The Preacher and His Preaching
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 6, 2011
Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
In the preaching of the gospel, God does not discriminate between Jews and Gentiles. It was his ancient plan that all the families of the earth be blessed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no difference, for all have sinned, and the gospel is to be preached to all just as the rays of the sun go out to all peoples of the world. God himself promises that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That is a divine guarantee. Let God be true and all people liars.
In Romans 10:14-21, Paul again deals with the question of why the vast majority of the Jews rejected their Messiah and his gospel. Here Paul shows the five steps leading to eternal salvation: first, a preacher must be sent; second, a preacher must preach the true gospel; third, people must hear the good news; fourth, they must believe the message preached; and fifth, they call upon the name of the Lord that they may be saved. We want to consider these steps one by one.
Step One: A Preacher Sent by God
There are three kinds of preachers: those who are God-called and sent; those who are church-called and sent; and those who are self-called and went. Most preachers belong to the last category. Looking for a job, such people go to seminary or Bible school and then send out résumés until a church calls them. And not only are most ministers and missionaries not called or sent by God, but they are also unconverted and strangers to the gospel.
About such self-called people the Lord says, "I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds" (Jer. 23:21-22). Elsewhere the Lord says, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds" (Jer. 14:14). The Lord also declares, "I have not sent them. They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you" (Jer. 27:15).
Paul writes, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Most ministers and missionaries are like the four hundred devil-inspired prophets appointed by Ahab. He paid them to prophesy good things concerning wicked Ahab. The only true prophet of God coming before Ahab was Micaiah, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke God's word to Ahab. But Ahab hated Micaiah (1 Kings 22.
Moses was sent by God. God said to him, "Tell the elders of Israel in Egypt, 'I AM has sent me to you . . . the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'" (Exod. 3:14, 15). Sent as an ambassador of the eternal I AM, Moses was given authority and was accountable to God. God himself gave him the message to speak, and Moses was to fully obey the one who sent him. When Moses spoke, God himself was speaking. He was an apostle of Christ, for when an apostle speaks, Christ speaks.
Joshua also was sent by God. God told him, "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Josh. 1:5).
Isaiah was sent by God. He says, "Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here I am; send me!'" God ordered, "Go and tell this people" (Isa. 6:8-9).
Jeremiah was sent by God. The Lord told him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5). Then he told him, "'Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land-against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the Lord" (Jer. 1:17-19).
Jesus Christ was sent by the Father, who said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matt. 17:5). So we read, "For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God" (John 3:34). Jesus himself said, "The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him" (John 8:29). He also declared, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
The twelve apostles were sent by Jesus Christ: "When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:1-2).
Paul was sent by God. He writes, "Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Gal. 1:1). Elsewhere he declares, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God . . . Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Rom. 1:1, 5).
God-sent missionaries and pastors are rare. Thus, they are precious, and the Bible says they are beautiful. Paul was a small man with a crooked nose. But this pious and brilliant apostle to the Gentiles was God's beautiful apostle, as Isaiah describes: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem" (Isa. 52:7-9). Such people are chosen and set apart from the womb and sent by God to preach God's liberation of us. They are to declare, "Your God reigns!," that is, "Your God has defeated the devil and the world. Your God has defeated death. So sing unto the Lord." The gospel makes us shout and sing and rejoice:
I will sing unto the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously,
the horse and the rider thrown into the sea.
The Lord, my God, my strength, my song,
has now become my victory.
The Lord is God and I will praise him,
my father's God and I will exalt him
The church sends out those whom God has called and equipped to preach the gospel. God's gifts make room for the ministry. God called and equipped Barnabas and Saul. The church in Syrian Antioch recognized God's calling and gifts of these men, and by the Spirit's direction, sent them out. So we read, "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:2-3).
The church is to recognize God's calling of the pastor-elder and ordain him for the ministry. A true preacher is called by God and appointed by the local church. Only God's church has this authority to ordain and send.
Preachers, pastors, and elders are authorized messengers and custodians of the gospel. They are gifts to the church from the risen Christ: "It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Eph. 4:11-12). They are appointed by the Holy Spirit. Paul exhorts, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
Preachers must possess certain qualifications. Paul writes,
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (1 Tim. 3:2-7)
A pastor must love God and God's word. He must also love people. He must practice holiness and be a man of prayer who works hard. He must be filled with the Holy Spirit, wisdom, power, and grace. He must have faith and be able to suffer much affliction. He must be a man of keen mind and fearless courage, not a lover of money, and able to teach and preach the gospel.
