Fortner begins today’s devotional reading by saying these verses are about four things that are impossible . . .
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14–17)
Fortner says certain things must take place before any sinner can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved: that person must believe in Christ, hear the gospel — which also must be by the voice of a preacher — and no one can preach unless sent by God to do so.
While this is a common way for someone to be saved, I am cautious about putting God in a box. I’ve known people who were saved by the testimony of a peer, the angry words of a frustrated Christian, an encounter with a deadly snake, and by the words of a female missionary. I was saved while reading a book on reincarnation (false teaching) that quoted a Bible verse out of context.
Besides these personal experiences, the story of the rich young man who held his possessions more important than obeying God reminds me not to limit God. After Jesus uncovered this man’s idolatry of his possessions, the man walked away in sorrow and . . .
“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:23–27)
The disciples thought that God blessed people with prosperity so if the rich could not be blessed with salvation, who could? Jesus told them not to limit God. He’d just finished rebuking them for another error in their thinking; they also limited salvation to adults.
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13–16)
It is an error to limit the grace of God to any select group. The Jews did it, even though the Lord continually told them the Gentiles would also believe. Some who claim to be Christians do it too, pushing people who offend them beyond God’s call. While this isn’t about the method God uses to save people, the principle is the same; God’s ways are beyond our ways — and so is His grace!
Of course this passage from Romans about needing to hear the Word of God is important, but consider the context. Paul is talking about his Jewish people who were “ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own” for they refused to submit to God’s righteousness. These people need to hear the Word of the Lord, for “faith comes by hearing.” They needed to listen and obey what God told them or they would miss out. Paul is not telling Christians that His hands are tied without a preacher. If that were the case, then He cannot use a burning bush, a donkey who speaks, a dream, or His own voice to reach those who are running the other way. God never sins, but He can do far more than we ask or imagine!
Jesus, all the voices in the world must be tested against the plain truth of Your written Word. Each passage needs to be considered in its context and in the context of the entire story of redemption. This is not an excuse to “let the preacher do all the preaching” for You want me to share the Gospel too, but it is a reminder to not limit You to only one way to reach the lost or to talk to me.