How can they believe in whom they have not heard?

Howard Culbertson
Monday, February 25, 2013

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  -- Romans 10:14.

In outline form, Romans 10:14 could be re-stated this way:

To believe in the Lord Jesus, people have to hear about Him.

To hear about the Lord Jesus, unreached people need someone to tell them.

As a missionary sent to Gentile areas by the Antioch church, the Apostle Paul spent years telling unreached people about Jesus and gathering the resulting converts into churches.  What Paul did is still needed today.

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There are people on earth -- lots of them -- who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.  They have no inkling of what God did in Christ Jesus to reconcile the world to Himself.  Indeed, nearly three billion of earth’s inhabitants are unreached by the gospel (source: http://www.joshuaproject.net/great-commission-statistics.php).  These include large people groups in Asia and North Africa as well as small tribal groups in remote areas.  Seen in the light of Romans 10:14, that statistical picture cries out for believers to be invested in the cause of world evangelism.

I know people who think Romans 10:14 is mainly calling us to share the Good News with our next-door neighbors, some of whom have only hazy ideas of the Gospel.  While God does want all His lost children found, the verses before and after Romans 10:14 put the focus of that particular verse squarely on those having no access to the Gospel.  Romans 10:12 specifically mentions Gentiles, very few of whom at that point had heard about Jesus.  Then, the “beautiful feet” phrase in verse 15 comes from Isaiah 52, a chapter that includes the affirmation: “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”

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A 1989 film about a baseball field built in a farmer’s cornfield started people saying, “If we build it, they will come.”  Isn’t that what some believers think is how we can fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission?  Their idea is that focusing all our efforts and resources on local outreach is enough to fulfill our part of the mission “to make Christlike disciples in the nations.”

The scenario painted by Romans 10 is far different from the home-base focused “if we build it, they will come” idea.  The message from Romans 10:14 is that God’s people must intentionally seek all over the world for those who have yet to hear.  That verse clearly refers to the lost in every corner of the earth.

God yearns that His Story be proclaimed to every people group.  Thus, the Romans 10 questions “How can they believe?” and “How can they hear?” must be made to reverberate through the Church’s soul.  Those questions must be heard and heard again until every single believer feels impelled to do his or her part in getting the Good News to every unreached people group on earth.