Author - Peter Maiden, International Director Emeritus, OM
Peter is married to Win. They have four children and ten grandchildren, He has served for 45 years with Operation Mobilisation. He is now the International Director Emeritus, OM. He served as an elder of Hebron Evangelical Church in Carlisle for many years before moving to Kendal. He has served on the council of many Christian organisations including chairing the council of the Keswick Convention for nine years. He is the author of four books.
By 2025, it is estimated that 95% of people in the world will be religious. Richard Dawkins and his friends are exhaling the last breath of Atheism.
But before we get too excited about this, let’s appreciate that religion can be a huge problem. For even the most sincere and devoted religious observer, religion can be a barrier that keeps them from God, rather than a magnet drawing them to Him. Religious people do not doubt that there is a god or gods. They realise that they need to do something to be on God’s side. Instinctively they know they are unworthy before their god and so to use Paul’s words in Romans 10:3, ‘they sought to establish their own ’.
Paul is writing from the deepest personal experience. He writes in Romans 10:2 of the Israelites, that they are ‘zealous for God’. He knows this because he’s been one of them. He was probably a hero amongst them, because of his extreme devotion. He writes in Galatians 1:14, that he ‘was advancing in Judaism beyond many of own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of fathers’.
Here is the universality and simplicity of the Christian hope. Christ has come to us.
Then came that day Saul would never forget. The day that would turn his world on its head forever. In Philippians 3, he uses the language of accountancy to describe his experience. What he always thought was in the profit column in his life – his birth as a Jew, his religious observance, etc. – he now found to be in the loss column. What he had been utterly convinced would have been in the loss column, if he’d ever contemplated it – devotion to Jesus – he found to be the one thing in the profit column. There in Philippians 3:9, is the key phrase, ‘the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith’. When you think of the devotees of the religions of the world, and I would include many devotees of the Christian religion, you can see extremely devoted people seeking to attain their goal of being on the right side of their gods, but sensing they never quite attain it. They must continue their observances and practices, wondering if they ever do enough and can continue to do enough.
Here lies the unique Christian hope and the great joy of Christian mission. First the joy of proclaiming that ‘there is a righteousness that comes from God’. The problem for Israel was that in their zeal to establish their own righteousness they had missed the righteousness that comes as a gift from God. Not just the Jewish problem! You can see it within every religion and, again, that includes the Christian religion. Calvin wrote, ‘The final step to obtaining the righteousness of God is to renounce your own righteousness’.
There is a brilliant phrase in verse 4 of Romans 10, ‘Christ is the end of the law’.
He is the end of law in two senses. He was the one the law was pointing towards. We could never keep the law. It condemned us because of our failure to keep it, but Jesus came and kept it completely. He fulfilled or kept the law on our behalf and in our place. It also means He has terminated the law. Christ has brought an end to the law, not that the law is no longer relevant to us, but Christ has brought an end to it as a means of getting right with God. Now verse 4 of Romans 10, ‘so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes’. Here we see the universality of our hope. You have the same emphasis in verse 13, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’. Here is the universality and simplicity of the Christian hope. Christ has come to us. He has done the work. We do not need to scale some height to find him. He is accessible to all who call upon Him.
It is this which drives mission forward.
Christ for all. One simple way of salvation. The universality of our hope.
But we also see here the exclusivity of our hope. It’s Christ who is the end of the law. He has fulfilled it on our behalf. He, by His death and resurrection has brought it to an end as the means of getting right with God. It is Christ alone who has done this, not Mohammad or Buddha or Abraham or Moses, but Christ alone. It is Christ’s righteousness that must be imputed to us. No one else has lived that truly righteous life. If the rallying call of mission is Christ for all, it is equally Christ alone.
‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But, ‘how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?’ Christ is for all, but salvation can only be found by those who believe on His name. An unacceptable truth in this age of relativism. What is true for you is true. If it works for you embrace it. The totally unacceptable position is to proclaim that there is a truth to which everyone must bow and submit. That truth is a person who Himself said, ‘I am the …truth… No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn. 14:6). People are not going to call on Jesus for their salvation until they believe on Him. They are never going to believe if they do not hear. John Stott asks a question, ‘What kind of hearing?’ He continues, ‘In accordance with normal grammatical usage, the phrase ‘the one of whom’ should be translated ‘the one whom’, and so means the speaker rather than the message’1. In other words, they will not believe in Christ until they have heard Him speaking through His messengers or ambassadors.
Allow the challenge of Paul’s logic to sink in, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Romans 10: 13) They’re not going to call if they don’t believe He is the unique Saviour and they’re not going to believe until His messengers go and tell them this truth.
If the rallying call of mission is Christ for all, it is equally Christ alone.
Look at the next step in Paul’s logic, ‘And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?’ (Romans 10: 15a) Paul and his apostles had been sent out directly by Christ, but by this time others were being sent into mission by the churches. That is today’s reality. If people are going to go to the unreached with the Good News, then others will have a mission of sending them. This means providing for them, praying for them, and supporting them in every way. We need a fresh surge today both of those who will go to complete the task and those who will be committed to send them.
Look finally at the beauty of our hope. Paul continues in Romans 10:15b, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.’ This is a quotation from Isaiah 52 proclaiming the release from Babylon for the Israelites. Their message was met with great celebration. How much more should the messengers of Christ be received with joy and celebration. We bring such a beautiful message of such a beautiful Saviour. A message which brings an end to fear and vulnerability, a righteousness from God, forgiveness and peace. Let us never forget the sheer beauty of our message, especially in a day when the message of religion often appears so violent. However, in the rest of the chapter, Paul will point out that although the message is beautiful, ‘But not all the Israelites accepted the good news’ (Romans 10: 16a). This is a massive understatement. He goes on to confirm that they rejected the message, even though they had both heard and understood it. They rejected it because of their disobedience and obstinacy. Look at the last verse of the chapter, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’
It’s a tragic reality today that people, because of their stubborn, sinful obstinacy will refuse this beautiful message. They will reject our beautiful Saviour, but that does not mean we should not go on proclaiming this wonderful message knowing that in God’s grace some will call out to be saved and ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
1John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World , p. 286