ROMANS 10:1-21 – God’s Sovereign Plan of Salvation - Human Responsibility

 

For Jews to accept that Gentiles could be righteous and Jews unrighteous was a bitter pill to swallow. Those Jews amongst Paul’s listeners would find this very hard to take. This was totally foreign to their way of thinking much the same as it was to Peter when God revealed to him that the gospel was to be preached the Gentiles (Acts 10).

 

At the end of Romans 9 Paul spoke of the stumbling block of salvation through faith in Christ. In Romans 10 Paul will discuss further the reasons why those who had received so much from God could turn out on the wrong side of God, (like he once was – Acts 9; 1 Timothy 1:12-17). In reality what we will discuss here is Human Responsibility in light of the sovereignty of God.

 

God’s Sovereign Condition – Human Responsibility

 

Romans 10:1 – “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”  [1]

Paul again expresses and affirms his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel” as he did in Romans 9 (9:1-4; 10:1a). Here though, in this chapter we see God’s sovereign condition in His sovereign plan of salvation. God’s sovereign condition is that humanity would receive Him (John 1:12), believe on Him (Romans 10:11), “that they may be saved” (10:1b). 

The sovereign condition that gives opportunity for decision and exertion of human responsibility in salvation is seen in the phrase translated “may be saved.” Literally Paul says he prays “unto salvation” for Israel. The phrase “may be saved” is translated as a subjunctive phrase. The subjunctive mood implies possibility, something may or may not occur depending upon a decision or exertion of free will, but a decision must be made in order to be saved. This inclusion of possibility implies God uses human responsibility or free will decision as a sovereign condition in His salvation plan. God’s sovereign condition in His plan of salvation is that human beings exert free will to decide to receive His gift of salvation.

Since the Garden of Eden people have tried to shirk the responsibility for their sin (Genesis 3:13). But God has ordained that each person is responsible for their own guilt (Jeremiah 31:30; Ezekiel 18:20; 1 Peter 4:5). Because each person is responsible for their sin, they must each choose to either live in sin or repent from their sin and accept the gracious offer, the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; 3:16-17,36). Each person must pass through his or her own personal Valley of Decision so to speak (Joel 3:14).

Zeal Without Knowledge

We have seen that Paul truly and deeply desires Israel to be saved and we can trust that he has done everything in his power to see that Israel is given every opportunity to be saved. But why haven’t they been saved? Israel has received so much from the Lord (9:4-5), but they are still lost. Why?

The answer to the problem reveals a very important truth: It is possible to be religiously zealous, AND STILL BE UNSAVED. Paul was an example of such a zeal that put him on the wrong side of God. Sincerity does not save; faith in God and His truth saves. Paul says the unsaved Jews (who have experienced the goodness, kindness and patience of God – 2:4) are unsaved even though they are zealous, because their zeal is ignorant of God’s righteousness (10:2).

The word “zeal” here is translated from the Greek term ZELOTES (Strong’s #2207) meaning, “to have warmth of feeling for or against; affect, covet earnestly, have desire, move with envy, be jealous over, be zealous.”[2] The word refers to someone who is, ““an uncompromising partisan.”[3]

There are two formulas which relate to one another that are applicable here:

Zeal without Knowledge = Fanaticism

Knowledge without Zeal = Dead Religion

The terrorists that flew their planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 were very zealous for their religion, but because they lacked the knowledge of Jesus Christ, they fell far short of and I’m sure are very surprised at the “paradise” in which they now reside. Cultists are very sincere in what they believe, but because what they believe in is wrong, it will not secure for them what they desire. If a person sincerely believes they can defy gravity and fly if they flap their arms like a bird, and they really believe that enough so that they go to a roof of a tall building, jump off and flap like crazy, they will still go splat! Why? Not because they were insincere, but because they were ill-informed and acted against truth rather than in line with it.

On the other hand, there are those who know a lot of truth but are so lethargic and dead in their knowledge that they fail to experience the life that the truth manifests. There are seminary professors who know Biblical languages, theology, philosophy and the like and are as dead spiritually as door nails. They need the zeal and life of the Spirit to wake them up.

The gospels tell of a time when Peter, present with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when they came to arrest Him, drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant named Malchus (Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:50; John 18:10). Peter responded zealously to protect Jesus, but had he succeeded, the ultimate plan of God and the purpose for which Christ came would have been thwarted (John 18:11). Paul speaks of those who were zealous to gain followers, not gain followers of Jesus, but people to follow them (Galatians 4:17). No matter the intent, zeal without knowledge impulsively unleashed, is an act of the flesh and cannot please God or further His purposes.

Finding a balance between zeal and God’s revelation knowledge is something done by the Spirit of God in us as we walk in Him (see Romans 8). We need to act on His word and to do that means we must be students of His word. Otherwise we may be zealous, but we will be of no use to God.

God doesn’t play hide and seek with humanity, He reveals Himself clearly as we have already seen (Romans 1 – 3). Humanity is without excuse and must decide how they will respond to God’s sovereign plan of salvation as revealed in His Son Jesus, which is where Paul turns to now. Salvation is not based on an emotional decision, it is based on a decision in the heart to accept or reject Gods’ gracious truth in Christ.

God’s Sovereign Salvation Plan in Christ

Romans 10:4-7 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above)7 or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  [4]

The bottom line is that Jesus is the end of the law in that God intended the law to expose humanities’ sin and lead the sinner to Christ (10:4a; Galatians 3:10-13, 19-25) THE LAW SAYS “DO AND LIVE” BUT ENDS IN DEATH; THE GOSPEL SAYS, “BELIEVE AND LIVE” AND LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE.

