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(Romans 10:14-15a) Rescue the Perishing

(Romans 10:14-15a) Rescue the Perishing

Ref: Romans 10:14–15

There's room in Heaven for a lot more people so why aren't we going out and inviting them?


Rescue the Perishing

Romans 10:14-15a

I invite your attention to Romans chapter 10.

Verses 14 and 15 deliver one of the most compelling passages of scripture in all the Bible.

Paul writes, How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

While I normally begin with some story or illustration to point to the need for the text, today I want to begin by giving you my outline.

I know that sounds exciting . . . please, no applause.

I should say I’ll give you several approaches to this great text.

This text revolves around 4 questions and one commendation.

And all four questions and final commendation begin with the word, “how.”

That’s not my outline . . . I just wanted to point that out.

Here’s one approach for you students of the Word:

The first two questions reveal the unbeliever’s response.

The second two questions challenge the believer’s responsibility.

Or you could outline, as I have, each question this way:

  • The first question relates to an unbeliever acting in faith.

Paul asks in verse 14, “How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?”

  • The second question relates to an unbeliever hearing the facts.

How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?

  • The third question relates to the believer speaking.

And how shall they hear without a preacher?

  • The fourth question relates to the believers sending.

And how shall they preach unless they are sent?


Or you can arrange these four questions along these lines:

The first two questions have to do with the message.

            (Hearing and believing)

The second two questions have to do with the method.

            (preaching and sending)

Or you could approach this text in this fashion:

The 1st question has to do with the miracle of the gospel

            Calling upon Christ

The 2nd question has to do with the message of the gospel

            Hearing about Christ

The 3rd question has to do with the messenger of the gospel

            The preacher preaching Christ

The 4th question has to do with the ministry of the gospel

            The church sending in the name of Christ

You could dissect this verse by studying the verbs:

Calling . . . hearing . . . preaching . . . sending


Or you could turn the text around and outline it this way:

The believer sends the messenger.

The messenger delivers the message

The unbeliever understands the meaning

The unbeliever accepts the Messiah.

You with me?   

There’s more . . .

In the first two questions you can almost feel Paul pitying the world.  In the last two questions you can almost feel Paul prodding the church.

This is compassion for the world: How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?  And How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?

And this is the crisis of the church:  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

So there you have it – 8 or 9 outlines, I’ve lost count . . . all the c’s and p’s and f’s and s’s and m’s and g’s and r’s that I could think of.

Was seminary worth it, or what?!

This text is easy to outline . . . anybody can do it.  This text is difficult to live out . . . that’s why so few do.

We could go home after a few more comments on:

the plight of the world and the priority of the church – there’s another outline – we could sing a closing hymn about rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying and then we can all go to lunch and forget anything about the dying.

It’s easier to stay in Romans chapter 9 and discuss the sovereignty of God in the matter of salvation.  We did that – we learned that salvation is initiated by God according to His eternally sovereign act of election.

You leave chapter 9 and you are a little overwhelmed with the fact that salvation is all up to God.

But then the chapter that arrests the scholars and the linguists and the Calvanists in one fell swoop . . . you get half-way through chapter 10 and you are a little overwhelmed with the fact that salvation is all up to us.

In chapter 9 your salvation is predestined by the intentional foreknowledge of God acting upon the counsel of his electing decree.

In Chapter 10 – go tell the world the gospel because if you don’t they can’t call upon Christ for salvation.

How do you resolve a paradox like this one?  You don’t . . . because you can’t!

Both the will of man and the will of God in redemption are taught in scripture.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “To deny election and free will is to lose your soul . . . to try and understand is to lose your mind.”

One covenant theologian, whom I enjoy reading from time to time, even though he’s so wrong on several things . . . he admitted that it was clear from the thrust of Paul’s message that the church is responsible to take the gospel to the whole world; not just because it is responsible, but because without it, whoever will believe will not be able to believe for they will not know what to believe and in Whom they must believe.

Well said.

In chapter 9 we read the startling truth that we depend entirely upon God for our salvation.

In chapter 10 we read the startling truth that God depends upon us to offer the message of salvation.

This is what Paul talks about when he says we are laborers together with God.  (I Corinthians 3:9)

Salvation is the work of God?  Yes!

But sovereign God has chosen to use people! 

Like Jesus Christ, you can say today, “I must be about my Father’s business!”

And what is His business?   Paul will remind us, it has something to do with beautiful feet!   

I want to go back to that first outline I gave you – primarily because it’s the one many of you tried to write down, and then gave up.

Now, we’ve already spent many Sunday’s discussing the doctrinal points of these verses such as calling, faith, belief, the gospel, and the implied truths of eternal life in heaven or hell. 

What I want to do today is speak in general terms about the passion of Paul and the mission of the church.

The first two questions reveal the unbeliever’s response.

And you’ll notice that their response is two-fold:

First, they understand the facts

Secondly, they call out in faith

Notice verse 14 again, ““How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?”  How shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?

