So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This passage of Scripture is the foundation to faith itself. This is God’s way of establishing saving faith in the heart of each individual. There is no exception to this. No one can become a Christian without first hearing God’s word or the Gospel (Acts 15:7). And no Christian can continue in the faith (Col. 1:23) or increase their faith (Luke 17:5) without the hearing of God’s word.
Faith Comes by Hearing God’s Word, not the Traditions or Creeds of Men.
The Bible warns not to become captivated or enslaved by the traditions of men (Col. 2:8). Traditions or creeds written by men can in fact invalidate the word of God or make it of no effect in our lives (Mat. 15:6). Creeds of men are usually established with good intentions with the goal to declare one’s religious beliefs to the world. Yet, too often the result is that it adds to God’s will, an act which God prohibits (Rev. 22:18-19). No matter how appealing, wise, or helpful traditions or creeds may seem, they cannot be the basis of our faith. Only God’s word can produce genuine faith in the hearts of men and women (Rom. 10:17). Only the Gospel has the power to save (Rom. 1:16).
Faith Comes by Hearing God’s Word, not Worldly Wisdom and Philosophy.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:8, NASB). There is a real danger of putting our faith and trust in the sayings of men, rather than in Christ and His word. Lest we forget that Christ has been given all authority (Mat. 28:18), we need to be careful not to give the same weight and emphasis to the wisdom of this world. While it is sometimes the case that wisdom found in the world complements (not contradicts) God’s word, it is still not the source of knowledge that actually strengthens our faith. Only God’s word can build our faith properly (Rom. 10:17).
What do you put stock in? The sayings of Shakespeare and Benjamin Franklin or the teaching of Jesus (John 12:48) and His apostles (1 Cor. 14:37)? Many preachers rely on the quotations of famous men instead of “book, chapter, and verse” of the Bible to persuade people to accept their message. Scripture is often treated as secondary instead of primary in the preaching that takes place in many pulpits today. Though the people may be “moved” by the writings of men, only the preaching of God’s word will generate true, saving faith (Rom. 10:17).
Faith Comes by Hearing God’s Word, not Entertainment.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim 4:2-4). More and more people today want to be entertained by their preachers and “Bible class” teachers. Instead of the desire for truth and the preaching of God’s word, people want their “ears tickled,” want to be made to laugh and to feel good about themselves. Sermons that “reprove, rebuke, exhort” are rejected as “negative preaching” that is out-of-date for the needs of modern Man.
Congregations that receive a steady diet of entertainment with minimal emphasis
on the Scriptures will not be strong in their faith. Attempts to draw non-Christians
to God by entertaining means (e.g., drama plays, concerts, “motivational”
speakers, etc.) will not result in true conversions to Jesus Christ. Only by
hearing God’s word can people be saved, grow spiritually, and be faithful
until the end (Rom. 10:17; cf. 1 Pet. 2:2; Rev. 2:10).
Faith Comes by Hearing God’s Word, not the Emotional Appeals of Men.
Like God, we have emotions or feelings (Gen. 1:26-27; e.g., Mark 3:5; Eph. 4:30). Religion void of emotion is not true religion. Appropriately so, preachers and teachers can get emotional as they convey the will of God to others. However, feelings by themselves, no matter how powerful they may be, are not to be the basis of our faith. Just because we can “stir someone up” to obey through an emotional appeal does not mean that they have been properly taught the truth nor does it mean that their sorrow is the right kind of sorrow or joy the right kind of joy.
Genuine sorrow, for example, that leads to repentance and salvation is the result of being convicted by the truth, not by mere sob-stories or heart-wrenching testimonies given by men: “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10). As convincing as our emotions or feelings can be, they are meant only to be a by-product of our faith and not the basis of faith itself. Only by hearing God’s word (and obeying it) can we truly walk by faith in daily living (Rom. 10:17; 3 John 4; cf. Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23).
Faith Comes by Hearing God’s Word Because God’s Word Is Powerful!
There is a reason why “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God’s word is powerful! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16; cf. 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:4; 1 Thes. 2:13; Heb. 4:12).
One visitor said, after attending the morning worship service, “Why did the preacher spend time reading so much Scripture when we can do that ourselves at home!?!” There is a very good reason why we read Scripture in the assembly: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”! (Rom. 10:17). Some local churches make it a practice to have a portion of Scripture read by one of the men to the entire congregation. This is often done in response to the instruction of 1 Timothy 4:13 which says: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Bible class teachers and Gospel preachers would do well to take heed to this command. How else can a teacher be a Bible class teacher or a preacher be a Gospel preacher unless the reading of Scripture is included? To fulfill his ministry, every preacher should “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2-5), for “faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God.” Only by the hearing of God’s word will a person come to have a living faith in God.
The bottom line is this: For the lost to be converted to Christ, they must first hear God’s word. For the saved to be faithful to the end, they must continue to hear God’s word. Let us always put our faith in God and His power to save by the power of His Gospel.
By Mark Larson
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