Everyone loves good news. We are delighted to hear that we have a new grandchild, that a relative’s cancer is in remission, that a friend has been promoted, that a soldier has arrived home safely.
But, at times, we also receive bad news—news of illness, divorce, or job loss. The Word of God has news for us, too, some good and some bad. Both kinds of news relate to our present and future life. Let’s look at the bad news first.
I. THE BAD NEWS
A. Paul says, “All have sinned“ (Rom. 3:23). This is the bad news recorded in the Word of God. Everyone has sinned.
Some people disagree. They may say, “It can’t be true. I haven’t hurt anyone.“ Others argue, “I always try to do what is good. I help the poor. I give to charity. I’m a good citizen. I’m not a thief.“
Let me illustrate this with a story. According to his neighbors, John was a good boy. He helped an old lady who had no family; in fact, he spent several hours a day helping her. While his friends were out having fun, he cleaned her house, worked in her garden, went shopping for her, and accompanied her to the hospital whenever needed. Over time John was faithful in caring for the old lady. Neighbors admired his example, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if every young man were like John?“ No one suspected that he was thinking, “When this old lady dies, she will certainly leave all her fortune to me, as she promised.“
What was John’s real motive for helping the lady? It was the same motive that affects every human being: selfishness, an expression of our sinful nature.
Although we do good deeds, our motives may not always be pure. Ellen G. White says, “All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin.“1
B. The wages of sin is death (read Rom. 6:23). Death is the result of sin. Even though we believe in the promise of the resurrection, we weep at funerals. We grieve the loss of loved ones and recognize that in our humanity, we deserve death. No matter how much we may wish to be good, we fail. With Paul, we recognize, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do“ (Rom. 7:19).
C. “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight“ (Rom. 3:20). “He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin.“2 There is nothing we can do by ourselves to become right with God. The reward God offers is not because we do good works. In and of ourselves, we are lost.
". . . God pardons the sinner, remits the punishment he deserves, and treats him as though he had not sinned." Ellen G. White A New Life, 20.
II. THE GOOD NEWS
“Being justified freely by His grace . . . that is in Christ“ (Rom. 3:24). The good news is that we can be justified by Christ. In this text we find four words that help us to understand the good news:
A. Justified. This is from the Greek word dikaiosímenoi. God does much more than forgive the repentant sinner; the Greek term implies that God “declares just“ the repentant believer and gives him or her the gift of life. The debt has been paid by Jesus Christ.
B. Freely. Christ offers His justice freely. It is a gift. The wages of sin is death, but Christ paid the debt of sin by surrendering His own life for us, dying on the cross so that we could obtain eternal life. Thus salvation is offered to us freely, although God paid an infinite price for our redemption. “We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith.“3
C. Grace. This word appears 150 times in the New Testament, and Paul is the Bible writer who uses it most (100 times). He uses this expression to refer to God’s great love for sinners, shown by His death on the cross to save us from sin’s condemnation. God takes the initiative to save and sustain humanity, not because there is any merit in human beings but because of His infinite love— God’s grace.
D. Redemption. This term comes from the Greek word apolitróseos, meaning “redemption,“ “ransom,“ or “freedom through ransom.“ The term is related to the ransom paid to free a slave. It reminds us once more of our condition as slaves to sin. The cost of our ransom was not gold but an inestimable price, the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. White says, “Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God.“4
The bad news is that we all have sinned and that the wages of sin is death; it is impossible for human beings to be saved by their own efforts through human merit or works. However, the good news—the wonderful news—is that we can be freely justified through the ransom Christ paid for us. As we surrender to Him, we receive the inestimable gift of salvation.
In her book The Home Missionary, White offers this challenge: “The good news of a Savior—Christ dying as our sacrifice upon Calvary, Christ pleading as our high-priest and intercessor before God, Christ our king and deliverer, coming to redeem his children—this is the message to be carried to all the world, to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And the obligation rests upon all Christians. Every one, to the very utmost of his talent and opportunity, is to fulfill this commission. The love of Christ, revealed to us, makes us debtors to all who know him not. They are our brethren, and God has given us light, not for ourselves alone, but to shed upon them.“5
1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, 60.
3 Ibid., 61.
4 White, The Desire of Ages, 131.
5 White, The Home Missionary, November 1, 1890, paragraph 1.
Walter Romero is a pastor in Argentina, South America.