The Epistle to the Romans
Lesson Number 34
THE INDISPENSABLE GOSPEL
10:14 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. 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
- Romans 10:14-21 NKJV -
Moved by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle has confessed his "heart's desire and prayer to God" for Israel, his
"kinsmen according to the flesh." This desire has been sparked by the consideration of the "gift of righteousness"
as revealed in the Gospel of Christ (1:17-18). That Gospel, the Spirit revealed, was God's power in order to effect
salvation, "to the Jew FIRST" (1:16). How fitting, therefore, that this knowledge should awaken a fervent desire for
the Israelites to be saved! This was not a fleshly desire, prompted by national pride or a mere general interest in their
spiritual welfare. This fervent desire was prompted by the new man, fellowship with Christ, and the mind of the
Spirit. This is how an Israelite reasons when they have been "joined to the Lord." It is the result of spiritual life, and
is not to be viewed as an expression of the flesh.
A MERE TECHNICALITY?
Some might imagine that the phrase, "to the Jew first," is a mere technicality, with no practical implications
at all. In such a view, God is seen as obligated to offer this salvation, which includes the imputation of His own
righteousness, because of the promises made to the fathers. Those same promises also "pertained" to Israel (9:4). In
this view, "the promises" are considered an offer, or an opportunity. But that is not how they are presented in
Scripture. They are a Divine commitment, based upon the "foreknowledge" of God, and are to be implemented
by His unalterable determination.
FIRST IN SEQUENCE? Others might consider "to the Jew first" to mean they were to be the first to hear the Gospel. While this is true,
it is not all the truth. It is true that the proclamation began with them. However, the word "first" also means of first
importance - first in place as well as in time. A similar use of the word is found in the description of the various gifts
the Lord placed in the church. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor 12:28). Here,
as in Romans 1:16, the word "first" is more than a sequential term.
As long as the world remains, there will never be a time when the Gospel will cease to be
"the power of God unto
salvation, to the Jew first."
Paul Preached to the Jew First
In order to confirm this is the meaning of "to the Jew first," consider the nature of Paul's ministry. As soon as
he was delivered from the power of darkness and translated into Kingdom of God's dear Son, "Immediately he
preached the Christ in the synagogues" NKJV (Acts 9:20). When Barnabas and Saul were separated by the Holy Spirit,
they immediately sailed to the Gentile island of Cyprus. When coming to the city of Salamis, on the east coast of
Cyprus, "they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" (Acts 13:5). Following their expulsion because
of the Jews, they came to Iconium, in the southern part of Galatia. There, "they went both together into the
synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 14:1). When coming into Thessalonica, Paul and Silas went into "a synagogue of the
Jews," reasoning with them for three Sabbath days (Acts 17:1-2). When they were forced to leave that city because
of the Jews, they went to Berea and "went into the synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 17:10).
When Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens, he was stirred in his spirit when he saw the city given
completely to idolatry. His first response to that stirring is recorded in these words: "Therefore disputed he in the
synagogue with the Jews" (Acts 17:17). When he came into Corinth, Paul "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath,
and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks" (Acts 18:4). When he came into Ephesus, the Apostle, "entered into the
synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews" (Acts 18:19).
The Gospel, therefore, was not simply preached to the Jews first in sequence. It was not declared first in
Jerusalem, and to the neglect of the Jews after that. Paul's not only fervently desired the salvation of the Jews, his
preaching conformed to that desire.
It is necessary to consider these things because of the religious climate that has been created by Christian
sophists. There is a different kind of mentality extant in the professed church. It has placed "the nations," or the
Gentiles, ahead of the Jews in Gospel prominence. The result, whether intentional or not, has been the near-removal
of the Israelites from the minds of the people.
There are even pretentious ministers who are aggressive against the ancient people, affirming they have been
expunged from the tablets of heaven, and are no longer in the heart and purpose of God. Chapters nine through eleven
of the book of Romans is a sword from heaven that cuts these spouting imaginations down, dashing them to pieces.
The Holy Spirit provokes the Apostle to write extensively on this matter. He is not only writing as moved by the
Holy Spirit, he is unveiling his sensitive heart to us. He integrates it with the Gospel, the conferment of righteousness,
and the salvation of God. It is related to the purpose of God, the power of God, and the promises of God. It is not
possible for a subject to have more lofty associations. It requires an extraordinary measure of unbelief to deny these
realities. Great joy is realized in acknowledging them.
THE NECESSITY OF BELIEVING
" 10:14a How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" Here we are exposed to the
Divine economy - how the Lord works among men. While it is true that God was "found of them that sought Him not"
(Isa 65:1; Rom 10:20), we are not to conclude there is no human involvement in men finding God. It is also true that
the Gentiles "attained to righteousness," even though they did not pursue it (Rom 9:30). Yet, none of this occurred
independently of someone bringing the Gospel to the people. Nor, indeed, did it take place without the people calling
upon the name of the Lord. These two things - bringing the Gospel, and calling upon the name of the Lord -
necessitate human initiative and response. We will also see the role of faith, or believing the Gospel, in the obtaining
CALLING ON THE LORD
The statement now expounded by the Spirit is this: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall
be saved" (v 13). This is one of the pivotal expressions of Scripture, standing between hopelessness and a living hope,
between darkness and light, between ignorance and illumination.
Calling upon the name of the Lord is the proper response to the Gospel, which announces the salvation of God
for man. Thus David, a man ahead of his time, said, "What shall I render unto the LORD for all His benefits toward
me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD . . . I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of
thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD" (Psa 116:12-13,17).
In our text, the activity of calling is
not related to finding relief in outward difficulties. Rather, it is
specifically related to the appropriation of salvation, or the attainment of righteousness. More
specifically, it related to this marvelous phrase: "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (10:10).
Calling upon the name of the Lord is a fervent quest to obtain that righteousness. That call is provoked
by the awareness of two realities.
Calling upon the Lord involves human initiative, and is absolutely essential for salvation. However, our
text is going even further than this. It is not representing calling upon the name of the Lord as a requirement. Rather,
the affirmation has been that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord "shall be saved" (10:13).
No one has ever
called upon the name of the Lord who has not been saved! That is the glorious point of this text.The Awareness of Unrighteousness
First, that the one calling upon the name of the Lord has an acute awareness of personal unrighteousness. By
nature, there is an utter lack within of the righteousness God requires, and the person calling upon the Lord knows
it. Such an one correctly views himself as "a sinner" (Lk 18:13).
Righteousness Is Available
Second, the heart of the calling one is convinced that the righteousness of God is accessible. Although it is not
presently possessed, the Gospel has convinced the individual that there is a righteousness to be had, and that it can
THE GOSPEL CALCULATED TO INDUCE THIS CALLING
The Gospel of Christ brings the awareness of these things: i.e., 1 personal unrighteousness, and 2 the availability
of a righteousness from God. Where honest and good hearts are not convinced of these things, the Gospel has
The Aim of the Preacher
Those who speak in the name of the Lord must devote themselves to delivering a message that provokes these
perceptions. It is the message itself that accomplishes this, and not the reasoning, or supposed logical conclusions,
of the speaker. Technically, the aim of the true preacher is not to convince men they are unrighteous, and persuade
them that they can be righteous. Rather, it is to preach the Gospel with insight and power. The Gospel of Christ will
accomplish these things, for that is precisely what it is designed to do.
The objective for the preacher is to be a specialist in Gospel, not the supposed state and need of humanity. The
psychologist, for example, specializes in the human condition. The sociologist particularizes in the status, trends, and
needs of society. The man of God is a specialist in the Gospel of Christ. This is involved in Paul's admonition to
Timothy, and all others who labor in the vineyard of the Lord. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as
a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" NASB (2 Tim 2:15).
are we admonished to specialize in people, categories of people, or classifications of life's problems
and challenges. All of that may sound noble to some, but it does not reflect the mind and purpose of God. There
are higher and more consequential matters upon which we are to focus. The one who speaks for God must address
these matters pointedly and effectively.
The Gospel, given by God Himself, is designed to uncover the real human dilemma, and provide an eternal
solution to it. Every legitimate area of concern is addressed within the framework of the Gospel. Although all of these
are not particularized, the effective remedy for all deficiencies can be arrived at within the perimeter of the
righteousness revealed in the Gospel. The salvation of God has left no area unattended. The spirit, soul, and body,
are all included in the salvation of God (1 Thess 5:23). A "preacher" who does not see this cannot be effective.