 Paul then shows the exclusiveness of salvation in Christ and therefore God’s sovereign hand in salvation, by saying, “everyone” can only find righteousness by believing in Jesus. GOD’S GOAL, HIS INTENDED PURPOSE FOR THE LAW WAS AND IS TO LEAD THE SINNER TO FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST (10:4b). We see this clearly stated by Paul in the letter to Galatians when he is inspired to write:

  • Galatians 3:22-24 – “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  [5]

Paul reminds the reader that as Moses said, if you’re going to try to be righteous by keeping the law, you will have to live by the law, a human impossibility in one’s own strength (10:5). Paul and James respectively point out the impossibility of keeping the law in one’s own strength when they are inspired to write:

  • Galatians 3:10-13 – “ For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),”  [6]
  • James 2:10 – “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  [7]

Paul refers to the fruitlessness of trying to keep the law in one’s own strength in the next verse by saying some ask “Who will ascend into heaven? . . . Who will descend into the abyss?” The point being made here is, THOSE WHO TRY TO GAIN ACCESS TO HEAVEN ON THEIR OWN, BRING CHRIST DOWN BY DISREGARDING HIS RIGHTEOUS SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS (“Who will ascend into heaven?”); THOSE WHO CLAIM THERE IS NO HOPE AFTER DEATH DENY HIS RESURRECTION (“”Who will descend into the abyss?” - 10:6-7).

This is the heart of the gospel, that sinners are helpless to save themselves no matter how “good” they are (in truth there are no “good” people compared to God’s standard of righteousness, His Son Jesus – John 16:8-11). And secondly, there is hope in Christ to deal with one’s sin and enter into a saving relationship with God in Christ that promises to be eternal.

God’s Sovereign Requirement For Salvation

Romans 10:8-9 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  [8]

Paul points his readers to God’s word for an explanation of what God requires for salvation. The answer to the above statement of course is accepting the gospel preached by Paul which he says is near them by quoting Deuteronomy 30:14 in verses 10:8. And then Paul gives one of the clearest statements on what the responsibility of humanity is. The responsibility of humanity in salvation is to simply receive the gospel in the heart.

How is one saved? Based on what Paul says here, salvation is received when the following happens in a person.

First, a person is saved when they openly confess Jesus as their Lord based on a firm conviction of that truth. Paul states:

  • Romans 10:9a – “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus . . .”  [9]

The word “confess” here is translated from the Greek term HOMOLOGEO (Strong’s # 3670) meaning,  “to speak the same thing” (homos, “same,” lego, “to speak”), “to assent, accord, agree with, . . .to declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts.” [10] Therefore, salvation occurs when one comes to the point where they can openly confess Jesus as their Lord from a deep conviction of the truth about Him.

Notice also that Jesus is to be confessed as “Lord” which points to obedience and submission to Him in life. Is this just another work to be righteous? How can this come to be in a person?

Secondly, a person is saved when they believe in their heart that Jesus is raised from the dead. Paul goes on to say:

  • Romans 10:9b- “. . .and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  [11]

The word “believe” is translated from the Greek word PISTEUO (Strong’s #4100) which we have already studied in detail in Romans 4. Needless to say “believe” here is a trusting dependence in the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And if Jesus is raised from the dead then it is attached to the acceptance of Jesus substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. To be saved a person must accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as sufficiently paying the penalty for their sin and satisfying God’s just requirement as testified to in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

God’s Sovereign Plan Aims at the Heart

Romans 10:10 – “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  [12]

Salvation is not based on a simple superficial assent to certain stated facts; it involves a heart belief that bears fruit in life. God’s sovereign requirements are heart belief that results in life confession. God wants our heart. The heart is the target of God in salvation. Why is the heart so important?

What is the “heart”?

Paul refers to the heart five times in this chapter of Romans (Romans 10:1,6,8,9,10). The word “heart” is translated from the Greek term KARDIA (Strong’s # 2588 καρδία [kardia /kar·dee·ah/]) which occurs 160 times in the New Testament (translated 159 times “heart” and once “brokenhearted”). KARDIA can refer to the physical organ of the heart that pumps blood to the body or more importantly, it refers to the center and seat of all spiritual life. [13]

 

Why is the heart so important?

The heart is the center of the human being. If you want to know the person, you have to get to the heart. The heart is the heart of a person.  The Bible speaks very clearly about this and the following reasons are given to support the centrality of heart in importance.

First, the heart is where the issues of life are considered. In Proverbs it states:

  • Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”  [14]
  • Proverbs 23:7a – “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” [15]

What we allow in and what we let out of our heart should be closely attended.

Second, the heart is where sin lodges itself. Jeremiah said;

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  [16]

Jesus pointed this truth out when He spoke about the content of sinful people’s hearts saying:

  • Matthew 15:18-19 - “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  [17] (Luke 6:45)

Notice too the close connection between the condition of the heart and the words spoken by a person. If you want to know the condition of yours’ or another person’s heart, just listen to the words the proceed out of the mouth of each.

In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 3:12 – “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;”  [18]

Humanities problem is a heart problem. We could mention many more verses here but suffice it to say that because the problem of sin is in the heart, God aims the gospel at the heart of sinful man.

Third, it is in the human heart that God has put an inherent desire to know Him. Solomon recognized this when he was inspired to write:

  • Ecclesiastes 3:11b – “Also He has put eternity in their hearts, . . .”   [19]

God created humanity for His good pleasure (Revelation 4:11 KJV). He desired humanity to have fellowship with Him and be the object of His love. Sin separated humanity from that fellowship with our Holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2).  A person will never find contentment or true meaning in life apart from having fellowship with God restored. Human beings were created to have fellowship with God, to live in worship and praise of their Creator, and until they find that there will be a continual void and emptiness. That is the “eternity,” the eternal purpose, the eternal longing created in the hearts of humanity.

Fourth, we seek God and find Him when we search for Him with our heart. It is with the heart that one believes in Christ and is saved (Romans 10:10). If salvation is an arrow shot by God in grace, it is aimed at the heart of people. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the need for people to come to God wholeheartedly or with all their heart. The following verses attest to this:

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 - “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [20]
  • Jeremiah 29:13 – “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”  [21]
  • Joel 2:12-13 - “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”  [22]

A person is saved when they turn to God with their heart. A person may understand a great deal about God, but to be saved a person must come to know God and they can only do that when they come to Him with their heart. Then God is able to give the sinner a new heart.

