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What does “how can they hear without a preacher” mean (Romans 10:14)?

hear without a preacher

Romans 10:14 underscores the crucial role of evangelism: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (NKJV). This question, central to Paul’s life, should ignite in us the desire to share the good news with unbelieving friends, co-workers, and anyone willing to listen. Paul’s rhetorical query underscores the fact that people won’t hear the gospel unless it is preached to them—a concept aligned with the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20.

The significance of evangelism becomes more evident when considering the preceding verse: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32). Calling on the name of Jesus involves not merely stating His name but turning to Christ in faith. Paul had earlier expressed sadness at his fellow Jews who rejected Christ and sought to earn salvation through adherence to the law (verses 1–3). This underscores the importance of his work: for his compatriots to embrace faith in Christ, they must hear about Him—a task entrusted to preachers. Hence, Paul enthusiastically declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (verse 15, quoting Isaiah 52:7).

For Paul, preaching the gospel is vital, even if done with wrong motives. While in prison, he wrote, “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice” (Philippians 1:15–18).

The gospel must be given to those who have not heard because the gospel has the potential to alter the eternity destiny of its hearers: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16–17). None can be saved without the gospel, and none can know about the righteousness of God without the gospel. There must be preachers, missionaries, and others sent out from among those who know and live the faith of Christ.

It is worth noting that Paul isn’t limiting the work of evangelism to pastors and religious leaders. Every Christian is called to fulfill the Great Commission, regardless of our location, job description, or income. Unfortunately, evangelism in our modern world is considered a nuisance at best and a crime at worst. Even among Christians, the prevalent pluralistic worldview makes many wonder if evangelism is necessary or even moral. After all, there are decent people in other belief systems, including atheism. But this view nullifies two core truths: that belief systems contradict and that the gospel is not about decent people going to heaven. Rather, the gospel is about God transforming sinful people to make them truly decent.

We must evangelize with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15–16), using attractive speech (Colossians 4:6), acknowledging that God is at work to draw people to Christ (John 12:32). A lost world must hear the good news about Jesus, but no one will hear without a preacher.

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What does “how can they hear without a preacher” mean (Romans 10:14)?
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This page last updated: December 14, 2023