Sunday, 22 September 2013
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14
We have just seen that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek in the need for and means of salvation. The Lord is rich to both Jew and Greek in that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Understanding this, Paul will now demonstrate, in logical sequence, how the plan of salvation is relayed. From this chain of thought he will redirect to how Israel’s unbelief is not due to a lack of the plan, but is due to a failure to acknowledge it.
The sequence of questions given by Paul can be interpreted in a couple ways. One way is that Paul is stating them as objections to his previous argument. In essence, “How can we be blamed for not responding to the call when the call hasn’t been provided?” This view of these questions is held by the noted scholar Albert Barnes. As Barnes states – “… the ground of injustice which a Jew would complain of, would be, that the plan made salvation dependent on faith, when a large part of the nation had not heard the gospel, and had had no opportunity to know it.”
Another way of viewing these questions is that Paul is rhetorically asking them in order to stimulate action. In essence, “You have heard that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, but how can this come about without them hearing the message.” This is the more common interpretation of these questions. Rather than being a defense at a trial they are an impetus to share the good news.
Be assured, the “defense” view is used by people all around the world, Jew and Gentile alike, to demonstrate that it is unfair to condemn people who haven’t heard the gospel. And so Barnes is right in how these questions could be used. In answer, one doesn’t need the gospel in order to be condemned – all people are already condemned (see John 3:18); one needs the gospel in order to be saved. Therefore, there is no unfairness in God. The gospel message is grace. Grace, by its very nature, is undeserved. The defense view cannot stand when presented to God.
The “stimulate to action” view is also used, and rightly so, by those who understand the need to share the gospel. If the “defense view” is actually a non-starter, then it is incumbent on believers to get the word out because it is God’s avenue for it to be transmitted; and so it is. The Great Commission was stated explicitly by the Lord in several ways. These can be found in Matthew 28:19, 20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46-47, John 20:21, and at the ascension in Acts 1:8.
This commission then is given so that salvation may be realized in both Jew and Gentile. It is a message without favoritism, but rather one that is given for “whoever calls on the name of the Lord.” But…
1) “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” Paul’s first obvious question. Man has the knowledge of God already ingrained in him. This is evident from the discussion in Romans 1 and also from such passages as Psalm 19:1-3 –
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.
However, this knowledge is natural revelation and is merely sufficient to condemn man. God’s word, the message of Christ, is specific revelation. It is sufficient to bring man to salvation. But being specific, it is not universally known. It must be transmitted in order to be believed. How can man call on the Lord if they haven’t believed in Him? The answer is, he cannot. And so more is needed.
2) “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” If calling on the Lord presupposes belief (“belief” implies a heart acceptance and not just a mental assertion), then how can that belief be realized if one doesn’t hear the word of faith? It cannot happen. No one can believe in the existence of a green dribackle bug because no one has ever heard of such a thing. Proper belief that such a bug exists must be grounded in a truthful message based on true evidence. And the gospel message is no different. How can someone accept the gospel if the gospel has never been presented to them? The answer is, he cannot. And so more is needed.
3) “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” One cannot hear a message unless there is another to transmit the message. Words do not generate themselves, either in oral or in written format. They must have a source in order for them to come about. And so the gospel cannot go forth without someone to share it. This rhetorical question then needs to be taken to heart by every saved person who cares about the lost. In the ultimate sense, each person who speaks the gospel is a preacher and someone must preach in order for the message to be heard. But there is also a truth that not everyone is actually a preacher. The next verse will deal with that then.
Life application: No one will have a sound defense at their trial of condemnation, but those who call on the Lord have a certain hope; a pardon for their offenses against the holy God. How can we turn a blind eye to those who so desperately need to hear the Good News found in Jesus Christ?
Heavenly Father, if the message of Jesus is true (and it certainly is!), then it is life, peace, and pardon for those who receive it. Likewise, there can only be heartfelt sadness for those who either don’t hear it or who reject it. Break my heart Lord; break my heart for those who so desperately need to hear this perfect message of peace and reconciliation. Use me in all that I am to be a minister of the word of life – the good news of Jesus Christ. Amen.