Fifth, God wants ALL your heart. God wants to be LORD in your heart. Notice in the verses above and those that will follow, God wants all our heart. That is why salvation is based on a heartfelt confession that Jesus is your Lord. Read what the Bible says about giving God your entire heart:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-5 - “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  [23]
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 - “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”  [24] (Deuteronomy 11:13; 26:16; 30:2,6,10; Joshua 22:5).
  • Deuteronomy 13:1-3 - “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,2 “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’3 “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [25]
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  [26]

From the very beginning, God has revealed that He wants our heart.

When God’s people were relatively young as a nation a situation developed that revealed the heart of their sin problem. Another example of our need to give God all our heart is found in 1 Samuel. God’s original plans for His people is that He would be their King, but a time came where God’s people began to look around and see other nations that had earthly kings overseeing them and they requested a human king too. God granted their wish but through Samuel told them that they had in effect rejected God’s Lordship over them. When the people realize their sin they seek Samuel to intercede for them. Samuel’s words are very telling about God’s desire for us when he is inspired to state:

  • 1 Samuel 12:19-25 – “And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.”20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.21 “And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.22 “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.24 “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.25 “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”  [27]

Jesus taught the importance and priority of giving God all your heart. On one occasion He was asked what the greatest commandment of God was and this is what He said:

  • Matthew 22:38-39 - “This is the first and great commandment.39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  [28] (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

Is Jesus your Lord, or is something or someone else ruling your life? Repent and invite Jesus to sit on the throne of your heart, your whole entire heart.

God’s Sovereign Salvation is a Matter of GIVING GOD ALL YOUR HEART

In the book of Acts when Philip meets up with the Ethiopian Eunuch by Divine appointment the Eunuch asks Philip to baptize him and Philip tells him the condition by which he can be baptized (or saved). The account of the conversation is as follows:

  • Acts 8:36-38 – “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”  [29]

Now notice, the Eunuch’s salvation is not based on his being baptized, but upon whether or not he believes in Jesus with all his heart. Salvation is a matter of the heart, not any ritual or ceremony done apart from the heart. And God wants all our heart. What is missing in the world and even in the church today is a wholehearted devotion to God. You can repeat all the Spiritual Laws or salvation plans in the world, but if you haven’t given God your heart, you haven’t been saved!

The reason we see so many Millard and Mildred Milktoast wishy-washy Christians in the church is that they likely have never truly given God “all their heart.” The cause of carnality, lukewarmness, and that which is repugnant to Christ is that many who claim to be Christian have never given all their heart to Jesus. Perhaps you are like the church at Ephesus who left your first love (Revelation 2:4), or perhaps you have never truly given Jesus all your heart and are lukewarm in indecision worthy of the Lord spitting you out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). Understand that Jesus wants all your heart. Salvation involves giving Jesus ALL your heart.

God’s Sovereign Sanctification is a Matter of SEPARATING JESUS AS LORD IN YOUR HEART

We are saved by giving God our heart through faith in Jesus Christ. We are sanctified when by the Spirit’s power we set up Jesus as Lord in our hearts. Peter referred to this when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”  [30]

We have already studied in Romans 8 that it is the Holy Spirit who does this holy sanctifying work in us. If salvation is giving Jesus all your heart, then sanctification is keeping all your heart under the Lordship of Jesus. Here in 1 Peter 3:15 we see sanctification as keeping Jesus as Lord in our hearts. Jesus’ rightful place on the throne of your heart ruling as your Lord and Master will come under many challenges. Sanctification is keeping at bay those challenges and challengers to the Lordship of Jesus in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Spirit we can knock down and knock out every would-be usurper to our Lord and King of hearts in us. The Holy Spirit enlightens the believer to discern challenges to the lordship of Jesus in our heart and empowers them to remove them.  It is only by the help of the Helper that we can set up or sanctify Jesus as Lord in our hearts o that we are “ready” and we might add, unashamed to be used by God in His sovereign plan of salvation ministry for the lost.

God’s Sovereign Plan Is Available to “Whoever”

Romans 10:11-13 – “For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  [31]

God’s sovereign plan does not start excluding any from receiving it; it is available to all. Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16 to point out that God is not partial and seeks to exclude no one from the possibility of being saved (10:11). As we have mentioned in Romans 9, one of the primary tents of Calvinism is “unconditional election,” whereby God has created some destined for heaven and others destined for hell. We agree that God foreknows the eternal destiny of all humankind, but we deny, as do these verses that God limits His offer of salvation to a select group rather than to “whoever” or all humanity.

There is not one gospel for Gentiles and another for Jews, no; the gospel of Jesus is the only gospel. Jesus is “rich” toward any and all who call upon His name to be saved (10:12). Paul couldn’t be more clear, WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.

The word “whoever” occurs 255 times in 225 verses in the Bible. The word “all” occurs 5,677 times in 4,719 verses. The word “everyone” occurs 213 times in 199 verses in the Bible. There are probably other words that express inclusiveness when it comes to Gods offer of salvation and all of the aforementioned words may not directly refer to salvation, however enough of them do refer to Gods’ offer of salvation to make the point crystal clear that God excludes no one from the opportunity to be save; everyone who desires to call on the Lord to be saved is given ample opportunity to do so. As Paul was inspired to write in the very beginning of our study:

  • Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  [32]

The “whoever” of the Bible contradicts those who hold to Five-Point Calvinism, which holds that God predestined some people to salvation and some to eternal judgment and that human beings have no free will. It takes some very complicated mental gymnastics to disregard the plain meaning of God’s word when He says “whoever” in order to arrive at a place of exclusion.

God’s Sovereign Gracious Outstretched Hand of God – God’s Initiative in Salvation

Romans 10:14- “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?” [33]

Paul declares the sovereign means by which God chooses to spread His gospel. These questions are rhetorical in the sense that they convey the thought that without God’s gracious means of outreach, it would be impossible to be saved.

