Godspell ... God's Good News
n the first century AD in a time of severe persecution of the early church and Christians, the Apostle Paul, being anything but politically correct, stated unequivocally, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."1 Or to put it another way the gospel "is God's powerful method of bringing all who believe it to heaven."2
But what is the gospel that Paul was not ashamed of and was so convinced of its reality that he was prepared to face persecution and death? As Webster's Dictionary explains, the meaning of "gospel" is "Godspell, God story, or good news." It is the good news about God's story of his salvation plan for mankind. Specifically, as another has said: "The gospel is a message about God, a message about sin, a message about Jesus Christ, and a summons to faith and repentance."
First, the Gospel is a message about God. The gospel is not a message about religion. It's about having a right relationship with God. Religion tends to want to fix us from the outside in. God wants to fix us from the inside out. The first can become an impossible burden. The latter is what brings freedom. Neither is the gospel a set of rules and regulations. It is experiencing God's divine love, divine acceptance and divine forgiveness—and learning to communicate this to every life we touch.
It helps to realize that God isn't out to zap us for the wrongs we've done. In fact, no matter what we have ever done or have failed to do, God loves us with an everlasting love and has a wonderful purpose for our lives—for this life as well as the next! As Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."3 And again, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness."4
If God is a God of love, why does
he allow so much suffering, sickness
and sadness in today's world?
Second, the Gospel is a message about sin. Many people understandably ask, "If there is a God and if he is a God of love, why does he allow so much suffering, sickness and sadness in today's world? Without sounding too simplistic this is because we have all sinned and separated ourselves from an infinitely holy God.5 It's not that God left us, but rather, we left God and separated ourselves from him—and, in so doing, we separated ourselves from his protection. Furthermore sin has it's own natural consequences that as a human race we have brought on ourselves.
Another misconception about God is that he is out to punish us for our sins when, in fact, we bring sin's punishment on ourselves because sin has its own natural consequences. If we try to break the universal law of gravity, for instance, we can't. It will break us. Neither can we break God's universal moral law. When we do, it breaks us, and besides its painful effects in this life—suffering, sorrow, sickness and physical death—its ultimate and tragic consequence is spiritual or eternal death.
Third, the Gospel is a message about Jesus Christ. God is not only a God of absolute holiness, but also a God of perfect justice. Because of this, all sin has to be judged, the just sentence of which is spiritual and eternal death, which is not the cessation of one's existence but eternal separation from a holy God6—the creator and author of all love and life—in the place the Bible calls hell.
However, the gospel is also about how God is not only a God of absolute holiness and perfect justice but also a God of infinite love. Because of God's infinite love for us, he gave his own Son, Jesus Christ, who came to earth in the form of a man and willingly died in our place on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for all our sins. Because Jesus was without sin, he was the only one qualified to die to pay the penalty for our sins. Had there been any other way to save mankind, Jesus wouldn't have had to die for us.
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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