What is the relationship between the bad news of the Bible—sin, wrath, judgment, death, hell—and the good news—grace, forgiveness, mercy, redemption, heaven?
The importance of this question was drilled into me by one of my professors. During class, a student (thankfully not me!) said something like, “The bad news is a part of the good news.” My professor, with apostolic zeal, retorted, “The bad news is not a part of the gospel! The bad news is the context for the good news.” I’ve long reflected on this interaction.
My professor is absolutely right. When we speak of “the gospel,” it is essential that we clearly distinguish between what it is and what it is not. The gospel is good news. The gospel is not bad news. Now, we cannot understand the good news without understanding the bad news, but the good news is not bad news, nor does the good news entail bad news. Stated differently, sin is the backdrop for understanding and appreciating grace; but sin is not grace, nor is grace sin.
In our understanding of the gospel, we cannot totally separate the bad news from the good news, nor can we conflate the bad news with the good news. Instead, we make a distinction between sin and grace, while not separating them. The bad news is the context within which we cling to the good news, but the bad news and the good news are as opposite as oil and water.