14 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?
The previous verse said that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Here Paul took up the implications of a person who does that. Each question expands on the previous question.
Verses 14 and 15 launch a logical train of four “how” sentences. The question is one of methodology. These are the steps necessary for the gospel to advance the calling. Note that this chain of ideas goes from the end to the beginning, from effect to cause. Here is the chronological order:
One must be sent, v. 15
The one sent must proclaim the message, v. 14d
Those who are told the message by the one sent must hear, v. 14c
The message heard must be believed, v. 14b
Those who believe must call on the Lord, v. 14a
Paul continued quotation of Scripture here. It is clear that the Jews of his day did not accept the gospel because they did not believe their own Scriptures. The idea that anyone has the right to call on God (Jew or Gentile) was a stumbling block to Jewish hearers of Paul’s message.
Turning from the responsibility to believe, Paul now challenged the believer to take up the charge to share the gospel. Understanding the gospel requires knowing certain facts. It takes people to deliver those facts.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
“Call” in this verse follows believing in contrast to the order of the previous section. It is not possible to call on someone in whom we do not believe. No one will call on someone they do not believe in.
And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
Believing is based on hearing. Hearing involves understanding. Understanding requires something spoken; that is, communication.
And how shall they hear without a preacher [a herald]?
Hearing is based on proclamation. Something more than hearing is required; people need a herald, a communicator. God uses people to do His bidding. The gospel must be communicated through the instrument of human words as well as through the Holy Spirit.
The “preacher” here is more than what we think of as someone standing behind a pulpit; it is anyone who announces the good news. Carrying the gospel involves believers taking the message to people.
Calling requires faith in the content of a message.
Calling is a metaphor for submission to God’s will. Calling requires faith and faith requires hearing. Hearing is the crux of mission activity. God ordained that people will hear what the messenger says; therefore, hearing requires telling the message. No one can respond to a message they never heard.
1 Co 1: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.