What is the Good News?
By Dr. Brad Cole
The Good News is frequently described in rather self-centered terms. For example, “it’s good news that I can go to heaven”; “it’s good news that Jesus paid the price for me”; “it’s good news that I am now in good legal standing with God”.
It seems though that the real message of Good News described in the Bible is something entirely different. Paul said it so clearly in Romans 1:16,17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel…for in it, the righteousness of God is revealed.”
Righteousness is a big word! Others have gone on to clarify that this refers to God’s goodness, God’s character, God’s faithfulness and God’s trustworthiness. In other words, the Good News is about God, not me (or you). Yes, it is great good news that we can go to heaven, but what would heaven be like if God were a tyrant? The ultimate Good News is that the all-powerful God is exactly as Jesus revealed Him to be – a God who would forgive the woman caught in adultery, heal people who did not ask to be healed, wash the feet of Judas, hang out with the “riff-raff” of society, choose a group of fisherman to be his disciples, and ultimately lay down his life for others.
It has been incredibly exciting to see many in the scholarly world come to this same conclusion. At a recent conference, Richard B Hays, a well known New Testament scholar who (according to Christianity Today) has written one of the 100 most important Christian books of the 20th Century, made this comment about the book of Romans:
“Many people have misread the book of Romans as a book that explains how we can legally get to heaven. This interpretation, however, misses the central question that Paul is answering in this book, and that central question is this: ‘Can God be Trusted?'”
He then went on to describe that what Paul refers to as the Good News is ultimately God’s trustworthiness (or “faithfulness”) as revealed by Jesus. Fantastic!
It’s true that not everyone agrees with this interpretation, but more and more it seems that people are reading this passage in a new light as well as understanding the gospel in a new light. For example, N.T. Wright, in his recent book “Justification” describes Romans 1:16 and 17 this way [warning, some big Greek words!]:
“Let me start with a bold double claim. Unless there had grown up in the Western church a long tradition of (a) reading ‘God’s righteousness’ as iustitia Dei, then (b) trying to interpret that phrase with the various meanings of iustitia available at the time, and (c) interpreting that in turn within the categories of theological investigation of the time…unless all this had happened, nobody would ever have supposed that the ‘righteousness’ in question in Romans 1:17 was anything other than God’s own ‘righteousness’, unveiled, as in a great apocalypse, before the watching world.” (pg. 178)
For many years, Graham Maxwell preached this message about the Good News very clearly. Here is a link to an article written by Dr. Maxwell which was published in 1971 by Spectrum Magazine entitled, “What is the Good News?” It’s a classic!