Gracetidings: Nearly too good to be true news

The Gospel is God’s free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The good news is that God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell.

Paul wrote the book of Romans as a letter to the Christians in Rome.

These Roman believers were mostly Gentiles who had received the Gospel, been born again, and were committed to following the Lord. However, they were being troubled by Jewish believers who were trying to mix the Old Testament law with Christianity. In the early days of the church, many born-again Jews truly believed that Christianity was simply an extension of Judaism.

Therefore, they considered all of the basic tenets of the Jewish faith, specifically the Old Testament law, the dietary regulations, the rite of circumcision, and many other Jewish religious observances to still be the foundation of their new faith in Christ. They were trying to mix the Old Covenant with the New.

 Paul the apostle of grace to the Gentiles boldly proclaimed that circumcision and all other adherences to Jewish custom and law were not necessary for salvation. His constant struggle with legalistic Jews (called Judaizers) is well documented in the book of Acts.

Although written for the same purpose as Romans, Paul’s letter to the Galatians contains several strong, harsh rebukes against legalism. He started out by saying, “If anyone preaches any other Gospel than what I preached, let them be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8, author’s paraphrase.) Then he repeated himself for emphasis. (v .9.)

Paul also called the Galatians “foolish” and “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1) for believing this legalistic lie, telling them that if they were trusting in such things as circumcision for their salvation (Gal. 5:3), they had fallen from grace. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4)

Romans presents these same truths, but from more of a doctrinal standpoint. Whoever wrote Hebrews, I tend to believe it was Paul, also dealt with these very same things.

Written specifically to a religious Jewish mindset, the book of Hebrews argues faith in the finished work of Christ using Jewish tradition (the Old Testament patriarchs, tabernacle, priesthood, sacrificial systems, among others) and showing how Jesus perfectly fulfilled it all. Romans expounds the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to both Jewish and Gentile believers. It’s written to everyone! Anybody who truly understands and embraces its message will be forever changed in the way they relate to God.

The revelation of God’s grace contained in Romans delivers believers from a performance mentality, which bases relationship with God on our own efforts to a total trust and reliance upon the Lord, His goodness, and grace. Salvation is all about God’s faithfulness not ours! This revelation is foundational for maintaining a close relationship with God. We might do good for a while, but the truth is that all of us have sinned and fall short of His glory. (Rom. 3:23.) We need a Savior! We must constantly place our faith in God’s goodness, and not our own.

Paul opened the letter with salutations and greetings. He commended the believers in Rome for how their faith was being spoken of throughout the world. Then, after expressing his desire to visit them, he summarized the message of the entire book: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).

The first five chapters of Romans communicate how the Gospel is the power of God. It’s what produces the life of God in people. Before we go into all of this, we need to define the word gospel.

It has become a religious term that has actually lost a lot of its meaning today. Many people associate gospel with anything that has to do with religion specifically the Christian religion. But the word gospel literally means “good tidings,” or “good news.”

The Greek word euaggelion, which was translated “gospel” in seventy-four New Testament verses, was so rare in writings outside of the New Testament that it’s found only twice in the extra-biblical manuscripts we have access to. The reason for this is because this word not only meant “good news,” but it was actually describing nearly-too-good-to-be-true news.

There wasn’t much in the world that was nearly too good to be true before Jesus came. But the biblical writers adopted this word because it was very descriptive of what the Lord did for us. The Gospel is good news not bad news!

That definitely limits what we mean by the word gospel. Many things that aren’t good news have been promoted as “the Gospel.” For instance, quite a few people in the so-called “Christian culture” associate the Gospel with teaching that says, “You’re a sinner. If you don’t repent, you’re going to hell!” I remember when I received Christ that is how our elders where preaching to us.

Now, these are true statements. There is a heaven and a hell, a God and a devil, and you will go to hell if you don’t repent and receive salvation. But even though all of that is truth, it’s not good news.

Many people have mistakenly thought that preaching on hell and scaring people out of it is the Gospel. That’s not what Paul taught in Romans. As a matter of fact, as we dig deeper into this showing the context and who the apostle was writing to, you’ll see how that’s the complete opposite of what he was really talking about. It’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance! (Rom. 2:4.)

 Although it is true to tell someone that their sin has separated them from God and caused them to be worthy of eternal damnation, the good news is that Jesus came and bore all of our sin for us. We don’t have to atone for our own sin. We don’t have to become holy enough to earn salvation. It’s a gift.

The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Most of religion today majors on the first part of that verse, “For the wages of sin is death” and calls it the Gospel. They preach their hearts out about hell, fire, and damnation. I know. I grew up in one of those churches. My first days as a young believer were very miserable because I had people who were performance orientated. They wanted to know how many times I was praying a day. When was the last time I fasted lest God would punish me or I would go to hell.

There is a place for that, but it’s not the Gospel if all that’s presented is God’s wrath and judgment upon sin. The true Gospel specifically refers to the means by which we are saved. We’re saved by faith in what Jesus did for us not by faith in what we do for Him.

The Gospel is God’s free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The good news is that God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell.

You don’t have to go through a tremendous amount of religious instruction or observance. It’s a gift.

All you must do is believe and receive. Believe what Jesus has done through His death, burial, and resurrection and receive the cleansing from all your sin and the freedom and liberty it brings. That’s the Gospel!

The Gospel is directly related to the grace of God. That’s the only way this forgiveness of our sins can be obtained. It wasn’t through our holiness or good works. God doesn’t take just the “good” people and save them. He justifies (extends salvation toward) the ungodly. (Rom. 4:5.)

This causes many problems for religious people. They say, “Wait a minute! I believe you must do this and that to be holy.” Religion, false religion, man’s concepts, not God-ordained salvation teaches that right standing with God and blessings come as a result of our own goodness and works.

That’s not Gospel! It’s against the good news of God’s grace because it’s putting the burden of salvation on your back and you can’t bear it.

Nobody can save themselves.


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