10 Key Bible Verses on Goodness

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Galatians 5:22–23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The Spirit fights against sin not merely in defense but also in attack by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus in the Gospels. Love appears first because it is the greatest quality (1 Cor. 13:1–13; 2 Pet. 1:5–7) in that it most clearly reflects the character of God. Joy comes in at a close second, for in rejoicing in God’s salvation Christians show that their affections are rightly placed in God’s will and his purpose (see John 15:11; 16:24; Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8; Jude 24; etc.). Peace is the product of God having reconciled sinners to himself, so that they are no longer his enemies, which should result in confidence and freedom in approaching God (Rom. 5:1–2; Heb. 4:16). Patience shows that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work. Kindness means showing goodness, generosity, and sympathy toward others, which likewise is an attribute of God (Rom. 2:4). Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself; Paul mentions it again in Gal. 6:10. Faithfulness is another divine characteristic; it means consistently doing what one says one will do. Gentleness is a quality Jesus attributes to himself in Matt. 11:29; it enables people to find rest in him and to encourage and strengthen others. Self-control is the discipline given by the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to resist the power of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:17). Against such things there is no law, and therefore those who manifest them are fulfilling the law—more than those who insist on Jewish ceremonies, and likewise more than those who follow the works of the flesh surveyed in vv. 19–21.

2. Romans 12:21

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Burning coals is quoted from Prov. 25:21–22. Most interpreters think Paul is teaching that the Christian is to do good to people so that they will feel ashamed and repent, and that sense is possible. But in the OT “burning coals” always represent punishment (2 Sam. 22:13; Ps. 11:6; 18:8, 12–13; 140:10), so another interpretation is that Paul is repeating the thought of Rom. 12:19: Christians are to do good to wrongdoers, recognizing that God will punish them on the last day if they refuse to repent. Overcoming evil with good will ordinarily include acts of kindness toward evildoers, but it may sometimes also include the “good” (Rom.13:4) of the civil government stopping evil through the use of superior force (military or police), as Paul explains in 13:3–4.

3. Titus 2:11–14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Paul gives the theological basis for the lifestyles he has described in Titus vv. 1–10. Christians should live this way because (“for”) the grace of God that saves also instructs its recipients to live in a new way. One cannot truly claim to be a recipient of saving grace without also being a pupil of “training grace.” This change in lifestyle is rooted in the atonement (Titus2:\14) and the expectation of Christ’s return (Titus 2:13).

Paul anchors his call for godliness in the fact that one purpose of Jesus’ death was to make his people holy. To forsake godliness is to despise the sacrifice of Christ. Paul roots this in the OT with the phrase to redeem us from all lawlessness, which in Greek closely resembles the Septuagint of Ps. 130:8. A people for his own possession translates an unusual phrase (Gk. laon periousion) with intentional echoes from the OT (see esp. Ex. 19:5; Mal. 3:17). It has the sense of “prized, treasured possession.” These people are to be zealous for good works, so again redemption is tied specifically to living in a godly manner. There is no room for claiming to be redeemed while providing no evidence of practical transformation (see James 2:14–26).

4. Luke 6:35

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

love your enemies. Keeping the commands of Luke 6:35a results in your reward being great (cf. Luke 6:23). You will be sons does not mean “you will become sons” but “you will demonstrate that you are sons” by imitating God’s care and compassion even for those who are evil. For Most High as an expression for God.

5. Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Salvation is not by works. If it were, then those who are saved would get the glory. created … for good works. Salvation is not based on works, but the good works Christians do are the result and consequence of God’s new creation work.

6. Galatians 6:9–10

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

While believers await their rewards (Galatians 6:7–9) they should do good. The primary focus should be on serving those in the church, but never to the exclusion of people in the wider world. As Jesus made clear (e.g., Matt. 6:33), the Christian’s primary allegiance is to the kingdom of God, with God as our heavenly Father (Matt. 6:9, 32; 12:50; cf. Matt. 8:21–22), rather than to friends, the workplace, school, sports, or to anything else, even earthly families.

7. Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The Lord desires the primary forms of love—justice (do justice), mercy (love kindness), and faithfulness (walk humbly)—as the expressed response of his people to his redemptive acts (Matt. 23:23; cf. Deut. 10:12–13; 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11–17; Hos. 6:6). your God. The complement to “my people” (Mic. 6:3, 5).

8. Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The world will see the light of the kingdom through the good works done by Jesus’ disciples (and believers today), with the result that the Father who is in heaven will be glorified.

9. 1 Timothy 6:17–19

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Charge to the Rich. The charge directly to rich believers may seem unexpected in this place. However, it provides a corrective to the wrong view of wealth seen in the false teachers. Furthermore, the downplaying of riches by stressing that they are merely for “this present age” appropriately follows the moving description of appearing before God on the final day (TItus 6:15–16). The call for the wealthy to use their wealth to prepare for the future either means that how they use their wealth demonstrates whether they are saved, or that they should seek for greater reward in heaven, or both.

10. Hebrews 10:23–25

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Let us hold fast. The second exhortation of Heb.10:22–25 calls forth a faithful, unwavering embrace (see Heb. 3:6, 14) of the confession of our hope, i.e., the church’s assent to the teachings concerning Christ and his work (see Heb. 3:1; Heb. 4:14; cf. 2 Cor. 9:13; 1 Tim. 6:12), teachings that produce hope (Heb. 6:18–20; 7:19). for he who promised is faithful. Confident hope in God’s promises (see Heb. 6:12–20) stems from God’s trustworthy character (also Heb. 11:11).

let us consider. The third and final exhortation in Heb.10: 22–25 calls for serious thinking about other Christians with a purpose to stir up (or “provoke”) them in their love and service (good works). Christian perseverance is thus also a community endeavor. meet together. Community encouragement toward perseverance requires being together. That some were neglecting this duty may have been among the motives for the author’s warnings throughout this book. encouraging. Voicing exhortation with the goal of strengthening another’s faith (Heb.3:13; cf. Heb.13:22). the Day drawing near. The coming day of Christ’s return and judgment (9:28; 10:37).

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