A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


According to Jesus only God is good (cf. Matthew 19:16-17; Mark 10:17-18; Luke 18:18-19), whereas in John 10:11, 14 Jesus says that he is good. Now Christians claim that these verses prove that Jesus is Divine because he supposedly calls himself good, and yet only God is good. There seem to be two main problems with this position. First, the word for good in John 10:11, 14 is kalos whereas in the Synoptic Gospels it is agathos. Doesn’t this show that Jesus wasn’t claiming to be just as good as the Father seeing that two different words are being used? Moreover, both Joseph of Arimathea and Barnabas are called good (Luke 23:50; Acts 11:24). If the logic of the Christians was valid then this means that they too are God since they happen to be good! How do Christians avoid escaping the dilemma of their own logic?(1)


First, knowledgeable Christians do not refer to John 10:11 in order to prove that Jesus is God merely because Jesus applies the word "good" to himself, which would indeed be a weak argument, but as evidence to disprove that Jesus was denying his essential goodness in Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-18 and Luke 18:18-19. In other words, it is the anti-Trinitarian, especially the Muslim, who uses Jesus’ statement in these aforementioned Synoptic texts to disprove his Deity, prompting the Trinitarian response that Christ wasn’t denying his absolute goodness but was questioning the man to see whether he had thought through his reasoning since if he had then he would realize that he is basically claiming that Jesus is God. So, this is nothing more than a straw man argument.

For more on this point we suggest reading this article.

With that being said, a careful reading of the immediate context of John 10:11 and 14 will easily prove that Jesus was claiming to be the good Shepherd in the same way that the OT says Yahweh is the Shepherd of his flock:

"‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.’" John 10:1-11, 14-16

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;’" Matthew 25:31-34

"And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.’" Luke 19:9-10

Compare the words of the Lord Jesus with the following OT texts:

"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the fountains, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on fat pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice. As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, rams and he-goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet? Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, I will save my flock, they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep." Ezekiel 34:7-22

In fact, just as Yahweh appoints individuals to shepherd his flock:

"My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever." Ezekiel 37:24-25

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds (poimainein) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." Acts 20:28

Jesus also selects specific persons to care for his sheep:

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed MY lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd (Poimaine) MY sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed MY sheep.’" John 21:15-17

Christ made further claims which only One who believed himself to be God could ever make:

"Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I GIVE THEM ETERNAL LIFE, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’" John 10:25-33

Once again compare the words of the Lord Jesus with the following OT references:

"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39

"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God … The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:2, 6

"For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness," Psalm 95:7-8 ESV

"‘All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?’" Isaiah 43:9-13

Notice the similarities between Yahweh and Jesus:

As if this wasn’t astonishing enough, Jesus says that he is one with the Father right after stating that the latter is greater than all, which in the context refers to those who would try to pluck believers from the Father’s all-powerful hand.

To more fully appreciate the implications of these statements, keep in mind that Jesus’ point is that there is no person who can prevent God from protecting his flock since there is no being that is as powerful as God who can thereby thwart his purposes in preserving his sheep. Yet the Lord Jesus places himself in a unique category since he actually believes that he is his Father’s equal, being one with him in ability and power which is completely unlike anyone else!

Therefore, Jesus’ statement that he and the Father are one obviously refers to oneness in essence and power since Christ is able to do what only the Almighty God can do!

For more on John 10 and its wider context, as well as Jesus’ essential unity with the Father, please read the following articles: 1, 2, 3, 4

Second, some Muslims are under the mistaken assumption that because kalos and agathos are two different words this therefore implies that Jesus, in John 10, wasn’t claiming to be good in the same sense that he said God was good since the two words do not overlap in meaning. These Muslims seem to be assuming that the Greek terms cannot be used interchangeably or synonymously. Yet a careful reading of the Holy Scriptures will demonstrate that a person who is kalos will also be agathos and vice-versa:

"So, every good (agathon) tree bears good (kalous) fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A good (agathon) tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good (kalous) fruit. Every tree that does not bear good (kalon) fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Matthew 7:17-19

A tree that is agathos produces fruit that is kalos, and the fruit being kalos is evidence that the tree is agathos. Both come together.

"So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good (agathe). Did that which is good (agathon), then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good (agathou), in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good (kalos)." Romans 7:12-16

God’s law is called kalos and agathos.

