Unbelief is Disobedience (Romans 10:16-17)

The Bible always considers unbelief in Christ and the gospel to be a willful act of sinful disobedience. It is an active refusal to submit to the divine authority of the God of the Bible. Throughout the Gospels and Acts, Jesus and the disciples preach the kingdom of God to people, commanding them to repent of their sin and believe in the Lord. This saving type of belief that they call for is not just an intellectual acceptance that Jesus is the Son of God and that we are sinners. No, biblical faith is more than that. Every time that the Bible talks about belief and unbelief, it talks about the heart, not the head. The biblical concept of the heart encompasses a person’s mind but also their spirit, emotions, will, and soul – their whole inner being. The faith that God demands from people is a solid acting of the whole inner self towards God and away from sin. Biblical faith is a determined decision to surrender control of one’s life to the Son of God. It is a supernatural conviction in the soul, a powerful belief in Jesus that can only be created by the Holy Spirit. That belief leads the person to feel genuine sorrow or regret over their sins and sinfulness and gives them a desire to want to change and be holy like their Creator. God puts His own Spirit in the newborn believer and empowers them to actively turn away from sin and want to follow Jesus and obey His commands and will.

All this explains why Paul says in Romans 10:16 of Israel’s widespread unbelief that “they have not all obeyed the gospel.” Just as the prophet Isaiah predicted 700 years earlier, the vast majority of the nation of Israel had not “believed our [the apostles’] report” about who Jesus is and why He came to earth. They had willfully chosen not to “hear” or listen to the Word of God about Jesus, so they did not have faith to save them (Romans 10:17). Like the fools of generations before them, they had said “there is no God” (Psalms 14:1). They were despising (hating) the truth and wisdom of God and revealing that in their hearts, they did not want to fear and obey the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Their lack of faith was their own fault, and if they did not repent and turn to Jesus before their death, their condemnation on the Day of Judgment would be certain and just. This same fate awaits people today who will not obey the gospel. In their hearts, they are shaking their fists against God. Let’s work and pray for the unbelievers in our lives that God would take away their hardened hearts and give them “eyes to see and ears to hear” so that they would respond to Jesus with saving repentance and faith.

The Text (Romans 10:16-17)

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had any conversations with people who said that they were atheists? Did you sense any bitterness or anger against God in that person as they talked about their unbelief in Him? Explain.
  2. What reasons to people give for not being willing to accept and follow Christ?
  3. Have you ever “heard” a class lecture but not really “heard it” in the sense of listening closely and wanting to understand what was being said? How can people be like that in how they “hear” God’s Word?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

How Can They Hear if We Don’t Tell? (Romans 10:14-15)

Have you ever had the chance to share the gospel with someone who had never heard it? Even better, have you ever had a chance to see a person respond to your sharing of the gospel by praying to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? The Bible is crystal clear that salvation is of the Lord, not us. God saves people by His supernatural power and mercy and grace. The salvation of a person’s soul, that amazing and instantaneous changing of the heart from unbelief and rebellion to faith and submission to Jesus, is always a divine miracle. Yet in His great sovereign wisdom, God has chosen to use us Christians as His instruments in this holy purpose of rescuing and redeeming the lost. We have the awesome privilege and responsibility to share the truths of His Word that the Holy Spirit can then use to give spiritual life to those who were dead in their sins. Wow!

In today’s short passage from Romans, Paul explains this remarkable burden Christians have to witness in poetic, moving, truly inspired language. He simply asks some rhetorical questions that drive right to the heart of why we absolutely MUST tell other people about Jesus, not just with our good deeds and displays of love, but with our words of gospel truth. “How can people call on Jesus to save them if they have not believed in Him?” Paul argues. “And how can they believe in Jesus if they have never heard about Him?” (Romans 10:14). Pushing the logic forward, Paul asks, “How can a person hear about Jesus unless a preacher (i.e. any Christian sharing their faith, not just a pastor) tells them?” And finally, “How can Christians share their faith without being discipled, trained, and sent out on mission on behalf of their local church families?” (Romans 10:15).

The plain answer to this connected chain of troubling questions is that they can’t. People cannot be saved without Christians sharing the gospel plan of salvation with them. For reasons known only to the Lord, His chosen method of saving people is for the sacred words of His book, the Bible, to be passed on to lost ears by our trembling, imperfect, nervous lips. It is a deeply mysterious, beautiful task to carry the good news of the gospel to the lost (Romans 10:15). Witnessing to people about Jesus may make us uncomfortable. Our efforts to share Jesus may lead the hearer to reject or verbally attack us. The listener might not want to be around us anymore. But then again, they might be open to hear what we have to say. And they might just be touched by the supernatural work of God’s Spirit and be saved, either when we share with them or another time in the future when God has finished making their heart ready. One thing is certain, though. If the person never hears about Jesus, they will never be able to believe in Him and be saved from sin, hell, and eternal separation from God. Don’t you want to at least give that friend, teammate, family member, or neighbor the chance to believe in Jesus and be saved?

