SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Obedience to the Word of Christ and its Opposite
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Sunday, September 21, 2008 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1208
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 10:14-21 - “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" [16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [18] But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world."[19] But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry." [20] Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,"I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me."[21] But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people."

The connection between this text and the verses immediately preceding seems simple enough. If there is a universal message of salvation for Jews and Gentiles - “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him”(10:12) - and if the only condition of receiving salvation is believing - “....Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame"(10:11) - and if the only action required is calling on the Lord - “....everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved"(10:13) - then all people everywhere need to hear the message so they can call in faith. Hence, the obvious question to answer is how will people hear the message?

1) PAUL FORMS A CONNECTED CHAIN OF EVENTS NECESSARY FOR PEOPLE TO BE SAVED
Romans 10:14-15 - “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [15] And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

The important point here is Paul isn’t just listing a number of ingredients - not even a list of very important ingredients. He repeats that verb “how” near the beginning of each question to lead us from step to step in his thinking. We’re meant to see each question, not merely as a question, but as a link in a chain of logic. It is wonderful for people to call upon the Lord for salvation. But they can’t call on someone without believing. And they certainly won’t believe unless they hear the message. And they can’t hear the message unless somebody preaches or tells. And how can anyone proclaim unless they are sent?

If you take any one part of that process out, the whole process fails. You don’t have to remove all the parts to bring salvation to naught. You only have to remove one. How many links have to break in a chain before it no longer holds? This is the way Paul describes the advance of the gospel until Jesus returns. So there is no opting out of this process for the disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul’s point is each Christian is in this chain. No one can say, “Missions just isn’t my thing.” If by that you mean you aren’t called to go as a missionary, fine. But that only means you are called to send those who go. And you must send with the same passion and commitment as those who go. Opting out of the missions chain is disobedience, pure and simple.

2) FOR UNCONVERTED ISRAEL, ALL THE CONDITIONS FOR SALVATION WERE MET, EXCEPT ONE
Romans 10:16-20 - “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. [18] But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’[19] But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’ [20] Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’”

These verses are important because they point out Paul’s intention in verses 14-15. While discussion boils over about the fate of those who have never heard the gospel, the context makes clear Paul’s intention was never to discuss those who haven’t heard, but those who have - particularly Israel. He clearly says it’s not that they haven’t heard the message, but that they haven’t obeyed the message - Romans 10:16a- “But they have not all obeyed the gospel....”

Paul traces their spiritual blindness, not to ignorance but to stubbornness. They didn’t want to receive the truth. Their unbelief wasn’t passive unbelief, but willful. This shouldn’t surprise us because Paul already hinted at this earlier in the third verse of this chapter - “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness”(3:10).

In the next four verses Paul seeks to remove two excuses for Israel’s rebellious condition. First he will deal with the objection that they didn’t hear the message. Then, second, he will deal with the objection that they didn’t understand the message. As far as hearing the message, Paul quotes from Psalm 19:4 - “But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world’”(10:18). Certainly Paul knows Psalm 19 is dealing with God’s general revelation in creation rather in the declaration of the gospel. But his point is he and other apostles have taken the gospel to all the regions of the Jews. Israel couldn’t claim ignorance as an excuse. In this sense, the gospel was as available to the Jews as the revelation of creation was to the rest of mankind. As far as understanding the message, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 32 - “But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’”

This passages offers more fruit than one might pick at first glance. What Israel knew was God was going to act in such a way redemptively that He would include Gentiles. This meant God would save by grace, apart from the law. This was a wonderful pre-picturing of the coming of Christ and God’s supplying the righteousness He required. All of this, says Paul, Israel had seen prophesied in her own Scriptures. Only pride kept her from coming to the truth.

3) ISRAEL’S SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS WAS NOT THE RESULT OF DIVINE DECREE - Romans 10:20-21 - “Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’[21] But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’”

Again, Paul works with Israel’s own prophetic Scriptures to show he isn’t saying anything underhanded or unannounced. All had been revealed in the plan of God from long ago. Israel was rebelling against God, not Paul.

Of most interest at this point is Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 65:2. Israel has resisted God. But what makes her resistance particularly offensive and blameworthy is she resisted and refused a God who was, all the while, holding His divine arms out (so to speak) to receive and embrace Israel.A more opposite picture from some hidden eternal decree of election couldn’t be found. God invited. God waited. God pleaded. Israel refused. Israel shunned. Israel shut God out. And if ever we needed to see this Old Testament text reflected in the life of our Lord, it’s found in Matthew 23:37 - “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

4) WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVEN’T HEARD THE GOSPEL?

While this isn’t the teaching of Romans 10, it is the issue people want to discuss. The problem we have in our minds is creating a level playing field. We want God to play fair with everyone. We want everyone to have the same opportunity. This appeals to our sense of fairness.

But it really doesn’t work. And you don’t have to go to the hidden regions of the earth to see why. Forget about the jungles for a minute. Think of your neighborhood - your own street. Sure, people probably have at least heard of Jesus Christ. But their situations are hardly equal. Some homes have a Christian dad to live out the life and love of Jesus in front of the children every day. Other kids have two parents who drink and fight and curse the saving name of Jesus that the kids heard once in some VBS. Don’t tell me those kids all have the same chance to love our Lord.

Some homes take their families to church regularly. Others never go. Some homes are morally sane and clean. Others are dens of twisted sex and drugs. In our own church, some bring their families to church about 104 times a year. Some come about 50 times a year. Some come at Christmas and Easter.

No. There’s no way to make the playing field level. And you don’t have to go to Africa to see it. All we know from our text is this. If there’s another plan - some other way for those who haven’t heard to be reached - either Paul doesn’t tell us, or he doesn’t know about it. There is nothing in this text to promote hope that perhaps the lost don’t need to hear about Jesus Christ. So let’s pray and send and give and go as though their future depends on it.