February 20, 2023
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And 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!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Isn’t it marvelous that in the very next chapter after Paul writes in Romans 9, “I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion,” he writes, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Paul’s response to God’s sovereign salvation is not passivity but activity. God alone knows those who are his, and it is our responsibility to preach the gospel indiscriminately and with great hope. As the Westminster Confession of Faith states in 5.3, “God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means.” We are the means that God ordinarily uses. Now, can God save people without the means of the preaching of the word of Christ? Yes. As the Confession states in 5.3, “yet [God] is free to work without, above, and against them [means].” So yes, God can save someone without proclamation, but we would categorize that as extraordinary or miraculous.
How does God ordinarily save those who are his? God ordinarily brings salvation through the ordinary means of providence, using our feet to take the gospel and our lips to proclaim the gospel. In his ordinary providence, God has called us to proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in his Word. Those of us who belong to the Reformed tradition should have the highest zeal for evangelism, mission, and preaching, while also possessing a posture of dependent rest and hope as we go and proclaim.
Indeed it is true: “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.” Quoting from Isaiah 52:7, Paul captures the picture of a messenger running across the mountainside to report good news concerning the outcome of a battle. Let us take up our call as heralds of the King, going to our world and throughout all nations proclaiming good news and preaching the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. May we run as ambassadors announcing what Paul announces in Romans 3:21-22, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Freely, gladly, and confidently, may we preach the Word so that many may believe.
Brian Salter is the Lead Pastor of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.