14 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? 15 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!”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 10:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
God’s Beautiful People
… As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The kind of work I do does not bring me into contact with the world’s beautiful people very often. But I have been with them just enough to know that there really are “beautiful people,” and my friends in California, who have far more opportunity to mingle with celebrities than I do, confirm it.
Some years ago a friend of mine from Philadelphia was hosting the then well-known singing star and actor, Pat Boone, and his wife. He called our home to ask if he could bring them by, since they were going to be filming something that evening and needed a place to rest for a few hours in the late afternoon. They were with us from about three in the afternoon until six. Mr. and Mrs. Boone really were beautiful. They had flawless features, perfect skin, immaculate grooming, and were meticulously dressed. They were obviously made (or remade) for the camera. And not only that. They smelled good. They seemed to be unlike other people. They were so perfect that I could only relate them to the poem about Richard Cory, who “glittered when he walked.”
We are surrounded by a cult of beauty in our day, of course. Ever since the fall of the human race, people have valued beauty too much, usually neglecting the more important inner beauty of the soul. But at no time in history has physical beauty been at a higher premium than today. Movies and television are largely responsible, since they have created an entertainment- and beauty-directed age.
How different when we turn to our text! Though speaking of beauty, it is clearly speaking of a nonphysical kind of beauty when it says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom. 10:15).
Inner Beauty and Outer Beauty
A good place to start in trying to understand this text is by admitting that it is not a very attractive statement for most of us, and the reason is clear. We usually look at the outward appearance of things, including people, and we make our judgments on that basis. Moreover, we do not think of feet as beautiful. Regardless of what follows, when the text says, “How beautiful are the feet …” the idea seems quaint at best and probably even a bit repulsive. It becomes even more so when we remember that the feet of an ancient traveler would be dusty and smelly from the unsurfaced and unsanitary roads.
How strange that we think like this. We should know better. One of the things our grandparents used to say to us was: “Beauty is as beauty does.” But instead of thinking about actions, we think of beauty in terms of a perfect figure or a flawless face.
About thirty-five years ago, when I was in high school, I met another “beautiful person,” Eddie Fisher, one of the singing idols of the fifties. It happened behind the scenes at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. I suppose it was because of that meeting that I have always had more than a usual interest in Eddie Fisher’s life and career. He was married to Debbie Reynolds, dumped her to marry Elizabeth Taylor, and then was dumped by Taylor when she had her affair with Richard Burton on the set of the blockbuster movie Cleopatra. That was the way Eddie Fisher’s life went, and it was rather sad. Yet I was pleased to read just a year or so ago that in an interview with a reporter, Eddie Fisher summed up his experience of America’s cult of beauty by saying rather wisely, “I have learned that a pretty face is just a pretty face.” It took him a lifetime to learn it.
What does the Bible say about beauty? You know the answer. In ancient Israel the people favored King Saul because of his large stature and good looks, but God rejected Saul and chose David, explaining, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7b).
Similarly, the apostle Peter wrote to Christian women, saying, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful …” (1 Peter 3:3–5).
The Beauty of God and God’s Works
I do not mean to say by this that beauty is undesirable in itself. The Bible says that God is beautiful. In fact, several chapters before the one in Isaiah from which Paul gets the quotation he uses in Romans 10:15, Isaiah tells the people, “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17), meaning that they would see God.
This was David’s great desire, too:
One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
God’s creation is also beautiful, and so are the laws that govern it. In fact, when we conform to those laws, we can end up producing something beautiful ourselves.
There is an illustration of this truth in something Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), the world-renowned architect and engineer, once said. A student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology asked Fuller whether he took aesthetic factors into account when he was tackling a technical problem. “No,” he replied. “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” I doubt Fuller was thinking of God when he said that, but he was nevertheless unwittingly testifying from his own area of expertise that God, God’s laws, and God’s creation really are beautiful.
Each of the wives of the patriarchs is said to have been beautiful: Sarah (Gen. 12:11, 14), Rebekah (Gen. 24:16; 26:7), and Rachel (Gen. 29:17).
Job’s daughters were beautiful (Job 42:15).
In proportion to its length, the book of the Bible that uses the word beautiful more than any other is Song of Songs. There the husband rightly expresses delight in the beauty of his bride and the bride in the beauty of her husband. This teaches that there is a place for beauty in our lives and a proper appreciation of beauty among Christians.
