Paul is stacking these character traits up, one by one, building a wall of love and faithfulness that comes from the Spirit of Christ in our lives. These traits, as we’ve said many times, are all connected as one “fruit.” You can’t have one without the rest. If you have goodness, it’s because you have love, and joy, and peace, etc.
Agathosune is goodness in the form of integrity, authenticity, and honesty. It is virtue in action. It is uprightness of heart and life. Goodness flowing from Christ’s love is goodness truly for the sake of the other person. It is not goodness for the sake of being a virtuous person. Giving a dollar to a homeless man simply because that is what virtuous people do is not agathosune. Taking the time to help the hurting (think Good Samaritan) is agathosune.
The opposite of agathosune is phoniness or hypocrisy. Being two different people in different situations.
Fake goodness is truth without love. Seeming to have honesty or integrity but without the growth or benefit of the other person in mind.
Goodness has to come from God. Why? Because only God is good.
Luke 18:19. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good [agathos]? No one is good [agathos] except God alone.
And we are re-created in Christ in order to do the good works of God.
Ephesians 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good [agathos] works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Colossians 1:10. so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good [agathos] work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
The goodness that we have from Christ’s indwelling life has the power to defeat evil.
Romans 21:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good [agathos].
How is this possible? How does my life of honesty, integrity, and virtue, for the sake of others, defeat evil? That sounds like a bit of an overstatement. But this misses the whole point of Christ and his life. Christ’s life was one big understatement. Born to poor parents in a humble town, a common craftsman’s life, and a ministry that, although spectacular at times, was primarily to the “down and outers.” His death even, was the death of a criminal meant to be forgotten forever.
But this understated life produced the greatest statement in history. His simple life of day by day goodness allowed him to go to the heart of evil and win. Could that still be true for us today? Could the understated good works that we do really cut out the heart of evil around us? Maybe even prevent future evil in the life of a child? Or pull a young man away from evil at just the last moment?
“To live is Christ” means that we have been saved by the goodness of God so that we might display the goodness of God. When we let God’s love for us, which was revealed in his goodness towards us, take hold of our hearts, and weed out fear and guilt, then we are able to live with real integrity- no masks, no lies, no faking. And that kind of life can change the world.
Are you a different person depending on where you are? Have you let the goodness of God towards you produce the freedom from hypocrisy that the world needs? Do you see goodness, virtue, and authenticity increasing in your life, not for you own sake, but for the sake of others?