Romansby David Cook
Since faith in Jesus is the way of righteousness, and since God is sovereign in the choosing of His elect, how does God call His elect to himself? Paul’s thinking is very structured at this point. Notice what he says:
Those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved (v. 13).
How can they call without belief? (v. 14)
How can they believe without hearing? (v. 14)
How can they hear without preaching? (v. 14)
How can they preach unless they are sent? (v. 15)
Hence, the feet of those who preach such a momentous message are beautiful (v. 15).
Not all who hear the message necessarily believe; not all will be saved. But God is actively calling out His people through the hearing of the gospel (vv. 16–17).
Question 65 of the Heidelberg Catechism—the 16th-century document in teaching Christian doctrine—asks, “It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all His blessings: where then does that faith come from?” Answer 65 responds, “The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts through the preaching of the holy gospel . . .”
Didn’t Israel hear (v. 18)? Certainly they did. The apostles took very seriously their responsibility of taking the gospel first to the Jews.
Didn’t they understand (vv. 19–21)? They understood grace well enough to be jealous of others’ reception of it (v. 19). God is sovereign in this process (v. 20) but Israel is personally responsible for her disobedience and obstinacy (v. 21).
The doctrine of election is often attacked because it is said to render the believer paralysed at the point of evangelism. Not so, says Paul (vv. 1, 17). This doctrine provides the greatest motivation for evangelism. We are not to be put off by people’s resistance. Our confidence in evangelism does not rest on our ability to explain or people’s ability to understand, but rests on God’s mercy. That is why prayer must accompany the clear, widespread presentation of the gospel, as the sovereign God does His work of calling out His people as the gospel is explained.
Is the preaching spoken of in verse 15 a particular calling? Strictly speaking, no. However, the preacher needs to know that he is sent and commissioned by God (see Matthew 9:38 for a similar emphasis.)
What is the logic behind each of the steps Paul mentions in verses 11 to 15?
How do these truths challenge your commitment to supporting the widespread preaching of the gospel?
How can you encourage preachers and evangelists today?