The Other Equally Very Important Side of Romans 10:14-17

The Other Equally Very Important Side of Romans 10:14-17

14 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? 15 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!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Paul’s words to the Romans in this passage have appeared in many sermons on missions and in missionary reports. The argument often is that people must be sent to preach the gospel, since without a preacher, people will not call on the name of the Lord and be saved. The logic of Romans 10:14-15 is straightforward. This point cannot be debated. But, have we missed an equally very important point of this passage by focusing so much on the need to send?  I think so.

There is another part of Romans 10 that, if taken seriously, will intensify the desire to bring the gospel to the nations. This point only comes into view when we take Romans 10:14-15 in the context of Romans 9:30-10:17. We want to ask, “Why did Paul say these words in this particular place?” To answer, we look in summary form at the development of his argument and make the following observations:

1.There is a situation of unbelief that is displeasing to Paul (9:30-33). The issue is that Gentiles have trusted God for righteousness. But Israel, by trying to pursue righteousness through works, has not obtained it (9:32). The actions of Gentiles and those of Israel are contrasted in 9:30-31. Israel failed to understand that being made right with God is a matter of faith and not works. It is the person who “believes in him” that “will not be put to shame” (9:33). Right away, we see that faith is necessary for a right relationship with God.

2. Paul’s response to the situation of unbelief in Israel (10:1-4). In response, Paul says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (10:1). It seems that Paul is very burdened, desires their salvation, and prays that God will do it. His burden is because his fellow Israelites are zealous for God, but in ignorance. They do not know that righteousness with God is by faith and not by works, and so they labor to obtain it. In other words, they are lost and need the gospel that promises salvation through faith alone.

3. The message of salvation explained (10:5-13). In this section, Paul takes time to explain the message of salvation that is by faith. In order to do that, he contrasts righteousness by the law and righteousness by faith (10:5-6). As a matter of fact, the message is not so hard that one should wonder how he or she can possibly obtain it (10:6b-8). The message says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (10:9-10). This is the message taught in Scripture (10:11) and the same message holds for everyone (10:12). What is required is faith: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:13).

4. But how is anyone to hear unless there is a preacher (10:14-15). The words of Paul about the need for a preacher to be sent comes in the context of the unbelief of Israel and the faith of Gentiles, his burden for his people and prayer that God will save them, and his explanation of the gospel message that brings salvation.

In view of the above observations, we can note the following points:

  1. It is not enough to be eager to send people to preach the gospel. One can do that and not be moved by it at all. Anybody can give money for a preacher to be sent to the heathen. Instead, it seems that preceding the sending is a sense of the danger of the lost in seeking a righteousness of their own based on works and a burden for them; a desire and prayer that God will save them. Paul was burdened and so he prayed. He also knew how ignorant his fellow country people were, and sought to help change the situation. So, there needs to be an understanding of the situation of those needing to hear the gospel, a burden on our hearts that pushes us to pray.
  2. The message of salvation is clear and rooted in Scripture. Paul took time (10:5-13) to explain the message of salvation. It is not enough to know that people need the gospel, it is not enough to be burdened and pray, we must arm ourselves with a message. It must be clear and easily explained.
  3. After all of these, then we seek to see how that message will go to those who need it by sending preachers (10:14-15). Interestingly, the preacher must have a message because without a message there will be no faith. Note what Paul says in 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

As we strive to bring the gospel to the nations, let us ask God to give us a burden for the nations, be purposeful in prayer, confident in our message, and obedient in going and sending.

Should We Use Revelation 3:20 as an Evangelistic Text?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Revelations 3:20).

This text from Revelation 3:20 if one of the most quoted passages in evangelism. The appeal is made to the unbeliever that Jesus is at the door of his heart, knocking, and that he promises to come in and eat with him. The only hindrance is the person not opening the door of his heart to Christ. But is this text really about evangelism?

Before arriving at a conclusion about what the apostle John meant when he wrote Revelation 3:20, we must resist the temptation to go directly from the text to the meaning. Rather, the way to know what a verse means is to study it in its context. When the author of a text writes it, he writes in such a way that we can arrive at what he intended to communicate by studying his words in context.

The Meaning of Revelation 3:20 in Context

First of all, we notice that the text is addressed to the Church in Laodicea, a church described as “lukewarm” (3:16). Jesus threatens to spit them out of his mouth (judgment) because they are “lukewarm.” Implicit in the words, “I will spit you out of my mouth” is a call to repentance. The church in Laodicea must repent or risked being judged by Christ. Contrary to how they see themselves, Jesus counseled them to turn to him and receive from him so that they may be rich (3:17-18). The call for repentance is made explicit in 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so, be zealous and repent.”

