God Revealing Himself to the Gentiles in Romans 10:20

In Romans 10:20 Paul quotes God’s words from Isaiah 65:1, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”  Displaying this verse in two parallel lines is most revealing:

“I was found                     by those         who did not seek me”
“I revealed myself              to those          who did not ask for me”

Starting at the end of the verse, God is speaking about those “who did not seek me” and “who did not ask for me.”  From the context of Romans 10, it is clear that Paul applies Isaiah 65:1 to Gentiles.  In fact, Gentiles must be the referent because Paul begins Romans 10:21 with the words, “But concerning Israel.”  So Romans 10:20 is about Gentiles, and Romans 10:21 is about Israel. 

Gentiles, then, are those “who did not seek” God nor “ask for” God.  Yet clearly there are Gentiles (e.g. me!) who are in the people of God by virtue of Christ’s new covenant work on the cross.  Or to say it how Paul says it, there are Gentiles who have “found” God.  Now here’s the apparent strangeness about the wording of this verse: normally finding something is the result of seeking after it (“I finally found my keys after two days of searching,” for instance).  But God said these Gentiles “found” Him without “seeking” or “asking for” Him! 

So how do you find something you’re not even looking for?  The key is the parallel phrase to “I was found,” which is “I revealed myself.”  God was “found,” then, not because the Gentiles were seeking Him but because He chose to reveal Himself!  In fact, unless God revealed Himself first, no duration or intensity of Gentile “seeking” would have ever led to God.  Why?  “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Rom 3:11).  People may do a lot of seeking, but it’s not in God’s direction.  We seek the fulfillment of our own wicked desires, inevitably following the ways of the Evil One (see Eph 2:3). 

When God says, “I was found,” we are to understand those words in light of the parallel phrase “I revealed myself.”  Our knowing God depends entirely on a divinely initiated revelation of Himself to us.  Since, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17), Paul understands that God reveals Himself to Gentiles through the message of the gospel.  Knowing God depends on God revealing Himself to sinners through the proclamation of the gospel (see Rom 10:14-15).  Without God revealing Himself through the gospel, a sinner cannot know (or “find”) God. 

People don’t find God because they search for years and years and finally claim a victorious discovery.  People “find” God because (and only if) God first reveals Himself.  Perhaps Jesus’ words will best conclude our discussion: “All things have been committed to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt 11:27). 


Finally Alive, by John Piper

This book is a must-read.  Piper thoroughly examines the Bible’s testimony about the reality of the new birth, and he traces out its various aspects.  Oh, how the doctrine of regeneration must be cherished and esteemed!  Finally Alive exalts the sovereignty of God in salvation, since everything depends on the Lord’s gift of regeneration to the sinner.  You will not put this book down without realizing (with trembling yet gratitude) that the only appropriate response to God’s gift of regeneration is awestruck worship and humble brokenness. 

The subtitle of the book is: What Happens When We Are Born Again.  Strongly endorsed by D. A. Carson, Timothy George, J. I. Packer, Bruce Ware, and Alistair Begg, could it really come any more highly recommended? 

Finally Alive‘s 15 chapters are divided into the following 5 parts:
-Part I: What is the New Birth?
-Part II: Why Must We Be Born Again?
-Part III: How Does the New Birth Come About?
-Part IV: What are the Effects of the New Birth?
-Part V: How Can We Help Others Be Born Again?

Here are a couple excerpts:
-“Most people do not know what is really wrong with them.  One way to help them make a true and terrible and hopeful diagnosis is to show them the kind of remedy God has provided, namely, the new birth” (p. 20). 
-“One of the unsettling things about the new birth, which Jesus says we all must experience in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), is that we don’t control it.  We don’t decide to make it happen any more than a baby decides to make his birth happen–or, more accurately, make his conception happen.  Or even more accurately: We don’t decide to make it happen any more than dead men decide to give themselves life” (p. 77). 

Get online now, or go to your nearest Christian bookstore, and get Finally Alive.

Warn Sinners That Jesus Is Judge

In the house of Cornelius the centurion, Peter gave a sermon in a crowded room (Acts 10:34-43).  He preached to Gentile unbelievers in the first recorded sermon given to Gentiles. 

Toward the end of Luke’s record of the speech, Peter says, “He [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). 

Peter’s point is very instructive for Christian evangelism.  Since we are called to “preach to the people,” we must make sure the content of what we say does not omit the hard truths of the Christian faith.  Jesus told Peter to tell people that He is the judge!  Preaching Jesus as the judge of all people (you either fit into “the living” category or “the dead” category) may not be popular, but it is essential to the gospel message.  After all, what will the cross mean to unbelievers if they are unaware of what Christ’s death can save them from?  What will grace mean to a lost person if he/she does not believe there is any iniquity that needs the forgivng grace of God? 

Warn sinners that Jesus is the judge.  The horrifying news of God’s wrath and judgment upon sin is a great foundation to then speak passionately, humbly, and boldly about the good news of Christ’s death on behalf of sinners.  Let unbelievers hear the bad news before the good news.  Tell them that Jesus “is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42), BUT (and here’s the good news) “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).  Praise the Lord for the good news of the gospel!

The Glorious Truths of Romans 8:29-30 and Romans 10:14-15

Have you ever noticed the complementary truths expressed by two passages in Romans, namely, 8:29-30 and 10:14-15? 

Paul says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined…and those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).  Paul asserts divine sovereignty over salvation.  God is in control of salvation from start to finish. 

Paul also says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).  Paul asserts human responsibility to believe the gospel message.  Preachers must proclaim the gospel so that people will hear and believe, or no one will be saved. 

There you have it, friends: divine sovereignty and human responsibility, written in the same letter by the same author about the same subject (salvation).  May we zealously uphold both truths, resting “comfortably” in the mystery of how they intersect.