How can a person call upon the name of the Lord if they have not believed in Him? If the individual is not
persuaded that "God is, and that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6), Divine benefits
will not be pursued.
The question is pointed. It is not an interrogation to be answered. This is a rhetorical question, designed to show
the indispensability of believing the Gospel. "How then are they to call on Him if they have not come to believe in
The truth of the matter is that men will not call upon God to save them if they do not believe in Him. A petition
to the Lord that begins, "O God, if there really is a God," is vain. It is not a valid call, even though some imagine it
is acceptable. As it is written, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe
that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). In this case, coming to God is
equivalent to calling upon Him.
No real quest for God, or what He provides in Christ, will be found where men and women do not "believe."
Where people are not engaged in a fervent quest to obtain the righteousness of God, they have not
believed in Him. Where an acute sense of a need of the Lord is absent, souls are not believing in Him! When there
is no seeking, there is no believing! When there is not knocking, there is no believing! When there is no asking, there
is no believing! That is precisely why Jesus spoke of these activities as He did. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek,
and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh
findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matt 7:7-8). The certitude woven into those words is
remarkable. There is not the slightest hint that asking, seeking, and knocking will be in vain. In fact, these words are
but another way of saying, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
The Nominal Church
Anyone who has been in Christ for any length of time has been impressed with the lack of fervency in the
professed church. One is hard pressed to find an assembly in which people are calling upon the name of the Lord -
asking, seeking, and knocking. Actually, the nominal church is wedded to the world, and the world is its wedded name.
The world is not calling upon the Lord, and the average churchmen is not either. That is confirmation that an
unlawful wedding has taken place.
The reason for this situation is unfolded in our text. It is because men have not believed in the Lord. That failure
to believe has aborted any quest for His righteousness. Thus men stumble on in darkness and despair, not convinced
of the accessibility of the righteousness of God.
THE NECESSITY OF HEARING
" 10:14b And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?" The philosopher may think
that believing "in Him" can come from introspection, or even by studying nature in all of its marvelous order and
complexities. Such a view gives too much credit to man, and makes too little allowance (if any at all) for the Gospel
of Christ. Believing in God is not the same as believing God exists, and that is not the intent of this statement. Rather,
believing in Him is being assured that He has a righteousness to give - one that is sorely needed, and one that can
be obtained. If a person is not persuaded that God provides a righteousness, and that it can be obtained,
there has been no believing in Him. To put it another way, if one is not convinced God has graciously provided
a means whereby man will be accepted by Him, one has not believed in Him. What, then, is the appointed means
whereby men will "believe in Him?"
There is a message that must be heard. It cannot be obtained by seeing, or by visions. It cannot be
appropriated by pondering the creation, or searching our own hearts. It must be heard! That is,
knows the message must bring it within the hearing range of those who do not know it! A few examples
will suffice to confirm this.
THE CITY OF SAMARIA. Although within the proximity of the earthly ministry of Christ, the city of Samaria
had not believed in the Lord. Consequently, they had not called upon Him. Thus, "Philip went down to the city of
Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5). When they heard, "they believed Philip preaching the things
concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12).
Cities cannot believe until they hear!
THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH. Here was a religious man from the African quadrant of the world. He had been
to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning to his homeland. He was reading the book of Isaiah, but did not yet
believe in the Lord, or know of His "gift of righteousness." If believing can be induced by reading, surely this man
will believe. He was, after all, reading a synopsis of the Gospel in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. But he did not
believe until the Lord sent Philip to declare Jesus unto him, for individuals cannot believe until they hear.
CORNELIUS. If Cornelius is going to believe in the Lord, thereby appropriating His righteousness, someone
must bring the message to him. God sent Peter to preach the message so Cornelius could "believe to the saving of the
soul" (Acts 10:1-48; Heb 10:39), and directed Cornelius to send for him, for households cannot believe until they hear!
The hearing of reference is nothing less than "the hearing of faith" (Gal 3:2,5). That is, the hearing that results
in believing. It is the Gospel of Christ that is heard. The fact that it is "the power of God unto salvation" is confirmed
by the effects of believing it. It moves people to call upon the Lord, for "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?"
This is the reason why the Gospel must be preached. Jesus declared, "Go ye into all the world, and
gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). This is the message that, when heard, brings men to believe in the Lord.
This hearing is not the mere exercise of natural abilities. There is such a thing as having "ears to hear" and they
come from the Lord. As it is written, "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them"
(Prov 20:12). This is an ear that is "planted," or "implanted," NIV by the Lord (Psa 94:9). When Israel failed to
effectively hear the Word of the Lord, Moses explained the circumstance in these words. "Yet the LORD hath not
given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day" (Deut 29:4). This condition is why
the Scriptures speak in the following manner: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt 11:15; 13:9,43; Lk
14:35). "He that hath an ear, let him hear" (Rev 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9).
There are ears, given by God, which are intended to respond to His Word. They represent a spiritual capacity
to understand what the Lord declares, particularly the Gospel of His Son. They are the appointed means to believing.
However, until the sound of the Gospel falls upon them, men will not believe, nor will they call upon the Lord. Further
the "ears" are granted when the "sound" of saving words come to the person.
Our text will confirm that this is not a one-time hearing of the Gospel.
Believing is sustained by hearing,
as will be declared in verse seventeen. Therefore, the people of God must place an emphasis upon hearing - hearing
the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to be the constant theme of exposition.
THE NECESSITY OF PREACHING
" 10:14c And how shall they hear without a preacher?" A "preacher" is a proclaimer - "someone to proclaim
Him." NIV The word "preacher" means "a herald," or someone who announces something that has occurred. A
"preacher" openly proclaims something that has been done. He publishes things that have been already accomplished,
or are readily accessible and profitable to men. The "preacher" is someone who makes things extensively known. That
is, he is able to announce and expound things that are realities. In this case, it is what "the Lord hath done," or "the
wonderful works of God" (Psa 126:2; Acts 2:11).
The Word of God often declares what was "preached," published, or publicly made known. John the Baptist
"preached," or announced, the coming of the Savior (Mark 1:7). Jesus "preached the Word" (Mark 2:2). Jesus sent
out His disciples to "preach that men should repent" (Mark 6:12). The Kingdom of God was "preached" (Lk 16:16).
Jesus sent His disciples, affirming that "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among
all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk 24:47). Christ was "preached," as well as "the resurrection of the dead"
(Acts 3:20; 4:2). The preaching of "the Gospel" is preeminent in Scripture (Mark 16:15; Acts 16:10; Rom 1:15; 1 Cor
1:17; 2 Cor 10:16).
The "preacher" in this text is someone with a revealed message. It is a message of accomplishment and access.
This message brings the accomplishments of Christ within the range of the hearers, and assures them that eternal
benefits have been provided for them.
The purpose of the preached message is not to get people to do something, but to bring them to "believe in Him"
who gave the message. If people can be brought to believe in the Lord, they will even ask what they ought to do (Acts
2:37; 16:30). The lack of godly response to the preaching of the Gospel always indicates a lack of faith.
At Sinai, "the voice of God" was heard in the proclamation of the Law (Deut 4:33). But, the Gospel is not
preached to men by God, like the Law was given on Mount Horeb! The Law is also referred to as "the word spoken
by angels" (Heb 2:2), but no angel ever preached the Gospel to men. An angel directed Cornelius to call for a man who
would tell him "words" whereby he and his house would be saved (Acts 11:14). Men will not call upon the Lord until
they believe in Him. They will not believe in Him until they hear of Him. And, they will not hear of Him until
someone declares Him-someone who knows Him.
Real preachers are "ministers
by whom you believed, even as the Lord gave [or, as our text says it, 'sent'] to
every man" (1 Cor 3:5). The believing that saves the soul is consistently represented as directly related to hearing. Even
when that hearing was attended by confirming signs and wonders, as in the case of Samaria, the preeminence was given
to the hearing. "And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip
spake, hearing and
seeing the miracles which he did" (Acts 8:6).
A PREACHER HAS A MESSAGE
The "preacher" of reference has a message. It is a message originated and given by God Himself. True preaching
is not flowery oratory, although it may be masterfully spoken. It is not the sounding of an opinion, or the binding of
heavy burdens upon men.
