Beautiful are the feet. 10:14-21
In our passage for study, Paul identifies the essential part personal belief in Christ plays in salvation. The way of salvation is like the links of a chain; break one and all is lost. The first link is the revelation of God's word, a promise of salvation, then that word must be communicated, then the word must be heard, then believed, before finally a person can ask for salvation. The sad truth is that the people of Israel have heard the word, but not believed, while the Gentiles have heard and believed.
14-15a. In these verses Paul shows that his fellow Jews are without excuse in that they have rejected Christ. God's way of salvation was theirs for the asking; nothing was hidden from them. In making his point Paul gives us a rare insight into the way of salvation. It is like a chain which must not be broken. The five links are as follows:
i] Sinners will be saved, will receive God's mercy and forgiveness, if they call out to Jesus.
ii] Yet, they cannot call upon Jesus unless they believe in him.
iii] They cannot believe in him without hearing about him.
iv] And they cannot hear about him unless the message of Christ, the gospel, is preached to them.
v] The message cannot be proclaimed unless a preacher is sent by God.
v15b. This quote from Isaiah 52:7 affirms the preacher, the one who communicates God's saving word, a word the apostles were authorized to communicate to the historic people of Israel. So, the message has been sent.
v16. Yet, Israel broke the link of faith; they failed to believe God's word of salvation, and therefore failed to call on "the name of the Lord", v13. Thus they stand condemned. The quote from Isaiah reminds us that there is nothing new in Israel's resistance to God's word.
v17. Paul now sums up his argument so far by restating the key links in the chain of salvation: belief is linked to hearing, and hearing linked to communication.
v18-19a. Did Israel hear about the way of salvation in Christ? "They did indeed". The trouble is they didn't believe. Quoting Psalm 19:4, concerning the display of God's glory in nature, Paul implies that the message of salvation has been proclaimed widely and so therefore Israel is without excuse.
v19b-21. Paul now quotes scripture to support his contention that Israel's failure to appropriate God's free offer of salvation is their own doing. They have heard, but have chosen not to believe. Deuteronomy 32:21 reminds us that God's chastisement of his people for infidelity (their chasing after other God's) includes his provoking them through his positive dealings with the nations. Israel now faces this reality. Isaiah 65:1 reminds us that the Jews obviously heard the message of salvation because it was even heard by those who were not seeking him. Finally, Isaiah 65:2 reminds us that the wilful rejection of God's steadfast love toward his historic people leaves Israel without excuse.
Five gospel principles|
In our passage for study we see clearly the factors involved in the evangelistic process. They are factors worth noting:
i] A person is saved when they call out to Jesus, when they ask him for his forgiveness, acceptance and love. Like the thief on the cross, we have to say, "Jesus, remember me." It is so amazingly simple that we often try to add extra requirements, bolster it up a bit. Still, in the end, it is "ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."
ii] A person can only ask if they are willing to trust Jesus to do what they are asking. Can this man who lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine, who was taken by wicked men and crucified, and who, it was claimed of him, rose from the dead, can he (and will he) give life eternal? Is he able to save? It's impossible to be sure about any of this, but belief is taking God at his word; it involves going out on a limb with Jesus.
iii] A person can only believe if they get to hear the message of salvation, the gospel. Believing requires hearing. This involves the effective communication of an understandable message. The message must be in the language of the hearer, even their accent, and must use thought-forms appropriate to the hearer (contextualization). The message, of course, must be the gospel. It must be theologically accurate. To believe, a person has to hear and understand the gospel.
iv] A person can only hear if there is someone to preach. It is essential that we communicate the message. In our age, one-to-one communication is still effective, but it is the mass-media that most effectively communicates ideas.
v] Finally, a person can only preach if they are sent. It is true that only the gifted are sent to evangelize, yet we are all "to do the work of evangelism", being ready willing and able to "give a defense of the hope that is in us". As a community of believers we are indeed sent - we are to see to it that the gospel is proclaimed.
So there it is, the chain of salvation. Let's see to it that the chain remains unbroken.
We can't force people to believe, but we can make sure that they hear the gospel. If you had $1,000,000 to spend on evangelism, discuss how you would best use that money for gospel communication.
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