How then will they 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? 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!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:14-17 ESV
Paul has just finished saying, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11 ESV), and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 ESV). Once again, Paul used the Old Testament Scriptures, quoting from Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:32 to prove his point. Belief in God will lead one to call out to God in times of need or trouble. His emphasis has been on the Jewish people. He has expressed his heart’s desire that they be saved, even suggesting that he would be willing to suffer eternal damnation if it meant that the Jews would come to faith. But Paul knew they would have to experience salvation the same way as everyone else. They would have to call on the name of the Lord.
But at this point in his letter, Paul turned his attention to the believers in his audience, asking them, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? ” (Romans 10:15 NLT). Yes, the Jews had a responsibility to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, just like everyone else. But Paul was adamant that the believers in Rome had an even weightier responsibility to tell them about Christ. After His death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and commanded them, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT). He also told them, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21 NLT). And that great commission didn’t just apply to the eleven men who Jesus left behind. It has been the marching orders for every follower or disciple of Jesus Christ from that point until today.
Once again, Paul quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures, using the words found in Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” These original words were given to the people of Judah to announce that God was going to restore them from captivity in Babylon and return them to Jerusalem. Paul uses these words of comfort and joy to express what it is like when someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ for the first time, telling them that they can be restored to a right relationship with God, even though they are undeserving of His amazing grace. When someone shares the gospel with an unbeliever, faithfully obeying Christ’s command to tell, they are bringing news of peace and salvation.
But Paul breaks the sad news that not everyone who hears will listen. Even when Isaiah told the people of Judah that God was going to set them free from captivity in the land of Babylon, not everyone listened. Not everyone believed. God had told them, “Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean. Get out of there and purify yourselves” (Isaiah 52:11 NLT). Yet the prophet would, “Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?” (Isaiah 53:1 NLT). Many of the Jews living in Babylon would refuse to return to the land of promise. Rather than believe God and make the long, arduous journey back to Judah, they would choose to remain in captivity. And Paul stated that, in his day, not everyone who heard the gospel ended up receiving it. Both Jews and Gentiles rejected the good news regarding Jesus Christ. They refused to accept the message of salvation through faith in Christ alone. For Paul it always came back to faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV). We have a responsibility to tell. But each and every person who hears must express faith in what they have heard. We have a responsibility to communicate the gospel with unbelievers, but it is NOT our responsibility to convert them. They must confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Then and only then will they experience salvation.
Ultimately, it is God who calls, justifies and glorifies (Romans 8:30). Salvation does not depend on human will or effort, but on God, who has mercy (Romans 9:16). And God said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15 ESV). Conversion is never the result of coercion. We will never debate someone into a saving relationship with Christ. Our responsibility is to share. We must learn to leave the results up to God. Paul provides us with an interesting and important analogy in his letter to the Corinthians believers.
After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 NLT
Some of us plant. Others water. But God alone causes the growth. We simply work for Him and get to watch the amazing fruit of His harvest.