Faith From Hearing
Re-Translated In March 2000
1. "Whoever believes in the Lord will never be disappointed." These are the words from chapter eleven and verse eleven which we read last week. "Whoever" -- in the original it has "everyone." "Everyone" is even repeated in verse twelve. In verse thirteen it says, "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." It is "everyone." It is even believed that the words "everyone, everyone" were echoing in Paul's head when he had this section written by dictation. There is no longer Jew nor Greek. In Christ the door of salvation is opened to everyone. Paul is joyously thinking this over and over. There is one and the same Lord for all. This Lord richly blesses everyone who calls upon him. It is not who a person is that determines one's salvation. It is not where they were born or where they were raised. It is not even about what they did in the past. "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Christ Calling Out
2. With that let's read verses fourteen and fifteen.
"But, how will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe on him of whom they have not heard? And, unless there is a person to tell them, who will be able to hear? Unless they are sent, how will they be able to tell them? 'How beautiful are the feet of the one who tells the good news!,' says the scripture" (verses fourteen and fifteen).
3. "The person who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." Yet, the event of "calling upon the name of the Lord" does not immediately occur in just an instant of time. There is a sequential chain leading up to it. Paul is making that chain clear, link by link, by his method of questioning. A person calls on the Lord. It must be that a person calls on the Lord after he or she believes on Him. Here then, "the faith" which Paul had been expounding upon so far is linked to "calling upon the name of the Lord." And, believing on the Lord is not possible unless there is "hearing." The reason they can hear is because there are persons who proclaim it to them. And the reason they proclaim it is because they are sent by Christ. The preaching of the church is based on the commissioning of Christ [the sender]. It says in the scriptures, "Unless they are sent, how will they be able to tell them?"
4. This last sentence is pivotal. It means that the preaching of the gospel does not just emerge out of the natural pathos of a Christian. Sometimes we hear evangelism being equated to the numerous "sales pitches of a good thing" in this world. It's like "If we eat something delicious, we want to tell someone else, "Try eating this." We understand evangelism and missions in the same way. It might not necessarily be much different from that but we should not think that that is all there is to it. Saying "You should try eating some for yourself" does not make you sent. The preaching of the gospel has no basis whatsoever in the natural mentality of a human being but has its basis in being sent out by Christ.
5. Also, we need to keep in our understanding one other important element in connection with what is written after this. It is the meaning of "telling others, or proclaiming" and "hearing." "How will the person who has not heard believe?" This is commonly understood as, "It is impossible to believe if you have never heard of Christ." But, come to think about it, if it were only a case of giving out some information about Christ, then it could be done even without being sent out from Christ. Because anybody can speak about Christ. Therefore, there's no way that "telling others" here is just speaking "about Christ," and "hearing" is not just hearing "about Christ."
6. Christ sends and the sent person proclaims [him] to others. It means that the one who tells others directly and personally is talking, but Christ himself is talking indirectly. Christ communicates himself to others through preaching. Christ invites persons to faith by means of the preached word. Christ calls out and addresses others through the words of the church. The preaching of the church is not defined as our talking to the world about Christ. It is an event by which Christ speaks to the world after sending out his church to it. Since that's so, what this "hearing" is in essence logically becomes clear. "Hearing" is not hearing about Christ. It is hearing what Christ says to you when he speaks through the preached word.
Faith From Hearing
7. In this way Paul clarified that at the top of the chain, wherein the purposes of God run completely through it, is this event of calling upon the name of the Lord. It is in this way that anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
8. But, the one clear fact is that in spite of the fact that the door of salvation is opened to everyone, not everyone will call upon the name of the Lord. [That's how] it usually goes wherever the gospel is preached. It is the dogged resistance of the Jews that Paul specifically had pictured in his mind. The name of the Lord or the name of Christ was not called upon among them. Somewhere [along the line] the chain ended up cut. Where might the chain have been cut?
9. Please look at verses sixteen and seventeen.
"But, not all have obeyed the gospel. Isaiah says, 'O Lord, who has believed what they heard from us?' In truth, faith comes from hearing, and even more, it begins by hearing the word of Christ," (verses sixteen and seventeen).
10. Paul gave a reference to Isaiah. God established Isaiah as a prophet. Being sent by God took place in that. Isaiah spoke the word of God. It says, "what they heard from us." But, they didn't believe it. And Paul says, "Faith comes from hearing." Thus, it would mean about their unbelief that from the very start the problem was with their hearing itself. Because the problem lied in their very hearing itself, the link between hearing and faith ended up cut.
11. Since Paul goes out of his way to speak again on and make an emphasis of the linkage between hearing and faith, we probably need to turn our attention there. Here Paul states that rather than faith emerging from within a person it comes from the outside by hearing. Even more, "hearing," as I mentioned before, is not giving out info of some kind, but is nothing but the hearing of what Christ says to you through the words of preaching. Therefore, Paul says here that it "begins in hearing the words of Christ."
