I'm having trouble understanding the flow of the argument in Romans 10:16-18. It seems to say that because Israel did not accept the good news (10:16), therefore faith comes from hearing the message (10:17). But I don't see how those are logically connected. Am I misunderstanding the connecting word, αρα? Or is there some kind of other connection (causal, perhaps)?
Let's pull in a little context:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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!”—Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)
Paul gives us a 5 step process for salvation. Reading backwards they are:
- Preachers are sent,
- The gospel is preached,
- The gospel is heard,
- The gospel is believed, and
- The believer calls on the name of the Lord.
Now, Paul continues a theme he started all the way back in Romans 1:16: why did God go to Israel first? Chapters 9 and 10 address Paul's struggle with the related question why so few Jews became believers:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.—Romans 9:3 (ESV)
Here is Paul's conclusion:
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”—Romans 10:16 (ESV)
So they got to step #3 above and didn't go on to step #4: belief.
Now we come to the crux of the question: how does ara <686> work in verse 17? It seems like Paul isn't going back to just verse 16, but to the sequence he described in verses 13-15.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.—Romans 10:17 (ESV)
In particular, he points to steps #4 (faith), #3 (hearing) and #2 (the gospel preached). In verses 18 through 21, Paul demonstrates that the people of Israel did hear the gospel, but didn't believe it. He is analyzing the situation according to his model of how people are saved.