‘And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is written, “They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.” ’ Romans 15:20-21 (NAS)
The Holy Spirit moved Paul (via the pen of Tertius) to reference this quote from the prophet Isaiah in his closing remarks to the church at Rome.
The passage the apostle alluded to is found in verse fifteen of chapter fifty-two of the book of Isaiah: “Thus He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.” Paul, having a desire to go Rome, had prioritized the need for the gospel to first go to those who had not heard. Encapsulated in this statement is the purpose of the Lord’s church – to take the message of the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ to places and people who have not heard nor have understood. The importance here in the message of Christ is to not just preach His death, burial, resurrection, and appearance to men after His bodily resurrection, but to move their understanding of Jesus to emphasize Him as He is now, in glory. Brethren, this precept of Jesus in glory is born out in the context of Isaiah fifty-two from which Paul had quoted in part. Hear the context which precedes and includes the verse the apostle Paul cited: “Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand.” (Isa. 52:13-15). When the context is considered as a whole, we see the gospel’s impact has the greatest effect when rulers and nations see and understand that God’s servant (Jesus Christ) “will be high and lifted up, and greatly exalted.” The first time the gospel was preached following Jesus’ ascension, the day of Pentecost, this critical component of the gospel, Jesus in glory as prophesied, was what helped to pierce the hearts of the 3000 souls to hear, understand and spiritually appraise properly that Jesus was the Servant of God that had been “exalted to the right hand of God.” (Acts 2:33). This is not to diminish the importance of Jesus’ suffering and being crucified for our sins. That is a crucial tenet of the gospel as well. However, the focus and power of the gospel is in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His ascension (exaltation) to the throne, as taught in the New Testament. If Jesus hadn’t ascended and offered His (spiritual) blood in the true tabernacle in heaven, there’d be no forgiveness, no means by which the Servant could sprinkle (cleanse) many nations. You may say, “What’s the big deal? Everyone understands that!” Oh contraire, brethren. Many people, even in the Restoration Movement brotherhood, do not spiritually see or understand it. The focus for many is still Jesus on the cross. The proof of this is the wrong-minded teaching that Christians are “black-hearted sinners” or “forgiven sinners”, which turns their thoughts to the Christ on the cross and the need for a perpetual offering due to their “sinful nature.” For some, it’s Jesus resurrected from the grave but still earth bound in His bodily resurrection. This too, is not where the gospel of Jesus Christ is centered now for Christians according to the word of God. The Holy Spirit says concerning Christ, “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16b) We are also told to recognize no man according to the flesh. The physical things of Jesus are comparatively easy to relate to but the real power is in the spiritual perspective. Have the proper perspective in sharing the news, the whole message of this life (Acts 5:20). Remember as you take the story of Christ to those who had no news of Him, it’s a three phase story, Jesus in prophecy, Jesus in the flesh, and ultimately, Jesus in glory. If you know who Jesus is as He is now, you’ll know who you are in Christ (seated with Him in glory by faith now). Many have had no news, nor have they had opportunity to hear with understanding, this HIM, Jesus in glory, that they are supposed to see. Amen.