Yet that is not the whole story. It is true that Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel were beautiful, but their beauty was a danger that led to the compromising behavior of at least two of their husbands, Abraham and Isaac. Bathsheba was beautiful, but her beauty contributed to the fall of King David. In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is represented by a beautiful tree, but it was cut down (Dan. 4). Proverbs warns that “beauty is fleeting” (Prov. 31:30), and James says that the beauty of the rich and influential person will inevitably “fade away” (James 1:11).
Most significant of all, we remember Isaiah’s description of the earthly appearance of Jesus Christ who, he wrote, “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, / nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isa. 53:2). If even Jesus Christ was not physically attractive, we should know that beauty is at best a matter of indifference and at times even a snare.
Beauty is as Beauty Does
All that prepares us to turn back to our text in Romans. For when we are able to get the idea of mere physical beauty out of our heads, at least for a while, we can begin to understand what the text is saying. The first thing we notice is that the kind of beauty we find here is not descriptive beauty but functional beauty. In other words, it is the kind of definition our grandparents were speaking of when they said, “Beauty is as beauty does.” They meant that true beauty is measured by gracious acts or by the gracious and faithful performance of one’s duties.
The former Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, has published a book of memoirs that contains an illustration of what I am talking about. At one point in his book, Koop expresses appreciation for the outstanding nurses he worked with during his days as Surgeon-in-Chief of the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. Working with a nurse who knows the way you think and can anticipate your moves and needs is one of the most satisfying things about surgery, according to Koop’s testimony. He felt this deeply. So he tells how each Christmas he would hang a long sign over the door to the operating room that said, “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.” A few years later, when the Intensive Care Unit had developed to a outstanding degree, he did the same thing there. Now there were two signs at Christmas that read: “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.”
Koop wrote, “The nurses knew I wasn’t talking about superficial physical attraction; they knew that I appreciated the beauty of all the things they did to make possible our success in the operating room [and ICU].”
Romans 10:15 is also a functional definition, which means that the beauty it describes is that of someone who is doing something. And that is the second thing to notice: what the beautiful person is doing is bringing the Good News of the gospel to other people.
I said a few paragraphs back that the quotation is taken from Isaiah—Isaiah 52:7 to be exact, though there is a very similar text in Nahum 1:15. In Isaiah’s setting, the passage is speaking of consolation for Israel during the years of Babylonian captivity, picturing a runner appearing on the hills to announce the fall of the people’s enemies and the triumph of God’s king. The image is the same as that of the well-known story of the Greek runner who made his way from the battlefields of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 b.c. The route was generally uphill for a total distance of more than twenty-six miles, and as soon as he arrived in the city and had gasped the word “Victory!” the runner fell dead from his efforts. It was in honor of this welcome messenger that the marathon race was run in ancient Greece and is still run today in many parts of the world.
But, like many Bible texts, there is even more to it than this. For as even the rabbis recognized, the messenger is the herald of the Messiah, which is appropriate since the next chapter (the continuation of the announcement) introduces us to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. The salvation of the people from earthly enemies was undoubtedly good news, but a message of deliverance from sin is greater still. John Murray says, “As the prophecy found its climactic fulfillment in the Messiah himself, so it continues to be exemplified in the messengers whom he has appointed to be his ambassadors (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20).”
Paul is right on target when he says that the messengers of the cross are beautiful. They are beautiful because they are bearers of the gospel, which is the most beautiful message in the world.
The Elephantiasis Convert
Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of my predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, heard a story from a missionary in western Africa that is a moving illustration of what I have been writing. It was about a man who had the disease known as elephantiasis. In this disease the skin becomes thick and hard, and the limbs of the victim become enormously enlarged, much like the leg of an elephant, hence the name elephantiasis. The leg from the knee down to the foot can become as large as twelve to fifteen inches in diameter, and of course it is quite restricting and often painful. I have known at least one American who has this affliction.
But here is the story as Barnhouse tells it:
This poor victim of elephantiasis became a radiant Christian and could do nothing other than tell people of the grace of God which he had shown in sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for them. He lived in an African village and determined that every soul in the village should hear the good news of salvation. It was extremely difficult for him to walk with the monstrous legs which bore him about, but he thought nothing of the pain and toiled on from hut to hut to tell those who dwelt there about the Savior who had come into his life. Each evening he would return to his own hut where he was maintained by the kindness of his relatives. At the end of several months he was able to tell the missionary that he had visited every hut in the village and that he was now starting to take the gospel message to a village that was about two miles away.