Obviously, the people in the church of Laodicea, though “lukewarm,” were believers. Nothing in the text says that they were unbelievers. In fact, Jesus says that he will discipline them because he loves them (3:19).

Seeing then that Revelation 3:20 was addressed to believers, we can then begin to seek an understanding of what the text meant. We can say that Jesus’ words to the church in Laodicea were addressed to believers who were struggling. Jesus promised them that he is ready to re-establish fellowship with them, “I stand at the door and knock, . . . I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This fellowship is not possible unless they repent, “hears my voice and opens the door.”

The message and promise of this passage for believers is that if and when we stray far from the Lord, he is ready and willing to restore fellowship with us. Yet, it will not happen unless we repent.

We have a Savior who is there ready to forgive us our sins when we repent. He stands with arms stretched out to those redeemed by his blood.

Given our understanding of the passage in context, we conclude that it would be a misuse of the text to apply it to unbelievers. To do so would be to miss the words of Christ for the church.

What is the Proper Place for Healings in Crusade Ministry?

One way to decide how to practice healings and other miracles in crusades is to look at how Jesus did it in his own ministry. Miracles figured prominently in his work.  At the same time, there is a key point that makes the difference between his healings and those performed today. So, what was the place of healings and other miracles the ministry of Jesus and what should it be today?

The following are observations from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles:

  1. Primacy of the gospel: Priority is given to the preaching of the gospel. Healings are secondary, never primary. We see this in many places in the gospels. Jesus sent out his disciples to preach, and in preaching, to cast out demons and heal the sick (Matt. 10:7-8). Many people sought Jesus for healings, but he chose to go to many towns and preach, for that is why he came. When Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, the response of the crowd was to talk about his message and his authority (Luke 4:33-37). When those sent out by Jesus returned rejoicing that demons were subject to them, Jesus told them not to rejoice in that fact, but to revel instead in the truth that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).
  2. Authenticate the gospel: Healings and other miracles authenticated the message of Jesus and the apostles. They brought wonder among the people as to who Jesus. They were often amazed and wondered if he could be the Son of David (Matt. 12:23; 9:32-34; Luke 11:14-23). The miracles showed that the message was from God and therefore true, and that the apostles were serving God (Acts 4:23-31).
  3. Opportunity to advance the gospel: Healings also provided an opportunity for healed individuals to testify about Jesus and to follow him. The demoniac desired to follow Jesus (Mark 5:17). He went about proclaiming “what great things the Lord has done” for him and how God showed him mercy (Mark 5:19, 20). His response to the work of Jesus was to testify about him.
  4. Authority of Jesus: Healings were performed by the authority of Jesus, that is, in his name and by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:5-22; Matt. 12:28). He appointed and sent out people with authority to heal and cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15; 6:7-13).
  5. Demons approached Jesus: Demons that were cast out would often recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They feared him, and in some cases begged him not to destroy them. We see here that Jesus never went looking for demons to cast out. He confronted them when they posed a challenge in his preaching ministry (Matt. 8:28-34; Luke 4:33-37).
  6. It is possible to cast out demons and heal the sick other than by the power of Christ. This is what Jesus implied in his question to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:24). This is also clear in what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-27.

Conclusion

From the above observations, healings and other miracles are a work of God. They were never set aside as a ministry in themselves. When Jesus and the apostles were preaching and there was need for one to be healed, they did so. The primacy of the gospel in the healing accounts is obvious. The focus is never on the one healed but on the power and authority of Jesus over demons and sickness, his identity as Son of David, and his mission as the one bringing in the kingdom of God. His healings brought amazement and pointed people to God. They advanced the gospel preached and those healed testified to the power of God or Christ in their healing. Jesus shows that to be healed is a great work of God and also mercy from God.

In the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, healings were never planned into the preaching ministry of the day. They went about preaching and doing ministry, and healed as the occasion arose. Their primary concern was to proclaim the gospel.

May we be like the apostles and pray to God to embolden us to preach the word without fear while HE (not WE) stretches out his hand to heal and perform wonders to authenticate the message we preach (Acts 4:23-31). God decides who is healed and when and for what purpose. We do not decide.

The place of healing and other miracles in our crusade ministries can be clarified by carefully understanding the methods of Jesus and the apostles. We cannot go wrong when we follow them. Like Jesus and the apostles, let us strive to proclaim the message of the kingdom first. Then, God will do the rest through us for his glory.