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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

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Loving-kindness of God, The
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Kindness

An attribute of God and quality desirable but not consistently found in humans.

The main problem in understanding kindness is the fact that it is one of a series of terms that are overlapping and not clearly or consistently distinguishable in meaning. This is true not only in English (kindness, goodness, mercy, pity, love, grace, favor, compassion, gentleness, tenderness, etc.) but also in Greek (chrestos, eleemon, oiktirmon, charis, agape, splanchnon, epieikeia, etc.) and in Hebrew (hesed, tob, rahamim, hemlah, hen, etc.). Consider, for example, the relationship of love, goodness, kindness, and mercy in lu 6:35-36. Nevertheless, although distinctions are not consistent, kindness (like goodness, love) tends to cover a broad range of meaning, with mercy and grace being progressively narrower.

Divine Kindness God's kindness is presupposed or taught throughout Scripture.

It is manifest in what is called "common grace." God is kind to all he has made (Psalm 145:9), even when his creatures are ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35; cf. Matt 5:45). His kindness is intended to lead to repentance, not to rejection of him (Rom 2:4).

In the second place, it is the believer who can truly celebrate God's kindness, even in areas of experience not directly related to salvation from the guilt and punishment of sin. God's kindness is seen in his deliverance of the believer from affliction, fear, and trouble.

Third, God's kindness is manifest in the full salvation that comes through Christ (1 Peter 2:3). Indeed, our salvation derives from the kindness of God (Eph 2:7-8), and it is through continuing in his kindness that we are saved (Rom 11:22).

What is true of God in general is also specifically attributed to Christ, who is gentle (Matt 11:29-30). In this connection, Jesus' kind yoke might better be understood to speak of the fact that it is gently and considerately laid upon his disciple rather than that it is easy to accomplish.

Human Kindness The Scriptures also teach that divine kindness is to be reflected in the human experience. Indeed, expressing kindness to other human beings is more important than performing ritual sacrifice to God (Hosea 6:6; Matt 9:13; 12:7). Thus, we are to love kindness (Mic 6:8) and to be children of the Most High, exhibiting his kindness and mercy (Luke 6:35-36). Even more direct is the simple injunction to be kind (Eph 4:32). Kindness often finds a place in the lists of Christian virtues (1 Col 13:4; Col 3:12). Paul can take the injunction a step further and claim to exemplify kindness in his own life to a degree that commends his ministry as authentic (2 Cor 6:6).

Yet human imitation of God's kindness does not come naturally. In fact, ultimately no one is kind (Psalm 14:3; Rom 3:12). It is only as the fruit of God's Spirit that kindness can be a consistent part of the believer's experience (Gal 5:22).

David K. Huttar

Bibliography E. Beyreuther, NIDNTT, 2:105-6; D. N. Freedman, TDOT, 5:22-36; R. L. Harris, TWOT, 1:305-7; D. K. McKim, ISBE, 3:19-20; K. Weiss, TDNT, 9:483-92; H.-J. Zobel, TDOT, 5:44-64.

 


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Kindness'". "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/bed/view.cgi?number=T407>. 1897.

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