How will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14-15)

BRITTON BUSINESS SCHOOL CASE STUDY

The sales manager was at a loss as to what to do next. Sales had been flat to slightly declining for almost five years now, despite having a clearly superior product at a more competitive price. True, the product had not been changed or been upgraded for a while, but the existing features and benefits already so far exceeded all the competition that an upgrade should have been unnecessary. That, in combination with a sales price much less than the competing products, made it hard to explain why sales were not steadily increasing.

“Far superior product at a lower price; Why can’t we move the needle on sales?”

He considered the company’s decision to cut marketing. Could that be it? Yes, they spent less than 25% of what the competition spent on marketing, but that could not be the full explanation.

He thought about sales training as a possible answer. “Maybe our salespeople need more training.” But that didn’t make sense, because both his salespeople had been selling the product for at least twenty years. Both knew how to prospect, how to make and convert cold calls, how to show the superior features and benefits of the product. As far as skill at one-on-one sales, the sales manager would put both his salespeople up against anyone in the business.

Then he wondered whether it was the competition. While it was a fact that the competition was well-established in the market, it was also a fact that almost all of their existing customers had at one point in time been using the competitive product and had switched when they heard about our product and what it had to offer. “No, it’s not the competition. It must be something else that I can’t put my finger on. There has to be some reason why we can’t get more market share, especially with more than 50 million potential customers in our territory.” The sales manager decided to call his two salespeople into his office and see if they could brainstorm and come up with an answer.

CASE STUDY ANALYSIS

            As business consultants, how would you explain the lack of anticipated sales at this company? What would be your recommendation for the sales manager as to how to increase sales?

            Okay, time’s up. What is your answer? I hope that you said something like, “Get more salespeople out there! If you have a market of 50 million people and TWO SALESPEOPLE, you are desperately understaffed and need to figure out how to let more people know that there is a far superior product available at a lower price. People will not buy the best product in the world, even if it is free, if they don’t know that the product exists.

THE GOSPEL ANALOGY

            In Romans 10:14-15, the apostle Paul lays out four essential steps for any person anywhere to be saved. After declaring that, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13),” Paul then tells how that blessing of salvation takes place, starting with the end and working backwards. So, he asks how they will call on the Lord if they have not believed in the Lord. (Implied answer: They won’t!) Backing up one more step, he asks how they will believe in Jesus if they have never heard the gospel about Jesus. (Implied answer: They won’t!) Finally, he asks the critical question, “And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Implied answer: They won’t!) All these steps are necessary for salvation. No step can be omitted. Therefore, it is necessary for salvation for there to be “a preacher” (see below for a description of what it means to be “a preacher”) to proclaim the gospel message so that an unsaved person will hear the gospel. And it is necessary for salvation for the person who hears the gospel message to believe that message. And it is necessary for salvation for the person who believes the gospel message to call on the name of the Lord in repentance and faith as a response to their believing the gospel message that was preached and heard. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth (a verbal call on the name of the Lord) Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That means that if there is true belief in your heart, it will issue forth in verbal confession from your mouth and then in life and behavior change as sanctification occurs.

WHO IS A PREACHER?

            So, from Scripture we see that a preacher is necessary for salvation because the gospel message must be heralded to the unsaved. But now the question comes up, “Well, who is a preacher?” Various pictures may be conjured up in your mind in answer to this question. The caricature seems to be of some man sweating profusely as he shouts at his hapless congregation. The popularity of this image would suggest that the picture was designed in hell and has resulted in the perishing of many souls as they laughed off “the preacher.” But the biblical word that is used in Romans 10:14-15 is that of a herald, of a person who had been entrusted with a critically important message and was sent out to proclaim exactly that message, even if the herald was killed in carrying out the task. This is the biblical picture. In the Bible, Paul was a preacher (2 Timothy 1:11). John the Baptist was a preacher. Solomon was a Preacher (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Noah was a preacher (2 Peter 2:5). Most significant of all, the Lord Jesus Himself was a Preacher. There is no reason to shrink back from being a preacher based on reputation.

