(June 20, 1990)
My word processor came with a thesaurus. When I can’t think of the best word to use, I type something close in meaning, press two keys, and a list of synonyms and antonyms of that word comes on the screen. For instance, if I want to describe exactly the way someone walks, I type “walk,” and it gives me these choices: amble, ramble, saunter, stroll, and so on. I can then type back any one of those words and it will list a dozen more. So whether someone trudges or strides, my thesaurus supplies a precise word to describe their gait.
The other day, while editing an article that repeated the word “truth” too many times, I requested some synonyms. One of them was unexpected; along with fact and reality, the word “gospel” appeared. I’m accustomed to using gospel with a different meaning, as a noun. I forgot how often people use it as an adjective, to describe something they consider true or reliable.
When people say, “It’s the gospel truth...,” they use an adjective derived from the Greek noun “evangelion,” meaning “good news or good message.” Our English verb “evangelize” also comes from this noun. How it came into use as an adjective synonymous with truth started with the way it was used in the New Testament. Consider this one example from Ephesians 1:13: “You were also included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation...” Scripture links the two, not because their definition was the same but because the gospel or good news IS truth and because the gospel is about Someone who claimed to BE truth. Scripturally, it is impossible to separate these two words.
Ever wonder why they called it good news? Visualize the religious situation up until Christ came. God’s people were under the law of sin and death; that is, God gave them a high standard including the Ten Commandments, then declared whoever didn’t reach it would perish.
All fell short of that standard (and still do), but God gave hope. He promised a Savior, then established a sacrificial system to provide atonement for sin until the Savior came. Thus, failure to keep His law could be forgiven through faith in His promise, faith expressed by offering an unblemished lamb on an altar. Yet even that offering did not make anyone godly; He asked for perfect obedience -- no one could deliver.
Sincere, God-fearing hearts must have yearned for some good news. It finally came -- through Jesus Christ. He talked and lived like no one before or after, arousing hatred in the self-righteous but joy to the poor in spirit. To sinners, what He said and what He did was good news.
Jesus didn’t lower God’s standard however; sin never stopped being a serious issue. Rather, His life was good news because He fulfilled all the requirements of the commandments. He was sinless. He also provided an alternate to the law of sin and death by dying for all the sin of all mankind for all time. He took what sinners deserve so those who believe could be fully pardoned. He is the perfect lamb, a sacrifice who can change lives and make sinners holy. He sets people free from sin, from the joyless frustration of an unreachable goal, and from the bondage of religious rules. Jesus also declared, “I AM the truth.” He didn’t just speak truth or live it, He is living, breathing reality.
My thesaurus also listed antonyms for truth such as lie and fiction. Some words that mean the same as they do include: corruption, distortion, misrepresentation, perversion, deception, fable, fantasy, fabrication and falsehood. No wonder Jesus’ words are good news: “If you know the truth, the truth shall set you free.”