(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 4/29/12 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 10, and let’s read verses 11 through 15:
Romans 10: (11) For the Scripture says, Everyone believing on Him will not be put to shame. (12) For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord of all is rich toward all the ones calling on Him. (13) For everyone, whoever may call on the name of [the] Lord will be saved. (14) How then may they call on [One] into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe [One] of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching? (15) And how may they preach if they are not sent? Even as it has been written, How beautiful the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things.
The last time we were here, we looked at verse 14, which included three of the four rhetorical questions in logical sequence: “How then may they call on One into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe One of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching?” We saw that in order for each rhetorical question to make sense, the answer in each case was, “They CAN’T.” And we saw that in order for this sequence to make sense, the Holy Spirit through Paul HAD to be saying that ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION who call on the Lord BELIEVE in the One they call on. ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION who BELIEVE in the One they call on have HEARD of the One they call on. ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION who have HEARD of the One they call on have had the GOSPEL PREACHED to them. This way of reasoning does not allow for ANY exceptions. There is NO OTHER WAY to interpret these questions. It is ABSOLUTELY airtight, TOTALLY sealed against any attempted infiltration of exceptions. If there is EVEN ONE exception, then the entire argument crumbles, and God’s Holy Word is found to be in error.
We now come to the final rhetorical question in the logical sequence: “And how may they preach if they are not sent?” Now we already know that the answer to this question is, “They can’t.” They can’t preach if they are not sent. This MUST mean that ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION who PREACH are SENT. Now one of the first things that might pop up in people’s minds is this: What about all those false preachers? Don’t they preach? Well, this is a good lesson in exegesis, or Biblical interpretation. We’ve already seen that the way these rhetorical questions are worded and the way that they logically fit together EXCLUDE any exceptions. So with that in mind, we must ask: Who are the THEY in this passage? Well, we can see from the context, both before and after this passage, that the THEY are those who preach THE TRUE GOSPEL. So now we can say that this rhetorical question means that all without exception who preach THE TRUE GOSPEL are SENT. And we know that the true gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. All those who preach this good news are SENT.
The Greek word for “to send” in this passage is ap-os-TEL-lo, from which we get the word “apostle.” It means “to send forth, out, off, or away.” It denotes a sending for a particular PURPOSE. So who are the sent ones? Well, as you might expect, there is a diversity of opinion about this. Some say that it is confined to those who are qualified to be pastors and teachers. This may include what is called a “call to the ministry,” which can mean all sorts of things, including some mystical experience on the part of the one who “felt the call.” And some would take it further and say that it is only those who are ordained ministers, however they define “ordained,” and that varies as well. Of course, these are the ones who tend to make exceptions to the rhetorical question and say that qualified, called, ordained pastors and teachers are ORDINARILY the way the gospel gets preached to the lost. If you’re going to keep to the true meaning of the passage and still hold to the view that those who are “sent” are only qualified, called, ordained pastors and teachers, then you can’t make any exceptions. You have to conclude that this is the ONLY way that the gospel is preached to the lost, and there can be NO OTHER WAY. Others confine it to just the apostles and prophets. Once again, most who say this will say that this is the ORDINARY way. Some will say that this passage was only meant to apply to the time of the apostles, and some will further restrict it and say that it was only meant to apply to the preaching of the apostles to the Gentiles. Well, we can see from the context that Paul quotes from the Old Testament right after the rhetorical question, so it can’t be just the apostles, and in verse 16, he quotes from another Old Testament passage about the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. However, there is a view that would be orthodox and consistent with the truth of the passage that there are no exceptions that would hold that this is talking about only the apostles and prophets. In this view, those who are sent are the apostles and prophets who were inspired to write the Bible, and the preaching of the gospel of the apostles and prophets is the only way that people hear the true gospel. I can see the merit of that view. There’s another view that I can see the merit of, as long as it is held to in an orthodox way. This view is that those who are sent are any believer whom God providentially sends to an unbeliever and preaches the gospel to the unbeliever. Again, if this view is to be held to, it must include the truth that there are no exceptions. As Calvin said on this passage, “The gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above.”
Now I’d like to go into some scenarios, which I think will answer a lot of the questions that will come into people’s minds.
Here’s the first scenario: Mr. A is a believer who is the pastor of a local assembly. He preaches the true gospel. Under the first orthodox view, the sent ones are still the apostles and prophets through the written Word. Under the second orthodox view, the sent one is Mr. A.
