A young man, not even a believer in God, every now and then would think: Well, maybe there is some God in heaven, after all. However, each time he had that thought another one came: If there is a God in heaven, I am in deep trouble—a thought that always caused him to push away the first one, that of God’s existence.
How interesting that even an atheist—and not a particularly bad person, as far as the world’s standards go—would have this indistinct fear of the moral implications of God’s existence, a sense of how he would fare in judgment before this God. His experience points to Paul’s words in Romans that, even those who don’t know God, will be “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) before Him because enough about Him can still be known.
Yes, this young man’s fear was well-founded. We are all sinners before God. Which is why a text like the following—"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7)—is so encouraging. Before God, we would all stand condemned for our sins, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), which is why the forgiveness of sins \is so central, so vital, to the whole plan of salvation.
And we have this redemption, this forgiveness, not because we are worthy but only because of “the riches of His grace,” that is, tis underserved merit given to us only because of God’s goodness to us. If we got what we deserved, even as that young atheist sensed, we would be condemned. But we get what we have not deserved, have not earned, have not merited—the forgiveness of sin, “according to His grace.” This is what is known as the “Gospel,” and why it is, indeed, “good news.”