Apart from God’s grace no one could be saved from his or her sin. Without God’s grace no one would even want to be saved, no one would see his or her need to be saved. The Bible tells us that it is God who initiates salvation, not the sinner. God takes the initiative in saving people and offers a hand to pull the sinner up out of the miry clay swamp of sin. Isaiah expressed this truth when he was inspired to write:

  • Isaiah 59:1-2 – “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, 1 That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”  [34]

God reaches out His hand to save the lost and unless He did so, no one could be saved. In the New Testament Jesus taught the truth of this saying:

  • John 6:44 - “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” [35]

You see you are not saved because you saw your need or did something really good and God said, “Wow! That’s really good, You’re saved!” Not at all, we are all helplessly caught in sin, which is like a leprous disease that rots away our sensitivity to sin without our even knowing it. Unless God opened our eyes, we’d persist in sin and be eternally damned as a result. But God has opened our eyes to our need, as Paul was inspired to write:

  • Acts 26:17-18 – “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,18 ‘to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’”  [36]

It is God who by the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of their sinfulness (John 16:8-11) and opens their eyes to their need of salvation. It is God who takes the initiative in the salvation process. We touched on this earlier in our study of Romans when it stated:

  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  [37]

The Bible tells us that an evil person cannot do good of their own volition (Job 14:4) just as a leopard cannot change its spots (Jeremiah 13:23). Sinful humanity is hopelessly caught in a web of sin and it is only by the outstretched hand of God reaching down to us that there is any hope of being saved.

Now think of how absurd it is for someone to say, “Well, I’m not ready to be saved yet.” That would be like a drowning man in the middle of the ocean who is fortunately seen and come upon by a ship that throws them a life preserver and then says, “ Ah, well, wait a minute guys, thanks but no thanks I’m not ready to be saved.” That would be absurd. God offers a life preserver to everyone, but won’t force a life preserver on anyone. You must receive the God’s gracious life preserver of the gospel and put it on by faith in order to be saved.

God’s Sovereign Means to Spread the Gospel - People

Romans 10:15 – “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

 God’s gracious plan involves calling people and sending them to reach out to the lost. The two aspects of God’s sovereign plan of outreach are vitally important. Let’s consider them.

First, God chooses to use people to spread His gospel (10:14-15). Paul says, you can’t call on God if you don’t believe in Christ and you can’t believe in Christ unless someone tells you about Him. Here Paul speaks of God’s sovereign plan to spread the gospel and provide the world with a chance to be saved. How does God choose to spread His gospel? Through you and me, that’s how. God has in His sovereign will given us responsibility to share the good news in Christ with the sinners around us. To those who receive Jesus as their Savior, they will look upon the evangelist with the words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Isaiah 52:7).

Let me ask you a question. Where would you be today if someone had not been faithful to share the gospel with you? For me it was my sister. I guarantee you it was no walk in the park for my sister to share the gospel with her big brother, but she did it and the Lord took that and started to draw me to Himself until I accepted Jesus as my Savior and gave Him all my heart.

In another epistle Paul conveys this responsibility with the inspired words:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:20 – “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”  [38]

Oh! That we would have the same burden for the lost that Paul had, God has (Romans 9:1-3; 2 Peter 3:9). Imagine God has determined to reach out to the lost in the world and do it through us! That is an incredible privilege; that is an incredible responsibility.

Secondly, God chooses to share the gospel with all, not just those who will receive the gospel  (10:16). If as some say God predestined only some to be saved, then what’s the use of sharing the gospel with them they’re going to be saved or unsaved no matter what we do? But God here exhorts that even though not everyone will receive the gospel; nevertheless, the gospel needs to be preached to them because everyone must be given an opportunity to receive Jesus as Savior. Furthermore, as we go and share the gospel, we need to understand that not everyone will receive it. This should not discourage us. We should be thankful that at least we have received the gospel and that some others will too. Successful witnessing is not based on the receptivity of the people we share with; it is based on the faithfulness to share the gospel of Christ. God calls us to share His Son, His word with a lost world, and we need to leave the converting up to the Spirit.

God’s Sovereign Inclusion of Human Responsibility

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”  

Paul quotes Isaiah 53:1 where Messiah (i.e. Jesus) asks, “ “LORD, who has believed our report?” This question demonstrates God’s inclusion of human free will decision in His sovereign plan of salvation (as mentioned earlier – see 10:1). God does not force the gospel on anyone.

While God takes the initiative in saving the lost and uses people to reach out to the lost, He does not force Himself on anyone to be saved. In fact, those who ultimately go to hell are those who chose not to receive God’s salvation. A person must receive in faith that salvation which God offers.

Jesus on one occasion healed a man who had been lame for 38 years. It was an incredible miracle that should have opened the eyes of any objective person. But not the religious leaders, they refused to receive what Jesus was dong and what He taught about the gospel. Jesus did not force Himself upon them but rebuked their unbelief saying:

 

  • John 5:24-25,37-47 -  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.25 “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. . . .37 “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.38 “But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.41 “I do not receive honor from men.42 “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.43 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?45 “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”   [39]

 

It would have been very easy for Jesus to force them to believe if that was God’s plan, but He did not, He simply did the miracles revealing the power of God was present with Him and taught the gospel of salvation and then it was up to people to receive or reject it. God’s sovereign plan involves the freewill decision and acceptance of His gospel gift by faith.

This is not a work (Ephesians 2:8-9), Jesus has done all the work on the cross (It is finished” – John 19:30). Receiving the gospel by freewill in faith is not a work but a product of God’s grace in a person.

How Not To Share Your Faith

Sometimes after we have accepted the Lord and assimilate into the church we learn a new language, Christianese. Now Christianese is a good enough language but sometimes we speak it to people who’ve yet to learn it and when that happens it can hinder our effectiveness in witnessing. Below is an example of what can happen to the lines of communication and the confusion that can arise when a believer uses Christianese in witnessing.

