“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias (Isaiah) saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:16–17, KJV 1900)
I am sure many of us have had the experience where someone warned us about a problem, but we did not listen. Later we heard the infamous words, “I told you so!” Once my dad and I were fishing where there were many underwater obstacles near the bank. Dad told me to reel in the line fast so the fishing rig would clear the stuff on the bottom of the water. However, I did not listen and got hung up on something and broke my line, losing the fishing rig. I heard my dad’s advice, but did not hearken to it.
In Romans 10 Paul has been focusing on Israel and their failure as a nation to trust in Jesus. In verse 16, Paul states “they have not all obeyed the gospel.” It is interesting that the word “obeyed,” the verb hupekouo, means to hear with obedience. He then states that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Here the word for “hearing” is the noun akoe, which refers to the sense of hearing. When we look at verse 18, we understand that Israel did hear, but they did not hearken.
Yet, the word all in verse 16, “But they have not all obeyed (hearkened) the gospel,” implies that some have hearkened to the message. So, the point is taken that faith does require knowledge, a knowledge that comes by hearing the word of Christ. However, knowledge alone will not save anyone. I shared the entire gospel message with a girl one time who, when I completed, said, “I have always known all of that.” Knowing the facts of the gospel alone will not save a person because saving faith is that which transforms the will of a person. Remember that James wrote, “Even the demons believe.” Yet the demons are not saved.
Again, we are to preach the word of Christ to a lost and dying world. Not all will believe, but some will. You may not see many come to faith through your message, but rejoice in the privilege you have to take the treasure of the gospel to those who have no hope. Moreover, praise the Lord that the word of God does not return void, that God has a supreme purpose in our sharing even though we may not be able to see it at that moment (Isaiah 55:11).
NOTE: (The ESV and others translate verse 17, “hearing by the word of Christ” rather than “hearing by the word of God.” The “word of Christ” is preferred as viewed by various early manuscripts.)