5 Reasons the Gospel is Such Good News
I. “Gospel” and Why It Matters
It's an interesting word, isn't it? Gospel. I'm guessing when some people today hear that word, they think of gospel music. Others may hear that word and think of an expression like, “I took what she said as gospel.” (i.e., something that is absolutely true) I think most would recognize it as a 'churchy' kind of word, right? But where did this word come from and why does it matter?
Well, the word itself comes from Old English. Gōd·spel simply meant “good news”. And when you study the original language in which the NT was written, you realize that gōd·spel is simply a direct translation from the Greek word euangellion, which also means “good news”. But when you read through the NT, you realize this word is usually used in a very specific way; that is, the writer isn't simply talking about any good news. He's talking about the good news. Sometimes we capitalize the first letters of each word to emphasize this: “Good News”. It's this specific or technical usage that probably explains why we still use this Old English word gospel.
But again, why does the word “gospel” matter? Well, the word matters because it connects us to a rich heritage of resources in the English-speaking church: sermons, articles, books, songs, you name it. And even better, the word matters because it points us back to the Scriptures. And when we look there, we see just how important this “Good News” really was in the early Church.
I invite you to join me this morning as we look together at a passage that stresses this same gospel-central, gospel-focused priority. Turn to chapter 1 of Paul's letter to the Romans.
II. The Passage: “Not Ashamed of the Gospel” (1:16-17)
Look with me at verses 16 and 17 of Romans 1. Paul writes this to the disciples of Jesus in the city of Rome...
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So why is Paul stating here that he's not embarrassed by the gospel? Well, because he just made it clear to them in verse 15 that he's “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” When he says “to you”, I think he's speaking to them as Romans. So even if they have concerns about proclaiming this gospel in their city, Paul wants to make it clear that he's not ashamed of this message.
But that raises an important point: if the gospel is good news, what exactly is the content of that 'good news'? 'Good news' about what? This morning, I'd like to tackle that question by exploring with you the opening chapters of this letter, specifically, how Paul defines/unpacks this gospel.
So using these opening chapters, allow me to focus on five reasons the gospel is really, really good news; in fact, the best news ever (of course, neither this letter, nor the NT limits the value of the gospel to five reasons, but I thought it would be a reasonable number to think about this morning). As we begin, let me point out that Paul has already provided the first reason for us in verse 16. Look back at that verse. The gospel is such good news because...
1. It is God's Power to Rescue Everyone, Including You (1:16)
Notice that what Paul is talking about here is NOT a new set rules that will help us become good enough or holy enough to know God and spend eternity with God. He's also not talking about some mystical process or series of rituals that, if done correctly, might... maybe... possibly connect us with the divine.
No! He's talking real power. What kind of power? Power from God himself. Power that will do what? Power that will absolutely deliver us (or rescue us, or save us) from the power and penalty of our own sin AND save us for a life with God, both now and forever. And where can we find this kind of power? In the gospel, for the gospel IS “the power of God for salvation”.
How important is this gospel? It is God's power to rescue everyone, including you. That doesn't mean everyone will be rescued, but it is available to everyone; “to the Jew first and also to the Greek [i.e., the Gentiles]. Whatever the Jewish believers in Rome told themselves about their non-Jewish neighbors, Paul wanted them to understand that no matter where you're from, no matter how you talk, no matter the color of your skin, no matter how you dress, no matter your past, or vocation, or socioeconomic standing, this Good News is for you. It's for all of us!
So... why would anyone be ashamed of something this important; something this incredible? But even earlier in chapter 1, Paul told us something incredibly important about this gospel. Why is the gospel such good news? Because...
2. It Announces the Promised King and His Eternal Reign (1:1-4)
Look with me at the opening four verses of this letter:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord...
Notice what Paul is telling us here about the gospel. If we were to simplify the gospel to its most basic component, we'd have to say the gospel is good news... about Jesus. There's no better starting point. There's no better ending point. There's really no center to the gospel apart from Jesus. But notice the first things Paul tells us about Jesus here. This gospel about Jesus was 1) promised by the OT prophets, it was 2) concerning a descendant from King David's royal line, and 3) that descendant of David actually rose from the dead in order to secure David's throne for all eternity. Psalm 2:7... “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Wow! Is all that really part of the gospel message? Absolutely. Remember what the first chapter of Mark's Gospel tells us about Jesus' ministry:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming [What? Proclaiming] the gospel of God,  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)
The gospel has always been and always will be a message about a king and his kingdom. That's what Paul is reminding us about in the opening verses of Romans. Why is this such good news? Because in a day and age where it is so, so clear to us that the kingdoms of the world, the governments of this world (including our own), and all the leaders, all the politicians, all those in power, all of it... all of them are tainted by sin and can never truly provide us with what each one of us is longing for: a strong, righteous, and loving leader who can establish an enduring peace and promote real flourishing in every life, in every way. Brothers and sisters, friends, no one can do that apart from King Jesus. That's why the gospel is such good news.
