If you speak to any Christian they will tell you that the gospel is good news, indeed Gospel means good news. Many Christians will be able to tell you what the good news contains – they will be able to tell you that it is the message that God has saved sinners. Paul tells us this very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 for example. Romans 10 also expresses a similar thought, as do many other passages. The good news that people recognize is that Jesus died on the cross, paid the penalty for our sins, and rose again achieving victory over evil, and sin, and paved the way for all who believe in him to also be resurrected. If the Christian you speak to is not able to express this message, they will at least recognize it, and will be able to express it with just a little prompting.
But even though this is what is of first importance in the gospel, there are important aspects of the good news that you probably never hear about, even in some of the really good churches that still preach the gospel. This could be for many different reasons. Maybe the pastor is not trained deeply in gospel theology. Maybe they are influenced so much by a particular way of sharing the gospel that they have gone down a very narrow track. Maybe they have just forgotten that there is more to the gospel that gives it reason to be called good news. Or maybe it is some other reason. But whatever the reason, so many Christians were willing to hammer Israel Folau, because they saw his gospel presentation as lacking when he shared his now infamous tweet.
Now I have said to many different people, I support Israel Folau’s right to free speech, and while I wouldn’t share the gospel exactly as he did, because I find it a bit tacky, nothing he said was wrong, nothing he said was unbiblical, and nothing he said was even half as harsh as how many preachers in the Bible itself even talk. I’ve heard him called a jerk by some. But if he was a jerk, then what was John the Baptist when he was way harsher? But still many Christians criticised him, many Christians saw him as way too harsh, and many Christians were embarrassed by how he shared it. Why though?
Well probably for several reasons. Some Christians are just embarrassed that the Bible is so blunt about sin. They find this hard to deal with, because our culture has trained us to always focus on the positives. These kinds of Christians only want to express the “lovey” parts of scripture and not the other parts. They also don’t want their non-believing friends to know just how many things the Bible calls evil, that the world thinks are ok. They will say something like: I save that message for one on one conversations, which is just another way of saying, they rarely mention it. Another reason is that most people are peacekeepers in personality, they can’t stand confrontation and will do everything they humanly can to avoid it. I find this incredibly frustrating myself, but it is just a fact we must live with; most people recoil at the first sign of confrontation, and are willing to criticize those like Izzy who are not afraid of it at all.
Also, many Christians have been trained for a few decades now to bend over backwards to not offend unbelievers in their presentation of the gospel. From friendship evangelism, to presentations of the gospel that obscure even a hint of judgement and wrath of God, many Christians have been trained to see something as blunt as Izzy’s post as unnecessarily harsh and confronting, and therefore unnecessary. This stylistic disagreement is then backed up by certain proof texts, which are used to condemn any Christian who doesn’t come across as so kind and polite in their message presentation that they appear like a gentle-hearted camp counselor putting a band aid on a crying toddler. Never mind that this standard would exclude no less than John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jesus himself, it is still a standard many people hold to because of years of conditioning. But there is another reason why, which I want to focus on in this blog.
A lot of Christian’s don’t understand the various ways in which the good news and the gospel are actually shared in the Bible itself. Some of which would terrify the average peacekeeping Christian. I was reminded of this again when reading Nahum chapter one recently. Have a look at this presentation of the gospel:
“1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.”
I once read this out in a Bible study for middle school aged youth, and I asked them if they had ever heard God described this way. Many said no. They had almost all grown up in church, yet they had never heard this before.
“6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. 7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. 9 What do you plot against the Lord? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. 10 For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. 11 From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor.”
God is condemning Nineveh, through Nahum the prophet, because they were a wicked nation who did much evil in the world; including how they treated God’s people, Israel. Indeed, God’s people had been utterly devastated and oppressed by this nation, but the good news is that they will not be so for much longer:
“12 Thus says the Lord, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. 13 And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” 14 The Lord has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile” (Nahum 1:12-14).
God is angry at Nineveh for how they have conquered and oppressed nations, including Israel, and it’s remaining tribe, Judah. Therefore, God is going to step in and do away with them. They will face his judgement and Israel will no longer be afflicted and oppressed by the bonds of Nineveh. So why did I call this a gospel message? Well because Nahum says this: “15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off” (Nahum 1:15).
You see a big part of the good news of the Bible’s message, is that God will judge the enemies of his people. God will bring the wicked to judgement. This is both a promise and an aspect of the good news. Why is this good news? Because as Christians we are commanded to not initiate violence against our enemies, we are commanded to love them, give them a glass of water in a time of need, we are commanded to act as Christ would have. But this does not mean that those who mock Christ, mock us, and persecute, exclude, bully, or simply try to sideline us will get away with it. God will make things right. God will judge the wicked and his wrath can be terrifying.
You won’t hear this message preached as much as it used to be, for the reasons I outlined above. But it is an integral, biblical, and foundational aspect of the good news of the Bible. And it is not just an Old Testament emphasis, indeed whole books of the New Testament, including Jude and Revelation carry a similar message. God is not someone to be messed with, he will not be mocked, people reap what they sow. When the God says vengeance is his, he will repay, he means it. A lot of evil is done to his people in this world, Christians are persecuted in most countries in the world in horrible ways. God is watching, he will one day act decisively to vindicate his people.
Thankfully, God gives people chances to escape this wrath. That’s why his son died on the cross, so people could have an opportunity to be saved from judgement. But judgement awaits all who do not repent. Hell is a real place where real people will really go. You see because Israel Folau believed this he was willing to risk his career (which turned out to be a very real risk) and reputation to warn people, and he used blunt, up front and thoroughly biblical language to do so. So many Christians have just been sheltered from this aspect of the gospel for so long, that they forgot how cutting the message of the gospel can actually be. For some it is a message of salvation, to some it is foolishness, but to others it is a stumbling block because they find it inherently offensive, and some aspects of it are designed to offend.
Maybe if more Christians heard the fullness of the gospel taught more regularly, they wouldn’t be so surprised when somebody pulls out the aspect of the gospel that they don’t hear often: God will judge the wicked, if they do not repent. This is good news, God cannot be a good God if he does not deal with wickedness. He either dealt with it in Christ for all who believe, or he will deal with it on judgement day for all who don’t. What future awaits you? I hope it is not judgement, but I’d be lying to you if I said that there isn’t a judgement awaiting all who have not trusted in Jesus. If I were to lie about this, then I would be placing myself under God’s judgement, and I would be unloving according to God's standard, and I don’t want to do either.
Please consider this while there is time.