Hearing for Life (Romans 10:17)
[So] faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. —Romans 10:17
There’s hearing and then there’s hearing. The same word can have very different meanings. “I hear you” is what one friend says in response to another in deep conversation. By it, she means I understand you. But “I hear you!” can also be the angry response of a rebellious teenager. He’s thinking, your words have registered and I hate what you’re saying. In both cases words were spoken and understood. But the responses couldn’t be more different.
The hearing Paul talks about in Romans 10, the hearing that leads to saving faith, is of a kind all its own.
Hearing that saves
When someone speaks, they generate sound waves that enter your ear canal, causing your eardrum to vibrate. Those vibrations pass on to three tiny bones that amplify and transmit the waves to hair cells in your inner ear that transform the vibrations into electrical energy, sending it along nerve fibers to your brain. (Ear: Anatomy, Facts & Function)
Hearing is a marvel that testifies to God’s majesty in creation. But even the wonder of audible speech is nothing compared to the hearing that leads to eternal life. It’s not enough to hear the words of the Bible and register them in your brain. It’s not even enough to listen to what’s being said and understand it with your mind.
Hearing, but not listening
“He’ll be able to hear now, but I can’t make him listen.” That’s what my audiologist friend says to wives when she fits their husbands for hearing aids. She’s seen plenty of older couples who come in for help with their ears, and plenty of wives who hope that fixing the ears might repair the marriage. Alas, she can amplify words, but she can’t make someone pay attention.
This reminds me of Luke’s account of the merchant, Lydia, in Acts 16. She, a worshiper of God, was listening to Paul preach in Philippi. She could hear him with her ears. But that wasn’t enough to be saved. Verse 14 tells us, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” By an act of God’s grace, Lydia’s listening led to life.
Jesus said, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24, emphasis added). For that to happen, we need a miracle of God. Our ability to hear the word of Christ, to believe that it’s true, and to love it, that is faith–a gift from God. He alone “calls into existence the things that do not exist” with a word (Romans 4:17). Elsewhere Paul said,
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
God, who creates something from nothing with His Word, calls us to speak boldly the word of Christ. Just two verses before our passage, Paul writes about the beauty of “the feet of those who preach the good news” (v. 15). May the Lord who opened our ears to hear, loose our tongues to speak the good news of the gospel to our unsaved friends, family members, and neighbors. And may He who alone raises the dead to life, give them ears to hear, and hearing, grant them hearts to believe.
How does knowing that hearing the Word preached increases our faith encourage you to gather regularly with your church family?
Are you feeling weak in your faith? Consider the power of the Word of God, skillfully preached and explained, to build you up (Acts 8:30-35, Nehemiah 8:8).
Ask God to give you opportunities this week to share the gospel using the words of Scripture. Ask Him to give those to whom you speak the ability to pay attention.
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and author who edits the Fighter Verses blog. She and her husband Steve are the co-authors of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses have four children. They live in Louisville, KY.