According to tradition, when William Carey first proposed the idea of taking the gospel to those who had not yet heard it, a pastor rebuked him. “Young man, sit down,” the pastor is said to have declared. “When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.”
Such a sentiment may seem like the logical consequence of Paul’s teaching on divine sovereignty in the previous chapter. Yet the Apostle would have vehemently rejected this conclusion! It is true that it is God’s power that saves. Yet God has chosen to exercise that saving power by using His people to proclaim the gospel. Paul himself was a missionary.
If the theme of the previous chapter was divine sovereignty, the theme of Romans 10 is human responsibility. Where the gospel is concerned, the scope of that responsibility extends to believers and nonbelievers alike. Those who do not know Christ as Savior must “call on the name of the Lord” in order to be saved (v. 13). This does not necessarily mean uttering a formulaic prayer or even praying out loud. It is a matter of recognizing our need for grace and looking to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Simply hearing the gospel is not enough. Those who hear must respond in faith if they are to receive its benefit.
Paul emphasizes a corollary responsibility. Those who know the gospel have a responsibility to share it with those who do not. Only those who have heard the good news about Jesus Christ will be able to believe and call upon His name. In verses 14 and 15 Paul describes the chain of responsibility God uses to dispense the grace of salvation. Those who have not called upon the Lord must hear in order to believe. Before they can hear, someone must be sent. This is why the church has been charged with the responsibility of making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).