Did you hear (of) him?

Romans 10:13 is a great promise regardless of being a Jew or a Gentile:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then Paul goes into his faith comes from hearing argument and working back from that he gives a significant role to the ‘one who preaches’, which was one of the works of the apostle – I suggest that contextually we should not think pulpit and neither should we limit the ‘preaching’ to three points but should include the political (small ‘p’ but a very real ‘p’) aspect of the gospel, particularly when the Isaiah beautiful feet passage he quotes is of the deliverance from the imperial powers.

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. (Rom. 10:14-17.)

A justification for ‘telling’ people is Paul’s words ‘and how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard’. The most important aspect then is to get the facts (the gospel truth) across. We have then discharged our responsibility, and those who hear are then fully accountable. Of course the last statement has presented a dilemma for some: would they be less guilty if they had not heard, thereby being judged by the light they have, rather than by the gospel? (An aside: I think this springs from a negative view of salvation as if it is primarily salvation from hell, thus reducing salvation to a non-NT understanding of being safe, rather than the predominantly positive perspective of being saved.)

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?

I think there is a major adjustment we have to make in our thinking on this aspect of discharging our responsibility, or that our responsibility is discharged once we have ‘told them the gospel’. The Greek language when using the verb ‘to hear’ uses the normal object when referring to something that is heard. For example ‘I heard a sound’ would take the object (known as the accusative case). But if we were to hear a person speak this would not take the accusative but would switch to the genitive (possessive case ‘of’). We have here the genitive case which I strongly suggest should not be translated as ‘hear of / about him’ but should be translated ‘hear him’ in the sense of ‘hear his living voice’. This is what we would expect as I believe it is the voice of the person that is being referred to, not facts about the person. This then makes sense of the closing part: faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. It is not hearing about Christ it is hearing Jesus that brings about faith, to hear his voice makes all the difference.

The goal is not somehow to communicate facts, to get people through the door where they will hear truth, nor even to get them on a course, it is to be faithful to Jesus so that those we live among hear, through words and lifestyle, the very voice of Jesus. Those who truly hear can begin a journey of faith. Those who speak need to speak in such a way that Jesus is heard and not simply a set of facts (even if those facts were correct). If our words are purely ‘spiritual’ perhaps we are not being communicators of Jesus. If only our words communicate maybe we need to think again.


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