Sometimes a church fails to recognize the calling and equipping of a minister, and therefore fails to send out God-appointed men. For example, when William Carey of London wanted to go to India as a missionary, he was told by his church leaders, "Young man, when God chooses to save the heathens in India, he will do so without your help." Notice how times have changed. England and other Western nations have become more pagan than some of the Eastern nations. So God is now sending missionaries to the West from the East. Your pastor is an example. God called him to preach the gospel. He separated him from his mother's womb, prepared him, and brought him here to preach the gospel to you.
"Look at the fields!" Jesus said. "They are ripe for harvest" (John 4:35). He also directed, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (Luke 10:2). Let me ask you: Do you feel God is calling you to this sacred ministry?
Step Two: The God-Sent Preacher Must Preach the Gospel
In ancient times, news from the king's palace would be brought to the people at the public square by heralds (kŕrux in Greek). These preachers would publicly begin their pronouncements: "Hear ye, hear ye!" Such heralds would speak passionately, boldly, and clearly so that all could hear and understand what the king wanted his subjects to know. They could not add or subtract from the content (the kerugma) of the proclamation.
In the same way, God-sent preachers must preach the gospel message given to them. In other words, they cannot make up their own message. In fact, Paul pronounces an anathema on any preacher who makes up his own message (Gal. 1:8, 9). And John says, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book" (Rev. 22:18-19). The God-sent minister must preach the gospel with all zeal and precision, for we depend on his message to take us from hell to heaven.
The preacher must be born of God. Having repented of his sins and trusted savingly in Christ, he will know that he has been transported from death to life. He must be a Spirit-filled, obedient Christian and a lover of God's word. Such a man will be competent to proclaim the gospel with boldness and precision.
It is his job to preach Jesus and resurrection. Paul writes, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). The purpose of preaching is to lift up, not the preacher, but Jesus Christ for all to see, that they may look to him and be saved. So Paul says, "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before you very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified" (Gal. 3:1). Jesus himself said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). And Paul says in Acts 20, "Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God" (Acts 20:26-27).
The preacher must preach the whole counsel of God.1 He must not pick and choose, nor must he focus on health and wealth, how to have a better married life, or how to make more money. The heart of the gospel is the person and work of Christ. The eternal Son of God became incarnate to perfectly fulfill God's law in his life and death so that sinners may look to him and be saved. So the preacher must preach the person of Jesus, the sinless Son of God. He must preach about Christ's miracles and teachings, death and resurrection. He must preach Christ's ascension into heaven and session on the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. He must preach that all things have been subjected to Christ as the Sovereign Lord who controls all things that happen in history. He must preach that Christ is the head of the church and that he saves sinners even now. He must preach that Christ is present in the church and speaks through all authentic ministers. He must preach that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He must preach that Jesus will send the wicked to hell and dwell with his people in a new heaven and a new earth, where there is no sin, death, tears, misery, but only joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The preacher must preach the elements of the gospel that Paul preached: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve" (1 Cor. 15:3-5; see also Rom. 3:21-26). He must preach the heart of the gospel: "'Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him' . . . [Christ] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom. 4:7-8, 25). The sinless Son of God died to atone our sins and was raised for our justification. All that Christ did was for our benefit. He became poor that we may become rich in God. Preachers must declare these truths because faith comes by hearing the gospel preached by a preacher sent by God.
The preacher sent by Christ will remain faithful to the message given to him in the Bible because he knows the gospel alone is the power, the medicine of God, unto salvation. He will not preach psychology, politics, or empty human philosophies which cannot save anyone.
All the religions put together cannot save a single person. The gospel of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ alone saves people from their sins. So the preacher must preach the word in season and out of season. He must tell people, "Our God reigns!"