Scripture represents preaching as a noun as well as a verb - a message as well as an activity. For example, the
Lord told Jonah, "Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee" (Jonah
3:2). Other translations read, "preach to it the message," NKJV "proclaim to it the proclamation," NASB "proclaim to it
the message." NIV Jesus referred to the preaching of Jonah. Although a different word was used, our Lord also used
it in the noun form. "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because
they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Matt 12:41). The Greek form
confirms this is the noun, not the verb, form of the word (to. kh,rugma).
The noun form of "preaching" is also applied to the Gospel of Christ. "For the preaching of the cross is to them
that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18). This does
not refer to an
activity, but a message, report, or announcement. The doctrinal thrust of the statement confirms this, as well
as the Greek form of the text (~O lo,goj). A second reference to the message that is preached, or declared, is found in
Romans 16:25. The exact wording is used here that Jesus used in reference to the message declared by Jonah (to.
kh,rugma). "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began."
The same expression is used to declare the appointed means through which God is now making known what He
has all along intended for humanity. "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith
of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that
cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which
is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior" (Tit 1:1-3). Note, there is an appointed
means through which God reveals, or manifests, "the truth" pertaining to "eternal life." It is "His word" that is made
known, and it is made known "through preaching." Again, the word used is a noun, not a verb (khru,gmat). That is,
it is a message, not an activity. To put it another way, it is WHAT is preached, and not the mere exercise of
The Relevance of This
All of this may appear to be completely irrelevant - a sort of smoke screen that has no bearing on our salvation.
However, this is not at all the case. There is an appointed means through which men are brought to believe in the
Lord and thereby receive His righteousness. Neither believing nor the experience of righteousness can occur
independently of this designated means. Already that means has been defined as "the Gospel of Christ," declared to
be "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom 1:16). In the sense of our text, there is no valid "preacher" who does not
declare this exclusive and powerful message.
Allow me to show further why this is such a vital point. There are all manner of messages being preached within
the professed Christian community. By "message," I means the core message, or emphasis that is being declared. As
you must know, sectarianism requires different messages. You cannot have different kinds of "churches" without
different kinds of messages. It is the doctrinal emphasis, or message, of the denomination that makes it what it is.
Remove that emphasis, and the pillars of the institution fall to the ground. An emphasis is to doctrine what flour
is to bread. It is the bulk of what is taught. An emphasis is to a church what gasoline is to a car. It is what makes it
run. An emphasis is not the only teaching, but it is the fundamental one. It is the touchstone by which both people
and groups of people are judged to be acceptable.
For purposes of clarity, allow me to mention some of these emphases that have contributed to the hostile
divisions within Christendom. In mentioning them, I do not intend to cast reproach upon anyone. Neither, indeed,
can I disgrace the Lord Jesus by imagining that He condones such doctrinal thrusts. I will use the word "gospel" to
denote these doctrinal thrusts. However, and make no mistake about this, these are not gospels at all. They are
departures from the true Gospel, which is "the power of God."
The gospel of the church. This is a message that focuses on the church, viewing it much like an institution.
In this message, being the true church is the fundamental thing. The organization and name of the church is
emphasized. By virtue of this emphasis, Christ and His magnificent accomplishments are relegated to the
The gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In this case, the power of the Spirit, together with various experiences
purported to be wrought by Him, are the emphasis. Being baptized in the Spirit, slain by the Spirit, and receiving
gifts from the Spirit are represented as the fundamental and distinguishing things. This approach, of necessity,
puts the Son of God and His great salvation into a secondary position.
The gospel of the Sabbath day. Those who embrace this gospel make the distinguishing thing the Sabbath
day. That is where the line of demarcation is drawn, determining whether what the individual does is fully
acceptable to God. While Christ is acknowledged, the Gospel of Christ is not the main thing.
The gospel of good works. This is the presentation of Divine acceptance from the standpoint of Law. The
acceptance of the person by God is based upon the works performed in the energy of the flesh. Social issues,
political stances, and general disciplines of life are the focus of this gospel. Consequently, only passing references
are actually made to the Gospel of Christ.
The gospel of happiness. In this case, the well being of the individual is emphasized. Life in this world is presented
as the ultimate domain of benefit. Health, security, and prosperity are given undue emphasis. Life in this world,
together with feelings of elation, are accented. As a result, there is a decided minimization of the "eternal inheritance,"
"eternal life," and the "ages to come" - all of which are integral to the Gospel of Christ.
The gospel of problem resolution. Those who embrace this gospel perceive the day-to-day problems of
individuals as the most critical area. Jesus is declared as the answer to our problems. He is held forth as the
solution to family difficulties, social disturbances, and political deficiencies. Jesus is offered as a solution to
troubles that have only to do with this world. Sin is de-emphasized, and Christ's Saviorhood is consequently
The gospel of the family. Here the family is set forth as the principle institution in humanity. Because it was
first in institution, it is therefore considered to be preeminent for all time. The structure of the family is giving
great emphasis, and the program of the local congregation is structured to give the fundamental advantage to the
family unit. All of this ignores that Christ affirmed following Him required placing the family into a secondary
position(Luke 14:26). It also reduces eternity and the world to come, thereby making Christ of less significance.
These observations by no means suggest the relationships mentioned are without significance, or that they are
to be ignored. They are not, however, to be the fundamental thing, or the point of emphasis.
At the precise point the
stress is placed upon them, for whatever reason, the Son of God is toppled from the throne, salvation is pushed
away from the individual, and acceptance with God becomes less critical.
I realize these are, from one point of view, hard sayings. Yet, we live in a time when it is necessary to declare them.
The deplorable state of the church is directly traceable to Jesus Christ being upstaged by secondary, and sometimes
totally invalid, issues. I know it is not fashionable to say this, and that a certain penalty is exacted by the religious
hierarchy for doing so. Yet the penalties for failing to sound this trumpet are infinitely worse.
People will not call upon the Lord unless they believe on Him. Further, they will not believe on Him unless they
hear the message He has ordained. Additionally, that message will not be heard until it is declared by someone who
Jesus' Word to the Lawyers
The distraction to other messages, then, has actually stopped people from believing! The same thing is happening
in our day that was occurring when Jesus walked among us. Jesus said to the law-experts of His time, "Woe unto you,
lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering
in ye hindered" (Lk 11:52). In our time, that "key of knowledge" is the message of the Gospel.
A Word to the Scribes and Pharisees
The Gospel unlocks the mystery of obtaining the righteousness of God. Jesus also said to the scribes and
Pharisees, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against
men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt 23:13). The reference
to shutting up the Kingdom of God "against men" is represented in this way in other versions of Scripture. "You shut
off the kingdom of heaven from men," NASB "You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces." NIV
In our day, the
entrance into the kingdom of God is shut in men's faces by placing stress on something other than
the Gospel of Christ. When our attention is moved away from Jesus, we are moved away from salvation.
No one who fails to declare the Gospel of Christ can bring men to believe with the heart unto righteousness. The
ONLY preacher recognized by heaven is the one who correctly emphasizes the Person and work of the Lord Jesus
Christ - the good news of the Gospel. You will find this to be the emphasis of all Apostolic doctrine.
THE NECESSITY OF BEING SENT
" 15a And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" Preachers that bring a message that induces faith
do not come on their own. They "are sent." The fact is, there would be no faith-inducing preachers at all unless they
were "sent" - sent by God!
These are ministers whom
God has given to every person who believes. Wherever someone believes on the Lord,
a "preacher" has been "sent" to proclaim the message of the Gospel - the message God uses to accomplish salvation.
As it is written, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed,
even as the Lord gave
to every man?" (1 Cor 3:5). "Preacher" is a category in which both Apostles (Paul) and non-Apostles (Apollos) were
included. Yet, both were divine placements.
Of old time, the Spirit established that a valid message had to be the result of a Divine commission. Here are some
sober reminders of this reality.
"But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever
I command thee thou shalt speak" (Jer 1:7).
"Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all
my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them"
"Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I
commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of
nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in
my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall
those prophets be consumed" (Jer 14:14).
"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied"
"For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD"
The Lord said to Moses, "Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee:
When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Ex 3:12). It was said
of John the Baptist, "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). The Lord said to Ezekiel,
"And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled
against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day" (Ezek 2:3).
