AND HOW ARE THEY TO PREACH UNLESS THEY ARE SENT?
This verse from Roman 10:15 has been manipulated by some to say that nobody can preach or perform the sacraments Lord Jesus commanded like Baptism, Lord’s Supper and Anointing, to mention some, unless they are ‘sent’, meaning Ordained to do so by higher authorities in apostolic succession.
BACKGROUND OF THE VERSE
This verse is the last one of other verses that are mentioned by apostle Paul speaking about the necessity of preaching the Gospel to the Jews as a necessity for salvation.
The whole set reads:
“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?
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!”
Prior to this declaration, St Paul was speaking how Jesus fulfills the whole Mosaic Law requirements in his own person (Romans 10:3-4) and the need for the Jews to understand this to be saved.
He emphasizes salvation by grace when he said that believing in Jesus justifies a sinner, and confessing his Name in public, gains salvation, and quotes Joel 2:32 to support his claim with the Scripture.
(Romans 10:8-10, 13)
THE POINT OF BEEN ‘SENT’
The St Paul in verse 14 starts his rhetorical questioning, of how the Jews, or anyone in fact, could believe in someone who they never heard of, to later come to the conclusion of how they will hear unless somebody speaks to them about him, and how could anyone speak to them about him, ‘if they are not sent’.
Following the logical development of this literary speech, the point is not made at all about the necessity of every person who speaks of Jesus to have been sent personally by someone in apostolic succession. That is a presumption far from the meaning, which restricts the delivery of the gospel to the control of a limited number of humans.
The mention of ‘how are they to preach unless they are sent’, implies a previous knowledge of Jesus and his message that validates the communication of the gospel to the people being preached, in this case the Jews.
Nobody can be sent unless they know who sent them.
Paul implies that nobody can believe in Jesus unless they know Him first, and that nobody can get to know Him unless somebody speaks to them about Him. And nobody can speak of Jesus unless they know about Him, because they were sent to speak about Him.
And when was anyone sent to speak about Jesus?
The day Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission in Galilee:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus went to Galilee, because He lived there, and had many followers. Even though only the Eleven apostles are mentioned, most probably other disciples of Galilee were also there. Jesus met again with his apostles in Jerusalem (Luke 24:50-51) at his ascension, so the only reason He had to be in Galilee was to show Himself to other disciples who could not be in Jerusalem during his resurrection.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18) was to every believer in Jesus.
There is no suggestion in the Bible that someone needs an extra commissioning to preach the gospel of salvation, and even less that this depends on someone else’s decision.
Paul himself preached the Gospel for 3 years prior to search for apostolic approval (Galatians 1:16-18), and he commends us to imitate him (1Corinthians 11:1).
This of course, does not invalid the special Commissioning, commonly called Ordination, when it comes to establish Elders into an already existing Christian community, but it does leave clear the right and obligation of all Christians to preach the Message of Lord Jesus and performed the sacraments in a scriptural manner wherever they are.