Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 24th, 2018.
Let us begin this morning with our June memory verse, which also happens to be a portion of our text for this morning’s message. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Before we read our Scripture passage in its entirety, I want to tell you a brief story about a conversation I had with someone in this community this week. We began by discussing general topics and we transitioned into talking about the gospel. I made a reference to the Catholic Church’s false teaching; this particular person was a Catholic. They took offense to my comment and began to push back in a very common catholic way, specifically claiming that works are necessary to be saved, specifically that you can’t just believe in Jesus and that is it. I responded with, do you believe in the Bible, he kind of shook his head yes, and then I stated that the Bible tells us that you are saved by believing in Christ. I quoted him John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I then pointed out that this verse expressly states that eternal life is dependent upon believing, and Jesus does not mention anything about works being necessary.
I would like to say that my quotation of John 3:16 caused him to change his view, but it didn’t. At the end of the conversation, he said something to the effect that my way is not the only way to love God. And that statement of his stuck with me, for therein lies the problem with many people, this particular man included. They have created “their way” to get right with God, and “their way” is not God’s way as revealed in the Bible. And that is what is crucial. It doesn’t matter what your dogma is, if it is not God’s dogma, then it is vanity. The Bible makes it explicitly clear that it is through faith by grace that justifies us before God. It is the one and only way to love God. In addition to John 3:16, I could have quoted numerous Biblical text, such as:
Call on Him
First call on him. In verse 14. Paul says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” So what is the big deal about calling on him? What is important about calling on Jesus. The big deal is found in verse 13, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?” The act of calling on Jesus saves you. Saves you from what? Saves of from God's wrath against us due to our sin. This is the wrath of God that we read about in Romans 1. The wrath of God that is comprised of spiritual death, physical death, and then the second death, more commonly known as Hell. The act of calling on Christ, saves us from this wrath.
So what does it mean to call on Christ? The Greek word of call is epikaleō (e-pē-kä-le'-ō). Which means, to request help, to appeal to, to cry out in dependence. To call is to recognize that you are unable in your current circumstance to help yourself, so your call out to another who has the power to provide the aid you need.
Perhaps imagine a being swept away down a raging river with a knowledge that just around the bend lies Niagara falls. You know that if you go over those falls, death is inevitable, yet you find yourself completely helpless due to the power of the current of the River. You realize that you cannot do a thing about your situation, so what do you do? You call for help. In fact, you call with every once of your being, “Help! Someone save me!” This is what it means to call.
Verse 13 is actually a quote from the Old Testament book of Joel 2:32. Which happens to also be the same verse quoted by the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit rushed upon the scene and convicted 3,000 people of their sin. After being convicted of their sin, they understand their situation and their powerlessness, so they called out for salvation in Christ. And this call on Jesus saved them from God's wrath, nothing more and nothing less. Christ alone has the power to save. This is why his name is Jesus for Jesus means the Lord Saves.
Believe in Him
So what would cause someone to call on Christ? Believing in Him, which is the next backwards step in the progression. Look at verse 14 again, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? Belief produces a calling. A true calling on Christ comes out of a heart that truly believes in Christ. Without belief there would be no call the saves.
This seems to be pretty straightforward, but unfortunately, for many people this is where they go wrong. There are people who call upon Christ, but do not actually believe in Christ. These would be people whom Jesus speaks about in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” These people are not truly calling on Christ, for they don't truly believe in him, specifically his Lordship.
These are the people that Paul speaks about in 2 Timothy 3:5, “having the appearance of godliness, but deny it's power.” They go through religious motions such as going to Church, saying hail Mary's, taking communion, or praying periodically, but lack true faith in the sufficiency of Christ.
These are the people who practice Pharisaical hypocrisy that we talked about this morning in Sunday School, the leaven of the Pharisees, those who claim Jesus but live a life inconsistent with that belief, sexually immoral, greedy, liars, etc..
These are the people who Jesus refers to in Revelation 3:16 when he says, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” In summary, those who inadequately call on Christ because they don't truly believe in Christ are those who we call false converts in the Church.
