Monday, July 31, 2006

Just Exactly What Is The Good News?

The word gospel in English comes from two words "good" and "spell" that have been abbreviated into one word. "Spell" is an ancient word from the Latin that is carried over into our English in words like "spelling" or "spellbinder" etc . . . It has to do basically with letters of the alphabet or the composition of those letters into words to form a story or to record the news. So good spell means "good news" and those two words abbreviated form gospel which means "good news."

I am amazed at the number of Christians who forget that the gospel is something you tell, not something you do. A quick test: Think of the gospel as you know it --- now tell it without asking anyone to "do" anything. Can you?

I am afraid that the good news for many evangelicals has been tainted. An evangelist is a reporter of the good news, not a producer of the good news. You can't add or subtract from the good news --- all you can do is proclaim it.

Just exactly what is the good news?

I propose that the good news, the gospel itself, is the ATONEMENT of Jesus Christ.

The word "atonement" is used many times in the Old Testament but only once in the New Testament: in Romans 5:11 -- that is, in the King James Version. It is a theological word with a rather unusual etymology.

Most of the terms or words used to describe Scriptural doctrines in the English language are words which have been derived either from the Greek or from the Latin. But that is not true for the word "atonement." It was invented by English or Anglo-Saxon translators of the Bible to translate the Greek (katallege) and Hebrew (kaphar) words that have no English equivalent.

In English "atonement" is a noun formed by two small words: "at" and "one." The word "atonement" suggests, therefore, a making one out of that which had been divided, or a dwelling together of two people once at odds.

One of the basic ideas of the Hebrew and Greek words for "atonement" is that of covering. The atonement is that which covers or hides. "Atonement" represents a debt which is paid, and thus "covered." One might illustrate this idea by speaking of a debt at a bank. If a person is unable to make payment on the debt which he owes to the bank, and if a friend volunteers to pay this debt for him, then that debt is covered and the man is free from all obligation. Such is the idea of atonement.

The word "atonement" as a theological term treats the relationship which exists between God and man.

The word suggests, in the first place, that there is a unity or oneness between God and man -- an "at-one-ment" because of the person and work of Christ.

Secondly, however, the word implies that there once was something which divided God and man. That something was the sin of man in which he walked in rebellion against God.

Thirdly, atonement points to the way God found to unite Himself to sinful man, by means of a payment which removes the guilt of sin.

Finally, there is implied in the word "atonement" a consciousness within a person that the evil which formerly divided has now been removed.

The good news is simply the death of Christ on behalf of sinners.

In our modern day we can talk about religion, love for God, the love of God, and all other subjects without persecution, but once you start proclaiming the good news the demons of hell are unleashed.

My prayer is that evangelical Christians, including Southern Baptists, will not fall into the trap of emphasizing man made rituals or traditions, and will stay focused on our job of reporting the good news --- it is the power of God unto salvation to all those who believe.

In His Grace,



Bryan Riley said...

And that we would do so as one body, not just as one denomination, setting aside arguments over non-essentials and fulfilling the Great Commission as one in Christ. Thank you for the excellent post.

Terry Hamblin said...

Absolutely. That alone is what unites Christians. Everything else is secondary.

Scotte Hodel said...

Thanks for reviewing the fundamentals - if I can use the word - and for the warning against man-mande traditions. These two precepts (gospel, atonement) are necessary and essential components of our foundation in faith.

On the other hand, call me a weirdo, but I think that if we reduce the great commission to mere speaking we're losing something.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.".

The gospel is most certainly something that is spoken. Discipleship, however, involves action and service, which one missionary told me is "the nitty gritty of missions."

That's not quite the point of your post, but it is another truth that I find missing in many Christian lives (often including my own).

Bryan Riley said...

Good comment Urshe. It would seem that "make disciples" in many ways became make converts.

Dave Miller said...

I am reeling just a little bit today because of something that happened Sunday in my church - something that illustrates one of the problems we face today.

I got a call this morning from my associate, who told me that during the offering at our second (traditional) service Sunday, one of the ushers came back down the aisle and spoke to a visitor. While taking up the offering, the usher had noticed he was wearing a hat. He came back down the aisle and told the visitor that he needed to either remove the hat or leave the church. The man, of course, left the church.

I wish I knew who the visitor was. I would call him and beg his forgiveness. this man came to hear the Word of God and was asked to leave because he WORE A HAT!

The thing about it is, the usher who did this is a really good guy. In his mind, he was doing the work of God. He was defending the honor and holiness of our Lord by enforcing standards in the church of Jesus Christ.