Each morning he would start out painfully, walk the two miles to that village, go from hut to hut with the gospel, and return the two miles before sundown to his own hut. Finally, there came the day when he had visited every hut in the neighboring village. His work being done in these two villages, he remained at home for some weeks but began to be more and more restless.
He spoke to the pastor and to the missionary, who was a medical doctor, about a village that lay ten or twelve miles through the jungle, and asked if the gospel were being taken to that village. As a boy, before he had been afflicted, he had traveled the jungle path to that village, and he remembered that it was a large village and that there were many people there, and he knew that they needed the good tidings of the Savior. He was advised not to think of going to that village, but day after day the burden grew upon him. One day his family came to the missionary and said that the man had disappeared before dawn and they had heard him go but supposed that it was but for a moment. He did not return, and the family was concerned about him.
Afterwards, the full story became known. He had started down the path toward the distant village. Step after weary step he dragged his leathery legs and gigantic feet along the path that led to his goal. The people of the village later told how he had come to them when it was already noon; his feet were further swollen, bruised and bleeding. He had been forced to stop and rest again and again, and it was already past mid-day when he came. They offered him food, but before he would eat he began to tell the people about Jesus. Up and down the village he went, even to the very last hut, telling them that the God of all creation was Love and that he had sent his only Son to die that their sins might be removed. He told how the Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead and had come into his heart, bringing such joy and peace.
There was no shelter for him in that village; and even though the sun was low he started on his way down the jungle path toward home. The darkness of Africa is a terrible darkness, and the night can bring forth many creatures from the jungle. The sun went down and the poor man dragged himself along the path in the darkness guided by some insight which kept him from going astray. He told his pastor later that his fear of the night and the animals which might come upon him was more than balanced by the joy that he had in his heart as he realized that he had told a whole village about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Toward midnight the missionary doctor was awakened by a noise on his front porch. He listened, but all seemed still. Somehow he could not go back to sleep, and he went to the door with a light to see what had caused the noise. He recognized at once that the poor neighbor had returned to the village from his long trip, and had come with his wounded and bleeding leg-stumps to the door of the dispensary. The missionary called his helpers and they lifted the man, almost unconscious, and put him on one of the beds in the little hospital. The doctor said that he had seldom seen such a frightful sight as he looked upon those bleeding feet which had come back from such an errand of love and mercy. Unashamedly the doctor told how he had bent over those feet to minister to them, and as he cleaned and dressed them, he told how his own tears had fallen with the ointment upon them. The doctor ended the story by saying, “In all my life I do not know when my heart was more drawn out to another Christian believer. All I could think of was the verse in the Word of God, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings, that publish peace.’ ”
Here was a man who had been sent by God to tell the story of what Christ had done for him, and although he had to do it at the cost of such personal agony, yet he had not flinched but had gone through to the end to tell needy men the good news of salvation for their souls.
That is a very moving story, of course, as I said when I introduced it. But it is not unusual. For centuries, ever since the days of Jesus Christ, God’s beautiful people have strategized and sacrificed and gone out of their way to bring the gospel to those they know need it.
Do you know how the gospel came to Hugh Latimer (1400–1555), that great bishop who became one of the brightest lights of the Protestant Reformation in England? Hugh Latimer was a “beautiful” man, strikingly good-looking and brilliant. But he did not know Christ, and he was using his learning to oppose the teachings of the Reformers, especially that of Melanchthon, Martin Luther’s co-worker and friend. Latimer was at Cambridge at this time, and there was at Cambridge a little monk whose name was Thomas Bilney. No one paid much attention to Bilney. But Bilney had discovered the gospel, and he wanted the great Hugh Latimer to come to Christ, too. “What a tremendous influence he would have, if only he would discover the gospel of God’s grace in Christ,” Bilney thought.
So he hit on a plan. One day after Latimer had been preaching, Bilney caught his arm as he was coming out of the church and asked if he would hear his confession. That was a prescribed duty of a priest. So Hugh Latimer listened to Bilney, and the little monk who had found Christ “confessed” the gospel, sharing how it had changed his life. Latimer later said that he was converted by Bilney’s gospel “confession.” As for Latimer, he became a great reformer in England and is best known for his encouragement of Nicholas Ridley as they were being led to the stake in Oxford at the height of the English persecutions in 1555: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as (I trust) shall never be put out.”
