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
- 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.
- What reasons to people give for not being willing to accept and follow Christ?
- 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?