When Jesus first sent out "the twelve," He said to them, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt 10:16). When He sent out the seventy, He said to them,
"Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves" (Luke 10:3). When Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus
on the road to Damascus, He said to him, "I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and
a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee" (Acts 26:16-17). Following His
resurrection, when Jesus appeared to His disciples, He said to them, "Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me,
even so send I you" (John 20:21).
Sent with Understanding
No person who takes the message of God seriously will fail to see the necessity of being "sent" by God to declare
it. That sending is accompanied with a measure of understanding, or comprehension. It is foolish to attempt
to declare a message upon which salvation is hinged while being fundamentally ignorant of it. Yet, we are daily
confronted with such "preachers" - men who babble before the people in the name of the Lord, yet have not been sent
by Him. As the false prophets of old, "understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm" (1 Tim
Sent with Power
Those sent by God are empowered by Him - endued with abilities and gifts necessary for the effective proclamation
of His Gospel. Paul spoke of power, or authority, that had been given to him "for edification, and not for destruction"
(2 Cor 13:10). This Divine enablement does not always take the form of signs and wonders. It is my understanding that
this is not even the primary evidence of the power. The power, or enablement, of which I speak is a personal sufficiency
that makes the "preacher" equal to his commission. Paul spoke of this empowerment in these words. "Not that we are
sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able
ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor
3:5-6). Other versions read "competent ministers," NIV or "adequate as servants." NASB
Some imagine this only applies to the Apostles. However, the Scriptures are clear that
any effective proclaimers
are gifts from God. Those "gifts" not only include "apostles" and "prophets," but "evangelists" and "pastors and
teachers" (Eph 4:8-11).
Sending Is Sometimes Discretionary
During the beginning of the spread of the Gospel, specific direction was given by the Lord. In a general sense, the
commission was "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), making disciples
of "all nations" (Matt 28:19). However, everything was not left to the discretion of those who labored in the Lord's
After Paul and Silas had "gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia," "they were
forbidden by the
Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia" (Acts 16:6). The "Asia" of reference is where the seven churches to whom
the book of Revelation was written were located (Rev 1:4). At the time the Spirit forbade them to into Asia, Paul and
Silas were ministering in Asia Minor, or the modern peninsula of Turkey.
Still, even there, the Spirit did not allow them to set their own agenda. When Paul and Silas came to Mysia, in
the northwestern part of Asia Minor, "they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them" NKJV (Acts
16:7). Bithynia would have led them into the part of world currently occupied by Russia, Korea, China, and India.
Instead of allowing the preachers to go into that area, they were led into the Grecian part of the world - Macedonia
in particular. Later, the Gospel did get into the Asian section of the world. However, in strictly orchestrating the
spread of the Gospel, Paul and Silas were not "sent" there at that time.
How Are Preachers Sent Today?
Some, betraying their sophistry, scoff at the idea of preachers being "sent" in our time. They imagine that the Lord
directed the early activities of the church, but has now abdicated that function, leaving it wholly in the hands of men.
In such a case, He would no longer be the "Head of the church" (Eph 5:23), at least not in the ministry of sending
preachers. What kind of reasoning would lead a person to believe holy and gifted Apostles, placed "first" in the
church (1 Cor 12:28), had to be directed, but men of the twentieth century do not require such direction?
Mind you, nothing in Scripture suggests that such a time would ever come with Divine approval. No word of God
remotely suggests that Jesus is the "Beginning," but not the "Ending," or that He is only "the First," and not "the
Last" (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). And, if the Lord begins things He does not finish, how are we know which ones they are?
Precisely at what point do we cease to inquire of the Lord and trust that He will "direct" our "steps" (Jer 10:23)? Has
the time now arrived when our "goings" are no longer upheld by the Lord (Psa 17:5) - particularly in the matter of
preaching the Gospel? Are the "steps of a good man" no longer "ordered by the Lord" (Psa 37:23)? Are the
preparations of the heart man's doing, but "the answer of the tongue" no longer of the Lord
As with all Divine direction, sending is accomplished through faith and tenderness of heart. Such direction falls into
the category of Jesus manifesting Himself to those who love Him and keep His words (John 14:21). It is involved in
"learning Christ" and being "taught by Him" (Eph 4:02-21). There is a vital and perceptible connection between every
member of the body and "the Head" (Col 2:19). It is that connection, held by faith, that is the means through which
heavenly direction is realized. Further, that direction is what is referenced by the word
THE COMPULSION TO PREACH
One of the evidences of being "sent" is a
compulsion to preach the Gospel. That compelling inner drive is
evidence of being "sent." Again, we summon Paul to the witness stand to confirm the truth of this observation. "And
since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, 'I believed and therefore I spoke,' we also believe
and therefore speak" (2 Cor 4:13). This very circumstance eventually separates the preacher who is "sent" from the
one who is not. Solomon put it this way, "A false witness will perish, But the man who listens to the truth will speak
forever" (Prov 21:28).
This compulsion is so strong that it overrides competing discouragement or pride. It is written, "Yet when I preach
the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach
voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me" NIV (1 Cor 9:16-17).
This frame of mind enabled Paul to endure all manner of difficult and grievous opposition, yet continue to preach.
His determination to preach the Gospel could not be stifled by adversity and circumstance. This confirmed that he
was "sent." The absence of this compulsion suggests the person is NOT "sent," and has been driven by something
other than Divine constraint. There isw far too much of this absence in the modern church. It greatly dishonors God.
Preachers must be "sent!"
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE MESSENGER
" 15b As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring
glad tidings of good things!'" Being "sent" by God is one thing. The hearers recognizing this is the case is another
thing. The Thessalonians, for example, knew that the ones through whom they heard the Gospel had been "sent."
Thus it is written of them, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word
of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which
effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess 2:13).
The reference is to Isaiah 52:7; "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God
reigneth!" In keeping with the thrust of this passage, this text is given to confirm that
preachers cannot preach
unless they are "sent." It is necessary to note the manner in which the Apostle reasons. Here is an example of
being "spiritually minded," or having a mind "controlled by the Spirit" NIV (Rom 8:6). The way Paul substantiates his
point is refreshing. It is challenging intellectually, yet is vastly superior to lifeless pedantics, or academic approaches.
The fifty-second chapter of Isaiah contains a message of Divine summons -- God speaking to people through an
appointed messenger. It calls for the people of God to "Awake!" and put on their strength. The inhabitants of
Jerusalem are told "henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean" (52:1). A
discouraged people are told to shake the dust from themselves, acknowledging they had sold themselves for nothing.
Yet, they would be "redeemed without money" - that is, the Lord would resolve their dilemma. Although their
enemies had ruled over them ruthlessly, the Lord promises "My people shall know My name: therefore they shall
know in that day that I am He that doth speak: behold, it is I" (52:6).
All of this would be made known through a message - a proclamation. It would not be beheld in a vision, but
brought by a word from God. It would be delivered by God's messenger, into whose mouth His words had been placed.
The core of the message was this: "YOUR GOD REIGNS" NIV (52:7b). Isaiah's message announced an end to the
Babylonian captivity - recovery from Divine judgment!
When the messengers, or "watchmen," took hold of the message and announced it, the joyful optimism would take
hold on the people. They would "see eye to eye," waste places would break forth into joy, and the people would be
comforted. Then, couched within this joyful sound, the Lord speaks of the whole world being impacted. "The LORD
hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our
Those laboring under great restrictions would be changed by a message! Consequently, a high value
would be placed upon the messenger. He would bring the message which, if believed, would bring salvation. He would
come, as it were, over restricting mountains and hindrances, being sent by God. Like Philip came to the desert, Paul
and Silas to the water and jail cell, and Paul to the barbaric isle of Melita, so the message comes through formerly
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
The Spirit now elevates the matter of the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, something foreshadowed by
Isaiah's words, but not fulfilled by them. The Gospel is declared to be a message of peace. It is the announcement of
amnesty, the proclamation of peace, and the report of reconciliation! Something has been done in the behalf of
mankind that is of such power that heaven itself has been moved by it. Here is a message of Divine conciliation. God
will neither destroy nor turn away those who come to Him because of this message!
When Jesus was born the holy angels announced, "peace on earth!" (Luke 2:14). Peter declared to the household
of Cornelius that there is a "word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He
is Lord of all)" (Acts 10:36). Following the reconciliation of both Jew and Gentile to God, Jesus is said to have come
and "preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh" (Eph 2:17). The Gospel is, indeed, "the
Gospel of peace" (Eph 6:15).
