My family and I recently attended a play at the nearby community theater. It was a rendition of the the Disney classic “Mary Poppins” - one of my all-time favorites. It was the show’s closing weekend so the auditorium was packed with people who had come to enjoy the musical performance before it was too late. The presentation was marvelous and the audience was clearly delighted by the play. It was a wonderful experience.
I have lumped chapters 9-11 of Romans together and have titled their related messages the “Audience of Salvation”. Like a play is presented to an audience, so also God presents salvation to an audience. His audience is mankind. Salvation is not revealed to any other of God’s creations - not to angels, not to animals, nor to anyone else. God chose His audience (humanity) beforehand, and offers salvation exclusively to them.
Unlike a play, which is intended simply to entertain those who watch, God’s presentation of salvation demands a response. It is much more than a performance, and we are called to be more than mere spectators. Those who hear the message of salvation must respond to it individually by faith in order for it to become effectual in their lives. Salvation is made possible by Holy Spirit conviction, and received through confession and belief in Jesus Christ (as we discussed last week).
5 months ago we began this series with a sermon titled “The Message of Salvation”. We saw how Paul opened this letter by proclaiming that he was “not ashamed of the gospel” because it is the “power of God unto salvation” for all who believe it. This gospel is a message that everyone needs to hear - a play that everyone needs to see. The eternal destinies of people are at stake. So, how does God go about spreading this all-important message? This morning we will seek to find the answer.
I. SENDING AND PREACHING (Romans 10:14-15)
God is able to reveal Himself to people in various ways, but His most widely utilized method is through the proclamation of the gospel by preachers. These “preachers” include anyone who rightly proclaims the message of salvation as taught in the Bible, regardless of their formal vocation. While some do this fulltime, all of us can and should be preachers in the sense that we should share the gospel with others. God’s primary approach for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is by commissioning Christians to go and tell it to lost people.
The process is straightforward. Jesus established the church with the purpose of evangelizing the entire world. God’s calling of all people to Himself through the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ is the church’s paramount message. Thus, the church serves as the primary channel through which this message is communicated. It begins as the church sends people - missionaries, evangelists, preachers, teachers, and others - to proclaim the gospel to the unsaved masses.
The church conducts various ceremonies which are intended to either commission, ordain, or otherwise annoint someone for Christian service. These should never replace or supplant the genuine calling of God upon a person’s life. Rather, they should serve as an affirmation and a formal endorsement of God’s calling upon a person. The church’s sending of a preacher provides credibility to the truthfulness of their message and the authenticity of their personal testimony. While I do believe that there are some who have be called of God and have gone out independently sharing their message, in general I advise caution when listening to and subscribing to the teachings of preachers who have never been commissioned and/or ordained by the church.
Simply put, God uses saved people to reach lost people. When a sinner becomes saved, they are immediately called to reach others who are still lost… and this cycle continues perpetually, from one generation to the next. Therefore, preachers serve a critical role in the revelation of God to this lost world. For this reason, Paul commends them by citing the words of Isaiah - “ How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
II. HEARING AND BELIEVING (Romans 10:16-17)
Having been called of God and sent by the church, preachers are charged to carry the invitation of Jesus Christ to the whole world. Some will hear this message, while others will tune it out or ignore it altogether. Of those who do hear it, some will fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and truly believe. Those who do will then call out to God in repentance and accept salvation by placing their faith in Jesus. Thus, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the proclaimed word of Christ.
Sadly, millions who hear the gospel message will not believe it; they will not “heed the good news”. Paul again quotes the writing of Isaiah when he asks, “Who has believed our report?” When we consider this statement in context we might rephrase it like this, “Has anyone believed what we’ve been saying? If so, then who?” The question indicates that many have heard the message of God but few have actually taken it seriously. It expresses any preacher’s nagging frustration - namely, that most people, even after hearing it proclaimed, tend to reject the declared word of God.
Some Christians and churches allow the majority’s rejection of Jesus Christ to damper their passion for evangelism. It can be very difficult to endure when so many are averse to the gospel message. Yet, there are those out there who will believe it when they hear it. Therefore we must not become silent in our preaching, because even if thousands say “no” to Jesus just one “yes” makes it all worthwhile.
III. HAVE THEY HEARD? (Romans 10:18-21)
Some Jews openly questioned the faith of the believing Gentiles. They wondered from where or from whom the Gentiles had heard the message of salvation. If they had not heard it preached, how could they possibly believe it? Paul refers to a psalm of King David which speaks about creation itself declaring the glory of God. This is his way of reminding his Jewish readers that God can and does reveal Himself in numerous ways, and can make Himself known to people even without sending a human messenger.
Paul cites Moses who wrote in Deuteronomy that “a nation without understanding” would anger the Jews. This nation of people he is referring to are the Gentiles, to whom God would make Himself known even after the Jews refused to do so. It is shameful that the Jewish people were so hateful to and skeptical of the Gentile believers, when they should have be a cause for great joy! Even today there are examples of unfounded jealousy and anger among Christians who doubt the sincerity of one another.
Finally Paul returns to the prophecy of Isaiah to further emphasize his point that God had indeed made Himself known to the Gentiles, allowing them also to be saved. They had found God by faith, despite the fact that they weren’t specifically looking for Him at the time. Perhaps you can remember an instance when you found something that you’d lost even though you weren’t actively searching for it. Ironically, God’s chosen nation of Israel had rejected Him and continued to live in obstinance and disobedience.
God makes Himself known to people in numerous ways. Some involve human messengers, while others do not. God speaks through nature and creation, through circumstances, through internal thoughts and impressions, through angels, through the stirring voice of the Holy Spirit, through the private reading of His written word, and so on. He reveals Himself in whatever manner He sees fit. But the primary means by which He communicates His message of salvation to the world is through preachers - those people who unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
God’s strategy is to send out believers that will reach to this lost world for Jesus. This is His game plan. As imperfect as we are, God chooses to use people as the primary instrument through which He seeks to impact the world. To be honest, I have often wondered why He would take this approach to evangelism when He could accomplish this task by HImself much more effectively. Perhaps our involvement in the spreading the gospel is intended to allow us to actually experience Christ’s compassion and love for other people, and thereby to grow us in His likeness. Perhaps it is not just about reaching more people for Jesus, but also about making those who have been saved more like Jesus...
In the previous verses we learned that God has chosen to offer salvation to all people, and that we as individuals must choose to accept it by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. In a similar fashion, God has also chosen to use Christians as a means to spread the gospel to others. Again, we must chose for ourselves whether or not to be obedient to this purposeful calling.
There are people in your sphere of influence today who are more likely to listen to you than to anyone else. Will you tell them about Jesus? As an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I recognize and affirm the call of God upon your life (as it is upon mine) and this morning am formally commissioning each of you who are believers to go tell your neighbors, your family, and your friends the message of salvation. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”