Bilney was not a beautiful person as we generally think of beauty. But he was the bearer of the gospel to Hugh Latimer, and that means that he was beautiful in the sight of God, just as are all those are who obeying the Lord Jesus Christ in carrying out the Great Commission.
May I suggest that you start thinking of beauty the way God does. What you think is beautiful now is going to be a thing of the past in just a few short years. Those you think beautiful now will no longer be beautiful in physical terms. But the beauty of the bearers of the gospel will last forever. What is more, they will go on getting more and more beautiful, as they use not only this life but eternity to praise the Lord Jesus Christ more fully.
Beauty really is as beauty does.
I invite you to value others not by their outward appearance, but by their service to Jesus Christ and the gospel. And I invite you to become one of God’s beautiful people yourself. Our text tells you how.
To further explain the universal extent, or parameters, of God’s saving grace, the apostle asks rhetorically, How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
With simple, progressive logic Paul establishes that only those who call upon the name of the Lord can be saved, only those who have believed in Him can call upon Him, only those who have heard of Him can believe in Him, only those who have a preacher can rightly hear of Him, and finally, no preacher can preach the true gospel who has not been sent by God. Viewed from the other direction, Paul is saying that if God did not send preachers no one could hear, if no one could hear no one could believe, if no one could believe no one could call on the Lord, and if no one could call on Him no one could be saved.
The capstone of Paul’s argument in this passage is that a clear message which gives understanding of the truth must precede saving faith. He reminds his Jewish readers that God called Abraham and His descendants in order that “the whole earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) and that He called those descendants (Israel) to be His witnesses before the whole earth, as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5–6). Just as He did in the Old Testament, God stills sends His preachers to witness to the farthest corners of the earth.
14–15 Now the apostle turns parenthetically to emphasize the importance of those who proclaim the good news of the gospel, and thus by implication the importance of his apostolic ministry. A series of logically connected questions makes the point. A first question is implicit, though not stated, from the fundamental point made in the preceding verse, namely, “How shall they be saved if they cannot call on the name of the Lord?” Paul begins with the next question, in order: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?” Then the sequence follows: “How can they believe … [if] they have not heard?” “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” and finally, “How can they preach unless they are sent?” Is this last question possibly a veiled indication that Paul needs the support of the Romans for his planned evangelistic work in Spain?
Faith, in fact, depends on knowledge. One must hear the gospel before one can be expected either to receive it or reject it. The choice of words is suggestive. To “hear” the message was the one vehicle open to people in that day. The NT had not yet been written so as to be available to the reader, though a few churches had received letters from Paul. There was no visual depiction of the Savior and his mission. The message had to be communicated by word of mouth to the hearing of others. This was as true in the days of the apostles as in the time of the prophets, as a look at the concordance will show.
“Someone preaching,” of course, refers to anyone who proclaims the gospel or witnesses to its truth. Christians are saved to serve, and a paramount element in that service is to bear witness to the saving power of Christ. To be “sent” (v. 15) suggests at least two things: that one operates under a higher authority and that one’s message does not originate with oneself but is given by the sending authority. The prophets were those who were sent in these two respects. So was Jesus (cf. Jn 3:34; 7:16). So are Christians in their witness-bearing capacity. The apostles received their commission from the risen Lord as he in turn had been sent by the Father (Jn 20:21). In addressing the Roman church, Paul was careful to state at the very beginning that he was called and set apart for the ministering of the gospel (Ro 1:1).
Is the apostolate alone in view here as representing Christ and his gospel? This is unlikely, judging from what Paul says later about the widespread proclamation of the gospel to the Jews (vv. 17–18). The task was too big for a handful of preachers (in this connection, see Ac 8:4; 11:19–20). It is not clear from vv. 14–15 whether the sending that is in view here is intended to include the sending out of missionaries by a sponsoring group of believers, as in Acts 13:3. But even if this is not included, it is obviously an integral part of the entire process of the communication of the gospel. In the case of the church at Antioch, the divine and human aspects of the sending were closely bound together (Ac 13:2–3).
Once again, Paul corroborates his statement with words from the prophets, this time Isaiah (52:7), heralding the favor of the Lord to the city of Jerusalem that had lain desolate during the Babylonian captivity (v. 15). The tidings are good; the proclamation is one of peace. Paul changes the wording somewhat—the single announcer in Isaiah becomes a company in line with the “they” in his own depiction of gospel messengers in the same verse. If the message to returning Israel in the former days was good news, how much more the promise of eternal salvation in God’s Son!
