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? — Romans 10:13-14
Many of us are blessed to live in countries where religious freedom is a core value and the individual’s right to live according to his or her conscience is protected. It saddens us to hear in the news of Christian brothers and sisters around the world who could well face execution for the decision to become a follower of Christ. When we read about places where the Gospel is forcibly prohibited, we might assume there is little hope for acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these regions. Recently, however, I read a book that opened my eyes to how the Holy Spirit is awakening hearts in some of the darkest parts of the world.
One account that mesmerized me was the story of Hassan, a Christian in Cairo, Egypt, who has a deep burden for his Muslim friends and neighbors. For several years, Hassan tried to weave Christ into conversations with them, but it seemed there was no interest.
One night he was rudely awakened by a gun being thrust to his forehead. A masked kidnapper harshly ordered him to get up and rushed him through Cairo’s darkened streets. Hassan was sure he was on his death march — in spite of his efforts to evangelize discreetly, someone must have turned him in.
Arriving at a deserted building, Hassan’s abductor forced him to climb five flights of stairs at the back and then jump to the roof of an adjoining abandoned warehouse, with pavement fifty feet below. Then his assailant roughly pushed him toward a hatchway. As he scrambled through the opening, Hassan supposed that was his last moment on earth. He whispered a brief prayer, saying, “Jesus, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”
Hassan found himself in a dim room lit by a single candle. Ten Muslim men stood in a circle around him, and he fully expected to be executed immediately. The man who had kidnapped him spoke first and explained that they were all imams — worship leaders of Muslim communities who were charged with enforcing obedience to the Qur’an. Then, to Hassan’s astonishment, he went on to say that each of the imams had experienced a dream about Jesus and had privately become a Christian!
The imam went on, “We each prayed to Jesus for His help to learn what it means to be His follower. Over time, He brought us together, and you can imagine our amazement when the Holy Spirit revealed that there are other imams who have found Jesus as well. Now we meet here three times a week at night to pray for our families and for the people in the mosques to find Jesus too. We know you follow Christ; He led us to you.” He went on, “I’m very sorry I had to frighten you with the mask and the gun, but I knew it was the only way to get you here. It was just too dangerous any other way. I apologize. But now our question is, will you teach us the Bible?”(1)
How amazing that in a society so vehemently opposed to Christianity, people are braving death to turn from their lifelong beliefs and embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ! As I ponder this, I realize that my reaction is probably similar to that of Christians in Paul’s day who were amazed to learn that Gentiles — “heathens” who did not even believe in a Messiah — could receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though all mankind is guilty before God, Paul plainly asserted that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (emphasis added).
People will not call on Christ’s name unless they have been moved to believe in Him, but God is faithful to reach out to every individual. How comforting it is to know that even in areas of the deepest spiritual darkness, the light of Jesus penetrates. Let’s allow the Lord to increase our faith, broaden our perspectives, and help us to pray earnestly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will find entrance into the hearts of people everywhere!
In chapter 10, Paul continued his three-chapter summary of Israel’s role in God’s plan, explaining that while the nation had the opportunity to respond to the Gospel of Christ, they had rejected it. He emphasized that man’s responsibility regarding salvation is based on the fact that the Gospel is offered to all, both Jew and Gentile.
Though Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, his love for his Jewish kinsmen was expressed in verses 1-5, as he made clear his sorrow and concern for his unsaved brethren. As a nation, the Jews possessed a great deal of religious zeal, but their zeal was “not according to knowledge” — they rejected God’s righteousness while trying to make themselves acceptable to Him through the Law of Moses and traditions which they themselves had instituted.
In verse 3, the ignorance Paul referenced was not an academic lack, but a failure by the Jews to grasp the importance of information available to them in the Scriptures they studied so zealously. The word translated “establish” in Paul’s declaration that they endeavored to “establish their own righteousness” indicated the Jews’ self-righteous pride in their own efforts. They were not truly seeking to live up to the commandments of the Law, but rather to prove their own worthiness.
In verses 6-13, Paul focused on the availability of the message of God’s righteousness. He explained that having righteousness through Christ does not cause one to doubt the incarnation or resurrection. It does not lead to the questions, “Who shall ascend into heaven . . . to bring Christ down from above?” (incarnation) nor, “Who shall descend into the deep . . . to bring up Christ from the dead?” (resurrection). Faith means believing in both.
Righteousness through Christ is offered to all who believe and call on Him. Paul had previously established the universal guilt of mankind by teaching in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned.” In verse 13 of chapter 10, the Apostle pointed to the universal salvation offered to mankind by stating that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Even ethnic differences had no impact on salvation, for the Apostle asserted that there is “no difference” between Jew and Greek (or Gentile).
Israel’s inexcusable rejection of the Gospel is the topic of the final verses of this chapter. Although God’s promise was for “whosoever,” Israel for the most part had refused to “call upon the name of the Lord.” Paul presented a series of questions in verses 14-15 to determine where the fault lay. God had provided preachers who proclaimed the Gospel, and Israel had received the message, but failure occurred because of unbelief. Paul substantiated his conclusion in verse 16 by quoting the prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 53:1).
Anticipating that some might question whether all Jews had heard the Gospel message, in verses 18-19 Paul adopted the language of Psalm 19:1-4 as a reminder that it had gone “unto the ends of the world.” In the final verse, the Apostle pictured the pleading love of God to the Jewish people, who continued to stubbornly refuse to accept God’s proffered grace.
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. God’s plan of salvation
C. Illustrated by Israel’s history
2. Israel rejected Christ (10:1-21)
a. Zeal for the Law (10:1-5)
b. Should have believed (10:6-13)
c. Refusal to believe (10:14-21)
God is still working in our world today, even in cultures that appear to be unreceptive and hostile to the Gospel.
1 Tom Doyle with Greg Webster, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012.