We have been answering the question, “Where does faith come from?” We learned, faith does not come from men, that is to say, faith is not produced by, inherent in, or available to any person without outside intervention.
So where does faith come from? Faith is a gift from God given through the hearing of the Word applied by the power of the Holy Spirit as He produces spiritual fruit in our lives. Faith is given to us through the hearing of the Word of God. This study will demonstrate for us the power of the Word of God as it is the means that God uses to give the gift of faith to those who would believe the gospel and be saved. Let us start then with the hearing of the Word of God.
Hearing the Word
For “whoever calls on 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 unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:13-17
In order to be saved one must call on the Lord, turning from his sin to Christ in faith. The immediate question that the Spirit addresses through Paul is that of asking how can anyone call on God if they do not believe God and His Word and obey the gospel. Further though is the question that they cannot believe God if they have not even heard of Him. So there needs to be a preacher to proclaim the truth to them so that they might know Who God is and what is required of them to be reconciled to Him.This gives us a hint about what we preach when we witness. We tell them the truth about God and the truth about themselves and their need for calling on Him for salvation.
We also must note that this is not speaking of a preacher in the sense of a pastor or evangelist or “official” church position. It is speaking of the role we all have to be proclaiming the gospel to those around us. It is not necessarily preaching from a pulpit, but any proclamation of the gospel from those who know it to those who need to hear it.
This preacher must be sent. While we understand the call of God on the lives of those serving as pastors and missionaries, we must not forget that we have all received such a call to proclaim the gospel. Again, all believers in Jesus Christ have been called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). We are all to be sowing the seed, because if we do not tell people about God and about their need for salvation, then how can they call out to Him and be saved?
God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners, no doubt. He uses us as the means to call sinners to salvation. We see then from this series of questions and answers about who will be saved this truth – faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. People must hear the Word of God in order to know the truth and believe it. Faith comes by hearing the gospel not just listening, but hearing and understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearing comes by the Word of God. God uses the Word to open ears and eyes to hear and see the truth.
Without Him we are dead, blind, and deaf. But when He uses the Word to open our ears and eyes then we can hear and see and believe and call out with our mouths. And “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The Power of the Word
This teaches us then the power of the Word of God. It is alive, active, powerful, and unable to be contained or constricted or stopped. Do you think about the Bible as being a living Book?
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.- Hebrews 4:12
It is living and powerful. It cuts right to the heart of the matter. It is a two-edged sword (Ephesians 6:17). It reveals the true intentions of the human heart and exposes our every thought.
The Word of God is a mirror that reflects to us the truth about who we are and what we need. It gives us the standard by which we must be measured to be pleasing to God (James 1:23-25). It reflects to us the truth, unvarnished. The way we respond says much about our faith and maturity in the Lord.
Along with revealing to us the standard of living for pleasing God, the Word of God is powerful. Consider these verses:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11
The Word of God is the power of God to salvation. It is what gives life when applied by the Spirit. It is what God uses to impart faith. Salvation is accomplished by the application of the Word of God. This power, this Word, never fails. Get that? Often we think it is not enough just to give people the Word of God, but the Word of God is the only thing we have to give people that brings guaranteed results.
The Word of God always accomplishes the purpose that God sends it forth to accomplish. The Word is never sent out to fail and return void with no results. Often we forget that the Word can bring several results because often we are seeking one primary result, the salvation of souls. When people are not saved we think that either we have failed in the method we have used to witness or we believe that the Word of God failed and did not bring forth fruit.
The Word of God not only brings salvation, it also brings healing, hardens hearts, convicts, sanctifies, and breaks people. The Word is never sent out, not once, that it does not accomplish the specific task that God wants to accomplish. This should give us great freedom and motivation in preaching the Word to those who need to hear it because the results do not depend upon us, but upon the Spirit and the Word. They never fail.
Preaching the Word
The purpose then of preaching is to simply and boldly declare the Word of God to those who need to hear it – that would be everyone. The Scriptures are specific, we do not need a great snazzy program or world class marketing and promotions. We do not need to have raffles and give-a-ways. We do not need to bribe people or manipulate people. We just need to faithfully preach the Word.
Paul is clear, he did not minister with smooth or flattering words. He says he ministered by “by setting forth the truth plainly.” He says he did not come preaching with “excellence of speech” or “with persuasive words of human wisdom.” He simply and faithfully preached the Word of God.
Why do we think the Word is incapable and that we must add our own twist, our own presentation, our own talent, our own persuasion and excellence, as if we were competing with the television or radio or as if it were a performance to be appreciated and applauded? We are not in the business of marketing or contextualizing the gospel. We live to preach the truth of God’s Word to faithfully and consistently sow the seed and let God give the increase.
In fact, the preaching of the Word is seen by the world as foolishness. This is why many people abandon churches that preach the Word. They have itching ears, cannot bear up under sound doctrine, and want their fleshly needs and desires met. They come to hear preaching that helps them meet their needs and entertains them instead of to hear preaching that is faithful to the text and confronts them with sin and righteousness. Many today do not want preaching that is expositional or applicable – they want a quick fix to their problems so that they can tip God in the offering plate and then get on with their life.
The preaching of the Word sets the tone for the church and in fact tells us everything we need to know about the ministry taking place. If a church fails at preaching then nothing else they do matters. Consider:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:18-21
Let’s be a fool for Christ and preach the message of the good news that Jesus Christ has come to seek and save that which was lost. Stick with the Word and then the results are guaranteed. We might also take the time to pray for those that we preach to.
One note – we do not mean by “preach” that we should shout or harass people. The term simply means to proclaim or tell forth the Word of God. Tell people what the Word of God says about God, about themselves, and about what God has accomplished in our life through the Word.
Reading the Word
We see then that the Word is the means that God uses to give us faith, but is it only through the “preaching” of the Word? No. It is through hearing, reading, memorizing, meditating, or singing the Word. The Word is powerful in whatever form we get it. Psalm 1 tells us that the man who meditates on the Word is blessed and will bear fruit. John 15 tells us that we are to abide in Christ and have His Word abide in us. In fact, let’s look at those verses from John:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:1-8
Abiding in Christ involves having His Word abide in us. Why? Because without the Word we have no faith, no hope, no understanding, and no salvation. We must walk with Christ, we must be filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit, and we should be hiding His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).
Do we read and memorize His Word? Do we view it as powerful and sharp and effective? It cannot be bound, chained, or stopped. (2 Timothy 2:8-9). Remember too in all of this that Jesus Himself is the Living Word of God. The written Word reveals to us the Living Word, and there is the source of the power of God’s Word. The Word of God will never pass away. Peter refers to ‘the word of God which lives and abides forever.”
Do you believe the Word? If not, read it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.