And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:18–19)

Why did Christ make this distinction between Himself and God, and in what sense can Christ not be good?

  • Are you sure he was?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 21:50
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    If the man recognizes Jesus is good, why does he call Him good? If no one is good except God, the man should address Jesus as God, not as teacher. Commented May 1, 2023 at 4:57
  • That's what the attitude of a servant should be. It shows humility and focus on God for teachings. It was a rhetorical answer.
    – Michael16
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 7:32

6 Answers 6


The rich young ruler has approached a 'teacher' on earth and called him 'good'. And has asked advice from this (supposed) 'teacher' (who is supposedly 'good') how he might inherit eternal life.

Jesus is aware of the man. Clearly, for later he touches a nerve and puts his finger on the one thing that the young man did not want to relinquish.

To the ruler, Jesus faces what the man is not facing : the fact of law and the fact of broken law and the fact of sin.

'Teacher' is not 'Saviour'.

The man wants to be 'taught' how to inherit eternal life. he has not yet learned the lesson of the law, that there is none good, no not one. None can rise to the absolute requirements of law. None, that is, who is flesh and blood and born of Adam.

None that is born of the man of sin and death, which humanity has - already - chosen the way of works, the way of knowledge, the way of self-reliance and self- righteousness.

So, Jesus starts at the beginning : the commandments.

And the man thinks he has kept them all.

So Jesus homes in on the covetousness of the man's inner spirit.

And discovers the real state of the man's heart.

Jesus does not reveal his own personal state. Jesus does not comment on whether, or not, he is 'good' (or, indeed, whether or not he is 'God').

Jesus is answering the man's question.

And, in so doing, Jesus fully discovers the man's existing spiritual condition.

Other scriptures tell us more about Jesus himself.

This one reveals only the state of the heart of the rich young ruler.

Why do you call me 'good' ? does not tell us whether or not Jesus thinks of himself as 'good'.

'There is none good but God' does tell us that Jesus' definition of 'good' is not that generally accepted by humanity who, mostly, think one can be 'good' by keeping law.

But Jesus' words indicate that real goodness goes much deeper. Giving up all and following Jesus is the 'goodness' that Jesus indicates will be that which inherits eternal life : a 'goodness' that is impossible to man in the flesh, working at keeping law to perfect himself.

Jesus' words go very deep.

'Never man spake like this man' said some, of Him.

Indicating, by the way, that although 'come of woman' he is not of man . . .

. . . . but, of God.


Let's note what He did not say. He did not say, "I am not good." He did not say, "I am not God." He posed a difficulty for the man who called him good, without saying how to resolve it.

We later get explicitly from the book of Hebrews (Heb 4:14-15) how this is resolved:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.

Since there is none good but God (Jesus said so right there) and Jesus is good (not just Hebrews, but the whole N.T.), then Jesus is God (John 1:1, and elsewhere).

So why didn't He resolve it then and there? He did have a habit of making people answer their own questions (as with the Good Samaritan story). And saying "I am good because I am God" would not have gone well in that environment. :)

  • 1
    "Jesus is good (not just Hebrews, but the whole N.T.)" - Providing scriptural identification for this comment would be beneficial.
    – agarza
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 17:11
  • @agarza The onus is on those who claim that the Son of God was not God incarnate on earth to admit that they are effectively saying Jesus was not good (even though they might say he was a sinless man). Do you admit that Jesus was NOT good? If so, what scriptures can you quote to back up that belief? Before challenging someone to give scriptural proof that 'the whole N.T.' shows Jesus to be good, have your own proof of the opposing view, and don't be shy at presenting it.
    – Anne
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 11:09
  • Just do an Internet search like "Jesus sinless Bible" and you're good. Still, here's one page that provides several citations including that one: bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Jesus-Christ,-Sinlessness. I also included verse# in the post now. Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:00

The Greek word kalos, meaning “good” is used only for God's creations. Kalos is never used for God. God is called good with agathos, another Greek word for “good.” as Luke 18:18-19 on Bible Hub shows.

When Jesus was addressed as “Good [agathos] Teacher.” in Luke 18-18-19, Jesus clearly stated that only God should be called agathos/good and indicated that he, Jesus, is not that one who is to be called agathos.