The prophet Isaiah spoke of deliverance from Babylon. As ministers of the gospel, we tell people of deliverance from sin, death, the devil, the world, and hell, and all misery-deliverance achieved by Jesus Christ and applied by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we preach, we must be lively, passionate, clear, and authoritative. We are ambassadors of Christ. Paul declares, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
What should the preacher preach? He must declare, "Christ is risen! He rules. He is not defeated. He defeated all his enemies." He must urge his listeners, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is near." He must say, "The kingdom of God has come. Salvation has come to you in Jesus Christ. It is near you, in your mouth." Professor Leon Morris says, "Christ is present in the preachers; to hear them is to hear him."2 Jesus said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). John Calvin explains, "The gospel does not fall from the clouds like rain by accident, but is brought by the hands of men to where God has sent it."3 I would say it is brought by the mouth of his preachers. The angel did not preach the gospel to the household of Cornelius in Caesarea; Peter did.
Friends, value the God-sent preacher. He is rare and precious. He is beautiful because he has the message for your salvation. Paul says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17). Hebrews 13:17 tells us, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."
How do you test a preacher to see whether he is false or sent by God? The test is: Does he preach the gospel? Does he preach Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen? Does he preach the gospel as revealed in the book of Romans? Does he believe in sola Scriptura? Ask him: What is your singular authority? If the preacher is not preaching the Scriptures, he is not sent by Christ. (PGM) He is a false prophet and an anti-Christ. Such preachers are not sent by God and churches where they preach are not churches of Jesus Christ; they are synagogues of Satan.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Preaching the gospel is the most important thing under the sun. There is nothing more important than to be a herald, a preacher, of the good news."4
Step Three: Hear the Word Preached
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in, and how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" (v. 14). This verse should be translated, "And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard?"
A preacher must be sent, and he must preach the word. He does not preach what the people want to hear; he preaches what God wants him to preach his listeners. But that is not enough; we must hear the word, because when the preacher preaches, Christ himself is preaching. Therefore, when we come to church, we must be disciplined, turn off all distractions, and focus. Suppose you are finally meeting with an oncologist, or a surgeon, after all the tests have been done, and the diagnosis has been made. You have cancer, and only doing what this physician says can save your life. In such life and death situations, don't we listen intently to ensure we understand everything he has to say? We will not waste time on irrelevancies. We will gladly, eagerly, take whatever medicine he prescribes, exercising faith in his word and in his prescription for our cure.
We should listen to the gospel all the more carefully, for it speaks about much more serious matters. The gospel is not speaking about temporary measures to extend our life in this world a few extra years. It is offering us eternal life. The gospel first diagnoses our problem and then prescribes the medicine for the cure, which is our salvation. We must listen carefully to understand, believe, and call upon the name of the Lord. "How can they believe on whom they have not heard? . . . Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:14, 17). Christ is both the speaker and the content of what is spoken.
What are sinners to hear? They must hear the word of Christ (see Rom. 10:8), and they must hear Christ himself. In the gospel, we learn that Jesus saves sinners through his atoning death. He is both the high priest and the victim, and the sins of everyone who calls upon him are forgiven.
The word "to hear" in its verbal and noun forms appears six times in this passage (twice in verse 14, once in verse 16, twice in verse 17, and once in verse 18). Therefore we must understand there is emphasis on hearing what the man sent by God is preaching. Don't daydream while the gospel is being preached. If you do, you will go to hell because a lifeline is being thrown to you in the gospel preaching, so that you may not drown but be saved.
Isaiah preached to his people, but they only heard with their outer physical ears, not with their inner spiritual ears. Paul quotes Isaiah's question, "Who has believed our report?" The answer is, not many. God was not pleased with most of his people (see 1 Cor. 10:5). That is the history of Israel, and it is also the history of the church. So we read, "But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'" (v. 16). The word should not be translated "accepted." The Greek text says, "But not all the Israelites obeyed the good news." Believing is obedience. Where there is belief, there is obedience. And where there is obedience, there is faith.
Jesus said about the Jews of his day, "Though hearing, they do not hear or understand." Then he also quoted Isaiah, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding. . . . otherwise they might . . . turn, and I would heal them" (Matt. 13:13-15). Even after many years of going to church, some people still question whether Scripture is the word of God. They are ever hearing, but never understanding. Then Jesus told his disciples, "Blessed are your ears because they hear" (Matt. 13:16).
In the context of preaching of the gospel by the God-sent preacher, the Holy Spirit regenerates elect sinners so that they may hear with spiritual ears and understand the gospel. So if you do not understand the gospel, God has not regenerated you. In the preaching of the gospel, God's people experience a spiritual circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God. Paul says, "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:9). A sinner must be born again by the Spirit. He must have a new heart to hear and understand the gospel. That is a pre-condition for repentance and saving faith.
