April 27, 2003
HOW DOES FAITH COME?
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Is that the only way faith comes, by hearing? What about reading? Cannot faith come that way too? Of course it can, and that question should make us look closer at our text.
The word translated "hearing" is the very same Greek word translated "report" in verse 16. It focuses on the thing heard, the message, and not the means or mechanism whereby the message was received. In fact in Romans 10:15 we read of "them that preach the gospel of peace, and... glad tidings of good things" (10:15). Paul's quotation from Isaiah 53:1 is simply a follow up from his "gospel of peace" from Isaiah 52:7. Therefore faith comes from or through the message, that is a positive response to the message, when one hears the gospel. Romans 1:16 reads "the gospel...is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes." The power is in the message, not at all in the recipient. "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12). The Lord Jesus said, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." It is so important to understand that faith does not come through the messenger or the means he uses to convey the message. God's power and blessing are in the message itself. That is why it so important to stay close to the very words of the Bible when explaining its meaning.
Paul's questions here relate to Israel : How could they "call" on one of whom they had not believed? And how could they "believe" in one of whom they had not heard? and How could they "hear" without a preacher? That brings the question: Whose responsibility is it to raise up and send preachers? God's! Did God carry out His responsibility? Indeed He did. God sent Isaiah to Israel , and Israel acknowledged him as a God-sent preacher! But did they believe Isaiah's message, the "glad tidings and...good things to come"? Not at all, for Isaiah said, "Who has believed our report?" which really means that no one received his message! What might appear a question is but a statement of his rejection! Therefore Israel had no excuse for refusing God's message. And what about today? Does anyone today have a valid excuse for failing to believe God's message? What about you?
Ivan L. Burgener