Summary: This is the 19th of 30 Studies in the Book of Romans
14 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? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Paul had just said that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, and he follows up this statement with a very valid question. “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” Just because Jesus is the truth, does not mean everyone will call on Jesus. It’s only those who believe that Jesus is The Truth, who will call on Him. Those who do not believe He is the truth, will not call on Him, which also means, that if they don’t call on Him, they will not be saved. That’s God’s plan of salvation – not man’s, not the church’s plan – it’s God’s plan. God decided that the only way a person could ever be saved, was not by their good works, not by paying a price, but by believing in Jesus, and receiving the gift of righteousness that he offers anyone who believes in Him.
Paul then follows this question with yet another very pertinent question, “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” If one is to be saved by faith in Jesus, but they have never heard about Jesus, how then can they believe? One can only believe in someone they’ve heard about, but if they haven’t heard, they can’t believe.
Paul then asks another question, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” Let’s go back over the last few points Paul made. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. For one to call, they need to first believe. To believe, they need to first hear, and for them to hear, someone needs to preach to them. So the need is for us to preach to those who haven’t heard about Jesus, so they get a chance to hear, and then a chance to believe, and to call on the name of the Lord, and thereby be saved.
The questions aren’t over yet – “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” If one is to preach, they are to be first sent. Who sends people to preach? God does. God calls some people into full-time ministry, where they spend all their time serving God by taking His word to the world, but then, there are others who may not be specifically called into full-time ministry, but still have the responsibility to share the Gospel with the world. The way they do it, or the places they do it will defer, but all the same, they also are called to share the gospel.
Paul goes on to quote Isaiah 52:7, where he says that the feet of those who take the gospel are beautiful. He then says that despite the gospel being preached to the Jews, not all of them believed in Jesus. And he then quotes from Isaiah 53:1, which says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” indicating that the Jews’ lack of faith was prophesied in the Old Testament.
Paul then concludes this thought by saying that if one is to put their faith in Christ, they must first have an opportunity to hear it. Back in the day, most people did not read, so the most common mode of learning was by hearing, not by reading. But today, a lot of people have another option to hear the gospel – by reading it. He’s saying in other words, that faith in God can only come from hearing (or in today’s context, also by reading) the word of God. No other message can develop one’s faith in God except the Word of God. This is true about before we became believers, and after we have become believers as well. To develop faith, we need God’s word, and to grow in our faith, we need God’s word. So let’s do all we can to both read the Word of God, and hear the Word of God.
18 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.” 19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” 20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” 21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”