When the Good News Makes Us Feel Bad

The word “gospel” is found ninety-one times in the English Standand Version of the New Testament. It is from the Greek word EUAGGELION and is composed of two parts: EU (good) and ANAGGELLŌ (declare or proclaim). Thus, in the most basic sense, gospel means “good news.”

It is truly “good” because it makes God accessible to all through Jesus Christ (Isaiah 40:3-9). It entails relief from the burden of sin and grants one the ability to enjoy life with a clear conscience (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Humble obedience to this “news” (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38) also offers a hope that transcends the grave and has as its ultimate destiny eternal life with God in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Truly, all of the world’s charms and pleasures could never offer anything as “good” as this!

The first time we come across this word in the New Testament, Matthew says that “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming THE GOSPEL of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23, NASB). This good news was not simply a part of Jesus’ earthly ministry; it was his focus.

The third time the word “gospel” is found is in Matthew 11:5. What Jesus says in the following verse may strike us as somewhat unexpected: “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6). We might wonder, why would some react to “good news” in this way? After all, isn’t it a reason to be joyful? The answer to this question lies in the meaning of the word “offended” and the motives behind such a reaction.

The word “offend” means to “scandalize” or “to take offense at [one’s] character, words, conduct, so as to reject him” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary). One is “offended” in the biblical sense when he rejects the message and, ultimately, the messenger. You can’t spurn the former while pretending to cling to the latter.

Jesus’ statement helps us understand that as “good” as this “news” may be, it may not always be received in a positive light. This is because the gospel not only tells us about salvation in Christ; it also exposes man’s sinful condition (John 3:20; 16:8; Mark 7:20-23) and tells him of his need to repent (or change) in order to be right with God (Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30).

The truth is that many do not want to hear “good news” if it censors their conduct or deprives them of life’s sinful pleasures. Though its aim is more sublime and marvelous than any earthly goal, the gospel may not always make us feel good about ourselves. We first must mourn over our sins before the gospel can release us from them (Matthew 5:4; James 4:8-9; Acts 2:37-38).

What is our reaction to the “good news”?

–Jerry Falk