He said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Why did He say this?
Mark 10:17 - 31
ESV - 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
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Critics of Christianity sometimes cite this verse to support their view that Jesus Himself did not claim that He was God. However, that was not Jesus' intent. In fact, He was wanting the young man in the passage to realize the full implications of what he was saying by calling Jesus "good". By ascribing that title to Jesus, the young man was indicating that Jesus was, in fact, God, since only God is truly perfectly good. So Jesus was saying that what He was about to tell the young man in response to his question was not just from a human teacher, but from God Himself, and that the young man should regard it as such. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis pointed out that it is logically inconsistent to say (as many people do), "I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I cannot accept His claim to be God." As Lewis said, “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Why did Jesus refuse to be called "good"? The above question comes from one of the most misunderstood passages of Scripture (Matt 19:16-25). At the outset, this passage appears to support the view that Jesus was denying his divinity. However, a close reading of the passage reveals that Jesus never denied that He was God but was impressed by the address that the man made to him even though he apparently never understood who Jesus truly was. He may have approached Jesus in the same way that he would any Rabbi. It was common in Jesus' day for the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to carry big titles and to expect to be addressed with honor by the rank and file in society (Matt. 23:6-10). My view is that the phrase “Good Master” had been commonly abused by the religious order who arrogated themselves titles that made them demi-gods. Jesus was therefore pointing out that the religious class was undeserving of the salutation because no one was good except God. Now let us look at the passage closely. This unidentified man comes to the scene and makes his salutation, perhaps not conscious of the divine ramification of his greeting. Jesus knew that the man was simply making the usual type of greeting that in the custom of the day was due to a Rabbi. Who was this man? Only the synoptic gospels carry the account. Mark describes the man saying “…here came one running, and kneeled to him…” (Mark 10:17). Luke portrays him as “a certain ruler” (Luke 18:19) while Matthew carries no description of him save for the word “one”. The story is not found in the 4th Gospel. The focus of the message of course was on Christ and his teaching. This perhaps explains why little is known of the questioner. Matthew Henry Commentary makes the following observation of the young man saying “he intended no more than to own and honour him as a good man, but Christ would lead him to own and honour him as a good God; for there is none good but one, that is God.” When He posed the rhetorical question “why callest thou me good?” Jesus was simply drawing the attention of the man to the fact that he had addressed the salutation to the person most deserving of the title. If this was not the case, then Jesus would have declared that the question was wrongly addressed to Him, or that He needed to pray over it and return an answer later. He never did so but proceeded to answer the question, implying that He had accepted the salutation within the divine context that He had set. Jesus reminds the man about the key obligations of the law that God required of the Jews in social relations. Notice that he never touched on the parts of the commandments that addressed obligations to God. Why? Does it mean the man was perfect in observing them? Not really! Jesus was showing the man that even on the set of rules stated, he had actually failed to meet the standards required by God. This puts paid the issue of the adequacy of the Jewish law in leading people into true obedience and devotion. The law demanded of people mechanical compliance rather than leading the people to a fulfilling experience under a life devoted to God. Surprisingly Jesus never rebuked him of this fact but lovingly took the test a notch higher. He chose to strike where his deepest interest lay. Matthew 19:22 says “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” His true center of devotion was in his possessions, his most treasured of things on earth and not in God. This is a lesson to us that we should not divide our devotion between God and the treasures of this world, but how often we are guilty of this sin! Our true spiritual identity is not so much defined by what have, but in whom we have entrusted our hearts.
If we look at the context of this passage, we see the Jesus did not in fact refuse to be called good; He questioned why the rich young ruler called Him good. At this time in Jesus' earthly ministry, He had been publicly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and performing miracles, sings and wonders for about three years. Jesus had, at this point, already fulfilled many of the Old Testament prophecies concerning The Christ or Messiah. More importantly, for understanding this passage, Peter had previously confessed Jesus to be Christ. Jesus had already appeared transfigured to Peter, James and John. Also, by studying the three Scriptural accounts of this event from Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30 along with the passage here from Mark's gospel; we see that Jesus was in fact asking the young man to make a confession as to who Jesus is. We as Christians must always look at context when discerning a meaning of a verse or passage. In so doing we can be assured that we are rightly dividing the Word of truth. In the case of this passage, I have seen scoffers and unbelievers attempt to use this account to deny to divinity of Jesus Christ.