But to truly appreciate that reality, Paul wants to help us understand another reality. Starting in 1:18 (that's the very next verse after our main verses), for the next sixty-three verses, Paul wants us to understand that they gospel is such good news because...
3. It Reveals the Clearest Diagnosis of Our Deepest Disorder (2:16)
Look with me at 2:16. Paul is writing to them there about “that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Notice first of all that a gospel that does not include judgment is a different gospel than what the Apostle Paul preached. What exactly will be judged? 2:16... “the secrets of men”. What Paul is stressing there is the fact that nothing will be hidden when it comes to the light of God's judgment: not our words, not our attitudes, not our motives, not our actions or inaction. All of it will be laid bare. All of it... judged.
What will be the result of this judgment? Condemnation. But for who? For all of us, because “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (3:10, 11) Both Jew and Gentile will be condemned, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23)
But the gospel also explains that we are not simply sinners because we sin. But we sin because we are sinners; because something right in the center of us is distorted. Paul described that distortion like this 1:21 and 25:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened... they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator...
Why is that so important? Because it reveals how our deepest disorder is, in fact, a worship disorder. We are not simply people who 'make mistakes'. All of us are 'idol-makers'. Thus all of us are God-replacers! This is critical to understand because only when we understand the seriousness of our sickness are we ready to embrace the seriousness of God's call to repent-ance and faith. This is why a clear diagnosis of our deepest disorder is so important. But again, the diagnosis prepares us for the treatment. Why is the gospel such good news? Because...
4. It Presents Jesus as an Incomparable Redeemer (3:21-26)
In 3:21-26, after establishing how all of us are guilty and helpless as sinners, as God-replacers, Paul proclaims how God himself has provided a way in which we (even sinners like us) can obtain a right-standing before him. Huh? How is that possible? One word: Jesus.
Again, the gospel is the good news about Jesus. Paul tells us this about him in 3:24-25...
God-replacers like us can actually be justified [or acquitted] by his grace as a gift, [how?] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
The resurrection of Jesus mentioned in 1:4 implies that Jesus was... dead, right? How did he die? As most of you know, He was crucified. But his death was no unforeseen and tragic turn of events that somehow squashed his hopes and dreams. No. He offered himself and was offered up by God. His blood, that is, his death actually propitiated God. What does that mean? It means he became the judgment-satisfying sacrifice we needed, enduring the wrath that God-replacers like us rightly deserve. No other blood could do that! Now... it's that stunning act of love and grace that brings us to a final point. Why is the gospel such good news? Because...
5. It Calls Us to Faith in Christ, Not in Our Own Efforts (3:27-4:25)
How can someone like me or you, so stained by the unrighteousness of man, how could we obtain the righteousness of God? That we might stand before Him? That we might know Him? Forever and ever? Paul explains this in 3:21-22...
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
You see, none of us as God-replacers (and kingdom-opposers!) could ever obtain and walk in the righteousness of God through rule-keeping. So what did God do? He sent Jesus to keep the rules for us AND bear the consequences for our rule-breaking. Therefore, we are simply called to trust in Christ in light of these truths about rule-keeping and rule-breaking; that is, to trust in Him as both Lord and Savior; as both King and Redeemer. You see, once you accept that trusting in your own abilities, your own goodness, your own cleverness, your own whatever, is completely useless, you will recognize the beauty of simply trusting in Jesus Christ.
And it's this idea of faith that Paul wants to drive home. Remember 1:17? For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” And that theme carries all the way through Romans 4, where Paul holds up Abraham as an example of the very faith to which God was always calling his people: saving faith.
III. In Which You Stand
Brothers and sisters, friends, I think one of the things we've learned this morning is that while the gospel is not complicated, it is deep... profoundly deep. But it's that depth that should drive us to the simplicity of faith; to a sincere trust in this incredibly Good News. What have we seen in these opening chapters of Romans? We've seen that what God did through Christ in the past points us to a glorious future. But it also radically shapes our present. Let God clarify this good news for you. Be encouraged and let's live in light of what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:1-2 about the importance of the gospel, both for knowing God and growing in His grace:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received [but he doesn't stop there], in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved...
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)
September 18, 2022How to Conquer the Dragon (Revelation 12:11)
September 11, 2022The Heart Where Jesus is Knocking (Revelation 3:20)
September 4, 2022New Heavens, New Earth (II Peter 3:11-13)