Summary: The proclamation of the gospel is essential to salvation.
While Paul maintains his focus on unbelieving Israel (10.16), he makes some general observations about the process of salvation that are universal. The main theme of this paragraph (10.14-21) is an explanation of why Israel failed to understand that God’s righteousness resides in Jesus who is God’s Messiah. Israel’s unwillingness to believe the good news is rooted in their lack of knowledge about God’s righteousness (10.4). The gospel had been preached to Israel. They heard the gospel, but they failed to believe. The testimony of the law, the prophets and the writings were part and parcel of their heritage. Moreover, many had seen the works of Jesus and listened to his preaching and, if this was not enough, they had been confronted by the witness of Paul and the other apostles.
GOSPEL PREACHING (10.14-15)
Paul has emphatically declared that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (The implications for Paul’s Christology ought not be overlooked in this passage: in the Old Testament one called on Yahweh to be saved, but now it is Christ upon whom one calls to be saved. The point may be subtle but it is important.) The cause and effect process whereby one comes to faith is outlined by a succession of rhetorical questions. Whether it is a member of your family, a coworker or an unreached person on the other side of the planet, the process is the same. There is no distinction between persons (particularly the Jew and the Greek): the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. So whether one is an Israelite or a Gentile, each one comes to Jesus in the same way. Paul mentions five steps in the process of propagating the gospel: 1) a preacher must be sent; 2) he must preach the good news; 3) the gospel must be heard; 4) the gospel must be believed; and 5) the believer must call on God to be saved. In verse 17 Paul summarizes these five steps: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, that is, believing follows hearing the word of Christ which is preached. The word of Christ is the very gospel that Paul has been writing about throughout his letter (3.21-26; 5.1-8; 10.9-10).
Paul reverses the chain of events that leads to salvation. That is, he works from one effect to its cause and then from another effect to its cause until he comes to the first action: that of the preacher being sent. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will receive the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is faith dependent, not works dependent (Philippians 3.4-10). Calling on Jesus is the very thing unbelieving Israel would not do. The model of calling on the Lord and living in faith dependence on him is clear in the Old Testament. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies (Psalm 18.3). To you, O LORD, I [David] call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit (Psalm 28.1). Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them (Psalm 99.6). Then I called on the name of the LORD: O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul! (Psalm 116.4). The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145.18). In the New Testament Christians are identified as those who call on the Lord: To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1.2). Calling on the Lord is what believers do as a matter of course. The Canaanite woman who cried out to the Lord on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter would not be put off by the rebuke of the disciples, she was not even put off by the stern reply of Jesus. She continued to call out to him until she received a favorable response: “O woman, great is your faith! Bet it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15.28; Mark 10.46-52).
SAVING BELIEF (10.15)
The belief of which Paul speaks is a saving faith; it is a gracious gift of God whereby the elect are able to believe the gospel message to the saving of their souls. This work of grace is typically brought about by the preaching of the Word of God, through the prayerful witness of the Christian community (2 Corinthians 4.13; Ephesians 2.8; Romans 10.14,17; Luke 17.5; 1 Peter 2.2; Acts 20.32). “The principle acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace (Acts 24.14; Psalm 19.7-10; 119.72; 2 Timothy 1.12; John 15.14; Isaiah 66.2; Hebrews 11.13; John 1.12; Acts 16.31; Galatians 2.20; Acts 15.11)” (London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter 14).