When Jesus, the head of the church, speaks to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, he says to each one, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is speaking to the churches." Christ speaks to his church, as does the Holy Spirit. In the preaching of the preacher, Christ and the Spirit of God are speaking.
In every church, some people are spiritually dead while others are spiritually alive. When the preacher preaches the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit effectually calls the dead to life. They are raised to life by the voice of Christ himself, even as he raised Lazarus from the dead when he said, "Lazarus, come forth!" The Father himself powerfully draws these dead sinners. Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). Christ himself also draws them: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). The Holy Spirit also draws them, and it is an irresistible drawing. And having been made alive by the Spirit, elect sinners come to Christ. The blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised by the voice of God, by which he also created the universe.
The Lord says, "As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11).
The voice of Christ and the Spirit, through the voice of the preacher, is sent with a purpose, either to make us alive or to condemn us in our deadness. Paul writes, "But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved, and those who are perishing." The same gospel, preached by God's preacher, produces opposite effects. "To the one we are the smell of death, to the other the fragrance of life." And then the question: "Who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak with sincerity like men sent from God" (2 Cor. 2:14-17).
Do you hear Christ when you hear the preacher? Has his voice made you alive? Did the voice of the Lord quicken, edify you, strengthen, and comfort you? Let me read this to you: "For he himself is our peace. . . . [Christ] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who are near" (Eph. 2:14, 17). What does that mean? In the preaching of the preacher, we hear the voice of Christ saying, "Peace to you."
Listen to what Jesus says: "The watchman opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of him, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice" (John 10:3-5). When a child of God goes to a church where the preacher does not preach the gospel, he immediately realize he is a stranger. Run from such churches, just as the Israelites ran from the tent of wicked Korah. Run for your life!
Every church has people in it who are dead, deaf, and blind. Perhaps you have heard the story of William Pitt the Younger, the brilliant statesman who was twice prime minister of Great Britain in the eighteenth century. He had a friend, William Wilberforce, who was a member of Parliament and a crusader against slavery. Wilberforce was a Christian who delighted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He often invited Mr. Pitt to come with him to hear the gospel preaching. Mr. Pitt was a nominal Christian who did not think it necessary to go to church. But one day he finally agreed to go with Mr. Wilberforce to hear the great and godly preacher, Richard Cecil. As Wilberforce listened to the gospel preaching, he was ravished in his soul and taken from earth to the heavenlies. But although Pitt exercised great discipline to listen attentively to the sermon, he was completely uncomfortable throughout the service. As they walked out afterwards, Mr. Pitt told his friend, "William, I don't have the slightest idea what that man was talking about."
Some hear the word and are saved, but others have no spiritual ear to hear what Christ is speaking to the churches. May that not be true of you! May God draw you powerfully and regenerate you so that you may hear the gospel with great delight.
Step Four: Believe the Gospel
"How, then, can they call on one they have not believed in?" (v. 14). The Greek text is this: "How, then, can they call on the one into whom they have not believed?" We find this expression in the gospel of John: believe into Jesus, pisteu˘ eis.
In the gospel preaching, our disease is diagnosed and the medicine is given. But we are not going to be healed until we take the medicine in the prescribed manner. The preacher is sent, he preaches the gospel, and people's ears are opened by the Spirit. So they believe and call upon the name of the Lord and are saved.
Saving faith has three components: information (notitia), agreement (assensus), and entrustment (fiducia). As one hears the gospel, he must not only agree with the content of the message, but also must entrust himself into the Lord Jesus Christ.
The problem of the vast majority of the Jews from the days of Moses was that they broke this chain, these steps of salvation, by refusing to believe in the Messiah. And so they refused to call upon God and be saved. Not all obey, or believe, the gospel (Rom. 10:16). He who believes will obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is also the great temptation in today's evangelical churches-to separate faith from obedience-but it will not work. Here in this text God has joined together faith and obedience. He who believes obeys. What God has joined together let no man put asunder. He who believes in Jesus Christ must obey Jesus Christ.
Paul writes, "Through him and for his name's sake we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5). Later, he says, "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done" (Rom. 15:18). This is a clear interpretation of Romans 1:5, explaining what it means to call Gentiles unto the obedience of faith.