Unfortunately, the American church is full of false converts who claim Christ, but do not truly believe in Christ. Their “calling” on Christ is one that is born out of culture, born out of tradition, born out of their family. Their calling or claiming Christ comes from the flesh, not from the Spirit. And as Jesus says in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
The word believe in Greek is pisteuō (pē-styü'-ō). It means to have faith in something. In fact, many times this word is translated to faith. In fact, we see this in verse 17. It is the same core word. Verse 14 translated to believe, verse 17 translated to faith. So what does it mean to have faith in Jesus? Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith (pistis) is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is having assurance and conviction. It is something we have deep inside of us. It is more than just an intellectual recognition. Other translations use the word confidence. Perhaps another word that could be used, and commonly is, is the word trust.
This leads to the question, trust in what? It means to have 1) a trust in the wrath of God that is, and is to come, and to 2) a trust that Christ is the only means to be saved from this wrath. Once again, think about Niagra falls. You must believe the falls are coming and you must believe Jesus has the power to save. You cannot have one without the other. They are both necessary.
If you do not have faith in the upcoming wrath of God, you will not call out to him or anyone for that matter for salvation. You will float through life without a care in the world, admiring the scenery before you plunge to your death. , storing up treasures in this world, living for the passions of your flesh, oblivious to the crushing water falls that lie ahead.
If you don't believe in Christ being the only means for salvation, then you will not be pulled from the water. Jesus explicitly says that he alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus says that he alone is the doorway into Paradise. Jesus says he alone is the bread of life, the living water. Jesus says he alone is the resurrection and the life. It is Jesus who came to seek and save the lost. He does not need anyone's help, including yours. As Jonathan Edwards once said, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
If you do not believe in the power of Christ to save you single handedly, then you do not truly believe in him, have faith in him, trust in him. You lack confidence in Christ. This is what the entire book of Galatians is all about. Paul says in Galatians 5:4, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” If you trust in your works, even in the slightest, to justify you, then you are severed from Christ. And to be severed from Christ is to have no hope for salvation. You must let go of the paddle of your good works and cling to the hand of Jesus.
To believe in Christ is to put your complete, one hundred percent trust in his life, death and resurrection to save you from God's wrath.
Hear of Him
Which leads to a question, and the next backwards step in our progression. In order to cling to Christ, we must hear of Christ. Verse 14 again, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” The only way people can believe in God's coming wrath and God's saving grace in Christ, is by hearing the message of this crucial truth.
These fundamental truths must be communicated. Verse 17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Faith is necessary to call out to Christ, and faith does not appear out of nowhere, it is a result of hearing the Gospel. This is why earlier in the letter to the Romans it says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), because faith comes from hearing. And this is why we must preach the gospel. They must hear and we must preach.
Sadly, so many so called Christians don't understand this basic truth. They believe that people will put their faith in Jesus because of their behavior. These are the people who say things like, I don't like to preach to people, I just like to show Christ in my good works. Are good works good? Sure, but your works won't save anyone. Verse 17 does not say that faith comes from observing. It says that faith comes from hearing. This is they way God chose to expand his Kingdom, through the speaking of the Gospel. If you want your loved ones, your co-workers, your neighborhood, the world to be saved you must preach to them. They must hear before they can believe.
Hear what? They must hear about the Lord's coming judgment and Jesus who has already paid the price for their sin. This two truths must be communicated. Unfortunately, often times they are not. Many Christians do not proclaim the full Word of Christ. They leave out the most important aspect of the Good news, and that is the bad news. The good news of the Gospel is not good news if the bad news of our sin and judgment is not proclaimed to the lost.
Sent by Him
And at the very beginning of our logical progression to convert the sinner we find the catalyst. Verse 15, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
In order for the lost to hear, the saved must speak. Why would the saved speak? Because we are a people who have been sent. Sent by whom? Sent by Jesus Christ, our Lord. This is our great commission. Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
This is why we, saved sinners, are still in this world, we have work to do. The Lord has saved us and sent us. He has sent us to our families. He has sent us to our neighborhoods. He has sent us to our friends. He has sent us to the nations to preach the gospel.
Yet, sadly, so few of us are willing. So few of us are obeying. We put our own comfort ahead of God's explicit commands. So often I hear people say things like, “I just wish I knew what God's calling for me in my life was?” You want to God's will for you? ““How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” When you, out of love for Christ, and a love for the elect, go to the lost sheep and preach the Gospel, God sees your act of gospel obedience as beautiful.
Wouldn't it be great if God looked down at Cornerstone Church and the words he used to describe us and what we were doing here as beautiful? There is no reason this can't be achieved. It simply takes a love for the Lord, and obedience to do his will, and a voice to proclaim the good news.