It is such a simple problem—if faith comes by hearing, why doesn’t everyone believe? Paul clearly states that not all obeyed the “glad tidings,” which matches our experience (Rom 10:16-17). In fact, few believe.
Shall we blame God? Perhaps the problem is that most never have an opportunity to hear the word? That seems to match the reality of billions of people and relatively few Christians of any shade, much less those preaching the whole gospel. But, Paul declares, “Their sound went out into all the earth and their words unto the ends of the world” (10:18). When we note that God manifested himself clearly in the things that are made, “his everlasting power and divinity,” the reality is that the gospel is available to any with open ears (Rom 1:18-20). Most of us can relate stories that are ridiculously unbelievable concerning an honest seeker finding the gospel over insurmountable odds—how about the Ethiopian Eunuch? The Philippian Jailor? God’s word is available.
Well, then, if the word is God’s power and it is available to all, why do the majority fail to have faith? Paul is especially concerned that the majority of the chosen people, his people the Jews, had not found faith in Christ. He points out that they had been warned that this would come to pass. Israel would be provoked by other nations finding God and God declaring himself to them while Israel was left behind. (10:19-20). This failure to believe is an open refusal to face facts, and the reason most never come to faith. And Israel’s failure is often reflected in the churches of Christ where people will not hear the reading of scripture that does not match “the way we have always done it.” As Daddy used to say, “It goes in one ear and out the other.” Whether it be that the work of the preacher is not visiting the sick, or that the Lord’s Supper is to be a fellowship and communion with others not with oneself alone in his thoughts, or that the church was not given a name or any number of other ideas, THE people do not hear, but those without prior understanding—usually new converts--have open hearts.
Paul identifies the problem as the same one Jesus described in the parable of the soils. There was no problem with the seed. There was no problem in the manner of sowing. The problem was the hearts into which it fell, or, “all the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and contrary people.”(10:21). People do not hear because they do not want to be accountable to do what the gospel says and thus they turn away or never expose themselves to truth that might inconvenience their choices. Others have that contrary attitude that seeks exceptions and excuses and problems, and never yields to the things that are heard.
So, indeed, Faith does come to ALL who hear the word. The disappointment is that so few, in or out of the church, will hear.