Here’s the second scenario: Mr. B is a believer who is not a pastor in the local assembly. He preaches the true gospel to an unbeliever outside of the assembly. Under the first orthodox view, the sent ones are the apostles and prophets through the written Word, and under the second orthodox view, the sent one is Mr. B.
Here’s the third scenario: Mr. C is an unbeliever who is a false preacher in a synagogue of Satan. He explicitly preaches a false gospel of universal atonement. Is there any way that an unbeliever can be saved listening to this preacher? Well, before you jump to saying “No” right away, think about it. It really depends on what this preacher is saying at the time the unbeliever is listening. Can someone be saved hearing a false gospel? No way. So if Mr. C is preaching a false gospel, no unbelievers will be saved. But what if this false preacher decides to just read the entire book of Romans? And then, what if someone who has never heard this preacher comes to visit the false church that day and ONLY hears the book of Romans read by the false preacher, with no commentary from the false preacher? Can a person be saved under such a circumstance? YES! He has heard the TRUE GOSPEL from the lips of an unregenerate preacher! Of course, if he comes back to that church the next week and hears Mr. C preach a false gospel of universal atonement, he will recognize that Mr. C is not preaching the true gospel. But where does this fit in the two orthodox views? It’s actually the same in both views. The sent one is NOT Mr. C, but it is the apostle Paul who wrote the book of Romans. So this person was converted under the preaching of the APOSTLE PAUL, whose words were publicly read by a false preacher.
Here’s the fourth scenario: Mr. D is an unbeliever who is a false preacher in another kind of synagogue of Satan - it’s a Calvinist synagogue of Satan. Suppose Mr. D never talks about universal atonement advocates being his brothers in Christ from the pulpit. Suppose he preaches that the gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, with no contribution from the sinner. Suppose he preaches repentance from ever thinking that salvation was conditioned on yourself in any way to any degree. Could a person be converted under such a circumstance? YES! He has heard the TRUE GOSPEL from the lips of an unregenerate preacher! And once again, both orthodox views would be the same - the ones called are the apostles and prophets who wrote the true gospel that is found in the Bible. This reminds me of Philippians 1:15-18. Let’s turn over there:
Philippians 1: (15) Some, indeed, even proclaim Christ because of envy and strife, but some also because of good will. (16) These, indeed, announce Christ out of party spirit, not sincerely, thinking to add affliction to my bonds. (17) But these [others] out of love, knowing that I am set for defense of the gospel. (18) What then? Yet in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and I rejoice in this; yet also I will rejoice.
Here, Paul rejoices that the true Christ is being proclaimed, even if it’s in pretense! So it is not biblical to hold to the view that a person can be converted only while listening to a regenerate preacher. However, if the preacher is unregenerate, that unregenerate preacher MUST be saying the true gospel, even though he doesn't truly believe it.
Here’s the fifth scenario: Mr. E is an unbeliever who gives out Bibles on the street. Another unbeliever gets the Bible, reads the book of John, and is saved. Once again, both orthodox views would be the same - the one called is the apostle John, who is the preacher in this instance.
So I hope you get the gist here. And you might have noticed that in the majority of the cases, both of the orthodox views were exactly the same. So as long as you hold to the view that every single saved person has been saved through hearing the preaching of the true gospel and that every single person preaching the true gospel has been called, I can’t say that one particular view is right or wrong.
Now let’s go into the remainder of verse 15:
Romans 10: (15b) Even as it has been written, How beautiful the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things.
This is a partial quote from Isaiah 52:7. The first part talks about “beautiful feet.” What does that mean? Well, how were messages sent back in the days of the writing of the Bible? If you wanted to send a message to someone far away, you’d write the message and then GIVE it to someone who would DELIVER the message. Sometimes, if the message were urgent, the deliverer would RUN to deliver the message. So “feet” here are a picture of the activity of delivering a message. Imagine a group of people who see someone in the distance coming toward them, bringing something with him as he approaches. And in this case, what is the messenger bringing? Well, from the first part of the verse, we know that this messenger has been SENT. And from the last part of the verse, we know that this messenger brings the gospel of peace and good things. This messenger has brought good news! That’s what makes his feet, his delivery, “beautiful.” What makes his feet beautiful are not his feet themselves, but what he brings with his feet. It is the beauty of the gospel. Think of a group of people in the desert who are dying of thirst, and there comes a man or a group of men with cool, life-giving water. How beautiful are the feet of those who come with the water! That’s how those who have been sent by God to preach the life-giving gospel are described. What is more beautiful than the gospel? What is more needed in this whole world than the gospel?
