Worshiping Our Great and Good God
Summary: God is both good and great. But these terms are not synonyms. They celebrate different parts of His character, and we can use both of them in worship.
In my last post, I described how to learn the basics of worship. In this post, I want to focus on the greatness of God and the goodness of God, and how they are different.
We’ve often heard it said that God is good. And we’ve often heard of God’s greatness. But we must not equate the two. We can use both in worship. But we’re worshiping God for two different aspects of who He is.
When I was going to Bible College, one of my professors, in a deeply moving moment, went to the platform and stood behind the pulpit. He declared that we praise God, for He is good, and He is great. And then he expounded the difference. I want to do the same here. Let’s dive in!
Not the Same
We can be thankful God is good. And we can be thankful God is great. But we must be careful not to say they are the same thing. Even in the English dictionary, good and great mean different things. It is no less true when we consider God’s character.
Throughout the Psalms, psalmists speak of God’s goodness. They talk about what God has done for Israel and worship Him for His goodness. But the Psalms also talk about God’s greatness. We do ourselves a world of good in worship when we don’t mix these two things.
One word speaks of God’s inner character, part of what makes Him who He is. The other word describes what God does. Both are worthy words for worship. We can use both words in our worship. But we should use them in the proper context.
The Greatness of God
When we say that God is great, we speak of His transcendence above all creation. God is great because there is no one and nothing like Him. He is good because of what He does, but He is great because of who He is, His divine qualities surpassing all other things.
The transcendence of God means He was before all things. As Creator of everything, God existed before all things. He could have existed alone, without the universe or anything in it. His greatness means we can’t compare Him with anything in creation.
God is wholly other than His creation. He is above it. He is beyond it. Creation could be destroyed, and God still exists. His existence is not contingent on the things He has created. He would be righteous and just if he allowed creation to decay and pass away because of sin. We must not misunderstand. God did not have to save creation.
But because He stepped in, even entered into His own creation as a man, this makes Him even greater. This is why we worship Him. He came for wretches like us, put on human flesh, and paid the price we should pay for sin.
God was already great, and would be great if He had created nothing. He was already worthy of praise. It was already glorious. It did not take Him lifting a finger for Him to be great. It is part of who He is. But in doing what He has done, He is even more worthy of praise from our limited human perspective.
Because He came and saved us, “put skin in the game,” so to speak, God is greater to us. In fact, because He did what He did not have to do, it elevates Him in our eyes. God has done so many things for you and me throughout our history.
The Goodness of God
When we talked about God’s goodness, we refer to the good things He has done for us, and throughout history. We can thank God for His goodness to us and to others. We can praise God for His good deeds which we have witnessed, or for His deeds we have heard about.
We can praise God along with another saint who has experienced His goodness in their lives. We can praise God for creating the universe. We were not there for it, but we are part of its results. We can thank God for destroying evil in our lives and the world.
In all these good things God does, we worship Him. We celebrate God’s goodness, seeing it in the good things He does. So, goodness is part of His character, and He does good things as an action. James says all good things come from God (James 1:17).
This makes Him a good God. He continues to interact with humanity, to steer us in the right direction, to make us holy, and to sacrifice for us over and over. From the beginning of time, God has been sacrificing to offer us salvation.
It began in the Garden of Eden when He sacrificed an animal to put skins on them. It continued through giving the sacrificial system when Israel could not obey His commandments, rules, and statutes. He has always given us a way to come to Him despite our frailties and faithlessness.
God is good because He offered His own Son’s life on the cross. Jesus came into His creation, became like us, became one of us. Then He offered His perfect and innocent life on the Cross to provide an ultimate sacrifice for each of us.
Jesus died for everyone, those who accept Him and those who don’t. He died willingly, gave up His life, even if some will not accept His Lordship and salvation. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord (Romans 14:11). But he died willingly, knowing that there will be some who do not repent and accept His sacrifice.
God’s goodness is part of His character, for out of His goodness He acts on our behalf. But everything He does has the quality of being good. God cannot do evil things. He cannot be evil. He can only do what fits into His character.
So, we worship God for His goodness and His good works toward us. When you praise the Lord, you must personalize your worship. You can begin with God’s acts throughout history. But you need to include your personal history with God. Glorify Him for what He has done for you, not just the world.
We worship God and praise Him for the greatness in His character and the good things He does. We give Him glory because He is worthy of it. God is great because He is morally good. If He was evil in His deeds, He would not be great. So, we worship God because He is both great and good.
Think of all the good things God has done in your life. Make a list, and use it to praise God for everything He has done for you. Now think of how you know God is great. Worship Him because of His greatness. Begin with the big picture, but moved to the personal ways you have witnessed His greatness and goodness.
Now that we have distinguished between the goodness and greatness of God, next we will describe the practice of worshiping God with our minds and thoughts.