Faith Comes by Hearing

I read a sign the other day that read, “Faith is caught, not taught.” I thought about that for a few seconds and remembered the words of Paul in Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Thus, I believe the one who wrote the expression would be at odds with the apostle Paul, who emphasizes the need of teaching. In fact, the context of this passage expressly points this out: “…and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). In other words, hearing the taught instructions of the word of God is essential to acquiring faith. Let us see how the Bible emphasizes hearing instruction.

First, note the swift hearers: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). This word “swift” describes something that is quick, fleet, running fast, as if a person is really putting forth some effort to hear. Thus, we need to be running fast to hear, which reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Therefore, one should be swift to hear the taught truth of the word of God, and will likewise respond accordingly.

Second, note the structured hearers (Matt. 7:24-27). When Jesus concluded His great Sermon on the Mount, His conclusion was a parable of two structured houses on different foundations. He compared the individual who hears and obeys to a wise man whose structure was on a solid foundation, but He compared the individual who hears and does not obey to a foolish man whose structure was on a shaky foundation—sand. Thus, the intended lesson is quite clear—we are to hear with the intention of obeying!

Third, note the soiled hearers (Matt. 13:1-23). In this infamous parable, Jesus narrates a sower who scattered seed on four different types of soil, each discussing the way people hear the gospel. Some would hear without understanding and quickly lose whatever benefit they gained (Matt. 13:19). Some would hear joyfully, but lose what was gained by tribulation or persecution (Matt. 13:20-21). Some would hear, but lose what was gained by “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matt. 13:22). Some would hear with “an honest and good heart … [and] keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (cf. Luke 8:15). This latter soiled hearer is the type of hearer that God desires.

Therefore, Jesus said it best when he stated, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45).

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