            But who is a preacher? Think about the preacher’s task. The preacher is a herald sent out to proclaim a message. Now consider Matthew 28:19-20, when Jesus told us to “Go, therefore” in the Great Commission. Jesus was sending every member of His church out to proclaim the gospel to the nations. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus says to His first disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Those are herald words. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Again, herald words. Jesus told the parable in Matthew 13, “The sower went out to sow.” We find out that “the sower” sows the Word of God, and it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see that every believer could be described as a sower. Again, more herald words.

            Who is a preacher? Who is a herald? Who has been sent out by the Lord Jesus Christ to herald His message to perishing men and women so that they might be saved? That is the privileged calling of the preacher. Who wouldn’t want to be called to that task? And what Paul is saying in Romans 10:14 is that you and I have been called as preachers (“heralds”) of the good news so that people will hear and believe and call on the name of the Lord.

            So, whether your audience is few or many, you are the one who has been called by your Lord and Savior to let others know about Jesus and about how they can be delivered from the wrath to come.

            In Matthew 9:38, after seeing the misery of the people who were like sheep without a shepherd, He said, “Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Just as the company in the case study needed more salespeople, so the Lord Jesus is seeking more heralds who will be active in His harvest.

SDG                 rmb                 9.8.2020

Why are you doing that? (Romans 10:2-3)

SCENE 1

The squirrels had been in my attic for a while now. I could hear them overhead, running the length of the attic as they played in my insulation. It was driving me crazy. I hated those squirrels. “How are they getting into my attic?” Then one day I was standing in the front yard and saw a squirrel cross the street and head directly toward my house. It climbed up the trunk of a small tree near the house, jumped onto a branch of the tree, which bent under the weight and then sprung back up, catapulting the squirrel onto the roof of my house. “Oh ho! That’s how they are getting onto my roof and into my attic!” So, the next Saturday I was out with my tree saw and started to cut down the tree that the squirrels were using as a catapult. My neighbor wandered over to me and asked,

“Why are you doing that?”

“What do you mean, ‘Why am I doing that?’ I am cutting down this tree because I don’t want squirrels in my attic!” He shook his head and smiled and said, “Cutting down that tree won’t stop squirrels. You know, squirrels can just climb up the brick on the outside of your house and get onto your roof.”

            I began to feel just a tiny bit stupid, realizing that he might be right, but I continued cutting down the tree anyway. “There,” I said, as the small tree sunk to the ground. “That will stop them!” My victory was short-lived, however. About two hours later, I felt chagrined and outmatched as I watched that same squirrel scamper up the corner of my house, using the brick as you or I would use a sidewalk, pop over onto the roof and then disappear into my attic.

            What had just happened? Because of my ignorance of the real nature of the problem, I had employed a strategy that could never get me the results I wanted. I wanted to get rid of the squirrels in my attic, so I cut down the tree. No good. Waste of time. Bad idea.

            Now, other than a little bit of humiliation in the eyes of my neighbor, my blunder had no real consequences. No big deal. Lost a tree and kept the squirrels. Oh, well.

SCENE 2       

For the next scene, we turn to the Bible as Paul is applying the truths of the gospel to his Jewish countrymen in Romans 10. Paul presents a troubling scenario. Paul writes, “For I testify about them (his Jewish brethren), that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge (10:2). For not knowing about God’s righteousness (that is, not knowing about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus the Messiah), and seeking to establish their own (by religious works), they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (10:3).”

            So, what I want to do is frame this scenario in terms of the incident with the squirrels in my attic, because these scenes are similar. Let’s say that an observer was talking to one of Paul’s friends, who was a Pharisee.

“I see that you are really zealous about doing religious things. You fast twice a week. You tithe from all that you get. You pray long prayers on the street corners. You always wash your hands before you eat, and you never do any work on the Sabbath. Everyone knows that you give to the poor. I’ve heard you even cast out demons and occasionally do a miracle! But . . . “

“Why are you doing that?”

