Who Hath Believed Our Report
What Report?

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 51a of 83

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? ” (Romans 10:16).

The apostle Paul has been addressing the question of what happened to the Israelites. Israel was God’s covenant people under the Old Covenant, but now God seems to have cut off the nation. While many Gentiles are being added into the church, most of the Jews remain in unbelief.

Paul’s immediate answer is: God’s sovereign election! God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy!

But what about the Law? Did not God give the Law as a way of salvation for the nation of Israel in the Old Covenant? If so, why is it that even the Jews, who apparently kept the Law, were not saved?

Paul does not answer by speaking of how the Jews not only did not keep the law, but violated them so grievously the Lord Jesus would call them hypocrites.

That would be true. But it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is that the Law was never meant as a means by which the Jews might obtain salvation by. The Law, was given as a covenant of works to man indeed, but only an unfallen man may obtain righteousness by this covenant.

The fact is: The effectual way of obtaining righteousness for fallen man has always been by grace through faith. Under the Old Covenant, the way of righteousness-by-faith was wrapped up in the Law, and the Jews were required to keep the Law. But still it is not the keeping of the law that procured righteousness, but rather faith in the Messiah.

So then, such as kept the Law, but were not looking to the Messiah had no righteousness and salvation. But “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v. 13). This was true under the Old Covenant.

And now under the New Covenant, this truth that has been made even more prominent because the wrapper of the law has fallen away.

But now a further question arises. We know that righteousness and salvation was by faith in the Messiah even under the Old Covenant. But did the Jews in the Old Covenant know this? Did they know about the Messiah and the good news of salvation in Him?

Paul answers this question by asking a series of rhetoric questions (v. 14):

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? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things [Isa 52:7]” (Rom 10:14-15).

What is he trying to bring across? Simply this: Did the people know the gospel? Yes, for God sent his preachers to preach to them. Otherwise, what does Isaiah mean when he says, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things”?

The fact is: the Gospel was preached, for God had sent His preachers. So the real problem is not that the gospel was not preach. What then is the real problem? The real problem is, verse 16—

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” (Rom 10:16).

It was Isaiah who tells us that God has sent His preachers. But now he is saying that few had believed the report of the preachers, including himself. “Lord, who hath believed our report?” He says.

What is this report? What is the content of the report? Why is it necessary to believe this report?

The Lord helping us, these are the questions we must seek to answer as we attempt to understand the apostle Paul’s appeal to Isaiah.

1. What is this Report?

In the first place, we should note that the word rendered ‘report’ is quite a graphic word. It describes news that is passed down verbally and received with the ear. This word occurs 24 times in the New Testament. 10 times, it is translated ‘hearing’ and 4 times it is translated ‘ears.’ This report is, therefore, a spoken message.

What is this spoken message? It is none other than the gospel preached. For Paul says, they have not all obeyed the Gospel. Paul, —you must bear in mind, —is trying to prove that the problem with the Jews is not that the gospel was not preached to them, but that they refused to believe the gospel preached.

But you say “wait a minute, Paul: I can understand what it is to believe in the gospel today, when Christ has already come, and we have the gospel events recorded for us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But where in the Old Testament was the gospel? I know that the Old Testament points to Christ in shadows and types. But how could the people understand these shadows and type sufficiently? How can it be fair to charge the people for unbelief when the gospel was only presented in shadowy terms at best? Would not charging the Jews for unbelief be like scolding a child for not believing in the doctrine of the Trinity?”

Well, to ask this question is not only to doubt God’s Word, but to show ignorance of the Old Testament! Why?

Because if we know the Old Testament, then we will know that Paul has answered the very question that we are asking!

He says: “For [Isaiah] saith, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report?’” (Rom 10:16).

Where did Isaiah say these words?

These words are so famous that I suspect that the apostle expects all his readers to know where he quotes it from. It is like: if I say, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth,” you will immediately know that I am quoting from Genesis 1. So when Paul says “For Isaiah saith, “Lord, who hath believed our report?” we ought immediately to know where he took those words from.

Where are those words from? Well, turn with me to Isaiah 53. Do you see it there right at the top of the chapter? “Who hath believed our report?” Do you see now what the apostle is trying to drive at?

What is the report that Isaiah is referring to? It is very obvious, isn’t it? The report concerns the suffering of the Messiah that is recorded in the chapter. This chapter is so famous, that anyone who claims to know anything about Old Testament prophesy must know it, or he is fooling himself.

Let me put it this way: if you are asked: Where in the Old Testament will you find the gospel presented in clear, you should be able to say immediately from the top of your mind: Isaiah 53!

Isaiah 53 contains the clearest exposition of the gospel in the Old Testament. The gospel is fundamentally a report of the life, suffering and death of the Messiah.

Now, this prophecy was made about 700 years before Christ was born. But, oh how it was fulfilled to the letter so that it reads like a report of the birth, suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ after it has happened!

…To be continued, next issue

—JJ Lim