The necessity of evangelism (14–15)
In order to demonstrate the indispensable necessity of evangelism, Paul asks four consecutive questions.
First, if, in order to be saved, sinners must call on the name of the Lord (13), How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? (14a). For calling on his name presupposes that they know and believe his name (i.e. that he died, was raised and is Lord). This is the only occasion in his letters on which Paul uses the term ‘believe in (eis)’, which is the regular expression in John’s writings for saving faith. Here, however, since saving faith is presented as ‘calling on’ Christ’s name, the kind of ‘belief’ Paul has in mind must be the prior stage of believing the facts about Jesus which are included in his ‘name’.
Secondly, how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (14b). Just as believing is logically prior to calling, so hearing is logically prior to believing. What kind of hearing, however? ‘In accordance with normal grammatical usage’, the phrase the one of whom (hou) should be translated ‘the one whom’ and so means ‘the speaker rather than the message’. In other words, they will not believe Christ until they have heard him speaking through his messengers or ambassadors.23
Thirdly, how can they hear without someone preaching (kēryssō, to ‘herald’) to them? (14c). In ancient times, before the development of the mass media of communication, the role of the herald was vital. The major means of transmitting news was his public proclamations in the city square or the marketplace. There could be no hearers without heralds.
Fourthly, how can they preach unless they are sent? (15a). It is not clear from the text what kind of ‘sending’ Paul has in mind. Because he uses the verb apostellō, commentators have tended to assume that he has himself in mind as an apostle (see 1:1, 5; 11:13), together with his fellow apostles, for they had been directly commissioned by Christ.25 There were also ‘apostles of the churches’, however, sent out as missionaries. The latter is a broader concept, for, although the apostles of Christ were appointed by him and required no endorsement by the church, the churches sent out only those whom Christ had chosen to send.27 The need for heralds is now confirmed from Scripture: As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (15b). If those who proclaimed the good news of release from Babylonian exile were thus celebrated, how much more welcome the heralds of the gospel of Christ should be!
The essence of Paul’s argument is seen if we put his six verbs in the opposite order: Christ sends heralds; heralds preach; people hear; hearers believe; believers call; and those who call are saved. And the relentless logic of Paul’s case for evangelism is felt most forcibly when the stages are stated negatively and each is seen to be essential to the next. Thus, unless some people are commissioned for the task, there will be no gospel preachers; unless the gospel is preached, sinners will not hear Christ’s message and voice; unless they hear him, they will not believe the truths of his death and resurrection; unless they believe these truths, they will not call on him; and unless they call on his name, they will not be saved. Since Paul began this chapter by expressing his longing that the Israelites will be saved (1), he must surely have had them specially in mind when developing his evangelistic strategy in these verses. His next paragraph confirms this.
10:15. Preaching requires sending. And how can they preach unless they are sent? Even when his servants were unwilling (e.g., Jonah), God has been sending the message of salvation to the ends of the earth from the beginning. Paul, a “sent one” (apostle, apostolos), was sent to the Gentiles, and he needed the church at Rome to help him. But he also wanted them to be available for God to send them. There were many, many Jews in Rome who were still stumbling over the stone in the path of salvation. How would they ever call on the name of the Lord unless someone is sent? Paul wants the church at Rome to get in step with those who have borne good news to Israel before, most specifically those who brought the good news of their deliverance from captivity in Assyria:
“Good news” in its earliest contexts was that of victory in battle. In Isaiah it is deliverance from captivity in Assyria (cf. Isa. 52:4, 11–12), a type of the coming deliverance from sin.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Just as the “good news” was delivered to Israel in the Old Testament, so it still must be delivered in Paul’s day. It is a different gospel—a better one—of permanent deliverance from captivity to sin.
Six key terms, taken in reverse order, summarize God’s plan for taking the good news of the gospel to those in need: send, preach, hear, believe, call, saved.
14, 15a. How, then, can they call on one in whom they have no faith? And how can they have faith in one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can people preach unless they have been commissioned?
A few points should be noted:
- In this series of questions what is the subject? To whom is Paul referring? The apostle writes: they … they … they … they … they … they … they; though, for the sake of variation and clarity, one of these they’s can be changed to the people (or something similar).