This is the "glorious Gospel of the blessed God" (1 Tim 1:11). He saw the travail of Christ's soul and "was
satisfied" (Isa 53:11). Those who, believing this Gospel, come to God through Christ, will find a blessed and jubilant
God! His arms will be extended to them in gracious welcome. They will not be met with lightning and thunderings
as Israel was at Sinai. The earth will not tremble beneath them as they approach to the Lord, nor will the mountain
before them blaze and smoke as Mount Horeb. This is the "Gospel of peace," and it brings calmness to the souls of
all who receive it.
A message that does not leave an acute awareness of an accessible peace with God is not Gospel, and it will not
save! No message that fails to announce the "Gospel of peace" is the power of God, nor will men be saved by it.
GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS
"Glad tidings" are words that produce gladness in believing hearers. They bring alleviation from the sorrows of
life, particularly those related to being sinners in the hands of an angry God. It has been a long time since many
precious souls have heard any "glad tidings." Their souls are thirst to hear something that will gladden their hearts.
There is such a message, and it is the Gospel of Christ. It fulfills the saying of Solomon, "As cold waters to a thirsty
soul, so is good news from a far country" (Prov 25:25).
The inquirers at Pentecost received good news! They were told their sins would be remitted, and that they would
receive the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 2:38-39). The promise of God was for them! From that day until this, preachers
of the Gospel have brought "glad tidings" of peace - a peace with God that also overflows to bring peace among
formerly hostile people, like Jews and Gentiles.
You do not want to miss the emphasis of this passage. The Living God effects His great salvation through a
message that brings "glad tidings" of peace to the people. It is very true that we must save some "with fear, pulling
them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 22). The "fear" of reference, however, is not
fear induced in the hearer, but in the one snatching them from the fire. Some people are so mired in iniquity that
special care must be taken not to allow them to defile us. However, even in such cases, it is the Gospel of peace that
enables them to begin moving toward the light. It is "glad tidings" that awakens a desire to be saved within them.
How the people of God must master speaking of "good things." When Joseph sent to bring his father Jacob into
Egypt, "he sent after this manner; ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she asses laden with corn
and bread and meat for his father by the way" (Gen 45:23). Will the great God of heaven do less when He sends
ambassadors to bring the people home to Him? If the sins of the people have withheld "good things" from them (Jer
5:25), much more does the sacrifice and exaltation of Christ clear the way to send a message of the availability of those
"good things" now-"good things" from heaven! If God gives "good things to those who ask Him" (Matt 7:11), then
the Gospel is designed to provoke men to ask for them. Christ is now a "High Priest of good things to come," and the
Gospel declares it (Heb 9:11). The Law had "a shadow of good things to come," and the Gospel announces they are
here, and can be possessed (Heb 10:1).
SOME FLAWED THINKING
With the advent of self-professed religious experts, all manner of flawed thinking sprang up like tares in the field
of thought. One of the most harmful of these wicked intrusions is the notion that the "Gospel," or "good news," is
only for the person who is alienated from God. Some sophist once said, "No man should hear the Gospel twice until
every one has heard it once." That was not only ignorance in seed form, it was a sizeable tree that can never bear good
fruit. The truth of the matter is that grace never brings us where we do not need to hear the Gospel! Those who admit
to being "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb 11:13) need to hear "glad tidings of good things." Nothing in
all of Scripture suggests this good news is to be withheld from the household of faith. In fact, every word of God
strongly affirms the opposite to be true. Take, for example, the writings of the Apostles, placed first "in the church"
(1 Cor 12:28) for the "edifying of the body" (Eph 4:12). How did they speak? Did they bring "glad tidings of good
things?" Ponder the remarkable consistency of their message.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . " (Rom 5:1-2).
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled,
we shall be saved by His life" (Rom 5:10).
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . . " (Rom 8:1).
"But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,
and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30).
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ . . . reconciling the world unto
himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them . . . " (2 Cor 5:18-19)
"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in
Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor,
that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor 8:9).
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us . . . " (Gal 3:13-14).
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins . . ."
"For He is our peace, who hath made both one . . . having abolished in his flesh the enmity . . . to make in Himself
of twain one new man . . . that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity
thereby" (Eph 2:14-16).
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery
to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made
in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross. . . . " (Phil 2:5-9).
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled
in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Col
"For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that,
whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1 Thess 1:9-10).
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us
everlasting consolation and good hope through grace . . . " (2 Thess 2;16-17).
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come
unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ
Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Tim 2:3-6).
"But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath
brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim 1:10).
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men . . . our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave
Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
works" (Tit 2:11-14).
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same;
that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who
through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb 2:14-15).
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain
conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without
blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in
these last times for you" (1 Pet 1:18-20).
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory,
when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more
sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until
the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet 1:16-19).
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus
Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a
deceiver and an antichrist" (2 John 7).
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and
preserved in Jesus Christ, and called" (Jude 1).
"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings
of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and
priests unto God and his Father . . . " (Rev 1:5-6).
That is Gospel, "glad tidings of good things." The Gospel of Christ is the hub upon which the salvation of God
turns. There is no point in this salvation where the Gospel ceases to be central. There is no level or degree of
spirituality where the Gospel of Christ is reduced to obsolescence, or takes a second position to some other emphasis.
God has never declared another emphasis or message to be His power unto salvation.
When, therefore, men
come preaching a gospel of the church, the family, prosperity, or even the Spirit, they have, by that
very emphasis, forfeited the power of God. Their message may sound good, but it is not, for it is not
underwritten by God! It does not contribute to the salvation of men, and God will not bless it. When His Son is pushed
into the background, His empowerment abruptly ends.
OBEDIENCE AND BELIEVING
" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?'"
Simplistic souls may conclude from Paul's argument that faith always follows the preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
After all, it is "the power of God unto salvation." "Surely," the naive soul reasons, "nothing will be able to hinder
God." Some creeds of Christendom have even spoken of "irresistible grace," as though that expression was contained
Those who find it easy to speak in such lifeless ways betray their fundamental ignorance of the salvation of God.
It is, after all, wrought out in the arena of conflict. All of heaven is involved in the enterprise, thereby confirming its
remarkable complexity. God the Father Himself is involved, never withdrawing from any aspect of His salvation.
Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, is administering the entirety of salvation, even interceding daily in order to its
accomplishment. The Holy Spirit works to woo men through the truth, set them apart for God, even empowering
them and interceding for them. An innumerable company of strong and wise angels have been dispatched to minister
to those who are the heirs of salvation. Inimical forces upon the earth are controlled, as well as principalities and
powers in the heavenly places. How any person could conclude that salvation was simplistic, or that it was
accomplished independently of human involvement is a great mystery. That those who are being saved could be the
only ones uninvolved in the process is an absurdity so great that only the devil himself could have concocted it.
All of this is to say that men do not automatically believe when they hear the Gospel - even though it was God
Himself who sent the messengers to them. This is true even though the message declared by the sent preacher is
unquestionably the "power of God unto salvation."
OBEYING THE GOSPEL
"But they have not all obeyed the Gospel." Other versions read, "However, they did not all heed the glad tidings,"
NASB "But not all the Israelites accepted the good news," NIV and "But in fact they have not all responded to the good
The word "obey" does mean
submit to, hearken to, or yield to. The idea is that the individual adjusts his life to
suit the message he has heard. Where this does not occur, the Gospel has not been obeyed. Keep in mind, those
who do not obey the Gospel will be condemned, forthrightly, and without remedy. As it is written, "The Lord Jesus
shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:7-8).
BELIEVING THE REPORT
The Spirit is specific about what it means to "obey the Gospel." This involves more than fulfilling a list of
demands - although faith never balks at Divine demands, or commandments.
Here an appeal is made to the prophet Isaiah. The text of reference is Isaiah 53:1. "Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?" Notice the form of reasoning. First the Spirit declares, "They have
not all obeyed the Gospel," even though it is the "glad tidings of good things." The confirming word from Isaiah,
however, does not say "They have not all obeyed the Gospel." Rather than making a statement, the prophet asks a
question: "Who has believed our report?" A contemporary way of saying this would be,
"Has anyone believed our report?"
