Christians Responsibility to Evangelize the World – Romans 10:14-15
Pastor Mark Hardy June 30, 2013
In his book The No-Guilt Guide for Witnessing, George Sweeting tells of a man by the name of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future. Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died.
Ten years went by. Then a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.
Sweeting concluded that story by asking, “Would it matter to you if someone sent you the most important message in your life and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?”
We who have heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and experienced His forgiveness of our sin and the gift of eternal life are responsible to proclaim it to others who are still enslaved by sin. Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message of the gospel? This is what we are going to look at this morning.
Last time in our study of Romans we saw that everyone in the world is responsible before God for receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now as we continue on in our study, Paul emphasizes the role that Christians are intended to play in God’s plan of reaching the unsaved. Turn in your Bible to Romans 10.
In Romans 10:14-15 we see two facets of every believer’s responsibility to share the gospel with a lost and dying world.
The first facet is this:
I. The Sequence of our Responsibility
A. Look at vv. 14-15: How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? (Stop there)
1. Having just declared in v. 13 that “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED,” Paul now momentarily shifts his focus off of those responsible for receiving the gospel to those responsible for proclaiming the gospel.
2. He does so by stating four rhetorical questions, each beginning with the word “How” and having an obvious negative answer. These questions outline a logical sequence that must be fulfilled if people are going to call on the Lord and be saved.
3. John Murray accurately states, “The main point is that the saving relation to Christ involved in calling upon his name is not something that can occur in a vacuum; it occurs only in a context created by proclamation of the gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it.” (Vol. II pg. 58)
4. In these two verses Paul is driving toward the climatic point of Christians responsibility to evangelize the world, and he does so by giving a logical sequence in the reverse order. This sequence can be likened to four links of a chain.
B. Let’s look at each one of these four links. The first link of the chain, which is welded to v. 13, is: The necessity to believe. Paul first says in v. 14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” The obvious answer is: They won’t!
1. Who exactly are the “they” that Paul refers to five times in v. 14? While some scholars say he is talking about the Jewish majority that have rejected their Messiah, others say he is referring only to the unbelieving Gentiles.
2. However, remember in v. 4 we saw that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes;” and the context of vv. 11-12 is that “whoever calls on the Lord will be saved. Therefore, it is best to take the “they” as referring to all unsaved people in the world, Jews and Gentiles alike.
3. In other words, how will people everywhere in the world call on Jesus Christ whom they have not believed? For people to do so presupposes that they first have “believed” in Him.
4. As we saw earlier in chapter 10, the word “believed” (episteusan) is far more than mere intellectual assent. It means “to put your trust and confidence in, and to rely upon.”
5. Therefore, calling on the Lord for salvation is meaningless apart from believing in Him. Only those who truly believe that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Lord, the God-man who as our Substitute, paid in full the penalty for their sins, will come to Him in saving faith.
C. The second link of the chain is: The necessity to hear. Paul goes on to say in v. 14, “How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” The obvious answer is: They can’t!
1. People cannot believe in Christ unless they have heard about Him. The word “hear” (ekousan) indicates the primary vehicle by which people in Paul’s day came to know about the gospel.
2. Not only was the New Testament in the process of being written and only a few churches had received some of Paul’s letters, but also since in the first century many ordinary citizens couldn’t read they depended on hearing something taught.
3. Therefore, the primarily means of communicating the gospel was by word of mouth to others. And notice that it is Jesus Christ that is the One who is heard in the message of the gospel.
D. The third link of the chain is: The necessity of proclaimers. Look again at the end of v. 14, “And how will they hear without a preacher?” The obvious answer is: They won’t!
1. People will not hear about God’s salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone unless the good news of the gospel is proclaimed to them.
2. The word “preacher” (kerussontos) here simply means to be a herald, to announce or proclaim a message. This is the main point that Paul is driving towards in these two verses—the proclaimers of the gospel.
3. People are not saved apart from hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is communicated to them by someone else. Here we see that evangelism is the heart of what Christ church is to be about.
4. Now proclaiming the gospel to others was not restricted to merely the apostles or limited to the person behind the pulpit. Since Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation for every man worldwide, every Christian is a preacher or herald of the gospel and is responsible to proclaim and share it with others.
5. God not only sovereignly ordained the ends, but also the means to reach those ends. And our faithful witness to others is part of those means.
6. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
7. God could have chosen to use His holy angels to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ or He could have written it in the sky for all to see, but He didn’t. He has chosen to use us. We are His ambassadors, His messengers, His spokesmen, and His witnesses.
8. And as we preach or proclaim the gospel to others it is ultimately Jesus Christ that they receive or reject, not us. For Jesus said in Luke 10:16, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
E. The fourth link of the chain is: The necessity to send. Paul says in v. 15, “How will they preach unless they are sent?” The obvious answer it: It’s impossible!
1. Whereas the word “they” in v. 14 referred to unbelievers worldwide, the word “they” used twice here in v. 15 refers to believers who are the one that “preach” (keruxosin), which means “to herald, announce, and proclaim” the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.
2. But Paul says, “How will they preach unless they are sent?” The term “sent” (apostalosin) means “to be commissioned with authority by someone.”
3. It is very significant that this word is passive in the Greek, and is seen to be a divine passive. In other words, this sending of believers to proclaim the gospel to others is ultimately done by God Himself.
4. Now of course the church is to get behind and support believers who go out, but God is the One who first commissions and sends out every believer to participate in the evangelization of the world. This worldwide mission given to God’s people is called the “Great Commission,” and is seen numerous times in the New Testament.
5. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
6. He said in Mark 16:15, “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
7. In Luke 24:46-47 we are told, “…Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sin would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
8. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:18, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Again He said in 20:21, “…as the Father sent Me, I also send you.”
9. Before He ascended into heaven the risen Christ said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
10. And Peter also declared in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
11. There is no way to get around it that God has left us as His people here on earth to be about accomplishing His Great Commission. We have a God-given responsibility as sent or commissioned believers to proclaim the life-saving and life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
12. Although Paul has presented this sequence in reverse order to drive this point home, if we turn this order around we see that reaching people for Christ begins with God sending His messengers; then we as believers proclaim the gospel; people hear Christ’s message through us; and those who believe what they hear call on the name of the Lord and are saved. That is the sequence of our responsibility.
13. The second facet is this:
II. The Satisfaction of our Responsibility
A. Wanting to encourage all of us as believers in our responsibility to evangelize the world, Paul then quotes freely from Isaiah 52:7 in the last part of v. 15: Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
1. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah actually said in Isaiah 52:7: How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
2. Originally, these words were intended by Isaiah to describe the excitement and celebration with which the exiles would welcome the good news that came from messengers of their imminent release from the Babylonian captivity (40:9-11; 61:1). These words also have a future fulfillment for Israel in the Millennial Kingdom.
3. But here in Romans, by divine revelation Paul broadens and applies these words to the proclaiming of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If those who proclaimed the good news of Israel’s release from Babylonian captivity to return to Jerusalem were thus celebrated, how much more welcome should be the messengers of the gospel of Christ which promises eternal life to all who believe!
4. If you remember from earlier in our study of Romans, when Paul uses the phrase “Just as it is written” he is saying that this Old Testament passage is fully authoritative and stands perfectly binding not only when it was originally written, but also right now.
5. He wants all of us as believers to be deeply encouraged by the truth of what he is saying! Now it is not our physical feet as God’s messengers that are beautiful, our feet are beautiful in the sense that the message we are carrying is welcome.
6. The word “feet” (podes) simply underscores that we as God’s messengers have been sent out and are going in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission and are proclaiming to others the “good news of good things,” which is a beautiful description of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, salvation is now available to everyone who believes, to Jews and Gentiles alike.
7. Now obviously, as we share to the good news of the gospel with unbelievers not everyone is going to listen to us and receive it, some will. But those who do are the ones who will be eternally grateful for our willingness and effort to bring it to them.
8. It is a wonderful privilege to be able to proclaim God’s Good News to those who have no hope and are without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). And what a joy and satisfaction it is to be used by God to help people come to Jesus Christ in saving faith!
B. Now God doesn’t call us to be “successful” in our evangelism, but only to be “faithful.”
1. Our job is simply to be obedient in sharing the gospel with the lost and then leave the results to God. We are to give the general call to everyone by inviting them to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, but only God can effectually call people to Himself (8:30; 9:11, 24-26).
2. Therefore, we must continue to obey God even though we cannot see whether our witnessing is doing any good or not. This side of heaven we may never know how God is using us in other people’s lives.
