The Choice for Unbelief
14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”
19But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
20Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Paul now returns to the choice that his fellow countrymen have made regarding Jesus as Savior. In the beginning of chapter nine we are amazed as Paul shares his desperation to see the Jews receive Jesus by declaring that he would surrender his own eternity with God to see it happen. (For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Romans 9:3) Now he uses a series of rhetorical questions to prove that they have chosen their unbelief for themselves. How can someone believe unless there is a person who presents the Gospel? How can there be a preacher unless one has been sent? How can the Jews know about Jesus unless they’ve heard of Him? And how can they call upon Jesus unless they believe in what they have heard? His answer for these questions is that all of these things have happened! There are those who have carried the message of salvation through Jesus to the Jews. There have been preachers (Apostles and missionaries) sent and they have faithfully carried the message. So the fault for unbelief lies with the hearers who have chosen instead to reject Jesus.
I confess to a similar frustration as Paul. We are living in a time when the Gospel couldn’t be simpler to share. The world is filled with opportunities to learn of Jesus. And yet billions choose to reject Christ out of hand. But then I remember that it is the Holy Spirit and not me who brings people to faith. That is His job, not mine. If I had my way, the entire planet would embrace Jesus as their Savior. But that is not God’s way. He is never going to force people to receive Him. That’s how I would do it – but I’m not God. My way is not the best way, His is.
So, what do we do with that resistance to the Gospel? We keep going. There is never an excuse for not loving our neighbor or reaching out to others. There is never a reason to keep our faith under a bushel or hidden indoors. In the face of rejection and persecution we keep going. There’s never been a time since Adam and Eve when people didn’t reject God and His ways. And God keeps going – so I guess I will too.