Isaiah speaks with astonishment at the fewness of those who truly believed. It was so few, indeed, that he
wondered, as it were, if any one believed. It certainly was not because the people had not heard good news - good news
from the Almighty God Himself. The fifty-second chapter of Isaiah boldly announced.
"Therefore My people shall know my name"
"They shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion" (52:8).
"The LORD hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem." (52:9).
"The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the
salvation of our God" (52:10).
"For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will
be your rereward" (52:12).
Add to that the marvelous prophecies of the coming Savior in the fifty-third chapter. Yet, for all of those "good
things," the prophet exclaimed, "Who hath believed our report?"
With great power, the Spirit will now show us that
great proclamations must be attended by great power,
else they will not be believed. The reason for making this point should be obvious to us. If men do not believe - such
as Israel after the flesh - it is because a veil is over their eyes. If that veil is mercifully lifted, the condition of the
people will suddenly change (2 Cor 3:16). Thus, Paul continued to desire and pray that Israel would be saved, knowing
the power of the Lord.
If this seems to difficult to receive, consider how Isaiah elaborated on his own statement. "Who hath believed our
report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?" When Divine power does not attend preaching, it does not
yield favorable results. Who is the person willing to affirm that a man can speak into the soul of another, penetrating
into the inmost being of a person? Is this not specifically declared to be the peculiar prerogative of the Word of God? "For
the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul
and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" NASB (Heb 4:12). This
is the process in which the arm of the Lord is revealed.
The point of this passage is not to produce all manner of doubts in the hearts of the saints. Rather, it is to kindle
the fire of hope within the human breast. When the "arm of the Lord" is "revealed," men
will respond to "the
report." The "arm of the Lord" has been "revealed" when men receive the Gospel as a true declaration of Divine
intent. The message exposes the dire need of humanity, else so much would not have been done for them. It also
makes known the deep and compassionate heart of God, else He would not have paid such an awful price. However,
this association does not come from word studies and researching parallel passages. Rather, it is when the Lord
reveals His "arm" - when He shows the tender heart "what great things God hath wrought."
What person is capable of prognosticating when, or if, the Lord will "reveal His arm." Or who would dare to say
it will never again be revealed, or that Israel, or someone else, has passed beyond any hope of it being revealed? This
is an area controlled by God alone.
The flesh takes this statement and uses it to justify NOT declaring the good news. After all, good results are the
most important thing - at least that is what we are told. But is this really so? What of the preaching that reveals the
unbelief and obstinance of people? What of a commission from God that was calculated to cause people to "fall
backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken" (Isa 29:13)? Is it not written, "For we are unto God a sweet savor
of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the
other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor 2:15-16).
The point is that God has ordained the salvation of men through a message - a God-ordained message. Men are
not to take it upon themselves to wrest the message in a feeble attempt to get results. Nor, indeed, are they to cease
to declare it because the masses do not believe it. This is a word that is always in order, always timely, always
The Gospel of Christ is truly good news, and it is the exclusive message by which men are saved. Men cannot
believe on the Lord until they hear this Gospel. They cannot hear this Gospel unless it is preached or declared to
them. That preacher will not preach unless he is sent by God. What is more, those who hear such an one with the
hearing of faith will highly regard the messenger, esteeming his feet as beautiful, for they have carried good news
upon the mountains of grace.
" 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." I love these Divine conclusions!
They differ so radically from the sophistry of the flesh. This is a conclusion drawn from the affirmation of Isaiah:
"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" NASB
Without a doubt, this is one of the most profound utterances of Scripture. Yet there is a glorious plainness about
it that is within the reach of every humble and contrite spirit.
"So then, faith comes . . . " This is the spiritually logical conclusion to the foregoing argument: i.e., 1 - No one can
call upon the Lord unless they believe on Him. 2 - No one can believe on Him unless they have heard about Him. 3 - No one can hear about
Him unless His message has been declared to them. 4 - His message cannot be declared unless a messenger is sent. Therefore, the Spirit
concludes, "faith comes," or is experienced through an appointed means.
While it is the responsibility of men to believe the Gospel, and while they will be condemned if they do not believe
it, they do not believe on their own. Faith "comes." It comes TO them. But it comes from outside of them. Believing
the report is not a natural response. A latent ability that lies dormant within the unregenerate is not awakened. Faith
"comes," it is not revived or awakened. It is not the vivification of a natural ability.
This is another way of saying we "have obtained" or received, "like precious faith" (2 Pet 1:1), or have "believed
through grace" (Acts 18:27). It means it is "given unto" us "to believe" (Phil 1:29), and that faith is "from God the
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 6:23). It is for this reason that those who believe "the report" are said to have
had "the arm of the Lord revealed" to them. The total glory for the process of moving from darkness to light belongs
to God. Those who would rob Him of this glory are in serious jeopardy, for He will not allow any flesh "to glory in His
presence" (1 Cor 1:29). Salvation is precisely structured in all of its facets so that it "belongs to the Lord" (Psa 3:8;
Rev 7:10; 19:1).
Faith Through Hearing
The appointed means through which faith "comes" is "hearing." It comes "from hearing," NASB or "from hearing the
message," NIV or "from what is heard." NRSV
Faith does not come by seeing, else there would have been a deluge of it on the banks of the Red Sea. If men and
women are going to believe they will have to hear - hear the message God has appointed as the means to faith. As you
must know, this accounts for the rarity of faith in our times. When the Gospel becomes sparse, faith becomes
rare. When people are fed a diet of Law - even God's Law - faith will not "come," for "the Law is not of faith" (Gal
HEARING BY . . .
The implication of the text is that "hearing" also "comes." This is not merely hearing with the natural "ears," like
Israel did at Sinai (Deut 5:1). Although what is heard is articulated in human speech, the hearing through which men
believe is not merely being subjected to the sound. This will be confirmed in the verses eighteen and nineteen.
Etymologically, the word "hearing" comes from avkoh/j, which primarily means
"the ability to hear." Thayer's Greek
Lexicon gives the primary meaning as, "to be endowed with the faculty of hearing." Frieberg's lexicon gives the primary
meaning as "the ability to hear." The word used here is a noun, not a verb.
"Hearing," therefore, as used in this text, is not an activity, but a capacity.
It is used elsewhere in
Scripture in this manner, i.e., "the hearing of faith" (Gal 3:2,5).
The Scriptures are clear on this matter, namely that hearing is a capacity granted to men by the living God. I
briefly covered this under the second section of this lesson, THE NECESSITY OF HEARING.
The means by which the capacity to "hear" is received is "the word of God." Some versions read, "the word of
Christ." NASB/NIV/NRSV This can be viewed from different perspectives. All of them have some merit.
The Word of the Gospel
First, "the word of God" can be understood to be what God has said. In this case, that word would be the Gospel,
for faith cannot come by hearing the Law, or the Proverbs. Those are not the life-giving message, nor are they "the
power of God unto salvation." That in no way diminishes the truth declared in the Law, nor does it reduce the
responsibility for people to be obedient and moral. But when it comes to the matter of believing "unto the saving of
the soul" (Heb 10:39), the "Gospel of Christ" is the exclusive means of inducing faith. It alone is "the power of God
Christ's Own Word
Second, and more likely the meaning, "the word of Christ" means the command of Christ. Vincent says
comes through the message, and the message through the command of Christ." VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES That, In my judgment, comes
close to the meaning. Yet, it can be stated more precisely. Some have felt that "the command of Christ" refers to His
commission to "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). However, this cannot be the meaning, for Isaiah
testified that most who heard the word sent to them did not believe. The command of Jesus to the messenger,
therefore, is not the root of faith, else those who heard good news from Isaiah would have believed.
The meaning is this: the capacity to hear comes by the authoritative word of Jesus.
He speaks the ability to
hear into those with tender hearts. This should not sound strange to us, for Jesus spoke of this very process when
He walked among men. Our Lord referred to two different resurrections that would be effected by His voice. The first
was a spiritual resurrection that began while He was yet among us. The second is the resurrection of the dead. Both
will be facilitated by His voice.
Here is what He said. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead
the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He
given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given im authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son
of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves
shall hear His voice, and
shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the
resurrection of damnation" (John 5:25-29). What a marvelous statement of power!
The Spirit reminded the believers in Ephesus that they had experienced the very spiritual awakening to which
Jesus referred. They had "heard" Jesus, being given the capacity to so hear as to believe on Him. "But ye have not
so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Eph 4:20-21). In this text, not only had they been quickened from the dead (2:1,5), spiritual advancement was also brought
about by the teaching of Jesus.
