“And so, I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: ‘To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand’” (Romans 15:20-21).
Without a detailed knowledge of the book of Isaiah, it is easy to miss the original context of the verse Paul quotes in Romans 15:21. Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s Messianic Servant begins with the following words:
“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…”
Without the distraction of chapter and verse divisions, it is clear from Isaiah’s prophecy that the gospel Paul preached and which the Gentiles obeyed (Romans 15:18-19) was the good news of spiritual victory in Jesus. The salvation which Jesus’ name intimates (Matthew 1:21), the gospel which is His power for salvation (Romans 1:16), and the church of the saved which Jesus promised and built (Matthew 16:18)—the body to which He adds those who obey His gospel (Acts 2:47)—were all foretold by Isaiah (and other Old Testament prophets).
The gospel was promised by God through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:1-2). God has kept every one of His promises.