What Is the Highest Good?


God, and God alone, is man’s highest good.” Herman Bavinck

Nearly every Christian has uttered, “God is good.” When we experience a job promotion at work, witness the physical healing in the life of a loved one, the marriage of a godly couple, or receive new possessions, we appropriately praise God for his goodness. To experience goodness and not give thanks to the divine source is the epitome of ingratitude and a step toward apostasy.

But while all Christians have said that God is good, often we miss the fact that God is himself our highest good. And even if we acknowledge this to be true, we seldom pursue God like it is.

This has a profound effect on how we live. The things we pursue are indicative of what we cherish as ultimately good for us. If we don’t grasp that God — and God alone — is supremely good, we abandon the happiness we were meant to know.

The Highest Good

Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, appropriately opens his handbook of theology, Our Reasonable Faith, with these words, “God, and God alone, is man’s highest good.”

What is meant by the expression “highest good”? Originally coined in the Latin, summum bonum, it literally means “the supreme good from which all others are derived.” In other words, God is the source and sustainer of all good. He and he alone, as Bavinck notes, is “the abundant fountain of all goods.” Nothing in this universe is able to produce true goodness, unless the Good Creator is its wellspring.

Furthermore, humanity enjoys this good that God gives and produces. God doesn’t produce a type of good that man is unable to recognize. God’s good is universally good and he shares the knowledge of his goodness with his creatures.

Originally, since humans were created in God’s image and likeness, we had the untarnished resources to not only recognize the goodness of God, but to thank him and honor him for it. However, sin entered into the picture and blinded us. That is what Paul explains in Romans 1. Although man can clearly perceive the goodness of God around him, he doesn’t connect the dots to praise (Romans [1:21]). Worse still, the taint of sin mutes our ability to see God as our highest good.

What the Bible Says

The Bible shows us that Bavinck was right. God, indeed, is good:

“Oh give thanks to the Lᴏʀᴅ, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles [16:34])

Written by Phillip Holmes
Read more at Desiring God

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