I am affirming this to be the meaning of this verse. Namely, that faith comes to the individual by means of the
capacity to "hear," or being given "ears to hear." The capacity to hear comes through Christ's own
Confirmed by Ezekiel
Ezekiel spoke of this means of bringing life to people - namely speaking life into them. His words foreshadowed
the truth of our text, as well as the words of Jesus in the fifth chapter of John (5:25-29). "And when I passed by you
and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood,
'Live!' I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful . . . " (Ezek
In doing this, man's volitional capacity is not obviated. However, his spiritual impotence is terminated by Christ's
word in order that an appropriate response can be given to the Gospel of Christ. This is precisely what happened when
Lydia believed the report. While she was listening to the word of the Gospel, "the Lord opened her heart to respond
to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14). That is also what happened to you, moving you to call upon the Lord. The
Gospel was declared to you, and as it was declared the Lord gave you ears to hear. When you heard with those ears,
you believed, called upon the name of the Lord, and were saved. Because you believed, you gladly received the Word
and were baptized, just as those who believed on that memorable day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
A FINAL WORD
Faith will neither "come" nor "increase" where the Gospel is not preached and heard with "the hearing of faith."
When men embrace a religion that moves the Gospel into the background, unbelief comes into the
foreground. God will not allow faith to be authored or finished, to begin or be brought to maturity, independently
of hearing and believing the "record He has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10-11). Those who believe are glad it is this
HAS NOT EVERYONE HEARD?
" 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.'" The Spirit will now move Paul to make a rather technical point, yet one that
must be made. He has already reminded us that the Lord was found of the Gentiles who attained unto righteousness,
even though they did not seek after it (9:30). In their case, did God dispense with the hearing of the Gospel? Not at
all! The point He will make here is this: hearing of itself will not produce faith in the hearers. Men can,
indeed, be exposed to the glad tidings of good things, yet utterly fail to respond in faith to it.
The difference, as
Paul has declared, is the Divine factor, not the human factor!
HAVE THEY NOT ALL HEARD?
Early in my new life, I was subjected to a continual flood of statements affirming that most of the world had never
heard the Gospel. This was used to lay a great burden of responsibility upon the people for taking the Gospel to those
who sat in darkness. While the intention of such teaching may have been noble, it was sorely lacking in spiritual
If ever such a time existed, it would have been in the first century, when the Gospel was beginning to be preached.
The Spirit, however, reasons quite differently than man. "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed!" Other versions
read, "But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have," NASB and "But I ask: Did they not hear?
Of course they did." NIV
He will now show that the Gospel had, indeed, been preached extensively. To the Colossians, Paul made reference
to "the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven" NKJV (Col 1:23). The
NIV reads, "This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven." Every
version reads essentially the same, confirming there is no reason whatsoever for not taking the words precisely as they
are stated. One may argue from an academic or mathematical point of view, stating that such a thing is not possible.
Whatever arguments may be introduced to the contrary, the Spirit has spoken clearly and concisely. His point is not
a mathematical one, but that the preached Gospel had, in fact, reached into all the world. We dare not begin with a
theological hypothesis that denies the truth of that statement.
To begin with, there were "devout men from every nation under heaven" present on the day of Pentecost (Acts
2:5). The extensiveness of their representation is detailed for us (2:9-11).
Parthians, from of Persia.
Medes, from Asia and close to Armenia.
Elamites, also from the vast Persian empire.
Those dwelling in Mesopotamia, a part of Syria.
Those dwelling in Judea, the area around Jerusalem.
Those dwelling in Cappadocia, a region in Asia Minor, who spoke a mixed dialect of Greek and Syriac.
Those dwelling in Pontus, another province in Asia Minor, dominated by the Romans.
Those dwelling in Asia, which covered the vast Eastern world of Russia, China, and India.
Those dwelling in Phrygia, a province in Asia Minor.
Those dwelling in Pamphylia, another province in Asia Minor.
Those dwelling in Egypt, the vast area watered by the Nile.
Those dwelling in parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, known as Africa to us.
Visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, from Italy.
Cretans, from an island in the Mediterranean.
Arabs, from the great peninsula bounded by Syria on the north.
By the fifth chapter of Acts, the Apostles were charged with having "filled Jerusalem" with their doctrine (Acts
Later, the treasurer of the Candace queen of the Ethiopians, returned home from worshiping in Jerusalem. He
came back different than he had left, having been baptized into Christ and receiving the Spirit of God (Acts 8:27-39).
Paul's preaching took him from Greece to Arabia, and Italy to Asia and Syria. Cities and areas in which he
ministered included Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Pisidia, Attalia, Antioch in Syria,
Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, Samothracia, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apolloia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens,
Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Caesarea, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Cnidus, Fair Havens, Melita, Syracuse,
Rhegium, Puteoli, Appii Forum, and Rome.
Add to that the travels of the other Apostles and kindred laborers that have been confirmed by church history.
Simon Peter - Britain, Gaul (France and Germany), Rome.
Andrew - Armenia (Turkey, Russia), Scythia (Central Asia), Asia Minor.
James - Martyred early after impacting Jerusalem.
John - Asia (Including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh, India,
China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Mongolia.
Philip - Britain, Greece.
Bartholomew - Armenia (Turkey, Russia), India, Africa.
Thomas - Babylon, Persia, India.
Matthew - Persia, Ethiopia, Greece.
James the son of Alphaeus - Jerusalem.
Lebbaeus - Armenia (Turkey, Russia).
Simon the Canaanite - Armenia (Turkey, Russia), Britain, Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Lybia.
Matthias - Armenia (Turkey, Russia)
THE SEARCH FOR THE TWELVE APOSTLES, William Steuart McBirnie
And that is only a cursory review! Indeed,
the sound of the Gospel "has gone out to all the earth, And their words
to the ends of the world." We will find, however, that it takes more than the "sound" to turn men from darkness to
light, and the power of Satan unto God - even though the "sound" is imperative.
If it is not possible to call upon Him of whom men have not heard, and if it is not possible to hear without a
preacher, and if it is not possible for the preacher to preach if he has not been sent, does that not justify the
unbelief of the world?
Indeed not! God "has not left Himself without witness" (Acts 14:17). At the very threshold of the "day of
salvation," He assembled devout men from every nation under heaven to hear the glad proclamation of repentance
and the remission of sins. The aggressive preaching of the Gospel fulfilled the word of the Psalmist, "The Lord gave
the word: great was the company of those that published it" (Psa 68:11).
God Almighty has been aggressive to get the Word of His Son into the world. He did not depend upon men to send
messengers, but sent them Himself, endued with power as well as the message. In the end, when we see all of the
"preachers" God has sent into the world, it will be even more apparent how devoted He is to our salvation.
Those who have ears to hear "know the joyful sound." They have the capacity to recognize it, rejoice in it, and
are blessed because of it (Psa 89:15). When those with ears to hear, HEAR, they are always advantaged by the sound
of the Gospel, and God is always glorified in them. It is never in order for those with ears to hear to refuse to do so.
Settle it in your mind, the Gentiles have heard the "sound" of the Gospel. They have heard it because God has sent
preachers, or proclaimers, to them. Yet, they have not all believed or obeyed that Gospel. That is a most sobering
circumstance to consider.
DID NOT ISRAEL KNOW?
" 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.'" Herein is a mysterious thing - at least mysterious
to the flesh. How is it that the Gentiles found righteousness, receiving the Gospel, but the Jews, who were prepared
for it, were unbelieving? There is a Divine strategy behind it all, and it is "past finding out" by human knowledge
(11:33). Even after it is revealed, it will stagger the human intellect.
DID NOT ISRAEL KNOW?
The question being asked relates to the acceptance of the Gentiles:
Did not Israel know the Lord would turn
from them to the Gentiles, thereby provoking them to jealousy? Was all of this an unplanned reaction to
Israel's unbelief? Did they take the Lord by surprise by their rejection of the Gospel?
Early on, the Lord revealed what He was going to do. Before Moses completed his ministry, the Lord told him what
He would do because of Israel's provocation. Moses included the words in a song he sang to them before he left the
terrain of battle. The Spirit now refers to that prophesy. "They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God;
they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not
a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation" (Deut 32:21).