This passage is filled with wonderful insights into Jesus and His Kingdom. However, like most any text it is subject to misinterpretation. This question itself reveals an incorrect assumption about the text. The question assumes that "Jesus refused to be called good." In fact, Jesus' question in Mark 10:18 does not constitute a refusal to be called good. He simply asked the man addressing Him why he had called Him "good." Big difference. Far from a refusal to be called good, Jesus' response was, in fact, the response of a "Good Teacher:" that is, to teach! It was common for Jesus to ask questions as He taught in order to draw people out, to force them to think deeply about important concepts, to emphasize critical issues, and to expose false ideas and irrational thinking. In asking the question, "Why do you call me good?" and then commenting that "No one is good except God alone," Jesus presented this man with a logical argument that should have informed and convinced him of the most important and transforming truth of his life. He simply and succinctly posited two premises from which the man could draw (or not draw) a reasonable conclusion. First, by the man's own statement, Jesus was "good." Secondly, it was (and still is) axiomatic to a devout Jew (or Christian) that "no one is good but God." It would be difficult, if not futile, to argue against either premise as both are overwhelmingly confirmed by scripture, experience and evident reason. So, if both statements are true, then by resistless logic one must conclude that Jesus is God! We could express the argument as a simple syllogism: Premise (A): Jesus is good. Premise (B): No one is good except God alone. Conclusion (C): Therefore, Jesus is God. For a more logical thought progression, we can reverse the order of the premises without sacrificing the validity of the argument or altering the conclusion: Premise (A): No one is good except God alone. Premise (B): Jesus is good. Conclusion (C): Therefore, Jesus is God. Jesus' question and follow up statement constituted a thinly veiled claim to deity and a strong hint as to the radical nature of His "goodness." For us who enjoy the advantage of the completed canon of scripture this is not new information. We are convinced Trinitarians who firmly believe in the deity of Christ. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the man in the text understood the point of Jesus' argument ("he who has ears to hear..."). He apparently did not grasp the reality that the "Good Teacher" he was addressing was actually the author of the very commandments the man claimed to have followed all his adult life. Nor did he understand that Jesus was the one who could give him the free gift of the eternal life he sought to inherit as well as the One whose presence he would enjoy throughout that life in eternity. Only God is good. Jesus is good. Therefore, Jesus is God!
Just one (of many) very simple answer given by Jesus himself as in John 8.54. Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: In Mark 10:18 Jesus did refuse to be called good (it doesn't matter how we are trying to change it) from the answer he gave to the rich. NO ONE IS GOOD EXCEPT GOD ALONE. Why he said this is explained in Philippians 2:6 7 and 8. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross! As in John 11:41 and 42 Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." Jesus show us here one more time how humble he is.
Christ having called attention to Himself by teaching profound truths of God was constantly being tested by individuals. In Mark 12 (https://ebible.com/esv/section/1748) Christ was asked whether it was correct to pay taxes or not, yet the Pharisees were not concerned with the answer, they were trying to trap Him into saying something He could get in trouble for. This man prefaced his question with a compliment to soften a perceived harsh reply or to influence a reply that he wanted to hear. Christ saw through it. First it addressed the insincerity of the questioner and second it revealed something else. We cannot know with 100 percent certainty what He meant. Maybe He meant no distinct part of the Trinity was "good" or "whole" unto itself. Only the three beings working in harmony together can be said to be complete. Maybe He was referring to God the Father's superior position or the fact that He is the source of power for all things. It definitely wasn't referring to Christ's moral nature which is an exact representation of the Father.
