In this world, one of the things that seems to matter most to us are the opinions of those we interact with. People tell me all the time that they don't care about what others think of them, but I don't believe that assertion. I think we all care. And because we care, we often alter our behavior in order to fall in line with the expectations of those we're seeking approval from.
But that can be a dangerous pattern or practice to adopt, and it often shows up when it comes to verbally sharing our faith in Jesus. Have you ever wanted to tell someone about the hope they can have in Jesus, but you've shied away from doing so because you feared receiving a negative response from them? Have you ever worried if others will think you're weird, crazy, or fanatical?
Still, someone needs to take the risk to let others know about the gift of salvation that's offered to all who will trust in Christ. And the means God has ordained for this message to spread is through the lips of those He has already redeemed.
The Apostle Paul addresses this concern in Romans 10:14-21 where we're encouraged to be thoughtful and vocal about the gift of salvation that is available to all who will trust in Christ.
I. Someone needs to say something
A few years ago, one of my neighbors was having a dispute with someone else in my neighborhood. One neighbor had done something that negatively impacted the property of the other neighbor, and to my knowledge, they still remain at odds. I get along with both men, and make a point to chat with each of them, but it made me laugh a little when one of them tried to get me to do the dirty work of handling this dispute for him. While complaining to me about his problem, he said, "You need to say something to him!" I'm not sure that would have been the best way for his problem to be solved.
But when it comes to the message of the gospel being communicated, someone does need to say something. In the second half of Romans 10, Paul continues addressing mankind's need for salvation, and he goes into detail of how the message of the gospel reaches the ears of those who need to hear it.
If you're familiar with the message of the gospel, it's because someone took the risk to communicate it to you. Either they wrote it down, expressed it conversationally, taught it scholastically, or preached it enthusiastically. But however it was communicated, I'm certain words were used. I mention that particular fact because there's a popular saying that well-meaning Christians often share that seems to imply that it isn't fully necessary to use words when communicating the gospel. Have you ever heard someone say, "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words." The Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write this passage down seemed to think words were necessary, and so should we.
Consider the progression of questions Paul poses in these verses. He starts by asking, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?" He's telling us here that no one is going to call on Jesus if they don't believe He can save them. Then he asks, "And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" In asking this question, Paul is reminding us that no one is going to believe in Jesus if they've never even heard of Him. From there, he asks, "And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Someone needs to take the risk to say something. It doesn't need to be a sermon, but something needs to be said. Then he asks the next logical question, "And how are they to preach unless they are sent?" If no one goes to where there's a need for the gospel to be heard, those who are ignorant and unaware of the gospel will not hear it and be saved.
There is no greater message we'll ever share, and no deeper truth that we'll ever communicate than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you know that message, it's God's calling on your life to verbalize it. There are people the Lord will send you to who need to hear it. Paul even quotes from Isaiah 52:7 when he states, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Most people don't take care of their feet as well as they should, and some people would probably say that feet are the grossest part of the human body, yet Scripture teaches us that even feet can be beautiful when they're used to transport a brave man or woman who is willing to share the gospel with those who need to hear it.
II. We hear before we believe
I wonder at this point, how many people have historically heard the message of the gospel. I'm sure it's a large number. In our own era we can spread information very quickly through many means. I believe that among my family and friends, most, if not all, have heard the message of the gospel from my lips or through the words I've written down. But as of yet, not everyone has come to faith in Christ.
For a person to come to faith in Jesus, they need to hear the gospel first. Scripture teaches us that faith comes from hearing. The word of Christ needs to be made known. We speak of Christ's divine nature, sinless life, atoning sacrifice on the cross, resurrection from death, and imminent return, and we do so in the hope that the Lord will make use of us even though none of us are perfect messengers. Yet He delights to utilize the obedience of imperfect messengers to make His perfect message known.
So let's be zealous to make this message known, but let's have a zeal that's balanced by knowledge. Unfortunately, there are those who have zealously shared the gospel with others, but have done so in unloving, smug, and needlessly argumentative ways, even though the word of God counsels us to be gentle and respectful when we speak with others.
Recently, a friend of mine was on vacation in the Dominican Republic. While there, he met a man with an evangelistic gift. That man has been used to regularly make the gospel known through ministering to prisoners, some of which were awaiting execution. He joyfully speaks up because the Lord has given him an open door to proclaim the gospel in the prison system.
While that man seems particularly gifted as an evangelist, you don't need to be gifted in the same way to share the hope that you've been given through Christ. Among my circle of friends, I know of one person who shares his faith by praying with those who hire him to make repairs on their homes. I know of someone else who shares a brief Scripture each day on Instagram. I know of a shy person who makes a point to send people personal notes and cards in the mail filled with biblical quotes and wisdom. I know of a person who uploads brief recordings of his teaching of Scripture to YouTube. I know of a family that intentionally invites those who don't believe in Christ to eat meals and talk at their home. I know of another family that hosts a weekly study of Scripture in their living room. I know of someone else who drives those without transportation to worship services. Most of these people wouldn't consider themselves gifted evangelists, but their actions show that they understand that people need to hear the gospel before they're going to believe.
III. Others may become jealous of the ways God blesses you, and that's not always a bad thing
In this section of the book of Romans, it becomes obvious just how much Paul wanted his Jewish brothers and sisters to experience the joys of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This was something that burdened his heart, and certainly something he prayed about often, but he also knew that, for a season, there were going to be many who rejected the gospel. That was painful for Paul to contemplate, and I'm sure we too can understand that agony when we think about the people in our lives that we're still praying will one day come to faith in Jesus.
Consider for a moment how God has chosen to address this issue. It's clear from Scripture that the Lord loves the Jewish people. When we read through the Old Testament, we can see the great lengths He went to in order to reach them and bless them. When we read the New Testament, we can see that He sent His Son to be born a Jew, and the vast majority of Christ's early followers were also Jewish. But as a whole, at least for now, the Jews have rejected Jesus. Some may think He was a nice guy. I even met a Jewish man who was willing to accept that Jesus was a prophet, but he said he would never believe that Jesus was God in the flesh.
Does the fact that the Jewish people are presently rejecting Jesus alter the nature of God's love for them, or prevent Him from fulfilling His pre-ordained plan for them? Of course it doesn't. In fact, this Scripture tells us that God is actively trying to make them jealous of what He's doing in the lives of those who do trust in Christ. God has been blessing people in every nation of this world who have come to faith in Christ, and one of His purposes in doing so is to make the Jewish people jealous (Romans 10:19). He wants to arouse within them a curiosity about what He's doing. He wants them to want His divine blessings too. He wants them to desire the gift of salvation that He provided through Jesus as well.
So while jealousy doesn't always strike us as a positive concept, we can see from this passage that the Lord is making use of it as a tool to help foster a desire for His blessings, divine presence, and salvation among those who currently reject Jesus.
Throughout the course of my life, as I have taken the risk to make the gospel known, I've experienced great highs and painful lows. I have had the privilege to pray with adults, teens, and children who have trusted in Jesus, but I've also been mocked, yelled at, ignored, and discouraged by others. And while I can't control what others do with the gospel once they've heard it, I can remain faithful to make it known with love, gentleness, and respect. Some will hear it and believe in Jesus. Some will reject it and remain condemned, but it's still worth taking the risk to share.
Someone, somewhere, took the risk to share the good news of Christ's gift of salvation with you. Will you joyfully accept the fact that it is one of God's major purposes for your life to share that message with someone else so that they may also come to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)
© John Stange, 2019