Romans 1:16-19 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one 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. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
The gospel, by definition, is good news. We should expect no less of a message revealed by God, for His essential being is the essence of all that is good. Whatever God may choose to do, we may confidently rest our minds that it is right and cannot be improved upon by the slightest variation. His flawless character, His effulgent light, and His unsurpassed goodness is vested in His every action and word. Why then should we expect His gospel to be otherwise? I submit to you that the gospel of God is as pure and decent as the Lord Himself. There is nothing bad about it. Its contents warehouse the very power of God unto salvation and its simplicity services the basest of men who will only believe. It magnifies the goodness of God and produces the same in those transformed by it. Yes, the gospel is good news!
Despite the excellence of God’s good news, however, there is a bleak side to it. This bleakness is not intrinsic to the gospel itself, but is generated by the stubborn and unresponsive heart of man that is sold under sin. It is man’s rejection of God’s goodness that leads to the inevitable consequences of an existence without God. The harboring of sin within and the impenitent alliance with the power of darkness infects the soul with an arrogance that refuses to embrace the goodness offered.
It is for this reason that the gospel packs a fear in its decree. Man’s nature is hopelessly at odds with goodness, and our natural resolution opposes all that is to our favor if its reception is predicated upon some flaw or inability in ourselves. It is a rather bizarre truth of man’s makeup, and a peculiar disposition needless to say, but man had rather argue with the gospel than believe it. This is what makes the gospel a two-edged sword. It is intrinsically the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, and if embraced by faith, it will do its divine work and surgically separate the sinner from his guilt without the slightest harm. On the other hand, if the unseemly obstinacy of man’s will reinforces his petty arguments against his own conscience, and dutifully disposes with the evidence of his own observatory faculties, the piercing sword of divine justice will turn to his hurt and exact its impartial sentence without remedy.
This gospel fact is due to no indecency in the message of God. God is not the problem, nor is the judgment His gospel makes. Goodness, by definition, must exclude all foul. It is divisive by nature and must separate between what is in accordance with its purview and what is not. I submit to you that the problem is the rotten heart of man.
This is important to recognize because some will assert that the gospel is exclusive, and therefore unfair. I, personally, do not believe it is accurate to describe the gospel as exclusive. After all, it is to every one. There could be no more inclusive message than that. In my thinking, it is far more accurate to say that the gospel is discriminating.
I realize that there are negative connotations associated with this word due to the unending racial stir in our culture, but discrimination, as a term, is not bound to race relations and should not be defined in only that way. Discrimination simply means to identify a distinction or to judge differences based upon some criteria. It is a neutral concept that is intrinsically neither bad nor good. We must constantly discriminate between colors and shapes and shadows in order to perceive our environment and navigate our way lest we bring unnecessary harm upon ourselves. It is the ability to discriminate between differences in our surroundings that gives us the sense to discern the choices that are appropriate to our situations. We discriminate between good fruit and corrupt fruit before we eat. We discriminate between a stick and serpent before we put forth our hand. We discriminate between a package of candy and a container of medication, and we make judgments about right and wrong accordingly. In all these cases, we are applying a standard of judgment whereby we measure the appropriateness, consistency and goodness of a particular matter as it relates to our own norms and standards. Some things are meet for us while others are not. We discriminate accordingly.
This is what the gospel does with man. It excludes none in that it is to every one, but its judgment is discriminating, for it is to every one that believeth. The criterion by which the gospel judges is faith. It is one with the message itself. Either a man believes the gospel or he does not. He is a believer or he is an unbeliever. These are mutually exclusive concepts that discriminate between men based upon individual response, but that is far different than an exclusionary principle that is offered to some and withheld from others. If everyone would simply believe the gospel, it would save all!
The problem, therefore, is not with the gospel itself, but rather with the man who rejects the witness of his own conscience and denies the indelible proofs that ‘God is’ printed on the creation. However, man internally knows that he cannot deny God. Instead, he chooses to pacify his conscience for the time present by reassigning the invisible things of the Creator’s eternal power to the physical universe. It is not that men are unable to know God, but rather that when they know him, they glorify him not as God. Such a pursuit inevitability leads to self-destruction. Rather than acknowledging the stupidity of his fight against goodness, man had rather die finding fault with God than live finding fault with himself. The bitterness of sin and the grip of iniquity upon man’s soul is revealed as the gospel manifests the wickedness of his heart.
To think that God would freely send His Son to die the sinner’s death, bear his iniquity, put away his guilt and offer free pardon on the basis of faith only to have man find fault with His goodness, surely shows where the true problem resides. It is in man and his evil heart! The goodness of God’s gospel reveals the badness of man’s nature, and just as surely as it commends the justice of God in justifying the believer, it likewise commends His justice in damning the unbeliever! The gospel discriminates because it is good! Man is judged because he rejects goodness! The gospel excludes none, but it tries all!
What is the gospel to you? Is it the savour of life unto life or is it the savour of death unto death?