I was thinking about the question posed by people regarding talking about the wrath of God in a gospel presentations (or anything that makes people feel bad. Calling people “sinners”, for example). the question posed is this, “We are command to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ. Now, all that stuff about wrath and sin is not all that “good” to some people. So how can we tell people about the good news if we tell them so much bad news (wrath, sinner)?”
I believe that problem with this question is that it defines the meaning of what is a good message according to a cultural context. What is good differs from culture to culture. The same message can be affirmed in one culture while causing people to tear their hair out in frustration in another. So to force the message of Christ to be defined by a cultural understanding of good is just letting the culture tell you what to preach. Our message that we have been entrusted with is filtered through a grid of acceptability. If, indeed, what we preach is considered “good” to the hearers.
This can prove detrimental to the gospel message which we are commended to preach. Here in America it seems to work just fine to lay off the bits about wrath and hell. I mean, those are uncomfortable subjects. Isn't it best to just tell people about how much God loves them by sending forth His Son to die on a cross and be resurrected in three days for them? To bring up the part of them being rebels against the living God and the only thing that their rebellion is going to accomplish is an eternity in hell is just going to make them feel down cast. So, we think it is best to lay off the the wrath part since it really is not that good of news to people. But lets say that one day while sitting down on one side of a park bench you turn and see an older man on the other side. You begin conversing with him out of friendliness. You'all talk about normal things at first: what both of you do, where each of you live, etc. during the conversation you come to find out that he is Jewish. Thus, you begin to move the conversation towards a more religious direction. It is not much longer until you bring up the fact that you are a Christian. “Oh,” he says, “I have heard about Christianity but have not had the privilege to talk an actual follower.” This, of course, excites you tremendously, but before you start explaining your beliefs he makes the following comment, “What I do know about Christianity is that you believe that the Messiah died on a cross. Now let me tell you, I shutter in my soul to think that God's messiah would die in such a fashion. I cannot bare the thought of such an atrocious idea!” What are you going to do? Obviously, the news that the messiah did in fact die on a cross is not good news for him. In fact it will probably close his ears to where ever else you are going to say.
Do you see the problem when you let the culture or the person define what is the good that our message should bring? Now, not only are you removing the truth of God's judicial wrath but if you are consistent, you have to remove the very fact that Jesus died on a cross! So that the message you are bring could be good in the listeners ear. So now we have gone from removing a few attributes too removing the very essence of the gospel! If we, indeed, say that the hearers are the determiners of the nature of the good we bring we are capable of having the very essence of the gospel removed from our message.
That is why the nature of the good in the gospel is not based in a culture's take on what makes them feel good but in the immutable and glorious character of God. That must be the nature of the good in our news. Our news is good because we tell of the nature and workings of our God who is Himself good. God came, in the flesh, to reconcile a world that rejects Him though He made the world and the very people that rejected Him. That is a good action. But what about wrath? It is telling that this is even a question. Yes! God's wrath is good! It is righteous! It is holy! God does the right thing by punishing evil and wickedness.
The proclamation that God's wrath will be poured out on those who do evil is good news. When ever you are told that someone did the right thing you always take it as good news. Well, God punishing those that deserve punishment is a good thing. For every tyrannical dictator, every child kidnapper, and every raper, will be punished according to what they did. What kind of news would it be if you heard that God just looks past evil atrocities? If you hear of a judge that pardons the clearly guilty, do you take that to be good news? No! Good news is hearing that the Lord of the universe will render all accounts settled in the end. Justice with be served. Evil will be punished. This is good news!
The problem that we face is that the people in this culture do not see themselves as evil. They consider themselves to be good people that slip up now and then. Now, they would say, there are some really bad people out there that God should punish. But, God will just see all the good things that I have done and see that they out weight the bad things in my life. The very idea that God's wrath should be over them personally is not only far from their minds, it is offensive. I mean, God being wrathful on a “good” person? What is up with that?
See, once again, that when we let the culture define what is the good in our gospel we end up letting the culture shape the gospel itself? God's righteous judgment against wickedness is removed because telling people the truth that they are indeed wicked is offensive. Therefore we end up failing to tell people the very truths that they need to hear. The very philosophical and ideological problems that are hostile in people's minds to embracing the gospel go unchallenged. If people do not believe that they need saving they will not look for a savior. The good that the unconverted want is not always the good that they should have. At times it is not even good. We cannot let sinful people tell us what good is.
So, the good of our gospel is God. His nature and His deeds. Man in his rebellion is always going to be offend by some, if not all, aspects of the message we bring. We must, however, present boldly, clearly, confidently, tenderly, humbly, and passionately the full gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Reformed Pastor
- My real name is Charlie Albright. I am the pinnacle of evil who God has flooded with His mercy. Declaring my sinful self righteous and holy in His sight! Lavishing His grace upon me by the blood Jesus shed on the cross! Carrying me through this life and giving me satiatfing joy! Anything good about me is only because of His grace!