After reading all the previous responses, I noticed that all contains truth, and yet still miss a bit of something. My answer might not be fully original, but it should contain some original parts, which is what I think the missing part from the previous responses. So, I intend to complement all the previous answers. Here's what I think God helped me to understand: A young man came and ask Jesus: "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to the person: "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." This sentence gives a first impression that Jesus refused to be called good, because he is not God. But did he? As said in the previous answers, the answer is "no". He is not saying that he is not good, and so please don't call him God. Did he say that he is not God and so please don't call him good? Not either. In fact, we perhaps can darely say that He is actually good, and so He is God. But that's a too-quick conclusion and many would not be too happy to accept it. What I really think he's saying is just like the first answer above, he is just asking this young man to really, REALLY think what he's saying. Does he realize what he is saying? By calling Jesus good, and good=God, then he is calling Jesus God. Will he be ready to accept all the implications/consequences of this? Later we'll see that he is not. Here, nobody brought about the concept that good=God but Jesus Himself. Please keep this in mind. Now, after that Jesus told this man to keep the commandments, and as explained in the previous answers, which is a very good point to note, thank you Sir for pointing this out, all commandments mentioned by Jesus are related to human beings/neighbors, and none to God. Please keep this in mind as well, since we will use this later. And the man said that "All these have I kept from my youth up." Good. That's great. This young man is a very righteous person. But the question is: is that enough? Has he done enough to inherit the eternal life? No. NO, the answer is a big NO. Jesus said "you only lack one thing". Mind you, although Jesus said "only one thing", this could actually be the key. What is it that he's lacking? "Sell everything, give to the poor, (and leave everything) and *COME, FOLLOW ME*". This is the key! FOLLOW HIM. Follow who? God! Remember in the above Jesus only mentioned commandments towards fellow man and none towards God? (Such as "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." etc.) Now we use it here. Because the parts towards God is being used by Jesus to direct this young man TO HIMSELF! Thus, declaring that He is God, and so come, follow HIM. So now Jesus' question as to the *why* that he asks this young man becomes relevant. "Why are you calling me God? If you really think that I am God, will you follow me? Are you not seeking to inherit the eternal life? I am God and I will give you the eternal life. But are you ready to follow me? If you are not ready to follow me, DO NOT CALL ME GOD!" So, in fact, it's not His own identity as God that Jesus denied, but this young man's very own acknowledgement that JESUS QUESTIONED! Jesus would say "Do you really acknowledge that I am God? I don't think so"... and then Jesus proves to him and to the world that He is correct, i.e. that this man only acknowledges Him as God in the mouth, but is never actually ready to ever accept the implications. Jesus knows from the start that this man would not come and follow Him, and so he ask him "why are you calling me God? If you are calling me God, then come, follow me, but because you won't come and follow me, PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME GOD". Again, we see that Jesus could have said "Please do not call me God", NOT because Jesus is not God, but because the person who call Him God could not bear the consequences of calling Jesus God. Simple as that. Also we learn here that to inherit eternal life we must keep the commandments AND follow Jesus as God. Otherwise, don't call Him God.
In Mark 10:18 Did Jesus actually "refuse to be called good"? What actually was his answer and why? Let us see the testimony of the gospel writers. Mk. 10:17-29" And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had † great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s." See also Matt. 19:16-22. And for the context, please notice the emphasis of the question on "man" Mk. 10:17,"what shall (I) do that (I) may inherit eternal life? Also, this trust in what "man" can do was reiterated in Luke 18:9-30, in v-9, "And he spake this parable unto certain which (trusted in themselves) that they were righteous, and despised others...". Moreover, in Mk 10:28-29, even when Peter and the disciples claimed that they (humans) left material things for the sake of Jesus' and the gospel, Jesus categorically denied that claim. All the preceding statements attest to the focus of Jesus' answer. It was to emphasize that "eternal life" is impossible for man (even rich man or apostles they maybe) to achieve on his own. That the "righteousness of God" is not anchored on them; it is a gift of God and by grace. He was even giving a parallel regarding how ridiculous (and easier) it is for the "camel go through the eye of a needle". And Jesus knowing that those around him saw him as a "man", he therefore had to deflect and redirect to a "default answer", that no man, yes "none is good but God". He was there to honor God, his Father. It is clear that, Jesus did not "actually refuse to be called good". Rather, he answered the question with wisdom and emphasis on God who is good and who is the only one who can give "eternal life. There was nothing in the narrative that states Jesus denied his deity, goodness, nor his divinity.
