September 8, 2014
“First, the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.” (Steve Martin).
I took a break from the unrelenting news cycle over the weekend to get a couple of runs in with one of my mileage buddies. He posed an intriguing thought: why aren’t there any news channels that specialize in only good news? They’d be alone in the space; all the rest seem to be scrambling to pack more pain between commercial breaks than their competitors…
If you’ve spent time around the places where the Bible is the basis for the things in discussion, you know that good news is a synonym for gospel; often, when the original language says, simply, “good news,” Gospel comes into the English translation.
We call the biographies of Jesus – Matthew/Mark/Luke/John – “the Gospels,” because they introduce the One who was – and, who brought – the Good News. In those four books, gospel/good news appears about 25 times. In the 21 Epistles, the same reference is used nearly 85 times.
Good News is a great overarching descriptor, but – like ice cream or fine wine – it comes in a variety of distinct flavors.
When Jesus began His ministry, His message was not detailed by Matthew, but the headline was intriguing: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news (gospel) of the Kingdom, and healing.” (Matthew 4:23). That particular good news message – “the Gospel of the Kingdom” – was recurrent in Jesus’ teaching, and He said that it would be communicated to every people group on the planet before His return (Matthew 24:14).
Decades later, Paul would remind the believers in Corinth of the particular good news that introduced them to Jesus: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:2-5). The Gospel of Salvation is a specific collection of truths that, once embraced, brings life to the lost.
Two Gospels – the Gospel of Salvation, that begins our life of faith – and the Gospel of the Kingdom, that is also good news… but, different!
Through 1500 years of Christian history, the Gospel of Salvation became buried by the residue of religious dogma that had departed from simple biblical truth. The Reformers rediscovered the clear wisdom of Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” – and that understanding sent shock-waves around the institution that had fallen into a deadly misunderstanding: that works prescribed by the church could earn one’s salvation, apart from faith. Bad News buried Good News.
For the believers who found life in the Gospel of Salvation… was their message from conversion to heaven going to be limited to the replay of the good news that brought them to spiritual life? Or, was there more good news for them?
God has good news for every human, in both spiritual conditions. For the lost, the Gospel of Salvation is the most important thing for them to hear and engage. Once their response to the offer of grace – through faith – proves its power… what does God have to say to the one who is now Alive in Christ?
Two Gospels; both powerful; both sourced in God the Revealer. One brings life from death; the other brings meaning to life. We Evangelicals tend to replay one of them, constantly; are you as clear about the Gospel of the Kingdom as you are the Gospel of Salvation?
One brings forgiveness; the other brings greatness. Are you one gospel short of greatness?
More next week…