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good (kales) life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom... But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good (agathon) fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity." James 3:13, 17

A life which is kalos produces fruits that are agathos.

All of these passages indicate that when moral qualities or a person, word or deed are discussed, then the two words, kalos and agathos, go together. They are synonyms and can be exchanged without loss of meaning, e.g. in Matthew 7 kalos is used to characterize the fruit but in James 3 it is agathos, yet both passages talk about the same thing, the fruits produced by a genuine spiritual life. It makes no sense to pit kalos against agathos and claim that one can be the first without the latter. They belong together. What this basically means is that for Jesus to be kalos he must also be agathos. More on this shortly.

Third, the point of Jesus in Matthew 19:17 (as well as Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19) is that God is absolutely good and the Source of all goodness. Everyone else is good because God has made him or her such:

"John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven.’" John 3:27

"For who sees anything different in you? What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" 1 Corinthians 4:7

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me." 1 Corinthians 15:10

"And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13

"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence," 2 Peter 1:3

Thus, the reason why Joseph or Barnabas could be called good is solely because of God’s grace. These men weren’t good in and of themselves, unlike the Lord Jesus, as we will see shortly.

Fourth, the word agathos is used of the Lord Jesus in the following text:

"And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man (agathos estin),’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ ... ‘He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and IN HIM there is NO FALSEHOOD.’" John 7:12, 18

Christ is so good that he is absolutely sinless! Jesus’ absolute perfection and purity is affirmed all throughout the inspired NT Scriptures:

"And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him. … Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?" John 8:29, 46

No man could dare say that he always pleases God, and yet Christ could! He could further challenge his opponents to find fault with him, such was his awareness of his own absolute moral perfection. And:

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

"For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

"Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself." Hebrews 7:25-27

"how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." Hebrews 9:14

"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." 1 Peter 1:18-19

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:21-24

"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;" 1 Peter 3:18

"My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1-2

"And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure… You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin." 1 John 3:3, 5

In light of the foregoing it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the NT documents claim that the Lord Jesus is the very Source of goodness, that he is the One who makes someone good, holy and pure:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, FOR APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples." John 15:1-8

"He is the source of your life IN CHRIST JESUS, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption;" 1 Corinthians 1:30

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST and in the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11

"For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’" Hebrews 2:11-12

"And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." Hebrews 10:10, 14

The above texts conclusively demonstrate that it is Christ, and union with him, which produces goodness in a person since he is the One who makes people holy and perfect.

In fact, not only do we find all throughout the inspired books of Luke/Acts that Jesus is called the Holy and Righteous One:

"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the Author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Acts 3:14-15

Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—" Acts 7:52

"Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.’" Acts 22:14

We are also specifically told that forgiveness of sins and sanctification entirely come from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ:

"He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached IN HIS NAME to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:44-47

"When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." Acts 3:26

"God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel." Acts 5:31

"You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Acts 10:36-43

"Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38-39

"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’" Acts 15:7-11

"Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified BY FAITH IN ME.’" Acts 26:15-18

{Note: The reason we chose to quote all of these texts from Luke-Acts is because the two examples of others such as Joseph and Barnabas being good were taken specifically from these books.}

Seeing that all of the above Biblical references affirm that goodness and repentance come to us from God through the Lord Jesus, Christ must therefore be good in exactly the same way and sense which God is. Since the citations we presented emphatically affirm that the Lord Jesus is absolutely pure, completely sinless, and the very Source of goodness, being the One who makes people holy and pure, he must therefore be God.

To put this in simpler terms Jesus Christ, unlike Joseph and Barnabas, is perfectly good because he is God Almighty! Amen.


(1) This argument has been adopted from the following Muslim "rebuttals:" (1, 2).

It is evident from these "replies" that the Muslims either have no clue what the Christian position is or are deliberately distorting it in order to attack a straw man. For example, in the second link Muslim neophyte Sami Zaatari claims that Christians use Matthew 19:16-17 to prove that Jesus is God, which is a gross distortion of the facts. We, therefore, challenge him to quote the particular Christian resource or author that made such a claim.

Yet since Muslim dawagandists are starting to use this argument more often we have decided to address it here once and for all, by God’s grace.

A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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