"Have you ever been saved," a wide-eyed young fellow questioned me with a
question as we walked toward the bus. He handed me a booklet with the
picture of hell on the front. "Sure," I responded. "Once when I was 9, I was
swimming at Jones' beach on Long Island, and a strong undertow began to drag
me out to sea. My uncle heard my call and ...." "No, no, no," he
interrupted. "I mean redeemed. Have you ever been redeemed? You know,
reborn? Washed in the blood?" "What," I inquired, "in the world are you
talking about?" "Convicted," I mean. "Have you ever felt convicted?"
"Well, of course not. I've never been in trouble with the law." He looked at
me square in the eye and said, "I think you need to be delivered."
"Delivered? I was just waiting for the bus home. I think I'll stick to
that, but thank you very much." He looked at me as though I were speaking
another language. "Can we have lunch together sometime?" he asked. "I work
just down the street." "Sure, that'd be fine." He looked like a harmless
fellow to me, but I must admit, he was unusual and quite difficult to
understand. That Wednesday, I had lunch with Ed. He was a little late, but
he explained he was having a quiet time. I said, "Quiet time? What does
that mean?" "Well, each day before lunch, I get in my prayer closet." I was
puzzled. "You pray in a closet? At work?" "Oh, no, it's my car." "You
have a closet in your car?" He changed the subject like the first day I met
him. Again he left me confused. This Ed is quite a unique fellow I thought.
As we parted that day, Ed gave me a little book that explained how someone
could come into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I read it and
understood enough, and knew that was exactly what I needed. And so that
night I submitted my life to Jesus, was born again as it stated in the
booklet. Two days later, I told Ed. He was overjoyed. The following week
we got together again and he strongly urged me to find a good body. Now I
was surprised at this suggestion, but it sounded good to me. So I took his
advice and began to comb the local health clubs for an attractive body. When
I met Denice, I knew she was just the one. We began to date and soon, she
became a believer too. Ed rejoiced and told us it was crucial that we get
planted so that we could grow together. I said to Denice, "Sometimes this
guy's hard to understand." I told Ed I wasn't quite sure what he meant by
planted. He responded, "Committed. You know, both of you need to be
committed." "Now wait a minute," I protested, "just because I don't
understand what planted means doesn't mean I'm nuts. Anyway, I think to trust
in Jesus is probably the most sane thing I've ever done." Well, it was
obvious that Ed's patience was growing thin, and he explained, "Bob and
Denice, you've got to get plugged in. Don't you understand?" Well, no, we
didn't. I did wonder if getting plugged in had any connection with going out
under the power. Something that I'd heard Ed mention and hoped it would
never happen to me. Regretfully, I had to miss worship the next Sunday out
of town. But Ed and I had breakfast together later, and he filled me in on
what had happened. He said, "Boy, God moved!" He said, "God really moved
yesterday." "Where did He go, Ed? I was just getting to know Him and now
He's gone?" "No, no, Bob, God hasn't gone anywhere." I was relieved. "It's
just that so many people were stepping out and moving in the gifts." "You
mean people were leaving the meeting? And what's this about presents?" "No,
no. It's the gifts. The gifts were really flowing," he said. Changing the
subject, he said, "Hey, Denice was there, and boy, was she on fire!" "Fire?
Denise got burned? What happened? Is she ok?" "No, Bob, you don't
understand." "And boy, that's an understatement," I thought. He said,
"Denise is just fine. It's just that I believe she's really called, and God
really wants to use her." Things were not getting any clearer. "Did Denise
mention she was getting too many phone calls or something? And what's this
about God wanting to take advantage of her?" Ed sighed, "Can I walk in the
light with you, Bob?" I said, "Well, yeah, where do you want to go. We can
walk in the light. It's daytime, Ed." He just shook his head. I don't know
what it is. Sometimes it seems like Ed and I have a hard time communicating.
Now it's been 2 years since I was saved and delivered, plugged in, planted,
committed to a good body. God has been moving, and I've been stepping out in
the gifts. I can hardly believe how God's been using me. I do have one new
problem, however. It seems that all my friends can't understand me any more.
When I share about my redemption, I've been washed in the blood as white as
snow, that I desire to follow the lamb, they just tune me right out. I guess
they're just convicted when they see me on fire.[40]

Notice that even though there was a communication breakdown, God is able to work in such situations in spite of us. How should we witness to unbelievers, is there a better way?

The Right Way to Witness – Seven Essentials to Effective Witnessing

Before we get into some pointers about how we should witness, we need to understand that more often than not some witness is better than no witness. We should share our faith with those around us. And God is able to use us regardless of our ability. God is not so much looking for ability as He is looking for availability. God wants to use you to reach the lost and all He asks is that you make yourself available to Him for that purpose. Therefore what is the right way to witness? Let’s see.

There are Seven Essentials to Effective Witnessing that God’s word tells us are needed to be ready and unashamed to be used by God. These essentials are as follows:

First, be prayerful not prayerless. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God and when you witness you need God’s guidance and equipping to be effective. The prayerless person will be a weak witness. And it is important to be prayed up so to speak so that when an opportunity comes you aren’t caught off guard. Paul said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If we live in a constant conversational state of prayer before the Lord then we’ll be ready when an opportunity to witness comes our way.

The early church was a praying church and their witness had a great impact on the world. The power in a witness will be closely connected to the prayer of the person witnessing. In Acts it states:

  • Acts 4:31 – “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  [41]

In prayer we should invite the Spirit to take control of us seeking for Him to make us bold for the Lord. Which leads to our second essential.

Second, be Spirit-filled not fleshly. Some people are naturally talkative or gregarious and have no difficulty talking to people, but that doesn’t mean they will be effective witnesses for the Lord. Witnessing is not sharing our opinions or our wisdom; it is sharing words the Spirit gives us. It is one thing to share off the top of our head with someone; it is quite another thing to share as the Spirit prompts us.