12. Being aware of this link [between faith and hearing] is quite important for understanding faith. I say that because there are many who don't think faith [comes] "from hearing." Some end up thinking that faith is an ability - an ability to believe - readily supplied and given at birth. Those who think this way suppose that "It's up to me to believe or not." I think it over and I believe if I think I should, and if I don't think it's worth believing, I don't need to. Unfortunately, that's a common understanding of faith. But, when you really give it some thought, when they say that, what they already believe will take the priority. They will make a decision about some other thing based on what they believed in the past, and if it is in harmony with what they have believed from before, then they will believe, but if it is not in harmony they will just say I don't believe it. This type of thing has no relationship of any kind to the faith which the Bible tells of. Because the focus of it is completely human.
13. When "hearing" is really done, we switch our focus. Our focus switches over to "the person who is speaking to us." Christ, [when] he talks to us, becomes "the Lord," and I become "the servant." When hearing is done correctly, we get shaken by the words of Christ, we get defeated, we get humbled, and in his love we are made to adore Christ as the true Lord [that he is]. That indeed is the faith that begins "from hearing." If that's not that way it is, but our hearing is defined as a human focus with no kind of relationship [to his lordship], then even though I have called it faith, it would be nothing more than "I accepted it because it fit in with my way of thinking." We may keep claiming "I believed," but, to put it kind of awkwardly, it wouldn't be but a claim that "I done believed and done accepted it all on my own." And later, we'd even get to where we'd say, "Since I have shown faith in you, I'd appreciate it if you'd pay me back with a favor of my own."
14. "Faith is dependent on hearing." Thus, we understand that the unbelief of the Jews, rather than saying their problem was in their unbelief itself, was a problem with their hearing. Why was there a problem in their hearing? I have a hunch we can understand it from Paul's words written in verses two and three of this chapter. "I testify that they serve God zealously, but their zeal is not based on a correct understanding. Because in not knowing the righteousness of God they are trying to seek their own righteousness and have not submitted to the righteousness of God." They were zealous and they put everything they had in trying to establish their own righteousness. They could not hear the words of Christ since they were consumed in their own thoughts of "What am I supposed to do?"
15. This same thing can happen to us today. When we are caught up in "What am I supposed to do?," instead of the words of Christ, when all is said and done, what takes precedence is "Here's what I think. This is right based on my experience." It also happens today among the zealous and the active that they belittle any focus on hearing the Word. Thus, they tend to elevate the mindset of the times and their own ideals rather than the message of the cross which the Bible and the church have proclaimed for generations. This is Pharisaism in a different form and is similar to the problem the Jews back then had.
The Lord Holds Out His Hands All Day Long
16. Furthermore, let's read from verses eighteen to twenty-one.
"So then, I will ask a question. Didn't they ever hear? Of course, they heard. 'A voice echoed in all the land and the word reached the ends of the world. So then, I will ask a question. Didn't Israel understand? In regard to this, Moses first said, 'I will cause you to be jealous through a people who are not my people and I will make you angry through an ignorant people.' Isaiah boldly said, 'I was found by those who did not seek for me and I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.' But, regarding Israel he said "I have held out my hands all day long to a people who are disobedient and rebellious,'" (verses eighteen through twenty-one).
17. Paul is quoting here from three biblical passages. The first is from Psalm nineteen, the second is Deuteronomy chapter thirty-two, and the third is a quote from Isaiah chapter sixty-five. As is clear when you actually open to the Old Testament, they are quite loose citations. For example, when we write a paper [our] quoting of references is done very differently [from the way Paul made his references]. [In Paul's quotes] part of the words are different here and there, and in the first place, they're quotes that ignore their contexts considerably. So, we cannot prove with these Old Testament quotes the accuracy of Paul's claim. In the first place I don't think Paul himself was trying to prove the accuracy of his claims with this. Paul says, "So then, I will ask a question. Didn't they ever hear?" But, his answer [to this question] is clear even without quoting anything from the Old Testament. Because Paul had been evangelizing the Jews. They had certainly heard the gospel.
18. There is one thing that Paul wants to tell us through these biblical passages. It is that one cannot turn the responsibility for human unbelief on God. Human beings may be unconcerned with Christ, or oppose him, or may not accept the message of salvation. But, it is a problem with the fault on the individual and God is never unconcerned towards people like that. Even with the Gentiles who did not originally seek God out, God gave them the gospel, spoke his word and worked towards them. The Lord says, "I was found by those who were not searching for me and I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." The Lord keeps speaking to a rebelling Israel. He has stretched out his hands all day long to a people who are disobedient and rebellious.
19. Today, there is a Lord who is stretching his hands out all day long to all of us in this country as well. The chain from the Lord's side of things is linked together and is coming right to us who are [presently] hearing his word. It must not get cut at us. Faith begins from hearing. And whoever calls upon the name of the Lord by a faith that began from hearing will be saved.