The provocation of which Moses spoke occurred when they "provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with
abominations provoked they Him to anger" (Deut 32:16). The Psalmist referred to is as the time when they "provoked
Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images" (Psa 78:58). But never
was the Lord more jealous than when Israel beheld their own Savior, and "received Him not" (John 1:11).
I WILL PROVOKE THEM!
Now the Divine strategy begins to unfold. The Spirit will continue to expound it through the eleventh chapter,
and it is marvelous! The "foolish nation" to which He refers is the Gentiles. They were "foolish" because they did not
know the Lord, and were not seeking His righteousness.
The Lord had frequently spoken through the Prophets concerning the acceptance of the Gentiles. "And in that
day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek . . . I have
put My spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles . . . I the LORD have called thee in
righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of
the Gentiles . . . I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles . . . I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles . . . thy seed
shall inherit the Gentiles . . . the Gentiles shall come to thy light . . . their seed shall be known among the Gentiles
. . . the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness . . . I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles
like a flowing stream . . . they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles . . . the Gentiles shall come unto thee from
the ends of the earth . . . My name shall be great among the Gentiles" (Isa 11:10; 42:1,6; 49:6,22; 54:3; 60:3; 61:9;
62:2; 66:12,19; Jer 16:19; Mal 1:11). What a staggering array of Divine commitments!
And, indeed, that did happen. It happened at the house of Cornelius. It took place in Philippi with Lydia and the
Philippian jailor. Gentiles in Europe, Asia, and Africa heard and embraced the Gospel. Yet that acceptance of the
Gospel angered the Israelites, just as the prophet said it would. They saw no correlation between the acceptance of
the Gentiles, the prophecy of Moses, and the testimony of the Prophets.
And why were the Jews so angry about all of this? Why did they do vigorously oppose, hound, and even persecute
Paul for preaching to the Gentiles? It was because God made them angry through the acceptance of those
they deemed foolish. That is what the Lord said He would do: "by a foolish nation
I will anger you" (10:19b).
Moses said it this way, "I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation" (Deut 32:21b).
These were the nations that were "as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance" (Isa
40:15), yet they found the righteousness of God before the Jews.
Herein is a perfect picture of how God saves people. The Gentiles were "not a people," having no status
whatsoever before God. They were a "foolish nation," devoid of wisdom, and stumbling in moral and spiritual
darkness. Yet, a message of good news was sent unto them - a message through which the capacity to hear was
granted by the Lord. That faith propelled them out of a state of rejection into one of Divine acceptance.
O, that men could see it! That is how salvation comes to men. It does not come to them because they have been
trained to receive it - else the Jews would have obtained it. It does not come because people are suitable, having the
right name and bathed in the right culture - else the Jews would have possessed it.
No! Salvation is for the unworthy, the foolish, and those lost in the darkness! That is why it is called "salvation."
In it a Divine rescue is accomplished. The transfer to a new realm is realized. Very real sins are cast into the depths
of the sea (Micah 7:19). Transgressions are blotted out like a thick cloud (Isa 44:22). A provocative circumstance,
THE BOLDNESS OF ISAIAH
" 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.'" On a much smaller level than our text, I have often seen the principle declared
in it. I have witnessed the dregs of society, unimaginably filthy and depraved, perceive the truth of the Gospel before
those who have long been surrounded with the sound of truth. I have witnessed the provocation caused within stilted
churches by the new and irrepressible life of a "newborn babe." How often those with no religious culture at all have
taken hold of the truth, sprinting past seasoned churchmen, leaving them far behind. That is the very principle being
declared in this text.
And why does it say Isaiah was "very bold"? His words are found in Isaiah 65:1.
"I am sought of them that asked
not for Me; I am found of them that sought Me not: I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation that was not called
by My name."
It took boldness to declare the message because of the effect it would have upon the pretentious Israelites. It would
be like telling a Baptist that a Mormon had suddenly come into the knowledge of God - a knowledge far greater than
any Baptist had ever experienced. Or, more to the point, it would be like telling a member of the Christian Church
or Church of Christ that a Christian Scientist had far surpassed the entirety of the Restoration Movement in the
appropriation of the blessing of God. Perhaps it would be like reporting to those thinking themselves to be "the one
true church" that a greater degree of spiritual insight and fervor was being experienced in the local drunk tank than
in the stately cathedrals of the city.
Those who imagine themselves to hold exclusive rights to the truth are incensed when they hear of those whom
they despise having more than they do. It is hard for scribes and Pharisees to learn from Galileans, whom they deem
to be "unlearned and ignorant."
WHAT CAUSED THE DIFFERENCE?
Why was the Lord found by the Gentiles who did not seek Him? How is it that He was manifest, or made known,
to those who did not ask for Him? This was the effect of the preached Gospel! On the wings of that glorious message
came gifts and abilities that could never be generated at Sinai! The Jews worked hard to attain to the righteousness
of the Law. The Gentiles acknowledged their deficiencies and worked on believing God!
The Jews devoted themselves to the commandments. The Gentiles gave heed to the promises of the Gospel. The
outcome was that faith took the Gentiles further than works took the Jews.
This is the appointed manner in which men and women are saved. It is how the shackles of sin are broken and
slavery to sin and Satan terminated. It comes through a message that is "the power of God unto salvation." Believe
that message, and regardless of your past, you will obtain the favor of God! You may not have sought the Lord in the
past, but you will find Him! You may not have asked for Him, but He will make Himself known to you. This is the
heritage of all who will believe the Gospel.
How marvelously the Spirit states it! "I said BEHOLD ME, BEHOLD ME, to a nation that was not called by my
name!" Do not imagine for one moment that this is not still happening. The voice of the Lord that breaks the cedars
of Lebanon, shakes the wilderness, and even makes the hinds to calve, can shout a person to spiritual alertness
through the Gospel! It is His "power unto salvation." Blessed are the feet of those who bring it to us!
GOD'S PATIENCE WITH ISRAEL
" 21 But to Israel He says: 'All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary
people.'" Israel was a chosen people, a cultured people, and a highly favored people. Through the Prophets the Lord left
no question about His desire to bless them. He warned them with strong warnings, and drew them with great promises.
Yet, in spite of all of this, they spurned the advances of their God.
Hear the Lord Himself lament their condition. "I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which
walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh Me to anger continually to My face;
that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the
monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; which say, Stand by thyself, come
not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day"
How can such a favored people yield such abominable results? And why does God hold out His hands to them,
beckoning them to come. Hear Him cry out: "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause Mine
anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever" (Jer 3:12). "Return, ye
backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings" (Jer 3:22).
You see, dear reader, that is what sin does to people - the sin that entered into the world with Adam's transgression
(Rom 5:12). The effects of sin cannot be trained out of people. It cannot be extricated by commandments. Unrelenting
patience at the hand of the Lord, and continual pleas from Him do not alter the human character or change the heart of
sinners. Laws cannot change men, nor can specific directions and meticulous routines. As it is written, "Can the Ethiopian
change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jer 13:23).
The hands of God are not being held out to Israel in futility. There is a marvelous purpose and determination behind
it all. He will yet reap a harvest from the seed He has sown. It will not come at the expense of His holiness, nor will it
require that man be bludgeoned into submission. In due time, His glory will be revealed in the salvation of the Jews.
I cannot overemphasize the indispensability of the Gospel of Christ. It has been vastly underrated in the professed
church, often being treated as though it no longer has a place of prominence. Sleeping souls have allowed other themes and
issues to upstage the Gospel, thereby relegating Christ Jesus to a subordinate position. But Jesus will not take a back seat.
He will cast down those who attempt to dislodge Him from the throne upon which He has been seated. He said it this way,
"Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ; the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a
people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed"
NIV (Matt 21:42-44).
I understand that some will affirm the place of Israel in the Divine economy has been finally removed. The Kingdom,
so to speak, has been taken from them and given to another "who will produce its fruit." However, let no soul imagine for
a solitary moment this means all hope for Israel has been irremediably thrown to the ground! The next chapter will
powerfully develop this aspect of things, warning us not to become complacent about our standing with God, or despising
those of the house of Israel.
The absurdity of a dead Gentile church boasting of the cutting off of Israel is the epitome of ignorance! Do such boasters
think God cannot take the Kingdom from them, giving it to "a people who will produce its fruit?" How solemnly the Spirit
will begin to speak to us!