Thursday, 26 September 2013
But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.” Romans 10:18
Verses 14 and 15 showed the burden of getting the message of salvation out; the transmission of the gospel and the responsibility of the messenger was highlighted. Verses 16 and 17 transitioned from the message and messenger to the receiver. Now verse 18 places that burden on the receiver. “But I say…” is the contrasting thought. “Have they not heard?” This is a rhetorical question. The means of spreading the gospel has been explained and the fact that it was not received by the hearer was noted. But some may say, “Well this isn’t fair, I never heard the message.” Paul contradicts such a notion. “In fact, it has been sent out.”
“Yes indeed” is Paul’s declaration. In order to substantiate this, he cites the general thought of Psalm 19:4. This psalm, penned by David, begins with his observations about the universality of the knowledge of God which is evident in creation –
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
If David, a man born and raised as a shepherd, and who had no theological training at all, could discern these things, then no one else could claim otherwise. His thoughts thus substantiate that all have heard the voice of God. All have God’s general revelation clearly presented to them. This knowledge is sufficient for man to know that God exists and thus man is responsible to Him. But instead of pursuing Him, acknowledging Him, and rightly honoring Him, they seek out their own devices. This then is tied into Paul’s thoughts in Romans 1:18-21; man is without excuse.
Now, with the gospel proclaimed, their is an even greater burden on the people to believe. And so Paul equates David’s knowledge of general revelation to the now provided and superior knowledge of the gospel – God’s specific revelation. By citing the psalm in this way, he is making a wide-ranging statement about the gospel’s transmission. This doesn’t mean every person had heard the gospel, but that the message had gone out to the inhabited world. This is the same thought (and the same word for “world” is used) as the statement made in Acts 17:6 –
“But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.'”
And so, this “sound” which is the gospel message “has gone out to all the earth.” The word “sound” is phthoggos. It is used for a musical tone like when an instrument plays or a voice sings. The gospel is this beautiful voice. The “earth” is speaking of the physical earth. This voice has been transmitted on the planet “and their words to the ends of the world.” The word for “words” is rhemata. This signifies the matter which is being relayed. This subject, the gospel, is what has gone to the “ends of the world.” The “world” here being the inhabited world as noted in Acts 17:6 above.
In other words, by using different words for “earth” and “world” Paul demonstrates that the message has been carried over the physical earth and has been relayed to the inhabitants of the earth. It’s obvious that even today many haven’t actually heard. But the gospel is being transmitted actively and continuously. Those who have heard should have accepted the message. If they did, then the obvious next step would be to pass it on. If they didn’t, then they have disobeyed the gospel, first by not believing and then by not passing it on (because they didn’t believe.) This goes right back to verse 16, “…they have not all obeyed the gospel.”
Life application: All people have heard God’s voice through general revelation. This is plainly declared in Scripture. And the message of God’s special revelation, the gospel, has gone out and continues to go out through the world and to the people of the world. But it is incumbent on the people to obey the gospel by believing what is heard. If one believes the message, then he will obey Jesus’ words to share the good news. The question is, even if you have obeyed by believing, have you obeyed by sharing? It is time to demonstrate your belief through getting the message out.
Heavenly Father, what a treat it is to walk at night and behold the stars You have placed in the sky. The vastness of the universe shows the magnificence of Your wisdom and power. And yet, You have directed Your attention towards one such as me. Because of Your great love, with which You have loved us, You sent Your Son to bring us back to You, and this includes me… I am humbled by the thought. Thank You for noticing even me. Amen.