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Thursday, November 10, 2022

Faith Comes by Hearing the Word of God--the Implications

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  On its surface, this proclamation by Paul is simple and easy to understand and yet the failure to grasp its implications has brought much division and strife among those who believe Jesus is the Son of God.  Faith and opinion are mixed and it seems no one is able to separate the two.  It appears to the casual observer that one man’s faith is another man’s opinion and that it is nearly hopeless to find objective truth.  This confusion comes not from God but from man.  God’s word is quite clear.

Faith is that which comes from hearing God’s word thus the direct and necessary implication is that if there is no word from God on a religious matter there can be no faith but only opinion.  Faith and opinion are not equal in God’s sight.  A man is saved by faith, not by opinion.  A man is to walk (live his daily life) by faith (Rom. 1:17, 2 Cor. 5:7).  The Christian religion is based on faith but it is an objective faith in that it is based on direct testimony as found in the word of God, testimony given by God himself.

Where God has spoken on a matter I can take his word to the bank, as the old saying goes.  I need not doubt.  His word is not just as good as gold, it is better, more valuable, perfect in purity and truth.  “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” (Psalms 19:9-10 NKJV)  Faith based on word from God is faith put on a sure and solid foundation that cannot fail.

But, some examples are needed to show the difference between faith based on God’s word and opinion that is mistaken for faith by so many.  I start with examples of things based on biblically defined faith (that which comes from hearing) as per Rom. 10:17. 

I can have faith that a man must repent of sins because God’s word says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NKJV)  My faith is based on hearing the word of God.  It is not a matter of opinion whether a man ought to repent.   It is a matter of the revealed word of God.     

I can have faith that as a Christian I should sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:18-19 NKJV)  There is direct word from God on the subject.  My faith in singing comes from hearing God’s word.  It is objective, not subjective.  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)

I can have faith that as a Christian I should never speak evil of anyone for God’s word says “speak evil of no one.” (Titus 3:2 NKJV)  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  I am sure you get the idea.  When you have the word of God that you can quote on a subject and you believe what the word says it can be said of your faith that it came by hearing the word of God.  It is scriptural faith defined as that which came from hearing God’s word.

But things are often said to be matters of faith which clearly are only matters of opinion.  Many years ago I knew a man that wanted to build--expand the physical building where local Christians met for worship (whether the church needed it was the big question).  To objectors he would say where is your faith?  His assumption was that God would be with this work for it would please God and thus God would see to it that the bills were paid and the work would prosper and the church would grow in numbers.

But here was the problem--God’s word does not once speak of building a house to worship in, not in the New Testament under which we live today.  One will read the pages of the New Testament until old age dims his eyes and never read one time of a church building such as you see on nearly every corner today.  There is no word from God on building a material brick and mortar building to worship God in.  It is not a matter of faith that God wants us to build or add on to a building but pure opinion, the subjective opinion of man.  If “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), and that is what the Bible says, then where there is no word there is opinion only.

True, we are commanded to assemble together (Heb. 10:25) but that does not necessarily require a building owned by the brethren.  The church could rent, they could meet in a shelter house at a local park, they could meet at the home or property a brother might own sufficiently large to accommodate them.  In New Testament times we do not read even one time of the brethren investing in and building a structure to worship in.

Am I saying it is wrong to build a building?  Not at all!  Why not?  Because we have a command from God to assemble together (Heb. 10:25) necessitating a location, a place to do this.  Thus a place is required.  We could build or we could rent or maybe come up with some other option to fulfill the command to assemble but my point is that one cannot say a specific way of meeting this obligation is a matter of faith.  There is no word from God.  When we exercise our best judgment, as we must in this case, it still remains a matter of opinion as to whether it would be best to rent or build.  We ought not to go around laying guilt trips on people about their so-called lack of faith when in reality we are dealing with matters of opinion.

One sees this error over and over again.  Someone comes up with something that seems good or right, but lacks direct word from God on it, often even lacking generic authority (which is what we had above--generic authority to build or rent in order to keep a commandment), and then if you do not go along with it or embrace it wholeheartedly it is said “where is your faith.”  My response is “I know where your opinion is.”

But, I want to give some other examples of things that people say they have faith in but the word of God is lacking.  They cannot point to book, chapter, and verse nor can they appeal to generic authority.  What they have is an opinion being passed off as faith whether they realize it or not.

Earlier in this piece, I spoke of how one can have complete faith in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God for we have word from God saying we should (Eph. 5:18-19).  Where is the word of God saying we should play musical instruments in worship?  We cannot find it in the pages of the New Testament, not one word.  If we go back to the Old Testament we find it there under Judaism, under the Law of Moses, but we live today under Christianity and the law of Christ.  I am sure you know there is a reason why our bibles are divided into an Old Testament and a New Testament.  Do we want to try and be justified under the Law of Moses?  Read Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews and you will change your mind if you do.

What we have is opinion that instrumental music is pleasing to God under Christianity, under the law of Christ, under the New Testament, and something we should use to worship God.  There is no word from God on using instrumental music so we do not have and cannot have the faith that comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17).   For about five to six hundred years after the church was established there were no instruments of music used in Christian worship.  When it is used today it is based on opinion, the assumption that it is okay.  It was not always so assumed.

David said, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.” (Psalms 19:13 NKJV)  Albert Barnes, the well known commentator, said of the word presumptuous in this passage, “The prevailing thought is that of pride, and the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one’s own strength. The word does not mean open sins, or flagrant sins, so much as those which spring from self-reliance or pride.”  If we dare presume we may well find we have assumed wrong.

That is where we are at today with so many practices that have evolved in the Christian life and worship.  Things are just assumed, presumed, and all based on man’s opinion without a word from God.  It is said we have faith that this or that is okay but there is no word from God.  It is but man’s opinion but it is called faith by man.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  

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