The gospel is described here in two ways; the first is specific, and the second is general. The first is the gospel of PEACE. Peace is the opposite of war or enmity. By nature in Adam, all without exception are at war with God, children of wrath. There is no peace between God and unregenerate man. There’s no good news there; there’s just a curse. So where does the beautiful good news come in? The good news is that God's wrath was fully appeased when Jesus Christ became sin for His people and suffered the just punishment for that sin. The blood of Christ made peace between God and all for whom Christ died. Let’s turn to some passages from Isaiah on peace, and let’s meditate on how beautiful this peace is:
Isaiah 9: (6) For a Child is born; to us a Son is given; and the government is on His shoulder; and His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) There is no end to the increase of [His] government and of peace on the throne of David, and on His kingdom, to order it, and to sustain it with justice and with righteousness, from now and forever. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts will do this.
Isaiah 32: (16) Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness shall dwell in the fruitful field. (17) And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the service of righteousness shall be quietness and hope forever. (18) And My people shall live in a peaceful home, and in safe dwellings, and in secure resting places.
Isaiah 40: (1) Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God. (2) Speak lovingly to the heart of Jerusalem; yea, cry to her that her warfare is done, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has taken from the hand of Jehovah double for all her sins.
Isaiah 53: (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions; [He was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His wounds we ourselves are healed.
Isaiah 57: (19) [I] create the fruit of the lips: peace, peace, to the ones far off and near, says Jehovah, and I will heal him.
The second way the gospel is described is “the gospel of good things.” This is a more general description that is inclusive of ALL the good things that the gospel entails. Now this wouldn’t just be a topic for one sermon; it could be a topic for an entire series. I’m reminded of what Mary said in Luke 1:53 as she praised God after she was told that she would give birth to Jesus and after John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb for joy; she said, “He filled the hungry with GOOD THINGS.” And it also says that the gospel is ONLY GOOD. There are ONLY BLESSINGS, NO CURSINGS to those who believe the gospel. As Ephesians 1:3 says, God has blessed us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in the heavenlies with Christ. When thinking of the gospel of peace and of good things, I am reminded of the multitude of angels in Luke 2:14 announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth toward men of his good-will.
To close, let’s read the first chapter of Colossians. As we read this, think about what we have gone over today - the gospel being preached by those sent out, the beautiful delivery of the gospel, and the gospel being described as the gospel of peace and the gospel of good things:
Colossians 1: (1) Paul, [an] apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, (2) to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ. (3) We give thanks to God and [the] Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying continually about you, (4) hearing of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love toward all the saints, (5) because of the hope being laid up for you in Heaven, which you heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel, (6) coming to you, as also in all the world, and it is bearing fruit even also among you, from the day in which you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; (7) even as you also learned from Epaphras our beloved fellow-slave, who is a faithful minister of Christ for you, (8) he also showing to us your love in [the] Spirit. (9) For this cause also, from the day in which we heard, we do not cease praying on your behalf, and asking that you may be filled [with] the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, (10) [for] you to walk worthily of the Lord to all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and growing into the full knowledge of God; (11) being empowered with all power according to the might of His glory, to all patience and long-suffering with joy; (12) giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit for a share of the inheritance of the saints in light, (13) who delivered us out of the authority of darkness, and translated [us] into the kingdom of the Son of His love, (14) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins; (15) who is [the] image of the invisible God, [the] First-born of all creation. (16) For all things were created in Him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, the visible and the invisible; whether thrones, or lordships, or rulers, or authorities, all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17) And He is before all things, and all things have subsisted in Him. (18) And He is the Head of the body, the assembly, who is [the] Beginning, [the] First-born out of [the] dead, that He be preeminent in all things; (19) because all the fullness was pleased to dwell in Him, (20) and through Him making peace by the blood of His cross, to reconcile all things to Himself; through Him, whether the things on the earth, or the things in the heavens. (21) And you then being alienated and hostile in [your] mind by evil works, but now He reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and without blemish and irreproachable before Him, (23) if indeed you continue in the faith grounded and settled and not being moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard proclaimed in all the creation under Heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister, (24) who now rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf and fill up in my flesh the things lacking of the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which [is] the assembly, (25) of which I became a minister, according to the administration of God given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God, (26) the mystery having been hidden from the ages and from the generations, but now was revealed to His saints; (27) to whom God willed to make known what [are] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, who is Christ in you, the hope of glory; (28) whom we announce, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man full-grown in Christ Jesus, (29) for which also I labor, struggling according to the working of Him who works in me in power.