Before we had music on electronic devices you had to actually listen to the song being played live. During the time of slavery in America the slaves had popular songs that they sung. They were not simply melodies to pass the time. These songs were a means to communicate secret messages and information to each other about the Underground Railroad. Codes imbedded in the spirituals instructed slaves as to when, how, and where to escape. They also included warning signals, such as the message of "Wade in the Water", informing slaves to travel along the riverbank so the dogs giving chase would be thrown off their scent. Here are some of the coded words:
- Baggage = fugitive slave
- Promised Land = Canada
- River Jordan = Ohio River
- Freedom Train = Underground Railroad
- Moses = Harriet Tubman
In Romans 10 God tells us that it is important to listen to the Word of God in order to have faith. Romans 10:14-15 tells us the process by which faith comes. We must call on the Lord to be saved. But we can't call unless we first believe. We cannot believe unless we hear the message. The message is taught to us by those who are sent. The end goal is to call on the name of the Lord to be saved but how does this happen? Men are sent, they teach the Gospel, people hear it, they have an opportunity to believe it, and if so then they can call on God to be saved. Thus, God's plan for conversion is preaching not church marketing.
When people hear the good news of the Gospel preached they will overlook your worst blemishes. Notice Paul quotes the Old Testament to tell us that the FEET of those bringing good news are beautiful to the hearers. In the ancient world feet were disgusting due to wearing sandals (or bare feet) and having to walk everywhere. When the modern Church is passionate about the Word of God people do not care about our props. The Millennial generation wants passion and authenticity over lights, smoke machines, and concerts that are passed off as worship services.
Romans 10:16 is an important verse. It says, "However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" The word "heed" is obey and the phrase "good news" is the same word as gospel. Literally Paul says, "not everyone obeyed the Gospel". This tells us that the Gospel is not just something to be believed it is to be obeyed. But it also tells us that not everyone will obey. In fact it is a quote from Isaiah where we learn that most will not obey God's message. So then, we must recognize we are never going to get the response from the world that we want. Therefore, we should not try to manufacture conversions. Often churches get trapped in this fatal cycle of trying to attract younger people by marketing the church. So they have to make the church look more like what young people want in order to attract them. The problem is that they are only attracting those who are not interested and will not be interested in Holiness. And they are essentially creating a church that is uninviting to young people who do want true spirituality and are honestly seeking God.
This leads us to the proposition of the text. Romans 10:17, "So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ." Faith comes from hearing the word not by experience. The modern church has been sold a bill of goods. We believe we must ramp up everyone's emotions on a Sunday morning. They must leave having experienced God. But where in the New Testament do you read that? Did you know the word "experience" isn't even used in the New Testament?!? Instead the operative word is Faith and faith comes by hearing. Therefore, our focal point should be sound exegetical teaching not putting on a show.
So what are you listening to when you go to church? Some modern day church celebrity? The church planting conventions that tell us the secret to church growth? Are you being swayed by a bunch of 20 year olds who don't know the first thing about spiritual maturity telling you how to build the Lord's Church? Or are you listening to the deeper truths of the Bible?