The Text (Romans 10:14-15)

14 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? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever led another person to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you ever tried? Explain.
  2. How did you come to a saving faith in Jesus? Who brought the good news of the gospel to you? How did they do it?
  3. Is there anyone in your life right now with whom you feel the burden to share the gospel? What is your plan to do so?
  4. What do you think are the main reasons that Christians don’t share their faith more often (or at all)? Are they good reasons in light of today’s passage of Scripture?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Belief and Profession (Romans 10:5-13)

Most gospel presentations, especially the famous “Romans Road” witnessing technique, include Romans 10:9-10 to help explain the need for people to make a personal faith response to God’s plan of salvation. After an initial hook or introduction, a good gospel presentation then goes into a discussion of the universal problem of sin (Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned”) and its just penalty for all people (Romans 6:23a – “The wages of sin is death”). Next, the presentation will talk about what God did for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to offer us a way of escape from hell and an entrance into eternal life (Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and Romans 6:23b – “The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”). Finally, once these facts have been understood by the listener, the presentation will talk about how a person must turn from sin and to Jesus by faith. At this point, Romans 10:9-10 can be given as a simple path to salvation: To be saved, a person must be willing to “confess” aloud (publicly profess) that they “believe” in their “heart” (soul, mind, will – all of their being) that Jesus Christ is Lord. The belief comes first, but it is then followed by a public profession of that faith afterwards. A person “gets saved” and then has a desire to tell others about the miraculous spiritual event that has just occurred. This is what we see throughout the New Testament and even in places in the Old Testament – people who come to a genuine faith in the God of the Bible then make that faith known to others.

Remember that in Romans 9-11, Paul is considering the problem of why most of the nation of Israel has not accepted Christ. Most Jews have wanted to gain salvation by merely keeping the law of God outwardly rather than trusting in God’s Son from a heart of faith. They think that they will find life by following this way of Moses, who gave them the commandments (Romans 10:5). But that is not the way to life because nobody can really keep all the commandments, not inwardly or outwardly (Remember, “all have sinned”). Instead we need to put our faith in Jesus, who is the only one who both came down from heaven and rose from the dead to go back up again (Romans 10:6-7). This is another way of saying that only Jesus was perfect, that Jesus was the only man who always obeyed God’s law and will His entire life on earth. The “faith” or message “that we preach” as Christians is not to encourage others to try to be better people in their own strength, but to believe in Jesus with both our hearts and our mouths (Romans 10:8). To repent and believe is to renounce or give up trying to do our own thing in life and to instead let Jesus guide us by faith as or “Lord,” a word that means He is our God and our boss. The salvation that Jesus offers is freely available to everyone who hears the gospel, no matter their religious background (Romans 10:12). Anyone who is willing to believe in Jesus and make that belief known to others can have a relationship with God and be saved from sin, judgment, and hell (Romans 10:13). The promise here is strong and certain – God will not turn anyone away who truly believes upon His Son (Romans 10:11).

Today’s passage is a clear path to the lost person for how they may be saved and know God personally. For the Christian, today’s passage is a promise to hold onto in our darkest moments of sin, sorrow, and doubt: “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!” And to everyone, these verses are a powerful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of the one and only God, a God who is faithful to save anyone and everyone who will put their faith in Him. May we believe these truths of God’s Word today and have chances to share them with others.

The Text (Romans 10:5-13)

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Questions to Think About

  1. How have other people (parents, teachers, pastors, etc.) explained to you the concept of “believing in Jesus with your heart”? Have you ever tried to explain heart faith in Jesus to someone else? Is there a difference between “head faith” and “heart faith”?
  2. When a person comes to a heart faith in Jesus and is saved, why is it important that they confess that new faith to other people?
  3. What are the different ways that a person can confess Jesus as Lord? If you are a Christian, how have you confessed your faith in Jesus to others?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Sincerely Wrong (Romans 10:1-4)

Believing something sincerely does not make that belief right. In our modern American culture that praises tolerance and acceptance above truth, many people think that every religion can be right and that there are in fact many roads to heaven. According to this mindset that does not want to offend anyone, what really matters is the sincerity of a religious person, not the actual things that their religion teaches. Sadly, this mentality is even embraced by many professing Christians. The devout Muslim or Jew, for example, shares the Christian’s belief in one God who is good and powerful and holy, as well as the belief that this God has given us moral standards by which we should live. It’s called “ethical monotheism.” Buddhists promote clean living and right thinking, and Hindus believe in doing good deeds. So, can’t it be true that people of different faiths can go to heaven by simply being more good than bad and believing sincerely in their religion’s teachings, as many Americans think?

