How Powerful Is The Good News?
OF ALL the messages published throughout the centuries, the “good news” set forth in the Holy Scriptures has had the greatest motivating power for good. The Bible refers to it as “the good news of the kingdom,” “the good news about Jesus Christ,” “the good news of the undeserved kindness of God,” “the good news of God,” “the good news of peace” and the “everlasting good news.” (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24; Rom. 15:16; Eph. 6:15; Rev. 14:6) This “good news” is primarily the message that salvation or everlasting life is possible on the basis of genuine faith in the atoning benefits of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and that God’s kingdom by Christ will bring all things on earth into perfect unity with the holy heavens. (Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:16; Eph. 1:7-14) Why does that message have a powerful effect on those accepting it?
Consider the situation of many individuals when the “good news” reaches them. Before hearing this message, a person may sense a certain emptiness in his life. On account of personal problems and because of witnessing injustices and oppression, he may have cried out inside himself for relief from distress. The individual may be disappointed because of his own inability to be the kind of person he would like to be. Then, when the “good news” is presented to him, he learns the basic reason for his distress, namely, that he, along with all other members of the human family, is a sinner. Therefore, no matter how sincere a person may be, he will not succeed in living his life in such a way that he does not disappoint himself and others. He can never prove himself righteous before God by adhering to a particular code of law. The “good news,” however, makes it clear how he can enjoy a clean conscience before God and men, with everlasting life in view. It also helps him to see how God’s kingdom will put an end to all distress.—Dan. 2:44.
ATTAINING GOD’S APPROVAL
Nothing difficult is required of the individual in gaining an approved standing with God. The Most High himself has taken the initiative in making an arrangement whereby sins can be forgiven.
To appreciate the arrangement for having our sins forgiven, we need to understand just why we are sinners. The Bible reveals that our common forefather, the first man Adam, deliberately chose to sin against God. This estranged him from his heavenly Father and put all who descended from Adam into a state of alienation. Adam, as a sinner, could father only sinful children who were subject to death. The Scriptures tell us: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) “The wages sin pays is death.”—Rom. 6:23.
In this way, God’s Word makes it clear that death is the penalty that divine justice requires when sin is committed. Hence, for a man to gain everlasting life, he must be freed of the penalty for sin. Since all humans are sinners, not one of mankind can take upon himself the punishment that justice requires in the case of even one fellow sinner. The total helplessness of man as regards escaping the penalty for sin is set forth in the following words of the psalmist:
“Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.”—Ps. 49:7-9.
Help was needed from outside the human realm. And, in his great mercy, Jehovah God provided the needed aid. His dearest Son, the firstborn, fully cooperated with his Father in this. Explaining what happened, the Christian apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:
“Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:5-8.
Because the Son of God, by an operation of the holy spirit, was made flesh miraculously in the womb of a virgin, Mary, he was born without sin. That is why he could take upon himself the penalty that justice required for sinners. Through his sacrificial death on Nisan 14 of the year 33 C.E., he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5, which reads: “He was being pierced for our transgression; he was being crushed for our errors. The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.”
Our Maker requires that we accept, in faith, the fact that his Son has taken upon himself the full penalty for sin and that this resurrected Son is “both Lord and Christ,” yes, the promised Messianic King. (Acts 2:36) The Scriptures declare: “We behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God’s undeserved kindness might taste death for every man.”—Heb. 2:9.
A FAITH THAT STIRS TO ACTION
It is our faith in the atoning benefits of Christ’s sacrifice that puts us in a position to receive God’s free gift of everlasting life. As a result of this faith, a person comes under the influence of the holy spirit. Through the operation of that spirit on him, the fruitage of genuine faith will become evident in his life. His love for Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and fellowmen will grow. The individual will be stirred to action.
This is well illustrated by what happened in the first century C.E. to certain Thessalonians. The apostle Paul wrote to them in these words:
“The good news we preach did not turn up among you with speech alone but also with power and with holy spirit and strong conviction, just as you know what sort of men we became to you for your sakes; and you became imitators of us and of the Lord, seeing that you accepted the word under much tribulation with joy of holy spirit, so that you came to be an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. The fact is, not only has the word of Jehovah sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves keep reporting about the way we first entered in among you and how you turned to God from your idols to slave for a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised up from the dead, namely, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath which is coming.”—1 Thess. 1:5-10.
