Meditations in Romans, Ch.9-11 : 12: Origins of Faith
Rom 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
The truth is that there are some verses in Scripture that are more important or more significant than others. This particular verse, I believe, is one of the most significant verses for the life of the Church today. But let’s see it in context first, to see how Paul uses it. In verses 14 and 15 Paul spoke about the fact that the Gospel HAD been preached and was available to all. He quoted Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Isa 52:7) The focus is all on the word that came from God, the Gospel proclaimed and heard. The effects of preaching had been twofold: some had received it and responded to God and been saved, but others, who were blinded to it, failed to ‘hear’ it and failed to respond to it, and that was the bulk of his countrymen.
But the fact of their blindness and their refusal does not annul the truth of this word – “faith comes from hearing.” You cannot have faith until you have heard from God. We sometimes wonder that there is so little faith in the modern church and the probable reason is that there are so few anointed preachers bringing the word directly from heaven. It may also be that the riches and affluence of modern day materialism blinds many to the wonder of the word from heaven. It may also be that we are so rarely taught to listen to God and so fail to hear the word from heaven. All of these things add up to a failure to hear the word from heaven and so there is so little faith.
We repeat it: “faith comes from hearing.” That is the key to what Paul is saying. It is the message of the Gospel that releases faith and faith releases response. Yes it is hearing “the message” that has come from God, a communication from God that He wants us to hear and respond to, and it is the word about Christ. Where there are open hearts, this Gospel message is gladly received and faith rises in a person.
Perhaps we should ask in a meditation like this, what is faith? Well according to the writer to the Hebrews, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1). Faith is, very simply, believing what God says and acting on it. We hear the words of the Gospel spoken and something within us rises and we say, “Yes, it IS true! I see that now! I am sure of it!” It seems that suddenly we ‘know’ it is true and we must respond to it. THAT is faith. It is not some wishy washy half belief, it is “being sure” and “being certain” and that sureness and that certainty only comes when we heard God’s word with an open heart and the Holy Spirit takes it, makes it come alive and applies it.
Now just to make doubly sure that we are taking this in, note that there are THREE aspects to this that I have mentioned. First, there is hearing. Now hearing can include reading so the word from heaven to our hearts may come as we are reading the Bible, through the words before us, or it may come as we are praying and we suddenly find a strong conviction about something we suddenly sense, or it may come as direct words into our mind as God communicates directly with us, or it may come through preaching or prophecy brought by another. Obviously if we don’t read the Bible or we don’t pray, we are ruling out two of the most common channels that God uses to speak to us. If we don’t attend church and don’t hear either preaching or prophecy, then we miss out on those two channels of His communication and our ‘hearing’ is going to be strictly limited.
Second, there is the matter of having an open heart. Now God can and does speak to people who don’t have open hearts but they are unlikely to hear Him. I sometimes wonder if Moses’ burning bush (Ex 3) was God’s way of catching the attention of that failed Prince of Egypt whose sense of self esteem or self worth had been long gone in those forty years in the desert with just sheep for company. So, yes, the Lord can break through to those who might otherwise appear closed, but how much better when He can find in us an open, seeking, searching, hungry heart that just yearns for Him and yearns to hear His voice. Be honest, do you yearn to hear His voice?
Third, there is the matter of the work of the Holy Spirit. His work in this instance is to illuminate the word that is coming so that suddenly it comes alive. Have you ever had that experience where you are reading the Bible and suddenly, it seems, a verse seems to leap out at you with great significance? Whether it is in praying, preaching or prophecy, He does the same thing when He sees an open heart.
Perhaps we should add a fourth aspect to this. As James wrote, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (Jas 2:17) Faith requires action. I’m never quite sure of this but I suspect that this is directly linked to having an open heart. If you have an open heart you will also have an obedient heart, a heart that wants to do what God says, and so when the word comes, your heart is open and the Spirit illuminates the word, you will respond and you will act in obedience.
What is the Lord looking for? Faith! “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6) When God speaks, He wants His people to hear with open hearts so He can illuminate what He says and faith will rise up, action will follow and He will act in power and the world will be changed. That is how important this is.