It is the Holy Spirit who speaks through us and empowers us to be effective witnesses for the Lord. It is the Spirit who guides us and brings to remembrance those things from God’s word that are suited for the particular witnessing moment. We see this in the following portions of Scripture:

  • Luke 12:11-12 - “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.12 “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”   [42]
  • John 14:26 - “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  [43]
  • Acts 1:8 - “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [44]

 A good example of an effective and bold witness for the Lord was Stephen. Read the description of this greatly used saint of the early church:

  • Acts 6:8-10 – “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.”  [45]

Stephen was full of faith and power and had an irresistible witness because he was filled with the Holy Spirit and reliant upon Him.

We should also note here that the opportunities we get to witness are heaven sent by the Holy Spirit. Understand also that the Holy spirit has been working on the person you are witnessing to otherwise He would not have brought you there to share with them. It is the Holy Spirit that draws people and convicts them of their need of a Savior (Genesis 6:3; John 6:44; 16:8-11). You are simply a part of a network of servants God is using to orchestrate the salvation of a soul in His love. Trust Him and His work and be faithful to His call and leading.

Third, be conscious and alert not shocked at opportunities to witness. If you are prayerfully relying on the Holy Spirit you will be ready and poised for every opportunity to witness. Learn to walk in the Spirit prayerfully and you will be ready and alert when God brings you to His divine appointment to witness. Paul put it like this:

  • Colossians 4:5 – “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”  [46]

Learn to see every contact with a person as an opportunity to witness to them. Pray for an open door to share the gospel with people.

Fourth, be grace-full and salty not legalistic. Sharing the gospel of grace may start with sharing the law of God to show how every persons is guilty before God and helpless to meet God’s just demands regarding sin (Romans 3:21; 6:23; 1 Timothy 1:5-11). But adhering to a set of rules or dos and don’ts does not save a person. The Bible tells us:

  • Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  [47]

What does this mean? Well, salt both purifies and adds seasoning and taste. To be salty is not to speak like a sailor but to speak and live in such a way that by way of a purifying influence you add spiritual flavor to those around you. To be salty is to live and talk in such a way that it creates a thirst in those around you. That thirst can be quenched by the living water of the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the Spirit (John 4:13-14; 7:37-39). Wisdom is the ability to apply facts in practical ways. Therefore when we put all of these parts together form this verse it means we should live in a way that creates a thirst in others and wisely apply the gospel of God’s grace in Christ to quench that thirst.

Fifth, be flexible and empathetic but not unfocused. Paul’s attitude toward the lost was as follows:

  • 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”  [48]

These inspired words of Paul teach us that we should be empathetic and understanding of people but always focused on our primary objective, “that I might by all means win some.” Six times Paul repeats his primary objective, “that I might win” the lost. Paul was willing to make himself a servant to others for the sake of the gospel.

Sometimes we get carried away with the nuances of knowing people and their interests. A witnessing opportunity started by way of a common sports interest becomes an prolonged discussion on whose going to win this weeks game. A common interest of the Home Shopping Network can remain just that a dead common denominator, or it can be used by God to lead to a relationship and a witness. We can’t lose our focus of winning the lost by becoming preoccupied with the superficial things of the world; and we certainly should not indulge in sin under the rationale that we are simply trying to relate to the sinner.

Sixth, be holy in love not uncaring. If you interact with people just to get another notch on your witnessing holster you may be able to accumulate some notches by coercion or superficial decisions, but you won’t win souls to Jesus. Witnessing must be motivated by the love of God. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” [49]

Jesus loves the person you are witnessing to. He loves them so much that He died for the person you are witnessing to. Don’t approach people as objects but as people Jesus loves.

Paul wrote about how we should minister to the lost in love when he said:

  • Colossians 3:14 – “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”  [50]

To live a holy life is to grow and mature in the love of God. Love is the “bond of perfection.” The love of God is what makes us complete, useable and equipped to used by Him.  Be filled with the love of the Spirit (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22-24).

A good example of those living in holy love were the Thessalonians of whom Paul wrote:

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 – “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;”  [51]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:8 – “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”  [52]

If you want to be an effective witness for the Lord, you have to be motivated and filled with His love.

Seventh, be in tune with God’s heart, not compromising with the world. There are those who say witnessing is wrong, that it is “proselytizing” as though witnessing were a crime. Those who speak this way come from a philosophical perspective that makes no distinction between religions but hold that all roads lead to heaven. All roads of religion do not lead to heaven, in fact no religious road leads to heaven, only the road that leads to a saving relationship with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ leads to heaven. The world is obsessed with tolerance at the expense of truth, acceptance at the expense of absolutes, and rest at the expense of God’s revelation of His Son Jesus.

We can’t allow ourselves to be taken in and cheated by such worldly philosophy which finds its origin in the pit of hell (Colossians 2:8-9, 13-15). To be an effective witness for the Lord we need to have His priorities. God’s priority is to save souls, that’s why He sent His Son Jesus into the world (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15). God desires that none perish as the Scriptures state:

  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  [53]
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  [54]

God saves souls by taking aim at the heart of sinful people and therefore that is what we should aim at too. God saves a person as that person surrenders their heart to Jesus in faith (Acts 8:36-37). An effective witness is not one who merely wins arguments but one who reaches a sinners heart. Read what Paul said to pastor Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26 – “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  [55]

The person who can be argued into accepting Jesus as their Savior, may be argued out of accepting Him as their Savior. The issue is one of the heart. When a person gives Jesus their heart, lock stock and barrel, they belong to Jesus for life, for eternal life.

And one last thing needs to be emphasized here. God’s priority is to save souls and the way He does that is by leading the sinner to the Savior Jesus, His Son. An effective witness does not focus on sharing about “me” it focuses on sharing Him. The Spirit is not so much interested in sharing about you; the Spirit wants to share about Jesus (John 14:6; 15:26-27). Sharing your testimony is good as long as it points a person to Jesus and doesn’t glorify or bring the focus of the conversation to your self. An effective witness is in tune with God’s heart to save souls and that means we aim to see a person receive Jesus as their Savior with all their heart. That is what effective witnessing is all about.

Now we turn to our primary weapon, the greatest God-given tool in witnessing, God’s word.

