Paul S. Rees wrote: “The gospel is neither a discussion or a debate. It is an announcement.” As I consider these words I am reminded of the contrast that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones drew about good news and advice, religion and the gospel.
Good News vs Good Advice
The difference between religion and the gospel is that every other religion sends advice; they say things like, “if you want to achieve salvation you will do certain things and work your way to God.” Some of these things consist of doing certain rituals, obeying certain rites, following certain commands, obeying certain moral standards. The gospel is not some one giving advice; it is someone heralding good news. What makes the gospel good news and radically different than every other religion is that it is a message to believe, not advice to do. The daunting problem is that both religious advice and gospel declaration will change behavior. If you are trying to save your own life it will change what you do. Both good news messengers and advisers summon an immense change of behavior.
It comes down to motive. Advice is driven by fear, but good news is driven by joy. If you are trapped in your home during a war in your neighborhood and you send out a convoy that wins the battle for you, there is going to be great joy and the implications of that “win” is going to radically change your behavior. If you really see what has already been done for you, you will want to serve and obey the one who has accomplished it for you, out of love. But if you send advisers that say “this is what you need to do in order to win the war, it will also get you to serve and obey, but this time out of fear, not joy.
So the good news is an historical event that is declared and has already accomplished your salvation, it has been done for you, it is something that we are to receive and believe with great joy. Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet with a plan of action. News is a report about something that has already happened, something that you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is respond to it. “The gospel is neither a discussion or a debate. It is an announcement”. Will you receive it? Has it change you? Will you declare it?