Something that has always made me cringe is when someone is giving a personal testimony and says something like, “I’ve always known God for as long as I can remember.” And I think to myself, “No you haven’t.”
I do understand that a person stating this is communicating essentially that, as far back as they have conscious memory, they have always known about God, Jesus, the Bible, etc., and they have accepted these things. I could say the same, though I would clearly identify a moment in time where I understood the debt of sin and necessity for trust in the specific payment of Christ on the cross.
I understand also that the concept of God does not need a great deal of definition for children. My boys never looked at me in lost confusion when hearing about God, even as toddlers. There is an innate sense of the divine that is there in every life, though some suppress it at great length.
Even so, what does anyone know about God apart from being told specific information? It is in Romans chapter 1 where there is some measure of discussion about this, and in theology we refer to this knowledge of God as general revelation or natural revelation. It involves a sense mankind has of being a creature of a divine being, a sense of something more vast and powerful, something to hold in awe (if not also to fear), something to venerate and appease …
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
So there was enough knowledge of God from the created world to condemn a person, but not enough to save him or her. Apart from specific knowledge, mankind over the years has come up with all sorts of objects of worship, mostly from the created world and cast into the form of idols …
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
So, logically, there needs to be a messenger of the truth that brings the truth to those who do not know it or trust in it. And so it is later in Romans 10, as Paul speaks of the need for the Jewish people to hear the truth of the gospel of Jesus as the Christ, that he says …
14 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? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” [from Isaiah 52:7]
The feet speak of the messenger who brings the good news, and the good news of salvation is the best news of all. That is a blessed and privileged person to be a bearer of this news – the words that are so completely necessary for life eternal and a relationship with God. This lost world needs speakers of the gospel and senders of the speakers.
The step-by-step logic of this passage therefore speaks to the topic for this week: our mission as members of the body of Christ, the church. A first of four statements we’ll make about mission is this: Mission is necessary because no one is born believing the right things about God.
It is the only way, the only hope, for those who do not yet know the truth of the most important message ever. Delivering such truth is an important mission to be on! It should define who we are and how we view our lives in this world.