God’s Sovereign Use of His Word in His Salvation Plan

Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  [56]

God uses His word to bring a person to saving faith in His Son Jesus; and God uses His word to build up the faith of those He has brought to saving faith in His Son. God’s word is His tool to bring people to and build up saving faith.

Brought to Saving Faith By Hearing God’s Word – God’s Word Gets to the Heart of the Problem

Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing God’s word. Faith doesn’t come from our opinions, other people’s opinions, not even comments on God’s word, but through the undiluted word of God shared with the lost. THE WORD OF GOD IS WHAT GOD USES TO BIRTH AND BUILD FAITH IN PEOPLE.

What does it mean to hear the word of God? The word ”hearing” is translated from, the Greek term AKOE (Strong’s # 189 - 89.     ακοήak-o-ay´; from 191 AKOUO) which means, “hearing (the act, the sense or the thing heard);  audience, ear, fame, which ye heard, hearing, preached, report, rumor.” [57] While this term can refer to simple hearing, the hearing that saves is careful hearing or hearing that is done with the heart. A person is saved when they hear the word of the gospel with their heart and receive Jesus by faith in their hearts based on the word of the gospel they have heard. Let’s note a few things about this hearing.

 

First, we need to understand that God uses His word to cut through excuses and rationalizations made by those in sin. If we attempt to witness to someone and refrain from using God’s word, when the sinner is confronted by us and we seek to convict him or her of their sin, they will simply respond that, “That’s your opinion, we’re all entitled to our opinions, but don’t try to force your opinion on me.” If we witness without God’s word we don’t’ have a leg to stand on because all we share really is only an opinion of our. But if we back up our words with His word, then the authority of God comes to bear in the conversation. The Bible tells us that God’s word cuts through the smokescreen of excuses and gets to the heart of the issue. In Hebrews it states:

 

  • Hebrews 4:12-13 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  [58]

Your witness and whatever form of ministry you are involved in will be powerful in proportion to the amount of the word of God you base and found it upon. God’s word is the channel to God’s power and authority in witnessing and ministry because God’s word comes from His heart and strikes at the heart of people.

 

Second, we need to understand that God uses His word to bring about spiritual birthing in unbelievers. We see this in a number of passages two of which are as follows:

 

  • James 1:18 – “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”  [59]
  • 1 Peter 1:22-25 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  [60]

God uses His word to bring about salvation and spiritual birth in a person. But how does that happen? How does God use His word to bring about salvation? We have already seen how God uses people to share or communicate His word and gospel. That which is voiced forth must be heard with the heart and received in order to be saved.

 

Third, the hearing that brings a person to saving faith in Jesus is hearing that is done with the heart, hearing that takes God’s word to heart. There are a number of portions of Scripture that teach us that God aims His word at our heart, God’s word must take root in the heart. Earlier in Romans 10 Paul spoke of the word in the heart saying:

 

  • Romans 10:8-10 – “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  [61] (Deuteronomy 30:14)

To hear God’s word mans to take it to heart.

 

The hearing that leads to salvation is heart hearing that leads to a heart decision to receive Jesus by faith as Savior. When a person is given opportunity to hear God’s word, they must take it down into their heart and internalize it. We see this in the parable of the Sower where Jesus described those who were saved as: 

 

  • Matthew 13:23 - “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  [62]
  • Luke 8:15 - “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”  [63]

Notice Luke’s translation which states, “having heard the word with a noble and good heart.” Here we see the direct connection between hearing and the heart. True hearing, hearing that leads to salvation is hearing that is done with the heart.

The need to internalize or take God’s word to heart when it is heard is also seen in the following verses:  

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [64]

The one who hears God’s word must receive it as God’s word. Many people hear the gospel, but treat it and respond to it as though it were just another sales pitch or something to be avoided. In such cases a person may hear with their ears, but their heart is closed and they refuse to receive the gospel of Jesus (see below).

 

This should teach us how important it is to include God’s word in our witnessing. When you seek to witness apart from God’s word you open yourself to the accusation, “Oh, that’s only your opinion.” But when you use God’s word in witnessing, you bring the authority of God into the conversation. God’s word is His main tool in bringing people to salvation and we should therefore use it to strike at the heart of sin. God uses His word to change the heart of the sinner. 

Fourth, it is possible to hear God’s word and not take it to heart and not respond to the gospel. Jesus and Paul both quoted Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-10) concerning the possibility of hearing God’s word and not taking it to heart. Jesus said:

 

  • Matthew 13:10-17 – “And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12 “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.14 “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 1 ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;17 “for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”   [65]

Paul said:

  • Acts 28:25-27 – “So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,26 “saying, 1 ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive;27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” ’  [66]

These verses show us that it is possible to hear God’s word with our ears but close our heart to what we hear.

Fifth, it is the Spirit of God that applies the word of God to people’s hearts.  It is important that the ears with which we hear listen with an open heart  to the word of God communicated by the Spirit. When Jesus wrote to the Seven Churches of Revelation this was an often repeated exhortation as He said:

  • Revelation 2:7a – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [67] (See also 2:11,17,29; 3:6,13,22)

But God uses His word to draw people to Himself in saving faith. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the unbeliever. The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of their sin (John 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit washes and regenerates to eternal life those who hear God’s word with the heart and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Titus 3:5-6). The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit uses the word of God to point out sin in the unbeliever and believer and if the patient submits and surrenders to Him, the Spirit will use the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, to cut out the sin.

 

When we look in the Bible for examples of witnessing we see the use of God’s word is prominent in carrying out God’s plan of salvation to the lost (e.g. Peter at Pentecost – Acts 2; Philip and the Eunuch – Acts 8; Paul in Cyprus, Pisidia Antioch, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens – Acts 13 and 17). The first century church turned the world upside down because they prayerfully depended on the Spirit to boldly minister the word of God to the lost.

Built Up In Faith By Hearing the Word of God – The Spirit of God Building Up the People of God by the Word of God

Once a person has heard the word with their heart and received Jesus as their Savior God continues to use His word to build that faith up on a firm foundation. Truly God’s sovereign plan involves the Spirit of God building up the people of God by the word of God.

