The gospel is news, not advice.
by Ryan Holloway
"The Gospel is news."
What does that mean? It means something outside of you has happened and it affects you. So when we watch the evening news or read the Oregonian we read it for the news. We know that outside of us , stuff has happened in the world and those things often affect us in some way. So we read the newspaper or watch the evening news to find out what that is. And in that basic act, the reporters or news anchors are telling you about something that has already happened and that it somehow affects you, whether you know it or not. That's the nature of news.
It is different from advice. The biblical gospel message is news, not advice. Advice is more like guidance or a recommendation. Advice is self-help. Advice is something like, “I feel stressed, how do I feel less stress?” Or, “I am spending left and right, how do I get control over it?” Or, “I feel anxious about my safety and the safety of my family, what steps can I take to feel safe?” Or, “my spouse and I fight all the time, how can we get along?” These are all categories of advice. You know you have a problem and you know that you can solve your own problem. Sometimes you just need a little help to point you in the right direction. Advice is self-help.
Now what is the difference between news and advice when it comes to religion and spirituality? The gospel is news, primarily because it is something that has already happened in the world in history and it affects you and everyone. So how is it different from advice? Every other religion, spirituality, and philosophy out there follows the same type of development: you have a struggle in life, here’s a way to fix it. That’s not news. That is advice. Every other philosophy, spirituality, and religion offers guidance on how to live your best life now.
"So the gospel is news. And the news is that God has done something for us."
If the gospel message was simply saying something meaningful about God, then it would simply be advice. But, the gospel message is news — something that has been done outside of you, for you — so it is something altogether different.
Romans 1:15-16. It says, “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 the gospel is news. And the news is that God has done something for us. And that thing he has done for us has the power to produce salvation in us. Look at verse 15, “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” how? Because “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” It is the power of God for salvation to all who believe because in it is displayed or heralded the righteous activity of God towards humanity.
So here is the news. God says, “I will bring my righteousness to you.” This is how we go about our lives, isn’t it? We seek advice on how we can enhance our own righteousness. We believe in ourselves so much, that we believe we are righteous on our own and we just have to tap into it. So we ask others, “how do I tap into my own righteousness? How do I live my best life now?” And here is the truth: if you rely on spiritual, philosophical, or religious advice, you can’t do it. The only way is to believe in the righteous activity of God. That is the news.
So what is this righteousness? It is a change in relationship. So righteousness is a declaration of being justified — of being declared right or innocent. So think about a court of law. If you show up to a court and stand before a judge, this is an oversimplification I know, but if you stand before a judge and you are accused of stealing. And the prosecution says, “he is guilty of stealing.” And the prosecution says all the bad things you did and all the stuff you stole. And the defense lawyer then says, “it is ok. I will stand in his place take his punishment.” And the judge says, “you, guilty party, are justified because that guy is standing in your spot. You are now righteous.” Now, are you any different? Did you somehow earn the right for the defense attorney to fill your shoes and switch spots with you? No. What happened? The defense attorney brought his own justification near to you, gave it to you, and the judge then declared you justified because of someone else’s action towards you.
So how does this happen? Here is where we get to that little phrase that connects the concepts of “the power of God for salvation” and “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Do you remember the little phrase? It says, “to everyone who believes.” This salvation is available to everyone who believes. There is no prerequisite. It is God’s activity towards humanity. And all humanity needs to do is believe, to trust, to accept that God is who he says he is and Jesus did what he said he would do.
The concept of the gospel is that you can’t save yourself. If you want to earn it through your own works, then you are trying to save yourself. If you are trying to earn it through loopholes and nuance and gray areas, then you are trying to save yourself. But it is through faith that the change in relationship happens. It is through faith that the defense attorney stands before the judge and says, “I’ll take their place.” It is through faith that the judge declares a person innocent by the activity of someone else, namely the work of Jesus on the cross. It is through faith that salvation comes.
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