November 17, 2015

"Faith comes from hearing"

So says the apostle Paul in Romans 10:17. “Faith comes” – not from seeing, as in the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism – but “from hearing, and hearing by the word.”  And so faith is born, and blossoms, by means of God’s word, not the church’s artwork. A good reminder for churches today who are over-reliant upon visual aesthetics, artwork, video, and so on. But also a good reminder to those of us who are died-in-the-wool, Bible-believing Protestants as well – the life of our faith really does flow from God’s words, and from our hearing of them.

And I don’t think it stretches the meaning of the text to say that biblical “hearing” also includes the listening that we do, inside our own heads, when we read the word of God silently ourselves. Reading, in other words, is a kind of hearing, too … because faith is still being placed in the word, not in a series of religious sights and rites.

But I also think that there is something special about the actual, audible listening to the scriptures – whether as they are read, or faithfully preached. Some of my best times in the word seem to come when I hear it faithfully, spiritually, and powerfully proclaimed from a pulpit. And so I do myself a favor when I make use of every opportunity for hearing the word in that way. And so do you!

Now, of course, your first priority must always be a commitment to regularly hearing the word preached in your own congregation, from your own shepherd, in your own local setting. Nothing can replace that! And, of course, it is very much true that, if you’ll only avail yourself of every opportunity of hearing the word from your own local pulpit (and if that pulpit is a faithful one), then you will have enough. And so I cannot stress that strongly enough to you. Terry Johnson, in his book Family Worship, rightly points out that our attendance on the normal Sunday services of our local church is the single most important thing we can do to promote our own and our family's spiritual health. And I echo his thinking as loudly as I can on this point! Do not miss the opportunity to be fed by your own local shepherd(s) at every possible occasion!

But then, even after we have done this most vital thing, some of us (happily!) still long for more! The word on Sundays and mid-week is so good that we want to know where we can find more such preaching, more such exposition of Christ and His word. And (again, happily!) we have access to biblical preaching like no generation has ever had. The internet, smartphones, mp3 players, and podcasts have put the world of preaching (both good and bad) at our fingertips. And I heartily rejoice, as I have occasion to do recently, when someone comes and asks me “where the good way is”; where they may glean among “the finest of the wheat”; where, in short, they may find more of the spiritual food that good preaching provides for us.

And so, next week, I hope to provide a brief catalog of some of the fields in which we may glean the good wheat – a few of the preachers and pulpits which, coming into our hearing, might increase our faith. But for now let me just commend to you the goodness of the word preached by faithful men – whether in the flesh in your own pulpit, or across the airwaves by means of the worldwide web. “Faith comes from hearing.” So make sure that you find your seat in places of good, gospel acoustics.

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