Paul now deals with the principles that every missionary and evangelistic effort must keep to the fore if we are to be biblical in our approach.
In this chapter which deals with the means that God uses to bring not only the Jewish people, but the Gentiles also, Paul comes now to the principles underpinning proper evangelism. He has laid the basis by outlining the prayer of the evangelist (v1-3) and the presentation of the evangelist (v4-13). In the final section of the chapter he deals with the principles that every missionary and evangelistic effort must keep to the fore if we are to be biblical in our approach.
1: Believing with the Heart
The first question of v14, while it appears to be so basic it hardly needs emphasis, is certainly the most important evangelistic principle. Having stated that anyone who calls on the name the Lord can be saved Paul qualifies the statement. It is impossible for one to call if they have not believed. It is not the calling upon the Lord that saves but the believing with the heart. If the person calls without faith, the Lord will not save. If on the other hand the prayer truly comes from a believing heart the Lord will always save.
This teaches that evangelism does not depend upon our skills at persuading, nor our ability to package the message and make it relevant and appealing. Ultimately salvation depends upon God converting hearts and there will be no conversions if this does not take place.
2: Hearing with the Ear
People, however, will never be able to believe on Christ if they have not heard the Gospel. Therefore, although the Spirit of God regenerates to produce faith, the means that is employed is the preaching of the word. We need to sense the pathos and the challenge of the third question in v14,
“How shall they hear without a preacher?”
Whereever there are precious souls they will not come to faith unless someone tells them of Jesus Christ. These people do not solely exist in the foreign mission fields; they also live in our community ,in our neighbourhoods and town lands. There are many who do not attend Gospel preaching churches and who have never had a meaningful conversation with a Christian about Christ. V17 provides a much quoted but vital statement in relation to this work – faith will only take place when people hear the word of God.
3: Travelling with the Feet
V15 quotes from Isaiah 52:7 and describes the evangelist’s feet as being beautiful. The focus on the feet is important because it answers the question,
“How can they preach except they be sent?”
The Christian Worker has beautiful feet because he or she has gone forth in response to the call of God. As sinners will not call without a work of grace in their hearts so evangelists and missionaries will not go unless they are commissioned by God. God’s interest in communities and nations is often evident through the numbers of those whom he sends. Nevertheless we all should possess the spirit of Isaiah who prayed “Here am I send me”.
4: Preaching with the Lips
Those who are called and who go must the use their lips to preach the Gospel. Quoting from Psalm 19:4 the apostle speaks of the sound, not of music but of proclaiming Christ; a sound which goes into all the earth in accordance with the Great Commission. The Psalmist also talked about the happy people who hear the “joyful sound” (Ps. 89: 15) and Paul commended the Thessalonians because “From you sounded out the word of the Lord” (I Thess. 1:8).
5: Rejecting with the Will
It is a characteristic of evangelism; that many will refuse the message (v16). Using verses from the Old Testament Paul teaches that the Gentiles were called for this very reason; the Jews refused the Gospel (Deut. 32:21 and Is. 65:1-2). Where one nation refuses Christ God can move the blessing elsewhere.
6: Stretching with the Arms
Despite this Paul would not give up on Israel because he knew that God still loved the Jew. The final verse gives us a view of the outstretched pleading hands of God. When the Gospel is rejected we must remain faithful pleading with and praying for the lost.