In other words, “If they never hear about Christ, they will never be able to call upon Christ for salvation!”

You say, surely in America people know the facts.


According to data from the Barna Research group, conducted a year and ½ ago, people were asked the following.

Do you believe that praying to deceased saints can positively effect your life?  Half the people said, “Yes.”

Do you believe the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths?  4 out of 6 said, “Yes.”

Do you believe truth can only be discovered  through human reasoning and personal experience.  54% said, “Yes.”

Do you believe that Jesus Christ sinned like other people when He was on earth?  42% said, “Yes.”

Do you believe that when people are born, they are neither good nor evil; they make a choice between the two as they mature?  74% said, “Yes.”

In other words,

  • Forget about original sin that has corrupted human nature, causing all mankind to be sinners
  • Forget about truth being propositional, regardless of experience or perspective
  • Forget about Jesus Christ being a sinless substitute for mankind
  • Forget about either the Koran or the Book of Mormon or the Bible being authoritative or unique – they’re all saying the same thing – even though if you read them you discover they are saying very different things about a lot of things including, how to go to heaven.

Listen, your best bet is to pray to some deceased person in hopes that somehow that will help your life now and maybe eternal life to come.

The average American no longer knows the facts of:

  • Sinful humanity
  • A sinless savior
  • The unique inspiration of the scriptures
  • The absolute nature of eternal truth

No wonder one secular pollster found this kind of religious confusion, without really knowing the implications of it:

  • 90% of adult Americans believe in God and
  • 82% believe in heaven and
  • 75% believed in hell. 
  • But 25% of the same adults said they also believed in reincarnation (so, if 90% said they believed in God, but 25% of the same people said they believed in reincarnation, which God are they talking about believing in – Yahweh or Krishna?)
  • Furthermore, 50% of the same adults also said they believed in ghosts – meaning there were departed spirits who didn’t go to heaven or hell . . . they just wandered around the planet.

Statistics garnered from articles by Barna Research /11/08/2002 & NBC 17 News 3/5/2003

To say, don’t be so concerned with America, we need to get the gospel to the mission field.  Ladies and gentlemen, America is the mission field.

Where you work . . . go to school . . . live . . . play . . . that’s the mission field.


So when Paul says the unbeliever needs to understand the basic facts of the gospel in order to exercise faith in God, he happens to be talking about your world!

“How are they going to believe in faith when they’ve never heard the facts?” 

By the way, Paul is not making an appeal to foreign missions . . . or local missions . . . that would be too easy for us to excuse ourselves from . . . no, Paul is making an appeal for believers to join in the mission – period!

Paul goes deeper now with his penetrating questions . . . until we all realize he is pointing his finger at us!

The first two questions reveal the unbeliever’s response: the second two questions reveal the believer’s responsibility.

Verse 14 ends with Paul asking this pointed question, “And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

In other words, “who among you will commit yourself to delivering the facts.”

It isn’t your message . . . you don’t have to be clever . . . you simply have a calling from God to preach.

This calling which Spurgeon described as “the intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.”

The Apostle Paul revealed it when he wrote, “Necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” (I Corinthians 9:16)

Where are the preachers who will stand and speak for God?


Are there any here among us, who feel your heart yearning at the thought of it?

Do you sense it . . . do you dare to think it . . . that God is calling you into the ministry?

This word for preaching – kerusso – is a word that can refer to more than preachers, by occupation.  It can mean to proclaim or to herald some message.

This would include men and women in all types of venues where the truth of the gospel is delivered to all ages and all races.

Communicating the word in a myriad of ways:  spoken . . . printed . . . broadcast . . . televised . . . signed . . . interpreted . . . webcast . . . projected . . . dramatized . . . sung . . . somehow, communicated!

Paul is looking the believer in the eye and saying, “Nobody will ever be saved by just watching you . . . no matter how nice you are; no matter how giving you are . . . no matter how godly you are.”

Your lifestyle may demonstrate your faith, but it cannot deliver the facts of your faith – eventually you must communicate the gospel.

You don’t have to be a preacher in a pulpit to join Paul in his passion.

I think of Edward Kimball as this kind passionate person.  He was a shoe maker and a Sunday school teacher in Chicago during the early 1800’s.  His passion was to preach the gospel to young boys from Chicago’s inner city.  Though him, a young man named D. L. Moody accepted Christ and grew up to become a world-renowned preacher.  In 1879 Moody won a young man to the Lord by the name of F. B. Meyer.  I have nearly everything F. B. Meyer wrote – he also became a famous preacher, used by God to reach thousands with his sermons and the books he authored.  Meyer won a young man to Christ by the name of J. W. Chapman. Chapman, in turn, grew up to become a preacher and one day his preaching brought to Christ a baseball player named Billy Sunday.  Billy Sunday would rivet the attention of America as he preached under canvass tents – eventually to more than a million people.  In one campaign he came to Charlotte, North Carolina and held meetings that were so impacting that they extended the meetings and Billy Sunday called his friend Mordecai Ham to come and preach.  It was while Ham was preaching that a teenage boy named Billy Graham gave his heart to Christ.

Bill Wilson, Streets of Pain (Word Publishers, 1992), p. 123

6 men trace their gospel lineage to a man who wasn’t a minister by trade . . . he was a shoemaker . . . he sold shoes!

That’s what he did for a living . . . but he lived for gospel sake.

The final question is in verse 15.

and how can they preach unless they are sent . . .

Paul finally points his finger at the church.

We deserve to be pointed at, don’t we.

The church has forgotten it’s mission is not bound up in how many it can seat, but in how many it can, what?  Send!

Most of the sending by the church today is the sending of membership letters by transfer.

In our country today, 80% of church growth is by transfer – one person leaving one church and going to another.  So the church isn’t really growing in numbers, it is simply shifting from one location to another.

By the way, that’s what I did!  That’s what my wife did . . . we weren’t saved through this ministry – were you?!

In America, 1 church every day closes it’s doors and goes out of business.   Is it because there is no business left?  More than likely, a long time ago they forgot what business they were in. 

And the crisis of the church remains.

In the last 20 years, in London alone, 400 churches were converted into mosques?  Nearly every other week, a church is turned into a mosque.

Charisma, 11/93, “To Verify,” Leadership 2004

One of the daughter churches we’ve planted is renting a former church building.  A lovely brick church building with wooden floors and a baptistery that still holds water.  Only now, the former Baptist church is owned by a Muslim, who rents it to those who can pay. 

Who knows . . . maybe one day he will get serious about his religion and turn that church building into a mosque.

Paul wants to leave us with a deeper pity for the world and a deeper passion for the work.

How can they believe in Him whom they’ve never heard about; and how will they hear about Him if someone doesn’t deliver the news; and how can they go if the church won’t send and subsidize and support and pray.  

Is the church training . . . is it reaching . . . does it care?

While preparing for this message I received a wonderful email from David Williams our pastor of outreach ministries.

He is involved in training more than 60 adults in our church in how to share the gospel.  His email read, “Here’s an update for you from this past Wednesday night . . . we had 38 visits in which our teams presented the gospel 13 different times to 18 people from varying religious backgrounds, including several Hindus.  Praise the Lord for five people who accepted God’s free gift of salvation!   

That’s an illustration of Romans 10:14-15

Last year, Ben Patterson told the story of the Jesus film being shown to a tribe in the jungles of East Asia.  A tribe that had never heard the name, Jesus Christ, before.

Here’s another illustration of Romans 10.

I’m reading from the article, “Not only had these people never heard of Jesus Christ, they had never seen a motion picture before.  Then, all at once, on one unforgettable evening, they saw it all – the gospel in their own language, visible and real.  They watched and listened as Jesus preached the gospel – told the crowds who he was and why he had come.  You can only imagine how it felt for this tribe to see the movie portrayal of Christ, healing the sick, loving the children, yet was held without a trial and beaten by jeering soldiers.  As they watched this, this tribe of people came unglued.  They stood up and began to shout at the cruel men on the screen, demanding that this outrage stop.  When nothing happened, they ran to attack the missionary, assuming he was responsible.  The missionary quickly turned off the projector (I’ll bet) and explained that the story wasn’t over yet; there was more.  So they settled back onto the ground, not quite sure, holding their emotions in tenuous check.  Then came the crucifixion.  Again, the people could not hold back.  They began to weep and wail with such loud grief that once again the film had to be stopped.  The missionary again tried to calm them, answering questions and explaining the story wasn’t over.  There was more.  Once again they composed themselves and sat down to see what happened next.  Next came the resurrection.  The stone was rolled away . . . Jesus was alive.  Pandemonium broke out this time, but for a different reason.  The gathering had spontaneously erupted into a celebration.  The noise now was of jubilation, and it was deafening.  The people were jumping and dancing and hugging and weeping.  Christ was risen indeed.  Again, the missionary shut off the projector.  But this time he did not tell them to calm down and wait for what was next.   All that was supposed to happen next, was happening.

They heard the gospel and believed.

Adapted from Ben Patterson, “Resurrection and Pandemonium” Leadership Magazine, 4/13/2003


            Wrote the script

Produced the movie

Played the instruments

Acted the part

Made the costumes

Bought the movie projector

Supplied the generator

Trained the missionaries

Flew the team to the field

Supported the team from home

Gave the money for it all

And a million more things occurred.

And these unbelievers heard and even saw the gospel and they understood the facts

and God provided the faith

and the two intersected

in human minds and hearts

in this miracle of regeneration and they believed on this risen Savior

and were saved.

Oh God, increase our pity for the world . . . increase our passion for Your work! 

Help us to never be satisfied with silence . . . but in whatever world you’ve placed us to speak . . . so that our world will hear and, we pray, come to believe in You, our resurrected Lord and Savior, Amen.

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