Summary: Why do we evangelise and share our faith?
I want you to watch a video clip for a few moments. Read the quotes on the screen. The one thing all of those people had in common was a passion for mission. Some of them were involved in mission overseas and some in their local area. As you could see from some of the quotes they were passionate about reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now let me ask you a simple question: Do we have that same passion for mission? Be that mission overseas or mission here on your own doorstep. Turn with me to Romans 10. We looked at the first 13 verses last Sunday morning and we are going to pick up where we left off. Paul, as we know from verse 1 of this chapter is passionate about winning fellow Israelites and Gentiles for Christ. Let me read to you again verse 13. When we turn to verses 14 following Paul outlines how such people will be enabled to call upon the name of the Lord.
Verse 14-15 – Paul begins by asking rhetorical questions which he expects will elicit negative answers. He expects his hearers to answer ‘they cannot’ to each of these questions. They cannot call on one they have not believed in but this is explained by the second question. They cannot believe in one they have not heard of and they will not hear unless someone preaches (tells) the gospel to them. Now please do not think Paul is speaking about what happens on a Sunday morning from the pulpit when he says ‘preaches.’ When he says ‘preach’ he is referring to believers witnessing to the truth of the gospel. Remember to whom he is writing – believers in Rome, not just to those in leadership of the church but to the body of Christ in Rome. He is writing to the whole church. Think about what Paul has said here. Each question builds upon the previous question. Layer upon layer he builds his argument for the proclamation of the gospel and their responsibility to be part of the task of proclamation.
Finally he says that they cannot preach unless they are sent. That is they do not go on their own authority but are commissioned by God to proclaim the gospel. The message that they are to proclaim is not something which they have made up but comes from God. They are ‘heralds’ – that is people sent by God to bear witness to those who have not heard the ‘good news.’ God has commissioned them, sent them, and it is with His authority that they bring the word of Christ to these people. The message they bring originates with God, is from God and they merely carry it to a lost world. Remember that when you come to speak (or hear) the gospel. It comes with the authority of God, not my authority, not yours. Its power and authority comes from God.
Paul has used a series of questions to remind them of their responsibility to proclaim the gospel and of their role in the proclamation of the gospel. They were not to forget nor neglect their God ordained role in the redemptive plan of God to reach a lost world. Neither should we.
Verses 16-19. Paul now brings forth an element of tragedy into the passage. The message, the good news, which they ‘preach’ will be met with unbelief. Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah which from chapter 40 on speaks of a Suffering Servant Messiah. This message of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah who dies is repudiated by those who receive it. Paul anticipates the excuses put forward by people for not accepting/believing the gospel they proclaim. In verse 18 Paul rules out the possibility that they have not heard the gospel and in verse 19 he rules out the possibility that they have not understood the gospel which they have heard. Each of Paul’s questions expects the positive answer – ‘they have heard’ and ‘they have understood.’ Therefore they are without excuse.
But let me linger here a moment. They could not hear if someone did not tell them – once again the responsibility of the believers to witness is raised. They could not understand if the message of Christ was not explained or not presented in an understandable way. Once more the onus is on the part played in witnessing by believers. Listen to me here because this has significance for us as a church, not least in a few weeks time at ‘Freedom.’ The gospel message never changes because it is a given from God but the presentation of it does change. Let me read you something Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9.22. Paul never changed or compromised the gospel but he did change the way he presented the message so that it was real and relevant to his hearers. He was culturally sensitive and culturally aware. Let me give you an example from Acts 17. Paul is at the Areopagus. He uses the fact that the Athenians had a statue to an unknown god as a means of introducing the gospel. On another occasion when speaking to Felix he uses his defence as a means of sharing the gospel. Again before Agrippa he uses a different means of introducing the gospel, namely his own testimony of his conversion on the road to Damascus. Christ Jesus when preaching about the coming of the kingdom of God used parables, visual aids (mustard seed, bread and wine etc) as a means of being relevant to those to whom he was speaking. There is an important lesson for us to learn here – spend some time in understanding the person to whom you are talking before you launch in with the gospel. The gospel message itself does not change but how you present the gospel must be relevant to them so that they not only hear but understand.