Romans 10:14-21 continues Paul’s discussion of the gospel, particularly in the light of the Israelite’s refusal to believe it. We sometimes use these verses to advocate preaching the gospel to the whole world – and this is undoubtedly something we are called to do (Matt 28:18-20) – but there is a sense in which hearing the good news is simply the first step. Israel had heard the gospel. “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Rom 10:18). What was required was not just proclamation, not just hearing, but faith and obedience, and this had been lacking: “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Rom 10:21)

Again, Paul reminds us that “not all the Israelites accepted the good news.” (Rom 10:16). Not everyone to whom we proclaim the good news will accept it, either. That doesn’t remove the responsibility of witness from us. Paul is at pains to show us that there is a logical progression on the journey to faith: people must call on the name of the Lord to be saved and therefore they need to hear of the One who can save before they can call on His name! They will only hear of Him if He is preached to them (and the word here must be understood in its original meaning of proclamation, of being a ‘town crier’, rather than in the narrower ‘church’ sense of giving a sermon in a church building!)and it is our duty, responsibility and privilege to spread the good news (“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Rom 10:15). Nonetheless, despite urging us to do our part in sharing the gospel with others, Paul is well aware that faith is a personal response. It comes from hearing the message, to be sure, which gives us a great job to do in speaking out the word of God so others can hear, but it is not in our power to save people. Their response to God’s word and to God’s revelation is between them and God.

Paul will go on to show that the Gentiles’ response to the gospel is yet another means by which God wants to startle the Israelites into faith. God is able to use even situations that to us make no sense or seem impossible for His glory. He used a heathen nation of Babylonia to discipline His chosen people (Habakkuk 1-3). He used a non-Jewish king to issue a decree to allow Israel to return from exile. (Ezra 1:1-3) He used the apparently selfish and vindictive response of Jewish and Roman leaders in conducting the trial and crucifixion of Jesus as the means by which we would be saved.

Three things, therefore, emerged from the study last night.
1) Our job is to proclaim the good news. God is the One who will save. We don’t know whom He will save and have no right to restrict our preaching because someone doesn’t ‘look’ like they will respond.
2) God is in control of all situations, even those which baffle us and cause us heartache and confusion.
3) Faith is a personal response. It wasn’t that the Israelites didn’t know the good news. Their problem (as ours often is) was not believing it.