Note that the proclamation of the “good news” in Thessalonica was not just a matter of spoken words that produced no results. To the contrary, the message had a powerful effect on those who embraced it, causing them to forsake idolatry and to become servants of the true God, Jehovah. The operation of God’s holy spirit became evident in the lives of these believers as they reflected the joy that the spirit produces. Their strong conviction was seen in the fact that persecution did not hinder them from acting on the “good news” as the “word of God.” (1 Thess. 2:13) Prompted by faith and love and fully convinced that everlasting blessings would be received at the time that divine wrath is expressed against all who reject the “good news,” the Thessalonians were impelled to proclaim the truth that they had embraced. So active did the congregation at Thessalonica become that news of their conversion and beliefs spread to other parts of Macedonia and even into parts of Achaia. Hence, when Paul and his companions took the “good news” to people in these areas, the faith of the Thessalonian Christians was already known.
GOOD EXAMPLES HAD THEIR EFFECT
In part, the zeal of the Thessalonians resulted from their seeing the good examples of the apostle Paul and his fellow workers. The very lives of Paul and his associates testified to the fact that they had God’s spirit upon them. Before coming to Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had been insolently treated at Philippi. Their rights as Roman citizens had been trampled on. Without a trial, they had been beaten, jailed and confined in stocks. Divine intervention had effected their release and had led to the conversion of the jailer and his household.—Acts 16:22-33.
The unpleasant experience of Paul and Silas at Philippi did not dampen their zeal. With the boldness that only God can provide by means of his spirit, they came to Thessalonica. In his preaching, Paul shunned all deceit and pretentiousness. He labored with his own hands to procure his necessities and then expended himself fully in teaching the truth to the Thessalonians. It was obvious to any sincere observer that a man who was so loyal, righteous, unblamable and self-sacrificing could not reasonably be the source of falsehood. He was clearly under the direction of holy spirit and was a faithful imitator of the Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Thess. 2:5-12.
Accordingly, the “good news,” coupled with Paul’s own example of the fine influence that God’s message has on individuals, enabled the Thessalonians to imitate Jesus Christ. They began walking in a divinely approved way and did not hold back from declaring the “good news” at every opportunity. Living as they did in a seaport, they reached many merchants and travelers who could tell others about the zeal of the Thessalonians, doing so far and wide.
HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED?
Have you, like the Thessalonians, exercised faith in the atoning benefits of Christ’s sacrifice? If so, observers should be able to see that you are letting God’s spirit be a real force in your life. When that is the case, with the passing of time there will be observable evidence that you are conforming ever closer to the example and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Deeply appreciative of the love that has been shown toward you personally, you will exert yourself to avoid sin. How inconsistent it would be for an individual to claim that he has faith in the cleansing power of Christ’s blood and then deliberately to follow a course of sin! It would be comparable to a person who thanks someone for washing his clothes and then, after putting on those clean garments, deliberately begins rolling around in the nearest mud puddle. (Compare 2 Peter 2:22.) Clearly, no appreciative individual would do this. Likewise, no person who maintains genuine faith in what God has done through Jesus Christ can become a practicer of sin.—1 John 3:4-6.
Furthermore, faith in God’s provision for everlasting life impels us to speak. That is why, ‘in all the inhabited earth’ today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are calling at the people’s homes with the Kingdom message. (Matt. 24:14) And surely, individually we want our relatives, our acquaintances, yes, anyone whom we can personally reach, also to hear and act on the “good news.” Only by their accepting the “good news” can they escape the divine wrath that is to be expressed against godless mankind, and in that way alone will they see the time when God’s kingdom by his Christ transforms this earth into a place free from pain, sickness and death.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:4, 5.
The passing of over 1,900 years has not dulled the power of the “good news.” It is still causing thousands to yield to the influence of God’s spirit and to produce its fruitage, principally love. Impelled by that spirit, true Christians cannot stop speaking to others about the grandest message in existence today. Is this true in your case? It will be if you have genuine faith in the “good news.”