But I sit here wondering how any follower of Jesus Christ could think that way. To my usher, it is better for someone NOT to hear the Word of God than to hear it wearing a hat.

So, my head spins. I have been preaching about how we need, as a church, to develop an aggressive strategy to reach this city for Christ, and a man comes in to our fellowship and is asked to leave. WOW! I guess I am not the golden-voiced communicator of truth I thought I was.

Is it possible that this illustrates one of the generational issues we are facing in our convention?

David Brazzeal said...

I think Jesus defined the "good news" in Mark 1:14-15: After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

My translation: "This moment is ripe, ready to be picked. The kingdom of God is all around you. Rethink your life and and let it trust this good news.

The good news is that we can be a part of God's reign of peace, love, justice, goodness, righteousness, restoration, renewal, healing, wholeness, etc, right now, today, where ever we are at. When we bring it to others it comes upon us. We play a role in making it happen as we live through him and He lives through us.

Just my thoughts...

Bob Cleveland said...


Being the simple soul that I am, I searched my computer bible on "good news" in the New Testament (NIV) and got a couple dozen references.

Good news of the Kingdom (presumably that He's a King and has subjects)
Good news of God.
The kingdom is near .. repent and believe the good news.
Gabriel's description of the coming of the Savior was called good news.
John exhorted the people and preached good news to them
Good news for the poor .. freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release to the oppressed.
"They never stopped .. proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."
"The good news of peace through Jesus Christ..."
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.
"bringing you good news .. telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God.."

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, bringing freedom to the prisoners and the oppressed (maybe by sin, too?), healing, and it's significant all the things that are not included. Like membership, baptism, theology (come to think of it I didn't see ology at all in there).

Seems like organizations are about seeing how hard we can make it to tell folks that.


Paul Burleson said...


In response to David's comment about the hat thing, I remember at our fellowship in Norman Oklahoma when Bill Stafford was preaching he told of an usher telling a young boy to remove his baseball cap because, he said, "you don't wear your hat in the House of God."
The young man answered "Sir, this hat is ON the House of God." The boy had it right theologically if not relationally. :)

To David I would say it probably is a generational thing. I have to confess I still struggle with a hat worn in church but I'm smart enough to know #1 The building isn't the House of God. #2 Manners are not as prevalent as they once were or at least in the same way. [I still open doors for women and had one get angry with me recently because I did. She thought I was being condescending I think.] #3 It wouldn't matter the manners or ethics of a hat in church, the person is more important than our cultural standard.

So I would hope that even we older people can get it right theologically and relationally in Kingdom living.

To David, be as kind as you can to the Usher. It may be he's open to some loving correction and learning in this. But as a former Pastor I know your frustrations.

Paul Burleson

davidinflorida said...

Maybe we as Christians should read more scriptures like Titus 3:9, avoid the things that dont really matter and get to work doing the things that really do matter.. Just before Jesus left for Heaven he told us to preach the Gospel to every creature..Mark 16:15...Sadly, only two percent of Christians share their faith. Meanwhile 150,000 people die each day , most of them not knowing Jesus Christ. Lets stop waisting time.

Johnny Grimes said...

I have been reading your blog for about 2 months now and I wanted to let you know that I have been very encouraged. Thank you for the stand you take. I pray God will continue to use you as an instrument to make our great denomination better. Look forward to talking with you more. God bless. Thanks for your words on the “good news”!
Johnny Grimes

LivingDust said...

I was sentenced to death but my Savior plea bargained my case with the Judge. My Savior agreed to take my punishment and saw to it that the Court removed all record of my crimes. An Accuser keeps bothering the Judge and reminding him of my past crimes but the Judge told him to get lost. The Accuser is really miffed that my Savior paid the price for my crimes and keeps ranting that there wasn't a legal precedent for this action. Nonetheless, the Judge has told the Accuser that I've got a record that is as clean as white snow. The Judge said that if the Accuser ever bothers me just call him and he'll handle it. An amazing thing happened after the execution and burial of my Savior - God raised Him from the dead and he is alive today. His Spirit is in me and I'm constantly remined of his love. I can't wait to see Him and thank him for what he did for me.

Royce Ogle said...

In 1st Corinthians 15 Paul clearly gave the "good news" or "gospel".

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures, and that he was seen alive by Peter, the twelve, and by at least five hundred.

Christ died for our sins as predicted in the Old Testament.

He was dead and buried.

He was resurrected and is alive now!

The major point of most of the 1st century sermons was the resurrection of Jesus. Because He lives we can live.

That is good news!