To whom, then, is Paul referring? The usual answer is: to Israel. Some translations even insert the word “Israel” in places where the original does not have it. Now it must be admitted that to a considerable extent this answer is correct. See, first of all, what has been said in the introduction to this section (p. 348). Examine also the following passages: 9:3–5, 27, 31–33; 10:1–3, 19, 21; 11:1 f. On the basis of all this the conclusion “the reference is to Israel” cannot be escaped.
But is this a complete answer? Not every commentator is of that opinion. And rightly so. Does not the fact that in this section (10:14–21) Paul does not even mention Israel until he reaches the very close (verses 19–21) prove that he wants every hearer or reader to wrestle with these questions in his own heart and conscience?
- We have here a series of questions. The Old Testament also contains groups of questions (Job 38:2–39:27; 41:1–7; Isa. 40:12–14, 21). However, the present series is different. It is a kind of chain in which each link bears a close relationship to its immediate neighbor(s).
Is this chain similar, then, to the one found in Rom. 5:3b–5, and to the one described in 8:29, 30? No, the difference is that in the latter two instances the chain is progressive: its links follow one another in historical, cause and effect, manner. The sequence may be compared to the series 1, 2, 3, etc. Here, in Rom. 10:14, 15a, and also in 10:17, the chain is regressive. It proceeds from effect to cause, and is comparable to the series 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Calling upon Christ in prayer is mentioned first though in reality, of course, it follows having faith in him, which, however, is the second link in this chain. Having faith in Christ results from hearing him, the third link as here arranged. This hearing implies that there must have been a preacher, the fourth link, who addressed the people. He did this because even earlier someone, the fifth link, had authorized him to bring the message.
- What may have been the reason for Paul’s decision to arrange these links in this regressive order?
To answer this question we should bear in mind that the apostle was not only a fully inspired, very learned, deep-thinking theologian; he was also a very practical, warm-hearted Christian friend. As such he may well have had a twofold purpose in mind for writing as he did.
First of all, he is thinking of the audience, the one in Rome, to be sure, but, along the line of the centuries to follow, any audience, including also today’s. For the audience, then, and for every person in that audience, the apostle has so arranged the series that the reference to God—or, if one prefers, to Jesus Christ—who commissioned the preacher, would be mentioned last of all, in order that all the emphasis might fall upon him! Every person in the audience must be made aware of the fact that when he rejects the preacher who, as a faithful minister of the word, with insight and enthusiasm presents the glad and glorious tidings of salvation in Christ, then he is rejecting Jesus Christ himself! In addressing the seventy (or seventy-two) missionaries Jesus said, “He who listens to you listens to me, but he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
Secondly, Paul is thinking of the preacher. The climactic reference to the duly commissioned preacher contains a lesson for him also. Any preacher better be sure that he has actually been called of God to do this kind of work. To arrive at a true answer to this question he should turn to Jer. 23:21, 22. If this preacher is earnestly and prayerfully trying to do that which is mentioned in the twenty-second verse, he will find it much easier to arrive at a positive and encouraging answer to the question with reference to the genuine character of his ordination.
For the preacher Rom. 10:14, 15a contains still another lesson. Just what is meant by preaching? As the footnote (p. 348) shows, preaching is actually heralding, proclaiming. Genuine preaching, therefore, means that the sermon is lively, not dry; timely, not stale. It is the earnest proclamation of the great news initiated by God. It must never be allowed to deteriorate into an abstract speculation on views merely excogitated by man!
That there could be no doubt about the fact that the people—here especially Israel, as has been shown—have actually heard the gospel, and that it has been proclaimed to them by divinely authorized ambassadors, is indicated in verse
15b. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
This passage is quoted from Isa. 52:7 where the prophet describes the exuberance with which the exiles welcome the news of their imminent release from captivity. This news was regarded by them as being very wonderful not just because they could now return to their homeland but also, and probably especially, because for them it meant that God’s favor was still resting on them, and that not this or that earthly power but God—their own God—was still reigning. See the Isaiah context, and add Ps. 93:1; Rev. 19:6. Moreover, can there be anything more spiritually exhilarating and invigorating than the message of God’s ambassadors, as reported, for example in 2 Cor. 5:20, 21?
How beautiful are those feet! As over the mountains those messengers approached with their electrifying news, how dust-covered and dirty these feet must have been! Yet also, how beautiful … for they were the feet of those who brought the long-awaited marvelous news!
 Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 163–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (pp. 285–287). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.