As Bible Hub also shows, Jesus calls himself “the good [kalos] Shepherd.” - Jn 10:11. not the agathos sheperd. Note too that true Christians are also “good” [kalos] just like Jesus! - 1 Tim. 4:6, 1 Peter 4:10, .

God's creations is called kalos/good not agathos/good in Genesis 1:31 1Timothy 4:4.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology also admits that in the OT “kalos, as opposed to agathos, is what is pleasing to Yahweh, what he likes or what gives him joy, whereas agathos suggests more the application of an ethical standard.” - p. 103, vol. 2, Zondervan, 1986. And Thayer writes, “Thus even in the usage of the O.T. we are reminded of Christ’s words, Mk. x. 18, [‘no one is agathos except one, God’].” - p. 3, #18, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1984 printing.

That Christ and Christians are called kalos in Scripture shows they are not God.


He did not make any distinction between Himself and God in the first place! Rather the contrary is true:

The Lord affirms clearly that there are good men who take out of good storage of their hearts good things, and bad men, who take from their hearts bad things (as more often than not we all witness) (Luke 6:45).

Is the Lord, humanly speaking, any worse than those “good men” He mentions to exist? Stupid even to suppose so! Thus, if somebody can be called “good” humanly speaking, then the Lord is the first in their elite list, for goodness of men is estimated by their good actions, and the Lord's good actions are second to nobody with regard of empathy, justice or courage.

But then why did not He accept from the youth this appellation? Just because the youth saw in Him only a human dimension and in human dimension every good man is such not per se, but through participation in God's grace, which is per se good and is an uncreated and inseparable aspect of Him who is per se good and provider of grace that goodens the participant.

Now, the Lord reprimanded the youth for not acknowledging in Him the Good per se, the divinity, and in order to underscore this point, He even intimated to the youth that He is not only Perfect, but also the perfection-provider to all who would follow Him ("if you want to be perfect, leave everything and follow Me" /Matthew 19:21/), and the perfection-provider must necessarily be essentially or per se perfect, and such is only God.


Christ was hinting to him that He is God.

'Why do you call me good? There is no one good but God'.

'.... sell all you have give to the poor and come and follow me'.

The command the rich person did not follow, was love God with all your heart soul and mind.


(Note that this answer was originally written for the Christianity.SE site.)

The primary meaning of the word translated as "good", the Greek word ἀγαθός (G18 - agathos - Strong's Greek Lexicon) is "of a good constitution or nature".

God's nature is the very definition of "good".

But Jesus, when he became human, shed his divine nature.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. …
— Philippians 2:7 (NLT)

Jesus was no longer intrinsically good; he was tempted to sin just like any other human being. He was able to resist this temptation though, through the aid of God's holy spirit, just as any converted Christian is capable of doing.

But as a human, Jesus was no more inherently good, of himself, than any other human being.

See also my answer to What is the biblical basis for Jesus having one nature only, a human nature? — Christianity Stack Exchange.

And here is my answer to a related question that was just posted on this site: What mind was in Jesus that the Philippians were advised to also have?

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    @NigelJ. My answers are based on what the Bible says. The Bible never authorized the Council of Nicea, and this question doesn't ask for a Roman Catholic perspective. Commented May 1, 2023 at 0:28
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    @User14, Roman Catholics believe it was. Some other denominations believe it wasn't. I'm more concerned with what the Bible actually says rather than what individual denominations have since decided is true. ¶ For instance, the Catholic Church proudly states that it was the Church, not the Bible, that was the authority for making Sunday, rather than the Sabbath, the weekly solemn day of worship. My answers will generally ignore any such additions or modifications to the Bible's version of things. Commented May 1, 2023 at 0:36
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    "Shed his divine nature" is a very loaded phrase, as Jesus is generally understood to be fully God as well as fully man. Can you elaborate a bit? Do you disagree that Jesus was fully God? Commented May 1, 2023 at 1:12
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    Just read your linked answer; this would be an incredibly out-there fringe view surely, I've never met another Christian who would not immediately condemn such a view as heretical Commented May 1, 2023 at 1:15
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    The NLT translates that verse very poorly (it is not a particularly literal translation) , and it needs to be taken in context with verse 6: "who, although existing in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a slave, by being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6‭-‬7 LSB" Commented May 1, 2023 at 2:33

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