According to the Bible, the answer is “No.” As we have seen in our study of Romans, the truth is that only the Jesus of the Bible can solve the universal problem of our sinfulness, which separates us from the holy God of the Bible who created us. Only by receiving forgiveness of sins and new spiritual life through a personal faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can a person be reconciled or made right with our Creator. Every other religion, including the dedicated Pharasaical Judaism that Paul was raised in, seeks to establish a self-centered righteousness based on the works of sinful man (Romans 10:3). Only biblical Christianity offers a righteousness that comes from believing in someone who is without sin, the perfect God-Man, Jesus (Romans 10:4). As God, Jesus has the power to save people from their sins, and as man, He was able to take our place on the cross and die the death we deserved as our substitute. No other religion teaches that God saves us; every false religion focuses on people trying to save themselves, which will always fail. That’s why Paul was so burdened for His Jewish brethren who had rejected Christ (Romans 10:1). He knew that though they were sincere and had great “zeal” or passion about their beliefs, they were sincerely wrong and would not be saved without turning to Jesus (Romans 10:2). In the same way, we as Christians should remain firm in our conviction that Jesus is the only way to heaven and be burdened for the souls of people we know who don’t share that belief. They may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. We should pray and labor to help these lost friends and family members to meet the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the Jesus of the Bible that we know and follow.

The Text (Romans 10:1-4)

10 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you know any people who think that many different religions can lead a person to heaven if the person is just sincere in their faith? Did you ever believe that way in the past? What makes that wrong belief so popular with Americans today?
  2. Have you ever thought about why the Bible teaches so strongly that Jesus is the only way to heaven and a relationship with God? Have you ever tried to explain that truth to a lost friend or family member? How did they respond?
  3. How does today’s post strengthen your own faith in what you believe as a Christian?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Stumbling Stone (Romans 9:25-33)

Once as Jesus was journeying through some villages and towns of Judea, the home of the Jews, his disciples asked him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” (Luke 13:23). Perhaps the disciples were astonished and discouraged by the fickleness of the crowds who came out to see their Master. Large throngs of people were constantly turning out to see Jesus work miracles and preach about the kingdom of God. Yet they would often leave Just as quickly, especially after listening to difficult teachings that they were not willing to accept. It is likely the disciples were wondering if anyone would follow Jesus to the end. Jesus’ response was direct and personal. Listen to His answer to their very important question:

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:24-30)

These words of Jesus connect with what Paul is saying at the end of Romans 9. Paul reflects on the fact that most of the Jews to whom Jesus came first did not enter the kingdom of God. While Israel was a large nation of millions, only a small part, or “a remnant,” were willing to believe in and follow Him as Lord (Romans 9:27). The Lord had chosen a few, or a tiny “seed,” of the Israelites to accept the testimony about Jesus, thus preventing the entire nation from being spiritually destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah had been physically destroyed by fire from heaven (Romans 9:29). Added to this remnant of faithful Israelites would be untold millions of converts from the Gentile or non-Jewish world who would also come to a saving faith in Christ. These Gentile Christians had not been part of the people of God, but now, through trusting in Jesus, they had been adopted into God’s family (Romans 9:25-26).

We might ask, “Shouldn’t a lot more of the Jewish people have been saved?” The Jews had so many spiritual advantages compared to the Gentiles. The Jews had the Law and the Prophets, the covenants and the knowledge of God. Why did so many Jews reject Christ while so many pagan Gentiles were willing to accept Him? Well, why are so many people today in the historically Christian world willing to be religious (celebrate holidays like Christmas, go to church sometimes, give a little money in the offering plate, and pray over a meal) but not be saved, while the Christian faith is spreading like wildfire in parts of Asia and Africa? Because, Paul writes, such unconverted casual churchgoers like the comfort of the law, which they believe lets them be in charge of their own salvation. For the religious unsaved, Jesus is a “stumbling stone” and a “rock of offense” rather than the foundational cornerstone that He demands to be. Such people do not want to give up control of their lives to Christ, so they don’t and they will eventually perish in their sins if they don’t repent (Romans 9:32-33). Because they want to be saved by obeying the law and no one is capable of perfectly obeying the law as God requires, the religious who won’t turn to Jesus by faith fall tragically and eternally short of salvation (Romans 9:31). But to those who know that they are sinful and need a Savior, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is sweet news. No matter how rich or empty their religious background, those who simply come to Jesus in full faith and trust receive total forgiveness of their sins and inherit all of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 9:30). For this remnant of believers from among the lost religious and pagan world, Jesus is their only hope and trust, and the Scripture promises that for that faith, they will “not be put to shame” or disappointed (Romans 9:33). The guarantee of heaven awaits them, while the certainty of God’s presence is with them here and now on earth. May you be part of that faithful few and help gather more souls to the banner of Christ.

The Text (Romans 9:25-33)

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”

26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”

29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Questions to Think About

  1. Why are some churchgoers comfortable with being religious but not willing to commit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior?
  2. Do you have any Jewish friends, relatives, neighbors, or teammates? Have you ever asked them what they know or believe about Jesus? Their responses may surprise you. Many Jews in Jesus’ time were very religious and decidedly against believing in Him as their Messiah. However, many modern Americans with Jewish heritage are more secular and may not know much about Jesus or their own faith, especially the Old Testament that they should accept as God’s Word. Learning and then sharing some of the many prophetic OT verses and passages that Jesus fulfilled could be a good conversation starter for witnessing to a nominal Jewish person.
  3. How does knowing that you will not be disappointed or ashamed for trusting Christ with your life and soul encourage you right now?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel