Romans Lesson 108 - This Little Light of Mine
In Romans 10:15 the Apostle Paul asks the rhetorical question, 'How will people hear the Gospel unless we tell them?' They won't. So let's tell them.
This Little Light of Mine
Let’s go back to our place in Romans 10:14 let Paul’s passion for his world and his prodding of the church re-enter into our ears and find it’s way down into our souls.
Romans 10:14. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15. How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” 16. However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
In a recently published book on the subject of church impacting our culture, Dr. James White, made some interesting analogies.
In the late 1800’s, no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains dominated the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country. Then a new discovery came along – the automobile –and incredibly, the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to literally buy up this new development. The automotive revolution was happening all around them, and they missed it. Why? They thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. They forgot what their main objective was supposed to be . . . they lost sight of the goal.
Ron Pobuda of the National AV Association made a similar, but more contemporary example of the same thing when he said, “If Sports Illustrated magazine understood it was in the sports information business, not the publishing business, we would be watching the Sports Illustrated Channel instead of ESPN.”
And what is the business of the church?
I read of another gentleman who recorded the results of a survey, where his organization interviewed members in nearly one thousand churches in America. These church members were all asked the same, singular question, “What is the mission of your church?”.
The results were disheartening, but revealing. 90% of the church members said a number of different things that were easily categorized under this heading. And I quote: “the church exists to take care of my family’s and my needs.” In other words, 9 out of 10 church members said the church existed for them. Only 1 out of 10 said the church existed to do something in someway related to winning the world to Christ.
Let me give you one more analogy from James White’s new book that draws on data like I just read to you. He wrote, “If the goal of the church was to make automobiles, the average church member would be satisfied with nothing more than a maintenance program for existing cars in which windshields were washed, fluids were checked, and tire pressure was monitored. [Simply put] the goal of making cars has been replaced with maintaining cars and polishing them for the showroom floor.
James Emery White, Rethinking the Church (Baker, 2003), p. 27
What did Jesus Christ say our mission was? He said to his disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
Go across the street and share the gospel with an American native. Go across the hallway . . . go across the living room . . . go across the internet . . . after last Sunday’s service, a young professional came up to me and said he was leading an internet discussion group from his old fraternity . . . passionate about sharing his faith with them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, has it ever occurred to you that there is not one verse in the New Testament that tells an unbeliever to go to church.
The unbeliever has never been commanded to go to church – the church has been commanded to go to the unbeliever.
And with great passion, Paul prods the church in Rome into embracing this verb – Go. In fact, he said that if they didn’t speak the facts of the gospel, the unbeliever would not be able to exercise faith in God.
Paul writes, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15. How will they preach unless they are sent?
In this text you discover:
The response of the unbeliever – believing and calling, and
The responsibility of the believer – speaking and sending
Paul now goes further, by delivering what is nothing less than a reward for the believer.
Notice verse 15b, “Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
The Greek word for gospel – euangelion – is often translated good news . . . or glad tidings. Sharing the good news is called euangelizomai – which, transliterated, gives us our English word, euangelizm . . . or evangelism.
Evangelism is simply one person telling another person the good news!
Paul writes here, “How beautiful are the feet of those who evangelize their world.”
And Paul here is quoting from Isaiah. The context of Isaiah relates to the messengers that delivered the news to Israel that their days of bondage in Babylon were over. Their captivity to the kingdom of darkness is over!
Paul applies it to the message of the church . . . the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hey world . . . you no longer have to be captive to the kingdom of darkness . . . you can be liberated . . . set free by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Is it any wonder that this word was used at the birth of Christ. The angel delivered the news, “For behold I bring you good news (euangelizomai) of great joy – for today in the city of David is born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
For today in the city of David is born for you – in my Bible I have circled the word “you” and written my name in the margin – “Today in the city of David is born for you, Stephen, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
At the very first moment of the incarnation – the message was glad tidings.
Is it any wonder that at the birth of, not only the Savior, but the birth of the church, and the new dispensation of grace, Peter would preach the very first sermon and say, “And we declare un to you glad tidings (same Greek word), how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, and God fulfilled the promise by raising Jesus from the dead.” (paraphrase, Acts 13:32-33)
And now Paul here in verse 15 uses that same word to describe the activity of every believer – not just the appointed evangelist or pastor or church leader – but every believer who accepts the responsibility, “brings glad tidings of good things.”
The mission of the church is to deliver the good news to a world
It’s up to God to bring about spiritual life . . . we’re just the messenger boys . . . we’re the postal service . . . we just deliver the message.
I will never forget delivering that good news to a woman who had been raised in religious activity – church every weekend – good deeds throughout the week – hoping that she would somehow get into heaven. When I shared the gospel with her – that Jesus Christ is the only one good enough to deserve heaven – but that he paid the price for everyone’s ticket in, if they would only ask Him for it . . . she began to cry . . .a woman in her late 30’s . . . with her face in her hands, weeping . . . I would discover in a few minutes they were tears of joy as she repeated over and over again, “I can’t believe it’s free . . . I can’t believe it’s free!” And she prayed to accept the gift of salvation.
Brad Harbaugh, our Singles Pastor emailed me a few weeks ago, “A single lady in her early 40’s came into the office yesterday and asked to see the singles pastor. She wanted a tour of the building and some information about the church. [Brad shared with our staff later that it was near the end of the day and I was anxious to leave, but he stayed and accepted this impromptu appointment. He writes on, “after the tour, I noted that she was looking for more . . . after asking her a few questions about her relationship with Christ, I discovered she didn’t know the gospel, and I presented the gospel to her. She eagerly accepted Christ as her Savior. Sometime later she said she had been to 5 other churches for tours and no one had asked her about her spiritual condition. She is now attending Sunday school . . . I’ve never met her . . . she might be sitting next to you.
You might be saying, “But I don’t have all the answers . . . I’m not a professional!”
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China was asked, “When you do begin to tell others about Christ?” He typically responded with a question, “Tell me, when does a candle begin to shine? As soon as it is lit.”
A few days ago I prayed with a young man who finally heard the gospel. He had come to our visitor’s reception after a service with some questions. I was later in his home where he and his wife lived. She was a believer, passionately praying for his salvation. After he prayed to receive Christ I gave him the same assignment I usually give to everyone I pray with. Before I see you again, tell three people what you just did – tell them you accepted God’s free gift of salvation. Three people.
- Because it confirms his decision in his own heart as he repeats it
- Because it roots his faith in verbal testimony
- Because it provides encouragement as believer’s hear of his conversion and welcome him into the family
- Because it challenges his resolve to study the word because some who hear will question what he did and why he did it.
- Because it produces accountability – he’ll tell someone at work he became a Christian and discover his life is immediately under inspection – and that kind of accountability is great. The world knows how a Christian should live; your opportunities for encouragement are diminished because those in your world who are Christians don’t know you are one too; and you’re not studying the word in order to have an answer for the hope that’s within you because you never share your hope.
You never outgrow those things.
And the more you do those things the more you want to do more.
I read this past week about Jeff who was 12 years of age. He and his best friend were playing baseball and broke a window. They took off running. No one saw what happened except Jeff’s 7 year old brother. They went over to him and offered him a piece of candy not to tell. He refused the candy. “They said, “I’ll give you our baseball bat.” Jeff said, “Nope, I don’t want that.” They said, “We’ll give you our batting gloves.” He still said, “Nope.” They added, “Look we’ll give you our new baseball gloves.” “Nope.” They pleaded with him, “Well, what do you want?’ The little brother said, “I wanna tell.”
I wanna tell!
Oh the joy of tattling.
I had a brother like that . . .
Michael Green made the observation that the gospel spread in the first century simply because people shared the gospel like it was gossip.
They just had to tell somebody!
And Paul said, “Oh, my, you messengers of deliverance have beautiful feet.” Was it because they had beautiful physical features? No. Their message was so incredibly wonderful that the recipients of the message thought the messengers were wonderful too.
That man I prayed with a few days ago . . . when I got up to leave – he came over and gave me a bear hug. As if we’d known each other for years. You see, there’s a connection that will always produce gratitude in him for my feet.
The reward for the messenger is actually two-fold in this text.
It is not only a positive blessing, but a painful burden. Notice verse 16. However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
The immediate context is the Israelite who refuses to believe the Messiah.
Paul has already poured out his pain and hurt over the lost condition of Israel – look back at verse 1 in chapter 10; Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.
The first verses of chapter 9 – look there – v. 1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2. that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh
In chapter 10 Paul broadens the application of Isaiah’s lamenting chapter on the suffering Messiah from Isaiah chapter 53. This is the great chapter where the Messiah is revealed as a suffering Lamb, led to slaughter without opening His mouth.
And Isaiah says, “Who has believed this message?”
Now Paul applies that same painful truth to the church. You deliver the gospel and know that everyone will not believe.
Well, maybe we’re not doing a good enough job delivering the goods! Maybe our methods are not clever enough – our speech articulate enough!
May I encourage you that this same verse from Isaiah is quoted after Jesus Christ himself preached. In John chapter 12, Jesus preaches about His necessary death – how He must be lifted up – a reference to the cross. And the text says, “and they were not believing in Him; that the word of the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, which he spoke, “Lord who has believed our report?” (John 12:37-38)
Jesus wept over Jerusalem and Jerusalem would not believe.
The messenger . . .the church is to have beautiful feet and also a burdened heart.
I am convinced this is the problem. Every Christian, including myself would like the commendation from God – the positive blessing of beautiful feet . . . but I struggle to pursue the compassion of God and the negative burden of a broken heart!
Give me beautiful feet . . . but not a broken heart.
If you’ve tried to share your faith with an unbelieving parent, or child, or friend, or co-worker, or neighbor . . .then you know the pain of their rejection . . . you know the sorrow of Isaiah.
Most people know about William Carey who pioneered modern missions by going to India. He was a poor, self-taught shoe maker. So poor he was unable to adequately feed or clothe his children. After they set sail for India, his youngest child died – after arriving, his oldest child ran away. They didn’t see one decision for Christ, year after year after year. On top of that, it turned out that Carey’s physician and partner, had traveled to India with him, not for the gospel, but to escape the authorities for his financial misdeeds. After 10 years, the first convert to Christianity was recorded in Carey’s journal. But by the time Carey died 175 years ago, he had translated the Bible into 44 Indian dialects, started the first evangelical church in India, revolutionized the philosophy of missions by including women in the ministry of evangelism, trained national pastors and laid the foundation for what is still going on today.
I have to tell you, I would love to have Carey’s beautiful feet . . . but I’m not sure I could handle the burden of his broken heart.
For those who will enlist in the Divine postal service of delivering the message in whatever ways you can – and would you notice Paul doesn’t give a list of methods.
In fact, he closes his thoughts by giving a summary statement – we know from the Greek construction – a statement that doesn’t list the methods that have priority . . . but simply the message that has the priority.
Notice verse 17. So then – you could paraphrase – Consequently – or even, in conclusion . . . “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
This is the priority of the scriptures. The word of Christ.
Now there is some debate as to whether or not the word of Christ is an objective genitive – meaning it’s “the word about Christ.”
Or subjective genitive – “the word from Christ.” [As if Christ is the One speaking.]
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 3 (Baker, 1993), p. 1263
I personally think it’s objective since the thrust of Paul’s passion is for messengers to deliver the gospel about Christ.
It really doesn’t matter in this case simply because both make
When you speak for Christ, Christ speaks through You.
In fact, when Jesus sent out his disciples to preach, He said to them, “he who listens to you, listens to Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me.” (Luke 10:16)
The church today seems paralyzed at the thought of being unpopular. Rejected . . . or worse than anything else, irrelevant.
In the evangelical church today, being viewed as irrelevant is the unpardonable sin.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the relevancy of the church is directly related to the mission of the church.
We don’t get our message from the world, we get our message from the word.
The world might say the church of Jesus Christ is irrelevant – unnecessary as they do in China and Russia and Palestine. What does the word say?
I read the interview of a pastor recently . . . he graduated with me in the same graduating class at seminary. He now leads a church of more than 12,000 people. He was giving his preaching schedule in the interview and said that 10 weeks out of the year they devote their Sunday mornings to Bible exposition. That is, they cover some section of scripture or Book of the Bible. 10 weeks. The other 42 weeks are devoted to felt-needs, topical issues ranging from relationships to finances, challenges ranging from stress reduction to anger management.
This fits so well with our cultural shift from objective truth to pragmatism . . . just as Erwin Lutzer was telling us in a session here last summer. In other words, the primary question in our culture today is, “Does it work.” Not, “Is it right . . . ethical . . . moral . . .true, just, does it work?”
And the church has lost it’s mission and in reality, made the primary subject of study the human condition. 42 weeks of the human condition, with a spattering of proof texts to made it sound like Bible study. While the primacy of the word and the explanation of the word of God which is, according to Paul in Romans 10:17, the foundation of genuine faith, is lost.
More and more today, we have ministries expounding on life and illustrating with scripture . . . what we need to do is return to expounding the scripture and illustrating with life.
The church has lost so much respect from our culture because they see it groveling for position and maneuvering for respect – they know it – because that’s the game they play.
No wonder George Gallup Jr. remarked, “Never before in our generation has the church made so many inroads into society while at the same time making so little difference.”
Our gospel has lost it’s message. Because the subject of our message is no longer Christ, but us!
And we’re pawning off on a lost society a Christianity that we promise will work – it is pragmatic. Jesus will work for you!
Christianity has an inspired diet for you; Christianity will increase your finances; it will reduce your debt; it will resolve your relational issues; it will enhance your self-esteem; it will advance your career; it will even help you unlock the secrets of beauty and health.
Tell that to the Christian girl who was arrested and put in jail overnight, beaten by soldiers who mocked her faith . . . did Christianity enhance her physical beauty?
Tell that to the couple form our church who just left for Budapest to teach children, emptying their savings accounts in order to go . . . did Christianity increase their finances?
Tell that to a student who receives a failing grade for writing a paper from a Christian world view . . . did Christianity help his grade point average?
Tell that to a businessman who refused to lie and lost his job, or the woman who refused the advances of her boss and had her career grind to a halt . . . did their Christianity advance their careers?
Tell it to a young man who recently became a Christian and his father now makes fun of him . . . did Christianity resolve his relational issues . . . or add to the strain?
When someone says to you, “Listen, you want me to believe in this Christianity of yours. . . .well, I have one question: does Christianity work?” Tell them, “No, it’ll probably make things worse.”
Here’s a verse for the church in America today, “They experienced mocking and scourging; yes, and chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:36ff)
Isn’t Christianity great?!
The author then describers these believers from God’s perspective and writes, “they were men of whom the world was not worthy.”
Not, they were men of whom the world considered relevant. No, men of whom the world was not worthy.
Paul wrote this to the Corinthian believers, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
Imagine that – beautiful feet . . . fragrant aroma.
Whenever the Roman army won a major victory they would celebrate with a spectacular parade. Musicians, choirs, soldiers, officials and the entire population would line the streets. As a part of the celebration, the Romans would burn fragrances on altars, filling the entire city with a pleasant aroma. Even those who couldn’t see the sights could hear the music and smell the fragrant aroma. That’s Paul’s word picture here of the believer.
We are triumphant in Christ. Everywhere we go, we carry the message of Christ’s victory. We carry about the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the most compelling evidence that Christ is alive and triumphant is the life of the believer. The fragrance of wholesome purity . . . kindness, truth, winsomeness and honesty in all our dealings.
Adapted from Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-Day (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), p. 225
And above all, a passion to deliver the news of Christ’s victory over sin and death . . . the message of peace at last, with a holy and righteous God.
Beautiful feet . . . fragrant believers.
Messengers who the world considers irrelevant and God considers invaluable.
You are messengers of the word of Jesus Christ with yo9ur beautiful feet and your fragrant lives.
Listen, you are what your world needs, more than anything else in the world, today.
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