The Lord said that none but God was good. By asking why he called Him (Jesus) "good", He was implying that He WAS God.
Jesus refused to be called good (Mark 10:18), (Luke 18:18-19), (Matthew 19:16-17). Why though did He refuse to take the honor? What is this goodness? This is not human goodness. This is divine goodness. Such goodness can only be imputed on us. It only comes from God. If any human is to be good, it is only from God. The following may be some of the reasons why Jesus refused to be called good; True goodness is of God There is nothing good in flesh Self perceived goodness which only comes out of human pride The sense in repentance and the need to repent True goodness is exclusive to God. Just as Jesus answered the rich man back, only God is good. All are liars, only God is true (Romans 3:4). All humans are of the same seed. For if Adam and Eve sinned, all humans are sinners by way of being the seed of Adam. And if we are to stand true and square, no human would love to be called good in the divine sense. Only God is good because He is not any potential sinner. For God says and does what He intends to. This is not so of humans. For it is proven how even one can be untrue to themselves. Thus Paul writes how he doesn't do what he loves and does what he doesn't love (Romans 7:15-17). Why so? The force of sin. The seed of sin makes it impossible for any goodness to accrue to any human if it is not for the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus' personality though doesn't share in the human sin. For if Jesus' person had shared in the human sin, it would have never made sense that His sacrifice would have stood. But by way of having dressed in the human flesh for the purpose making a sacrifice worthy of saving the humans, and having accepted to carry the sin of the world for the purpose of saving man, Jesus can't have denied to share in the same sin. Thus basing on this, He said well when He denied to be called good. Man is therefore only made worthy by and through Jesus. There is nothing good in flesh. The flesh is only destined to rot. Its sinfulness can be insatiable. For after death, it has no more purpose. The flesh is not looking to anything. It thus can be careless. All that the flesh desires and demands, it does so with strength because other than that, there is hardly a way it gains any profit. Such hopelessness of the flesh can't be any good drive to be good. As humans, and as dressed as so, we only feel the urge and go on to do whatever it requires to give ourselves comfort by being selfish, carry out murder, theft, lie, etc. Why so? For the flesh demands so. There is indeed nothing good in this flesh (Romans 7:18-19). The flesh can never be satisfied by spiritual means. It can't therefore accrue that divine goodness. Jesus therefore by way of having put on the same flesh, He rightly denied to be called good. Self perceived goodness which only comes out of human pride Humans only love to be called good so we can satisfy our human pride. Yet such design and genealogy is not present in us unless we embrace Jesus Christ the perfect man in flesh. For when a Muslim jihadist beheads a person, he thinks he is doing that which is good because it is what his god demands of him. Yet it is only a display of human pride which only comes by devilish ignition. But God through Christ sacrificed Himself to win us to Himself. God is therefore the only one to be called good because He is good with the intent to be good. God is never influenced by anything that be. The sense in repentance and the need to repent All Jesus did was meant for us. He loved us to learn from Him. He had come to show us how we can be accepted of God as children. He therefore denied to be called good because this is exemplary to us. It makes us to learn to humble ourselves when we come to God. We should come to God with emptiness. For any lasting relationship with God begins with admission of sin and followed up with repentance (Luke 13:3). If one believes they are good, what then is the sense of repentance? We all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Only God is therefore good.
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