            The Pharisee replied, “Because I want to be righteous, of course!” The observer sadly shook his head and said, “Doing all these religious works does not make you righteous. In fact, no amount of religious works can EVER make you righteous. Do all your works, but your sin will remain.”

            The Pharisee said, “That’s nonsense! Anyone can see that I am more righteous than you! I know that my religious works please God.”

            Once more, the other man tried to get through. “Actually, in Isaiah 64:6 the prophet says, ‘All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.’ The only way to be righteous is to believe in Jesus the Messiah.”

            For a brief moment it seemed that the Pharisee was considering what had just been said. Did Isaiah really say that thing about the filthy garment? And if he did say that what might that mean for me? Could my Rabbi be wrong? Could I be wrong? Could this guy be right? Then the mental window slammed shut. “I don’t need to be taught by you!” he said. “I will continue to work my works!”

            What had just happened? Because of the Pharisee’s ignorance of the real nature of righteousness, he was employing a strategy that could never get him the results he wanted. He wanted righteousness, but he is trying to obtain his righteousness by his own works. No good. Waste of time. Bad idea.

            But it is right at this point that things radically change. For while my blunder with the squirrels cost me a small tree and a little bit of embarrassment, the Pharisee’s error will cost him an eternity in hell. You see, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for all who believe (Romans 10:4).” The only possible way to obtain righteousness before the Holy One, the God of heaven, is to believe in Jesus the Messiah. This is not a preference issue. This is not a question of semantics. This is not an issue where you go at your way and I go at it my way and then we will probably both get there eventually. If the Pharisee does not change his mind and repent and bow the knee to Jesus the Messiah, he will never obtain any righteousness. In fact, he will miss righteousness by an eternity.

SCENE 3

            The final scene is a lunch discussion between me and Jack. Jack is a business associate of mine. We have developed a bit of a friendship and know a little bit about each other. I know that Jack is a Catholic, and we have had a couple of discussions about each other’s religious views. On this occasion, I have steered the conversation in the religious direction again.

            “So, as a Catholic, what sorts of things do you do? In other words, what religious things do Catholics do?”

            “We have talked about this before, Roy, but anyway. We do confession and we do the Mass every Sunday with the Eucharist. We do some ‘our Fathers’ and some ‘hail Marys.’ Some people do the rosary. We pray to various saints. Like that.”

“Why are you doing that?”

“What do you mean, ‘Why am I doing that?’ I am doing these things because I don’t want to go to hell!”

At that moment, I felt like the neighbor who was telling me the truth about squirrels or like the “other guy” who was telling the Pharisee the truth about righteousness. Jack said that he wanted to avoid hell, but he was pursuing a strategy that guaranteed that he would arrive there. He had adopted the Catholic plan which promises that good Catholics will avoid God’s wrath by doing religious things. For Catholics, trying to do your best and obeying the Catholic Church will at least get you into Purgatory. These are the inventions of the Catholic Church that keep people from hearing the truth.

So, I tried to explain to Jack that this was not a preference issue. I tried to tell him that there was no such thing as Purgatory (“Jack, I think you have a hole in your parachute.”) I told him that Jesus died to atone for sin, so there is no longer an ongoing sacrifice needed through the Mass. The priest has no authority to forgive sins or to give you any sort of penance that you can do to remove your sin. But my words fell on hard ground and we basically left the restaurant a tiny bit incensed with one another and probably a little more polarized.

The lesson from this is that we must be clear about what is wisdom and what is absolute truth. With regard to salvation, we must insist that there is no room for compromise or personal preference. When the fireman crashes your door down with an axe, it is not so he can debate with you whether your house is on fire. For everyone of us, our house is on fire, and there is only one way to safety. His name is Jesus.

For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for all who believe.

Romans 10:4

SDG                 rmb                  9/4/2020