They Must Hear
Thus far, Paul has told us in chapters nine and ten that God chooses His own but that these must also choose Him in return (which is certain) and confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts. Today we take up that passage where Paul speaks of how people come to saving faith; that is, what must happen before they even have the opportunity.
And what must happen is predicated first of all on the fact that people must hear the gospel. This is extremely important. The consequence is that no one can be saved who has never heard. We may think this unfair but we must remember that no one deserves heaven but in fact deserves the exact opposite on account of their sin which they are both bound and have freely chosen to commit. If people were not held accountable for their sin on account of never hearing the gospel, then it would be better to never tell them lest they should refuse and become accountable. Such is foolishness.
So people must hear the gospel to be saved. Second, someone must be sent to tell them. Third, they must hear the word of Christ; that is, the gospel—his life, substitutionary death, and resurrection. So everyone must hear from someone the gospel of Jesus Christ that they may believe at all. This is yet again our missionary mandate.
Then Paul returns to what these three chapters are all about: His aching heart over Israel’s refusal of the gospel message of which they were and are the primary recipients. Paul makes no excuses for his own people but goes to the Scriptures. The gospel message has gone out to the ends of the earth (i.e., the Roman Empire). Then did Israel just not understand? They did, for their own Scriptures foretold in Deuteronomy 32:21 that as they had made God jealous by worshiping other gods which are not gods, He would make them jealous by making for Himself a people who were not His people. And then Paul quotes from Isaiah 65:1-2 who prophesied of the day when by grace those who sought not God would find Him because He would reveal Himself to them (i.e., the Gentiles) while Israel remained in disobedience even while God reached out to them. And so it has happened.
Paul will explain more of God’s plan in chapter eleven. For now, we are reminded that we are responsible to tell but bear no responsibility for someone’s response. But it begins with an aching heart for others as Paul had. It is God’s to will; it is ours to tell.