Below are the three passages where we can read about Jesus claim that “none is good but one, and that is God”. His statement has often been misunderstood in two ways 1) the idea that Jesus denies he is God (which he does not deny), and 2) the idea that no one apart from God can ever be considered good and we can forget about ever doing something that is considered righteous (which he does not say).
Matt. 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Markus 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Lukas 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Jesus does not argue against being God, and let us not forget that God the Father himself calls Jesus God in Hebr. 1:8 (to mention one verse among many supporting the deity of Jesus). The rich ruler called Jesus ”Good Master”, and it seems like Jesus wanted him to reflect about his own statement. Does the man realize what he is saying and is he aware of who he is asking for advice? Jesus is not only a good master, but he can also forgive sins – which only God has the authority to do. Moreover, if Jesus would claim to not be God, we would have quite a few Bible contradictions to battle.
Notice also that the question was what to DO in order to inherit eternal life, and that Jesus did not answer “just believe and do nothing”. Instead, Jesus answers the question by highlighting the commandments of God which are these: “Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother”. When the rich ruler answers back that he has observed those commandments since youth, Jesus does not argue that such complete obedience is impossible but rather explains that the rich ruler still lacks one thing – to sell his many possessions and distribute the money to the poor. Here too we must try to understand what Jesus is saying. He is likely using a hyperbole since it would not be logical to ask the rich ruler to sell 100% of all this possessions. Not even Jesus and his disciples had done that themselves and Jesus was no hypocrite. Jesus was likely referring to the excess of possessions owned by the rich ruler, and that his heart was not entirely right before God. He was likely more concerned with his valuable possessions than having a prosperous connection with God.
If there is only one person (or God) who is good, does this mean the rest of human kind as well as angels are considered bad? No one can of course compare his/her goodness with the goodness of God, but if we have been cleansed from our sins then surely we must be considered “good” (as long as we remain clean) since we have no sins left on our sin accounts. Babies might be considered neutral (they are not aware of the law), but since they have not done anything worthy of being called evil, another alternative is to label them “good”.
Isaiah 7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
Rom. 9: 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
Jesus expected his disciples (who had already sinned earlier in their lives) to be perfect as their Father. Unless Jesus is lying, we can all be considered perfect if we live righteous lives:
Matt. 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The question is rather what Jesus might mean with being “perfect”. We already know it does not mean “to never having sinned and to never sin even once for the rest of your life”, because Jesus was talking to his disciples who had already sinned. Anyone can repent for past sins and become totally cleansed and perfect. Anyone can continue on the righteous path by being led by the holy Spirit and avoid evil. The promise is:
Gal. 5:16 —Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
The Bible tells us that there are indeed GOOD individuals
”Good” is in Matt. 19:17, Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 translated from the Greek adjective ἀγαθός (agathos Strong’s 18) which means good, generous, friendly, etc. There are other words which describe good and righteous individuals, but let us focus on this particular term. Joseph and Barnabas are two examples of good people according to the Bible:
Luke 23:50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a GOOD man, and a just
Acts 11:22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.—24 For he was a GOOD man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
Through Biblical parables and analogies, we can see that individuals can be labelled as “good”:
Matt. 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.—21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Luke 19:16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
Matt. 22:9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Matt. 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Matt. 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
Matt. 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
There were even good slave owners (masters) during this time:
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
Do read about the expression “filthy rags” from Isaiah 64:6 here.