but not limited to, possessing desirable qualities, moral excellence, kind and benevolent, adequate, sufficient, not deficient, not blemished, pleasure-giving, and happy.[11]

Walter Grundman speaks to the primary use of ἀγαθός as found in the New Testament:

The NT shares with Hellenism and Judaism a predominantly religious basic attitude. This is determined by God, to whom are referred by Jesus the most important words enshrining the OT declaration: εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός (Matthew 19:17, or: οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός, Mark and Luke). The personal concept of God makes it impossible to use neutral expressions. ἀγαθός expresses the essential goodness of God which consists in His goodness or kindness.[12]

The condition as found in the Old Testament also exists in the New Testament, when good exists either by God or concerning God it carries the same weight as the word perfect.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), #5049.

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), #5046.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., #5048.

[6] Gerhard Delling, “Τέλος, Τελέω, Ἐπιτελέω, Συντελέω, Συντέλεια, Παντελής, Τέλειος, Τελειότης, Τελειόω, Τελείωσις, Τελειωτής,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Co., 1964), p. 81.

[7] Ibid., pp. 81–82.

[8] Ibid., p. 82.

[9] Ibid., p. 84. For further collaboration of this usage refer to, William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 996.

[10] Search results developed using tools found in Logos Bible Software 7.0 SR-, Copyright 2000-2016 Faithlife Corporation Bellingham, Washington. Assisted in the search were the following resources: Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1909), and James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995). Also, Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint: Revised Edition (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 2003).

[11] Walker, p. 1277.

[12] Walter Grundmann, “Ἀγαθός, Ἀγαθοεργέω, Ἀγαθοποιέω, -Ός, -Ία, Ἀγαθωσύνη, Φιλάγαθος, Ἀφιλάγαθος,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), p. 15.

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