“Wrestling With Romans”
Faith Comes By Hearing the Word (Chapter 10 Verses 1-21)
Taking up from the previous note (v17), because it is so important in our own day. Getting people to hear the message of salvation, fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28.16ff), our responsibility is not fulfilled by simply standing up and preaching. The circumstances to which people are invited, the atmosphere in which the message is proclaimed, and even the way it’s delivered are all of course of the utmost importance. The adage that God is sovereign and he will save who he will save, and it doesn’t really matter how we do it, is nonsense, but it still seems to be the mentality of some people. Nor is the other side of the coin acceptable, that preaching is of little value, so few people are being saved, so let’s not have so much of it. The reading and preaching of God’s word are of vital importance, if we take seriously what Paul says here (v17). Where God’s word is, God is. God’s word should never be taken for granted, or lightly. To hear the word of God, is to meet with God himself. Where God is, his word is. Yes, for some, like Israel, it hardens them (v21; Isaiah 6.9-10). Jesus himself says this will be the case (Matthew 13.11-17), some will be enlightened, and others, the truth hidden from them. But when people hear the word of God in the obedience of faith God blesses them abundantly. The reading of God’s word is no trivial thing either, who ever does it in Church, it should be taken very seriously, and read in the power of God’s Spirit. The Apostles’ expected their letters to be read publicly in all the Churches (Colossians 4.16; 1Thessalonians 5.27; 1Timothy 4.13).
Can the word of God seriously be conveyed to people through the medium of drama, as used by many Churches today? God seems they say to have taught people through this means on occasions. The Old Testament sacrifices and feasts were dramatic presentations of truth, not to mention the New Testament sacraments as a reenactment of God’s works of redemption. What about some of the dramatic presentations of the prophets (Ezekiel 4.1-15), done at God’s command. Or some of Jesus’ parabolic teaching? With Jesus himself playing all the role parts, isn’t the book of Revelation one gigantic drama? Is not this the way people argue for these not-so-modern concepts. For all these trappings were the stuff of the pre-reformation church, it was the Reformation that delivered us from such, along with the musical extravaganzas. The Reformation brought us back to the word of God and it’s sole sufficiency. Paul tells the Corinthian church that when he first came among them, he came simply preaching the testimony of God, i.e., the word of God (1Corinthians 2:1). No fanfare, no cleverness, no drama, simply the preaching of God’s word. Nothing that would distract from that proclamation. The problem is these other fads displace the word, and empty the cross of its power. A clear presentation of God’s word with simplicity, preached with spiritual power, is essential. That’s what brings salvation to people (v17).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)