Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Defining Total Success - Romans 10:15-17
Romans 10:15-17 "How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."
Our family lived in Florida for a number of years. I can recall the year when we experienced three hurricanes. It was astonishing to see how many people would vacate a given area to escape the path of the storms. What was even more amazing was to see the resolve some had in choosing to ignore such warnings. I can recall one video that showed a man sitting on top of the roof of his home while it was floating in the aftermath of a particular hurricane. We shake our heads at such things, and yet, when it comes to heeding God's Word, we sometimes choose not to respond.
Just as no one could blame the weatherman nor law enforcement for the choices of some to ignore their repeated warnings - so too must it be said of those who plea with unsaved loved ones and friends to believe the Gospel. Today we want to consider what counts as success in the task of evangelism.
Who fails when the Gospel is delivered?
Paul is dealing with the irrationality that characterizes the response of unbelief to the Gospel. In Romans 10:15, we find Paul appealing back to a practice in ancient cities that involved messengers bringing news from a battle-line or from another city.
Watchmen would be situated along the walls of a given city. Whenever they spied a runner with a message on the horizon, they would signal the inhabitants and city official to gather at the city-gate to receive the messenger. Once the messenger arrived, the major concern was whether or not such a person had good news. Whenever the news was favorable, the saying would go: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
However, there are some people who might not had agreed with such estimations. Maybe, for example, they were secretly hoping for a different outcome to the battle or, maybe they were not on the side of the officials. No one can blame the messenger, nor the contents of his message for rendering the response of rejection. It is always a matter of the listener's heart - since, after all, that is the heart of the matter.
What succeeds in the task of evangelism?
Thankfully, Paul writes in Romans 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." These words assure those delivering the Gospel that success is not measured by the response of the listener, but rather by the obedience of the messenger.
Isaiah 55:6-10 gives a fuller treatment of these thoughts. Note the appeal given by those bringing the good news to unbelievers in Isaiah 55:6-7 "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, For He will abundantly pardon."
We then find the messenger answering anticipate objections, reminding the listener that the appeal of the message comes from God and not man in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." Truly God's grace is needed for the grasping and reception of the message (hence the point of Romans 10:17).
Then we come to the part of Isaiah's exposition that states why no evangelistic appeal is ever a failure. The delivery of God's Word will result in one of two things: conviction leading to repentance or condemnation of the person's sin which will result in their digging in of the proverbial heels (compare John 16:8-11). God's Word never renders anyone neutral. Isaiah 55:10-11 states - “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."
Therefore we find that God's Word is always working. Delivering the message of the Gospel spells success for the messenger. God's work in His Word never fails, since He facilitates the well-meant offer of salvation to sinners by the Holy Spirit's active work of convicting sinners. The ball of responsibility is always in the court of the one receiving or rejecting the message. Would it be that we not cease nor give up on those around us. Would it be that we ever place our confidence in Christ and the power of the Spirit working through the Gospel.