“And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Rm 10:20-21)
The Message, Hearing the Message, and Faith
After describing the 5 steps of salvation, Paul summarizes them in one sentence.
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Rm 10:17)
In this verse, we find two very important elements of faith—the message and hearing the message. The message refers to the word about Christ, namely the gospel. Paul already said that no one can believe in Jesus unless they hear about Him. So, hearing the message about Christ is essential to having faith in Him.
But, hearing the word about Christ doesn’t merely refer to the action of hearing something with our ears. We must hear Jesus’ voice with our hearts.
Reading the Bible 100 times won’t necessarily change our lives. But, just one verse can completely change them if we attentively listen to Jesus’ voice through it and try to live out what He says to us.
What Paul emphasizes in verse 17 is not reading the Bible itself. Reading the Bible is essential in Christian life, but it means nothing if we fail to listen to Jesus through it. What’s more important is to communicate with Jesus and listen to Him when He speaks to us through the written word. Unless we listen to Him, we won’t be able to follow Him.
In John 10:27, Jesus said,
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27)
One of the characteristics of sheep is that they have such bad eyesight that they can’t see very far in front of them. So, for them to survive, they must be able to hear their shepherd’s voice. In other words, their survival depends on their ability to hear.
The same principle is applied to us. No one knows what will happen in the future. We make decisions, but life doesn’t always go as planned. It’s like walking on a road that we’ve never walked before. So, we all need guidance. And, Jesus is the perfect guide for us because He knows us better than we know ourselves. And, He takes care of us.
Listening to Jesus, knowing Him, and following Him are three important steps we must take when we believe in Jesus. Unless we listen to Him, we can’t know Him. And, we can’t follow someone we don’t truly know. So, we know how important it is for us to take the first step of faith—listening to Jesus.
The Judeans’ Failure
Back to Romans chapter 10, Paul described the five steps of salvation and the importance of hearing the message about Christ. By doing so, Paul tried to address the Judeans’ failure to believe in Jesus.
The question that had to be raised in regard to the Judeans’ failure was, “Did they not hear?” (Rom 10:18). Paul asked this because he mentioned that hearing is the first step of salvation. And, his answer is, “Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Rom 10:18)
Here, Paul is quoting from Psalm 19. Even though Psalm 19 talks about the beauty of God’s creation that is revealed and shown around the world, Paul applies it to the gospel of Jesus.
The gospel had been preached to nearly all the Jews. Paul clarifies the fact that their failure didn’t come from not hearing the gospel. As Paul said, even though they heard about the gospel, “Not all the Israelites accepted the good news” (Rm 10:16).
So, the reason the Judeans failed to have faith in Jesus wasn’t because they didn’t hear the gospel, but because they didn’t accept it and because they sought righteousness by their own works.
God’s Active Pursuit of our Salvation
Paul emphasizes this in the last two verses of Romans 10 by comparing how God treats the Gentiles versus how He treats the Israelites.
Regarding the Gentiles, Paul quotes Isaiah.
“And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Rm 10:20)
Here, God is seen intentionally reversing His role and the Gentiles’ role. Generally, it’s people who seek God. But, in this verse, God reveals Himself as the One found by those who didn’t seek Him. When the Gentiles didn’t go to God, He came to them first and revealed Himself to them.
That’s the biggest difference between Christianity and other religions. Religious scholars once gathered and debated about what makes Christianity different from other religions. And, they all agreed that there’s one word that makes Christianity unique.
It’s grace. The word ‘grace’ is frequently used in churches. It might be one of the most commonly used words in churches. But, that’s not the reason the scholars picked it as the unique feature of Christianity.
Grace makes Christianity different from other religions because it explains the uniqueness of the Christian God. Grace can be simply defined as what God offers to those who don’t deserve it.
In other religions, it is people who try to find gods through their good deeds, spiritual knowledge, asceticism, and so on. That kind of religion is based on works. Those people likely believe that if they seek their gods earnestly, they can find them.
But, Christianity says that God came to people first and revealed who He is through the Scriptures. Even when people didn’t seek God, He sought them. When people gathered together to build a tower of Babel to reach heaven, the Bible says that the Lord came down to see them. And, God’s coming to us is best represented in the incarnation of Jesus.
Even though Jesus was God in His very nature, He made Himself nothing by becoming like one of us so that He could bear our sins and pay the ransom for them through His death. That’s the essence of grace.
No other religion says that God became a human being, no other religion says that God died to save His people, and, no other religion says that God wrote books to reveal Himself to people. That’s why grace makes Christianity unique and different from other religions. As John said,
“We love because he first loved us.” (1Jn 4:19)
God said, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Rm 10:20)
Here, ‘those who didn’t seek God’ refers to the Gentiles. When they didn’t try to seek God, He actively revealed Himself to them so that they could find Him. God making Himself known to people is a great example of His grace.
God’s active pursuit of the Israelites is reaffirmed in verse 21. Paul quoted Isaiah again, “But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Rm 10:21)
In this verse, God actively held His hands out to the Israelites, His original chosen people. Like parents who long to see their children return after leaving home, God held His hand out to the Israelites even though they had turned away from Him. Even though they didn’t respond to His calling, God still wanted them to return to Him and waited for them.
The Israelites' attitude toward God is much more rebellious than the Gentiles’. The Gentiles may not have sought God, but unlike the Israelites, they never rebelled against Him. Nevertheless, God never gave up on the Israelites but gave them His unchanging love.
What Paul is trying to clarify is the fact that the failure of the Israelites wasn’t because God rejected them. It wasn’t because God hid the good news of Jesus from them. It wasn’t because they didn’t hear the message about Christ. The prophecies about the Messiah had been given to them first, and almost all the first evangelists were Jews.
They failed because they closed their eyes and ears and because they didn’t accept Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, God didn’t abandon them. He still had a special purpose for them. That’s what Paul talks about in Romans chapter 11.