3. For example: Every Saturday evening for over forty years a man stood on a certain street corner handing out gospel tracts to those passing by. And then one day, discouraged because he saw so little fruit, he stopped.
Some years later, he happened to go by that same street corner and he saw a young man standing there. As he approached, the young man came up to him and gave him a tract. He said to the young man, “How is it that you are here today? The young man replied, “Well, sir, it is like this. An older man once occupied this corner for years; I was saved by means of a tract he gave me. Evidently the old man is in heaven now for I’ve missed him here, and so I am seeking to fill this place.”
Tears filled the older Christian’s eyes as the young man spoke. He then said to the younger man, “I am the man who gave you that tract, and by the grace of God I will once again share my faith until Jesus comes.”
4. Another example is one night at a small church in Atlanta, Georgia, a man shared how he had become a Christian while in Sydney, Australia. He said, “I was at the street corner in Kings Cross when I felt a tug on my sleeve. (Kings Cross is Sydney’s inner-city and is known as the drug and red light capital of Australia). Turning, I found myself face to face with a street bum. Before I could say anything, the man simply asked me, ‘Mister, if you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?’ That question troubled me over the next three weeks. I had to find an answer, and I ended up giving my life to Jesus Christ.”
The pastor of the church was amazed that a man on a street corner could have such an impact. Three years later, another man came to his church and gave an almost identical testimony. He too had been at Kings Cross in Sydney when a street bum had pulled on his sleeve and then asked him, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” This second man was also haunted by this question, and eventually sought and found an answer in Jesus Christ.
Shortly after hearing this second testimony, the pastor happened to go to Sydney for a mission’s conference. On one of his nights off, he went to Kings Cross to see if he could find the man who had been mentioned at this church by two different people. Pausing on a street corner to look for someone like the street bum he’d heard about, he felt a tug on his jacket. He turned, and before the poor old man could say anything, the pastor blurted out, “I know what you’re going to ask me! You’re going to ask me, “If I were to die tonight, where would I spend eternity?”
The old man was stunned. “How did you know that?” he inquired. The pastor then told him the whole story. With tears in his eyes, the old man said to the pastor, “Ten years ago I gave my life to Jesus Christ and I wanted to do something for Him. But a man like me can’t do much of anything. So I decided I would just hang out on this corner and ask people that simple question. I’ve been doing that ever sense, but tonight is the first time that I ever knew it did anybody any good.”
5. Beloved, our responsibility is simply to keep on being faithful in sharing the gospel with the lost and leave the results to God, whether we see any or not.
6. The central issue in witnessing to others is not our spiritual gifting but God’s commissioning. No matter what spiritual gift we may have, God has commanded all of us to share our faith with others.
7. We don’t have to stand on a street corner to do this, but God wants to use us wherever we are because our mission field is all around us. But are we open to the opportunities He is giving us to be a witness for Him? Colossians 4:5 says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”
8. Since witnessing can be fearful, when we are not controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit it is very easy to stay in our comfort zone and to not be fishers of men but merely keepers of the aquarium. But do we really care about where people will spend eternity when they die?
9. The words of this simple poem are true:
The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop,
At late or early hour,
To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one’s health is more.
To lose one’s soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.
10. Salvation is available in this life only. After death it is eternally too late! Do we truly have a burden for the lost?
11. God asked Isaiah these two questions in Isaiah 6:8, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah answered, “Here am I. Send me!”
12. In His Word, God has already commissioned every one of us as believers to go into the world and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. But have each one of us said to Him the same thing that Isaiah did—“Here am I. Send me!”
In closing, as believers we have the God-given privilege and responsibility to participate in the greatest and most significant cause in all of history—advancing the kingdom of God on earth. But are we doing what we have been commanded to do?
If we sincerely want Jesus’ last command to be our first concern, here are four practical things that we can do:
1) Write down the names of those we know are not Christians and are on their way to a Christ-less eternity, and beginning praying for their salvation.
2) Prepare ourselves to be ready to share our faith with them. Take an evangelism class, read a book on evangelism, or make a list of salvation verses from Scripture.
3) Pray for divine appointments and be looking for these opportunities.
4) In dependence on the Lord, courageously share your faith when the Lord gives these opportunities.
May each one of us take seriously our responsibility to be Christ’s witnesses! For as Paul said, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”