The Gospel – too good to be true news

”For I am not ashamed of the gospel [too good to be true news] of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek”. (Rom. 1:16)

The word for “Gospel” in the original Greek, euaggelion, was very rarely used in the contemporary Greek literature at the time of the early church. The literal meaning of the word is: “nearly too good to be true news”, which in itself explains why the word was almost never used. Things that sound too good to be true normally – when scrutinized – turns out to be untrue. But not so when it comes to the Gospel.

The Gospel message contains such good news that that it sounds totally incredible, but still is 100 percent true! This means that if what is preached in our churches is not good news that “sound too good to be true”, the true Gospel is not being preached.

To understand what Paul meant by the “nearly too good to be true news” that he refused to be ashamed of, one must be aware of the Jewish context of the book of Romans. The book was written to people who were either Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians with great knowledge of the Old Testament. The theme of Romans is that no one can be saved by following the law of Moses. Since we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we all need a Savior, Jesus Christ. Since the law demanded perfection and no human being could ever live up to it, God took care of the whole thing by granting us salvation as a gift (by grace) instead – through faith in Jesus Christ.

For the Jews, who had lived after a set of strict rules and regulations all of their lives, trying to achieve righteousness and eternal life through their own performance, the message of the Gospel simply sounded “too good to be true”. Suddenly this fellow, Paul, came along and taught that no one can be saved through his/her good works, and that salvation is a gift to everyone who believes in Jesus, irrespective of background or past sins and mistakes. Salvation is no longer for the Jews alone, but also for the Gentiles. God has, through the sacrificial death of Jesus, reconciled the world to Himself, and no longer imputes mankind’s sins. The believers no longer have to live under the law of Moses, since “Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness for everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4).

The Gospel was, and still is, a revolutionary message. What makes the Gospel so good news that the message sounds too good to be true, but still is true, can be summoned up in one word: grace, which means “unmerited favor”, or “undeserved gift”.

All religions more or less tell us that we get what we deserve. If we pray regularly, if we give gifts to the poor, if we do good works and follow a set of rules, God will be on our side. The focus is always on what we must do for God.

This thinking has also infiltrated the modern church and polluted the true Gospel:

  • “If you live a righteous life, God will give you eternal life.”
  • ”If you do so and so, God will heal your back.”
  • ”If you give money to this and that ministry, God will bless you.”
  • ”Only if you live a holy life can God use you”. (Don’t get me wrong, to live a holy life is important, but God does not use us according to our own performance, but according to His grace.)

The Gospel of grace totally turns this way of thinking upside down. The essence of the Gospel is not that we receive what we have deserved. It is that we receive what Jesus has deserved on our behalf – although we are totally unqualified for it in ourselves. Just like the Prodigal son, who had despised his own father and squandered his inheritance, was totally restored the moment he returned home, we receive the blessings of heaven the very moment we receive Jesus. Our performance has nothing to do with it.

”For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Although this may sound too good to be true, it is the truth! Our job is simply to believe these incredibly good news.


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