How Does Faith Come ?
aymon de albatrus
slave of Christ
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17)
This is one of the many verses that are used (rather misused) by many to imply that by hearing (reading) the Word of God (the Bible) people will develop Faith to convert themselves. It is not exactly like that, for unless one is regenerated, he can read and hear the Bible as much as he likes, even till the cows come home, he will not convert. A typical case is one of a man that won much money on those TV shows on knowledge. His area was the Bible and he knew it very well capable to recite any verses from it, back to front and vice versa. Well he was not a believer; indeed he was a strong atheist. Mere knowledge of the Bible does not convert anyone, what are needed to convert are a new heart and a new spirit given sovereignly by God (Eze 36:26-27).
The Bible is a Spiritual book and the hearing has to be spiritual as well; a person has to have ears that hear (spiritually) for a natural man cannot hear spiritual things: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Co 2:13-14)
Clearly a man has to receive firstly a new heart and a new spirit (born again by the Spirit) before he can actually hear the spiritual call to Faith, as our Lord testifies: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mat 11:15) Just having the ability to hear doesn't guarantee an accurate reception of a message, and the hearing here is not meant naturally, but spiritually Only those whose spiritual hearts have been opened by God can actually hear the Gospel. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (Joh 10:27) (Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened Act 16:14).
The preaching (and the resultant hearing) of the Gospel is intended for those who are being saved to bring them fully to Christ increasing their recently acquired faith to maturity, and it is not intended for those who reject Christ, as our Lord testifies: “And he said, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” (Luk 8:10)
The above verse is not a universal statement implying that anyone that will hear the Gospel will generate in himself faith to convert, for only those who have received God’s gift of Faith will respond, those who are now in Christ, for He is the author and finisher of our Faith (Heb 12:2), not ourselves (Eph 2:8).
The Order of salvation is this: Firstly one receives by sovereign grace the gift of a new heart and a new spirit from God and only THEN is the person able to confess Faith in Christ. Without being Born Again, by receiving a new heart and a new spirit, NO one is capable of seeking God and to convert himself (Rom 3:10,11), no matter how much he reads and hears the Scripture. The person must be made spiritually alive by God before he can hear God for His elect (us) before regeneration they were just natural men, dead in sins and trespasses: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [with] which He loved us, even we being dead in sins, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved), and raised [us] up together and seated [us] together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:4-6)
Of course to Faith and Hearing the Word of God must follow the evidence thereof such as Repentance, Confession and Obedience, as well as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23; Eph 5:9,10). As James says without the proof of suitable works, Faith is void (Jam 2:20)
When people say that I got my Faith from the Bible they are incorrect for Faith is God given as a gift. The Bible is the proof and teacher of the Faith but not the Giver, Jesus is. And it is a sovereign gift, Praise God to the Highest. So we must thank God for our Faith, not the Bible, and also thank God for the Bible for we would not know much about God and His requirements and commands if we did not have the Bible. But the Glory is ALWAYS God’s, 100%.
Isaiah in Isa 53:1 asks: "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" plainly implying that faith results from divine revelation. It was something more than response to mere human exhortation to believe that enabled Peter to declare his faith in such emphatic terms: “He said to them, But whom say you that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mat 16:15-16) To which Jesus Himself declared from where that faith came: “And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 16:17) Clearly the Faith that Peter confessed in Jesus was not self generated but revealed to him by God
In preaching we must remember that it is our godly duty to warn sinners not with religious clichés, man-made analogies, redefined terminology, or a simplified version of the Gospel will do. Only by hearing the word of Christ as it is written in the Word will they confirm and increase the received faith and believe on Him if they have firstly received a new heart and a new spirit.
Even though faith "comes by hearing", it does not necessarily mean that it comes to all who hear, but only to those who are His, as exemplified after Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Act 13:48). The granting of Faith is the sovereign decree of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle, knowing that in preaching that Christ was the savour of life unto life to those who were saved and the savour of death unto death to those who were lost, exclaimed, "Who is sufficient for these things?" “To the one we are the smell of death to death; and to the other the smell of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2Co 2:16). Christ and only Him, of course.
How much more reason have we to confess our insufficiency! Our mercy will be ever to prove with Paul that "our sufficiency is of God." and so is Faith, AMEN.
But this should not not impair the earnestness of our appeals to the unconverted, but it should temper our addresses with a sobriety becoming the solemnity of the eternal issues involved, as Peter admonishes: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1Pe 3:15), knowing fully well that it is NOT our preaching that coverts people, but God. And yet God, in His supreme wisdom, has decreed that our pitiful preaching of the Gospel is integral part in bringing His elect to salvation through His gift of Faith. IT IS ALL OF GOD.