 

Paul noted the importance of God’s word in the faith building process or edification when he was inspired to write:

 

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  [68]

You can’t grow as a Christian or be “thoroughly equipped for every good work,”  without a steady diet of God’s word. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when He was being tempted by Satan and said:

  • Matthew 4:4 – “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”  [69]

We live by the word of God. What benefits do we glean from God’s word? The following are some practical pointers about God’s word and how it is used by God to build us up.

First, God’s word will raises up Jesus in our heart. Peter was inspired to write:

  • 2 Peter 1:16-21 – “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  [70]

What did Peter mean when he referred to, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”? The context of these verse is Peter speaking about the “power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 16). And this is what Peter refers to when he speaks of the “morning star.” The Old Testament refers to Messiah with this imagery and Jesus Himself refers to Himself in this way, as a bringer of light. Read the scriptures which bear witness to this:

  • Malachi 4:2 – “But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.”  [71]
  • Luke 1:76-79 - “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins,78 Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.”   [72]
  • Revelation 22:16 - “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”  [73]

When the Spirit of God applies the word of God to your heart, He will raise up Jesus in you.

Second, God’s word helps us to steer clear of sin. The psalmist wrote:

  • Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”  [74]

We know what sin is by the word of God and we overcome sin in our lives by relying on the Spirit applying God’s word to our lives.

Third, God’s word brings His joy to our hearts. Joy is that settled feeling of satisfaction and rightness that comes from knowing you are in the will of God. All hell could be breaking loose around you and the world falling apart about you, but with God’s word assuring you that you are going in the right direction, you will get through. God’s word implanted in our heart makes us ready and unashamed in all situations. God’s word brings such joy to our heart. Read of what the Bible says about the link between God’s word and our heart joy:

  • Psalm 19:8 – “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;”  [75]
  • Jeremiah 15:16 – “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”  [76]

Fourth, God’s word brings His song of grace to our heart. The Spirit brings a right attitude and general sense of well-being to the believer by applying God’s word to the heart. We need to let God’s word dwell in us richly. When God’s word dwells richly in our heart, we experience the fullness of God’s grace and that is enough to make anyone in any situation sing. Paul wrote about this saying:

  • Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  [77]

 

Fifth, alternatives to God’s word cheat you of God’s best; we need to be built up and edified by God’s word. There is so much spiritual benefit received from God’s word. It is a shame that certain parts of the “church” have supplanted human tradition and worldly philosophy for God’s word. In such cases we settle for far less than God’s best and indeed God’s word warns us not to let ourselves be cheated by trying to feed on anything less than God’s word. Paul points this out when he is inspired to write to the Colossians with the following words:

  • Colossians 2:6-10 – “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [78]

God uses His word to build up our faith. The Spirit of God uses the word of God to buildup the people of God. That is how God works in us.

Sixth, therefore, we need to hold on to God’s word and live it by faith in the power of the Spirit. God’s word and the Spirit’s application of it to our lives is God’s means to build up our faith. This is a foundational principle of God’s truth and word. WE see this truth in the following verses:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21 – “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”  [79]
  • 1 Timothy 6:3-5 – “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”  [80]
  • 2 Timothy 1:13-14 – “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”  [81]
  • Titus 1:9 – “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”  [82]

To be ready and unashamed, as we have been considering in our study of Romans, we need to hold fast to God’s word and let the Spirit apply it to our lives and share it with others though us.

God’s Sovereign Predestined Provocation

Romans 10:18-21 – “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”    [83]

Paul returns to the topic of Israel’s salvation. He shows that they have heard the gospel in anticipation that some might claim that they hadn’t heard it or were ignorant of it (10:18). The bottom line is that just as Isaiah stated (Isaiah 65:1-2) God was received by Gentiles but rejected by His own, Israel. Israel is without excuse. Again we see God’s inclusion of freewill in His sovereign salvation plan. We will get into more detail with God’s plan for Israel in Romans 11.

Just like Israel, there will always be people who are offered salvation even in the power of the Spirit by the ministry of God’s word, and they will reject it. Success as a minister of God is not based on responsiveness of those ministered to, but on the faithfulness of the minister to trust God and press on in ministry to the lost.

 God’s Predestined Plan For Israel

Israel is without excuse. But even though Israel has been hardhearted and resistant toward God, His Son, the Holy Spirit and the gospel, God isn’t through with them yet. God in His sovereign will still plans to work in and through Israel. That is what Paul will address in Romans 11.

Conclusion

I wonder if when Edward Kimball gathered the nerve to witness and win the soul
of a young shoe salesman named D.L. Moody to Christ, that he fully realized just how extensively God would use that act of faith? I wonder if Kimball knew that D.L. Moody would go on to become one of the greatest evangelists in his world and travel England where he would be used by God to bring about a change in the ministry of F.B. Meyer. F.B. Meyer, with his new evangelistic fervor, influenced J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman helped in the ministry of converted baseball player Billy Sunday, who had a profound impact upon Mordacai Ham. And Mordacai Ham, holding a revival in North Carolina, led BILLY GRAHAM to Christ. And Billy Graham has shared the gospel with more people than anyone other man in history. I wonder if Edward Kimball thought God was going to use him to do all of that when he first trusted God to step out in faith and share his faith with that obscure young shoe salesman? I wonder if anyone could have imagined that?

Vance Havner, who served many years as the chaplain of the United States Senate once said, “We are not going to move the world by criticism of it, nor conformity to it, but only by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.” I agree with that statement but would change it a bit to say the world will only be changed when our hearts are ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit. God has a sovereign plan of salvation and He wants to use people to fulfill it. Will you give Him your heart and let Him ignite it? Oh that all our hearts would be ignited with a holy boldness! Then and only then will we be ready and unashamed to be used by God.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40] Humor read by Jack Taylor at the Amber Rose Conference, Portland, OR -11/7/98

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[79]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[82]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[83]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.