1. Faith By Hearing
Romans, chapter 10, verse 13 – 17 states “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esais sayeth, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing BY THE WORD OF GOD (emphasis mine).
It is said and commonly held by most, that faith comes to those who hear the gospel preached. Romans 10:17 is the usual “go-to” verse that is used to defend the position. It is correct to say that faith comes by hearing, and even other verses support the fact, such as Galatians 3:2;5. However, the subject of hearing is altogether a different matter.
Let’s take the statement, “…faith cometh by hearing…”. Hearing what? The word of God*. So it would be safe to paraphrase as such: “So then faith comes by hearing the word of God.” Now, it is sad and unfortunate that most stop there, or at least take the following half of the verse in an almost redundant fashion. For example, they would read it as: “Faith comes by hearing the word of God, by hearing the word of God”. But this makes no sense. Notice that the verse says, “…and hearing by the word of God” and not, “of the word of God’. The solution lies in the fact that the verse is saying much more than this. It is also talking about metaphysics, or cause and effect.
We know that when we preach the word of God (scriptures; Gospel) that not everyone who hears us believes, or becomes a believer. They do not receive faith. It is not because the gospel is powerless to do so, it is because God has sovereignly decided that they would/should not receive it. The bible (Jesus) says that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.* It is by the word of God that we live and die. It is also by the word of God that we believe or do not believe.
The verses of Mt 7:24, 26 state that one can hear and doeth not. See also 13:13,14. Verses 19-23 speak of those that hear and understand, and contrasts those that hear and do not understand. 15:10 has Jesus using the phrase, “hear, and understand” to the multitude before Him. Mark 4:33 expresses that everyone has an ability/inability to hear/understand. It states, “And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they we are able to hear it “(emphasis mine).
In Luke 6:27, it says, “But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you”. In 8:18, “take heed therefore how ye hear…”. Then in verse 21, Jesus says to the people who were trying to get his mother and brothers to where He was, that his true mother and brethren are the ones who hear (the word of God) and do. Over in 11:28, He says, “blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it”.
So there are those that hear the word of God and keep it, and there are those that hear the word of God and do not keep it. Some hear it and believe. Some hear it and do not believe. To say that faith comes by hearing only, is an error. If we are going to be realistic, looking at it from the perspective that “all it it takes is to hear it audibly (or read)” would then mean that atheists, agnostics, and all other non-Christians would immediately convert upon hearing the word of God.
But as it stands, not everyone believes our report! Not everyone is saved. And not everyone receives faith when they hear the word of God.
John 12:37-41 sheds a little light on the reason behind the “hearing but not hearing/understanding”. It states, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Therefore, they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He* hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
In conclusion, we affirm that men (in general, and not everyone absolutely) acquire faith by hearing the word of God, as stated in scripture. We also affirm that this hearing, even spiritual deafness, is produced and effected by God, and is not just a result of words being spoken without power. Finally, we affirm that faith comes by hearing, but the hearing (understanding) itself, by the word (power) of God!