How Can Faith Come by Hearing?
An erroneous notion permeates Christian thought which has us believe we don’t always need words to preach the Gospel—that our deeds will speak what we don’t. But faith comes by hearing. It can only come by hearing (Romans 10:17). The Apostle Peter, in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, spoke Scriptural truth as he quoted Joel and David and testified about what he had seen and heard from Jesus Christ. That large Jerusalem crowd he addressed heard him and, by his preaching, “about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41).
Paul, in addition to many other places, preached Christ to Greek philosophers at the Areopagus, keynoting on their altar “to the unknown God.” Some scoffed, some wanted further reasoning, and some “were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas,” themselves becoming proclaimers of the Truth (Acts 17:1-4).
And what of the letters penned by Paul, the Gospel writers, and James, and Jude? Each letter was heard by its recipients as read aloud and by us as we read them.
Faith comes by hearing. The world also hears about Jesus through the pages of the Old Testament (e.g. Psalm 22 and prophecies throughout the major and minor prophets)!
What Does 'Faith Comes By Hearing' Mean?
When we think of hearing, our first impression is it comes by auditory means. Yet hearing means more than with our ears. Hearing implies speaking, yet the impartation of a message by any means of direct communication (e.g., reading) can be considered speaking (1 John 5:13). Can a deaf person come to faith? By all means. They do not hear with their ears, but they hear with their intellect and with their hearts as they watch either sign language or read the Bible, and, as we all do, they make a decision based on its truth. Has anyone in this day and age heard Moses, Matthew, or Jesus with their ears? No, yet when read, it is as if they are speaking to us (the writers in the Bible were moved by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21)). They spoke in ages past, yet we still “hear” their voices today (Hebrews 1:1, John 17:20).
Faith is always used in the New Testament to mean “faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual.”
We confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe with our hearts that He was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9). As an outpouring of the change in us, our obedient task is to speak to others about the transformation God made in our lives.
Not only does our faith come by hearing (Galatians 3:2), but when we speak of our faith/the Gospel, others hear what we say (or write, or sign) and they, in turn, may come to faith by what they hear us say (Romans 1:16-17, 1 Timothy 4:11-16). This author was saved through reading a fiction series with an overt Gospel message. As I read, it rang as true in my heart as if Jesus were speaking directly to me. As we hear the Word through reading (and sign language), we can listen and respond in faith.
What Does the Bible Say about Faith Comes By Hearing?
In today’s society, there is a current misunderstanding of faith because of worldly “wisdom” and distractions that seek to veil it. To address that, we need to delve into Scripture. Hebrews 11:1 is an oft-quoted passage on faith. Assurance and conviction are mentioned in the same verse. In the context of the passage, assurance means that which has a foundation and is firm. Can a man take a firm stature on shifting sand? No, but he can stand on Jesus, the Word of God (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is the immovable Rock of our salvation (1 Corinthians 10:4). In the same Hebrews passage, conviction is defined as “a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested.”
By these definitions, we see faith as something to be grasped and possessed by the evidence given us, and that comes from the Bible (and speakers of it), the Spirit, and the Word (Jesus Christ).
Aside from the definition found above, faith is described in the Bible as:
Something by which the righteous shall live (Habakkuk 2:4)
Measurable (Matthew 8:26)
Part of what sanctifies a person (Acts 26:18)
To be proclaimed (Romans 1:18)
A sign of righteousness (Romans 4:22)
That with which we are justified (Romans 5:1)
Coming by hearing… (Romans 10:17)
A guiding counsel for decisions (in tandem with the Spirit) (Romans 14:23).
Resting in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5)
A gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, as faithfulness)
Part of the armor of God (Ephesians 6:16)
Being a good servant of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:6)
Not only can we exhibit faith in God, but He also shows Himself faithful (Psalm 146:6, Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 25:1,1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13, and 2 Corinthians 1:18). In this, we realize we, when we have faith, are displaying God’s character through us, His creation.
How Do We Get Faith?
Faith comes from God; it and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are said to be concurrent in conversion, for no one comes to Jesus except by the drawing of the Father to Him (John 6:44). God has chosen to move in this age of grace through His Holy Spirit. This is huge, and it underscores what Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 and Galatians 3:2. This is not of ourselves—it is wholly of God as He draws us to Himself. His kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and therefore to faith. How do we get faith? We get it by hearing the good news (John 3:16, e.g.), and responding with belief and therefore trust in God.
In Acts 8:26-40, Philip was led first by an angel and then by the Spirit to tell an Ethiopian eunuch what the Scriptures say about Jesus. As a result of hearing Philip expound the Scriptures, the eunuch came to faith and asked to be baptized as an act of obedience and acknowledgment that he believed with all his heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37-38).
God is the One who initiates our path to salvation by faith, and the Bible is replete with accounts of the apostles’ exposition of the good news, bringing many people to faith. A careful study of the four Gospels, Acts, Romans, and the Epistles will give the reader great examples of the many ways they proclaimed the faith.
What Is the Context of Romans 10:17 and Faith Comes by Hearing?
The Apostle Paul wrote the epistle of Romans to the Christians located in Rome. His purpose, as stated in 1:15, was to “preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” The book of Romans is hailed by most biblical scholars as the great doctrinal exposition of the faith. It is Gospel-driven and includes practical implications for the life of a believer. Beginning in chapter nine, Paul speaks directly to Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ as Messiah. Throughout the book, he poses thoughtful questions to lead his audience to the truth and the implications of the Gospel. He guides his readers from the Law to the “riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23), and he admonishes Israel for not seeking righteousness through faith. Paul continues in chapter 10 by saying, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved” (10:1). Paul recounts the words of Moses regarding righteousness, and Isaiah pertaining to unbelief (10:5-21). This passage includes one of the many high points of his exposition verses 8-9. That is where he declares salvation comes by hearing the word and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. Since all Scripture is useful for our benefit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we may cling to that promise. That’s good news!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Tatiana
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.
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