The Jews did not believe in Jesus Christ. They were not like the crippled man of Acts 2 and 3, of whom Peter said, "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is the name of Jesus and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see" (Acts 3:16). In fact, Stephen said to them: "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" (Acts 7:51). The same can be said about many professing Christians today. In Acts 13 we read, "When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly, 'It was necessary for us to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles'" (vv. 45-46). And look at verse 48: "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed."
"But concerning Israel he says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contradicting people'" (v. 21, author's translation). God is holding out his arms to wicked sinners, Jews and Gentiles, and professing Christians, including those who grew up in Christian homes. His arms are still opened wide, welcoming repenting and believing sinners. Look! It is the picture of a father ready to receive you. The hands of Christ that touched the leper and healed him, the hands that plucked up the drowning Peter from the Sea of Galilee and brought him to safety, the hands that picked up the children and blessed them, the hands of Christ who was crucified for our sins and which still bear the nail prints, the hands that he lifted up and blessed his disciples before his ascension-those hands, friends, are opened wide to receive you, to lift you up, to kiss you and hug you and to speak tenderly to you: "Child, your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Step Five: Call upon the Name of the Lord
Finally, it is our responsibility to call upon the name of the Lord. We cannot hide behind the excuse: "Perhaps I am not elect." How do you know you are not elect? Did you receive a special revelation? Election is a secret decree of God.
It is not enough to agree with everything in the Bible or agree with everything regarding the person and work of Christ. Even the devil believes and shudders, but that does not save him because it is still only assensus, simple agreement, and not saving faith. Faith is trust. Faith is denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and following Christ. Faith is believing into Jesus Christ. Faith is uniting with Christ. Faith is calling upon the name of the Lord. Faith is confessing, "Jesus is Lord" and "Jesus is my Lord."
We must call upon him, saying, "I am a sinner under the wrath of God. I know that I deserve hell. But I believe that you are God incarnate. You are all righteousness; I am all unrighteousness. Therefore, you are my atonement and my high priest. I thank you for speaking to me the gospel. I heard this good news of salvation. I believe in Jesus Christ. O Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me a sinner! The leper called upon you, and you touched and healed him. The publican called upon you, and you justified him. The blind Bartimaeus called upon you, and you gave him physical and spiritual sight. The dying thief called upon you from the cross, and you took him to paradise. The gospel says, 'Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.' I call upon you now. Forgive all my sins. Clothe me with your righteousness. Adopt me as your son. Be my Savior and my Lord. I believe in your promise that you will save anyone and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. I believe you are truth, and you cannot lie. I believe you will fulfill every promise you have made. I call upon you now because I learned from the Scripture: 'Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.' Now your arms are wide open to receive me, even me, a miserable sinner."
If you believe and call upon the name of the Lord, you will be saved. We know this is sure because God cannot lie. He has spoken and promised. He says, "Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28, author's translation). God keeps his promises. Jesus told us, "Come unto me and eat; come unto me and drink. Eat the bread of life, drink the water of life, that you may never hunger and never ever thirst."
If you are disobedient and obstinate, as many Jewish people were, then hear these words: "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). If you are disobedient and obstinate, hear this word, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). If you are disobedient and obstinate, hear these words of Jesus: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who killed the prophets and stoned those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing. But you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate" (Luke 13:34-35). He also said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are Scriptures that testify about me. Yet you refuse to come to me to have eternal life" (John 5:39-40.
It is true there is divine election, as we are taught in Romans 9. But Romans 10 is speaking about our responsibility. Before his martyrdom, Peter wrote, "Make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet 1:10). It is your responsibility to hear, believe, call upon the name of the Lord, and be saved. The preacher has been sent to preach the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.
Pray to Christ, our great God and Savior, and he will save you now. Millions have come, yet there is still room at the cross for you.
1 Many popular modern preachers do not preach the whole counsel of God. For example, Rob Bell, a leader in the emergent church movement, recently published a book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, in which he cloaks universalism in terms like "biblical imagination." The Bible condemns such preaching (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:1-6, 13-15).
2 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 390.
3 Quoted by Geoffrey B. Wilson, Romans (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969), 181.
4 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 10, Saving Faith (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1997), 283.
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Copyright © 2011, P. G. Mathew
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