(Bible passages in this post taken from the King James Version)
Sometimes we need to revisit the basics, especially when many pastors are, for the most part, not teaching it anymore.
Today I'll touch on #1, hearing the word.
The passage that Romans 10:17 comes from is talking about reaching out to Israel, and the fact that other nations are actually being blessed by the fact that Israel rejected the Messiah, and that the Lord will use it to provoke Israel to jealousy.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?
and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent?
as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
But they have not all obeyed the gospel.
For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But I say, Have they not heard?
Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know?
First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Although I agree with the above tidy little synopsis of what needs to happen in order to be saved, there is much, much more that is going on in the process that goes beyond human ability to perform. Not all who hear the truth receive it, and yet all who hear it receive it with gladness. It is a paradox.
Act 28:26-28 Saying, Go unto this people, and say,
Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand;
and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
For the heart of this people is waxed gross,
and their ears are dull of hearing,
and their eyes have they closed;
lest they should see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and should be converted,
and I should heal them.
Be it known therefore unto you,
that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles,
and that they will hear it.
There it is again, the emphasis of the truth spreading to other nations as a result of Israel's neglecting to receive it, having hardened their hearts to the act of hearing from the Lord. Something else that is given in this passage is the fact that there are two types of hearing: 1. hearing that hears and 2. hearing that doesn't hear.
There is a supernatural element (and let me be clear when I use the word "supernatural" it isn't in a new age magical sense of the word) that involves a proper searching, a heart that is humbled before God receives from Him, whereas a haughty, self-righteous, self-promoting, self-centered heart hardens itself against what God says, and even though persons with hard hearts hear the words, those words do nothing to enrich those prideful, selfish, hardened persons hearing them. We have all been there haven't we? I know that I have been there. There have been several occasions that people reached out to me with God's word to me, and those words fell on my deaf ears that couldn't hear Him, couldn't penetrate my hard heart. But when the Lord did it, I wasn't even looking for Him at the time, yet He softened my heart to hear a family that reached out to me in love. He opened my deaf ears to hear for the first time the words that I in my worldly wisdom had scoffed at. Yes, it was supernatural, it was a miracle, but it was such a quiet one, one that had no magical, dazzling, spectacular special effects to bring everyone around to gasping in excited exclamations of wonder. It was a very quiet and humble miracle, just like all other miracles that humbly meet us every day, the ones we for the most part take for granted.
With eyes to see and ears to hear, the commonplace, the every day things, take on special significance of the many wonderful blessings, miracles, that Jesus performs for us on a continual basis, by which He sustains our lives...until it is time to go to be with Him, or, for those who have not received, have continued to harden their hearts, have continued to insist they know better than the God of the Bible, those will be eternally without Him, only having their own tormenting thoughts to keep them company throughout eternity.
We can go back and forth, and round and round, whether it ends up being God's fault that many never hear in the saving sense of the word, or whether it is man's fault (false teachers not getting the true word out and rebellious hearts rejecting the truth when it is correctly presented) and I have settled it in my own mind that God knows perfectly what He is doing and He doesn't make mistakes. Man does make mistakes, every day, anyone who does not agree with that fact is very deluded indeed. So in my humble estimation of who is at fault, I would never be so presumptuous as to say it is God who is to be blamed for people going to hell.
Another factor that needs bringing up in the matter of hearing the truth is prayer. We need to pray for our unsaved loved ones, friends, family, and even strangers who cross our paths. Many pray for frivolous things, or even things that are not frivolous such as the health and temporal well-being of others, which may or may not receive an answer to the petitioner's liking. Much better to pray for something of eternal significance; the salvation of the lost. That is something of eternal value, all the rest will eventually fade and die anyway. When our prayers for the lost together with the true word going out to them reach the lost via the Holy Spirit of God, a revival of God's quiet and humble miracle of salvation can ignite in the lives of the hearers, having their ears opened by the true and powerful living God, to whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
Next time I'll tackle #2.