Does Romans 10:14-15 teach that we need a minister to explain the Bible?
The "Iglesia Ni Cristo" teaches that Romans 10:14 tells us that we need the preaching of an ordained minister in order to comprehend the words of God. Is this the correct understanding of Romans 10:14?
Romans 10:14-15 (ESV) - 14 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? 15 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!"
When we examine the passage, we see that the INC's understanding of the passage is wooden and incorrect. It is not speaking about needing a particular kind of messenger, but about needing the word of God to be delivered by any means.
This verse speaks of hearing, not of understanding.
Romans 10:14 mentions someone hearing, not understanding. Therefore, the verse says absolutely nothing about our ability to understand without the help of a minister. What it does mean is that Paul was concerned about people hearing the word. There are many ways people can hear the word that don't include a minister.
When Paul talks about hearing, he is speaking of receiving the word. If we take this to literally refer to the hearing we do with our ears, it would mean that the deaf cannot be saved! People cannot call on Jesus unless they have received the word of God from somewhere; whether it be through a minister or even reading the Bible directly.
This verse says nothing about ordained ministers.
While this verse mentions preaching (literally "proclaiming" in Greek), it does not say anything about the credentials of the one who is preaching. It does not say they were ordained with the laying on of hands or that they were ordained at all. Being "sent" does not imply any such thing. This verse just refers to any proclamation of the gospel from any source or commissioning, whether that be the words of a minister or just the Bible itself proclaiming through the printed page.
Additionally, Paul's question, "how can they hear?" is obviously rhetorical. The answer is that they can't hear. If we were to say one takes this verse to be only speaking of ordained ministers, Paul's question does not make sense. Of course someone can hear the words of God without an ordained minister: all they have to do is have someone read the Bible to them. In order for Paul's question to make sense, he must be speaking af all forms of proclaiming the gospel; all forms of delivering the message. The issue is not whether or not there is a properly selected messenger. The issue is that the people need some vessel to deliver the message.
The verse speaks of feet, but this does not imply that the messenger has to even be human. Feet are simply a metaphor for the means of delivery. The metaphor "feet" was chosen because messengers typically are human. Especially in the time this was written, messengers were generally sent by foot since there were no cars or airplanes. The verse also says that their feet are beautiful, but we are not really to believe that ministers have more physically attractive feet than any one else. Paul is clearly saying that the vessel used for the delivery of the words of God are precious.
We are told that hearing comes through the words of Christ.
In the next two verses, we are told how one comes to faith:
Romans 10:16-17 (ESV) - 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Faith comes through hearing the word of Christ, not the words of an ordained minister! An ordained minister may be instrumental in the bringing of the good news, but the word of Christ is the only thing that can save. This word is the good news of Jesus: that we can have forgiveness of sins through faith in him.
As we see right before Romans 10:14,
Romans 10:13 (ESV) - 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:4 (ESV) - 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The INC misuses Romans 10:14-15 to say something it does not say at all. This passage is about the need for delivering the word of God to those who have not heard it, not the need for a particular kind of messenger. When we say that we need to hear the words of a minister in order to be saved, we replace our need for the word of Christ. Let us not replace Christ with a minister, but honor him as he ought to be honored.