Last week we saw, as Paul quoted from Isaiah, that the gospel was intended to be proclaimed to national Israel and all people. The first century Jews had as much difficulty accepting that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the redeeming savior of Gentiles as well. They had selective learning from their biblical authors – just like we do!
And therefore, the apostle to the Gentiles works to show his kinsmen of the flesh how their standing as Abraham’s children (according to the flesh) accounts for nothing in the kingdom of God. Romans 10:16-17 (HCSB) But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. We now read what some call Isaiah’s lament – the prophets’ anguish as he realizes not all of God’s ethnic people, the Jews, believed the gospel he proclaimed. Paul brings this to his people, to make sure ignorance is no excuse. The 4 gospels in the New Testament record the Lord Jesus doing much the same thing, in the parables wherein He shows the Jews how they have persecuted His prophets and will kill Him.
We see in verse 16 the statement that not all obeyed the gospel. What does it mean to obey or not obey the gospel? Is it a law or set of laws that one must obey to be saved? Here’s where a proper understanding of the gospel is vital. We have covered the gospel before – it is a proclamation of who Christ Jesus is and how He saves people from their sin. It is NOT a set of laws or rules that must be obeyed. Here’s a short poem thought to be by John Bunyan that rightly contrasts law and gospel:
Run, John, Run! The Law commands;
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
Far grander news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and GIVES ME WINGS!
Verse 17 sums up much of what Paul has written and all of came before in this chapter: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Recall verse 14? But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? Sinners hear Christ when we proclaim the gospel and their ears are opened if the Spirit has prepared them. In this redemptive work, we cooperate with God, we do not take the place of God.
Hear the anguish from this apostle, as he quotes the Hebrews’ prophets to them again:
18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”