Tag Archives: Romans 10

How shall they hear?

The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got – all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols….”It is plain to see that you Athenians takeyour religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.

(Acts17)

This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God – “Jesus is my Master” – embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation…It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help….but how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if ¬†nobody tells them?

(Romans 10)

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.

(1Peter 3)

All from The Message – the New Testament in contemporary language

When Paul stood up in the Areopagus in Athens, to direct the attention of this diverse and intelligently curious people to the ‘unknown god’ whom they worshipped, he faced a major challenge. Which language should he use?

As a Pharisee – a teacher of the Jewish law – he was skilled in using all the technical language which grows up around faith and the literature on which that faith is built. The terminology was second nature to him, and he was adept in drawing on scripture for his arguments. In his new life as an apostle, and a church-planter and teacher, these skills were hugely significant, equipping him to articulate and elucidate all the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ as the long- awaited Messiah.

But as he moved further from Jerusalem, and as the Holy Spirit moved him further from Jewish populations, he had to articulate and teach faith to people who had no background in the books and culture of Judaism, and no family history of observance to inform their understanding. Paul had to learn new ways to communicate this world-changing faith, this good news about Jesus Christ, which would be understood by people of completely different religious backgrounds. His speech to the Athenians as recorded in Acts 17 is one such attempt, and is often cited as a model for evangelistic addresses in places where there is no history of christian faith (and he didn’t hesitate to call for repentance in light of coming judgement!)

In studying this passage with folk at church recently, we agreed that in order to effectively share our faith with our neighbours – a thing we agree is right – we need to purge our speech of all the technical jargon which followers of Jesus tend to adopt. We need to have thought clearly about what is meant by salvation, about the incarnation and the divinity of Jesus, about resurrection and sanctification – all these big words which we use so lightly!

It can be helpful to read regularly in versions of the bible such as the Message, because they use contemporary language for complex concepts, and we learn how to express ourselves in the words of daily life when sharing our faith. I was challenged by this study, to think how readily I talk in an almost coded ‘faith-speak’ which would be incomprehensible to a person without a long experience of the bible. In the same way that I lack the knowledge to ‘read’ ancient religious mosaics, so my hearers will fail to understand me. I may well be speaking truth, but the message isn’t getting through!

If I am serious about sharing the good news of a new start in life, a real healing for brokenness and hope for the future, then for the sake of my neighbours, I need to put in the work and learn to talk simply and courteously about Jesus.

How shall they come to faith in God, if no one tells them about him? And if the words I use, and the life I live is too remote from their experience of daily life, then they will not hear, no matter how earnestly I speak to them.

May I become in this more like Jesus, who lived among us, full of grace and truth, and in his words and actions, spoke directly to the hearts of his hearers.

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Only let me speak!

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just a it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

(Romans 1.16-17

Nice people… kind and generous….so welcoming!

Is that all we are, as the body of Christ in the world, ‘Nice’?

Is our desire not to cause offence to our neighbours eroding our ability to speak truth and to share the gospel of Christ? I think it may be doing exactly that. I know that I am so afraid of offending people, of losing their attention, that I am very careful about what I say in regard to my faith and the gospel which is so precious to me. The modern passion for ‘tolerance’ is very effectively gagging Christians in their personal evangelism, and the life of the church is being smothered out of it by the kindly consideration of our neighbours toward our outdated beliefs.

With Christian friends, I can be on fire in my desire to share the good news of sin forgiven; but put me in the swimming pool changing room, with people who don’t recognise sin or who find the idea offensive, and I become a very different person! I believe that my heavenly Father sees my longing to share his love with others, and is glad. But I also reckon that my failure to speak is a source of grief, and one of my besetting sins. It is so much easier to keep putting off the difficult conversations, giving the inoffensive answers. And yet, I wonder if people would actually be surprised if I asked them one day, just what they thought about Jesus?

If I am known as a Christian, then perhaps such a question would not be offensive, just predictable, and fully in keeping with the belief I claim to live by. Perhaps, by failing to ask the question, I am undermining the witness I seek to present, being inconsistent? Is my failure to speak naturally about the Lord of my life not a direct contradiction of my faith?

I need to remember that I am not responsible for the reaction to my question, only for asking it in the first place – and ideally not asking until I have prayed and developed some basis of relationship on which to hold the conversation! But it comes down to this basic issue, put so forcefully by Paul later on in his letter to the church in Rome:

As Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 

(Romans 10.11-14)

If I have found the solid rock on which to build my life, the secure foundation for eternity and a fulness of joy which is beyond telling, then why will I not share it with those around me? I have no right to keep such good news to myself when others are being tossed around me in the storms of life, or towed under into despair and hopelessness, and eternal separation from God, from goodness, from light.

As I settle into this new community where God has placed us, I am looking to develop relationships where I might have the opportunity to speak about Christ, to introduce him to souls who don’t know they need him yet. There will be many who have already dismissed the gospel as ‘not for them’, sadly often on the basis of bad experiences of church and ‘christian’ attitudes. Perhaps I might be the means by which God opens their eyes again to the glorious possibility that He is true and loving and entirely FOR them! What an amazing privilege that would be, to watch someone come alive in Christ, and go on to grow to live for and with him.

May I be stirred up in my daily living to speak of my Lord, and to make him part of my conversation, so that those with whom I now live might be given the opportunity to call upon his name, and be saved!