August 5, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
There are times when I am sharing the gospel with someone that they will tell me, “Oh, I have great faith!” If I hear that statement – or something similar – I then ask, “Do you read your Bible?” More often than not, the answer is, “I really don’t read my Bible, but I do believe. My faith is strong!” And I then tell them, “If you have faith at all, your faith is weak and sickly!”
Why would I say something like that? Because in Romans 10:17 it says this: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Back in Saint Paul’s day, there were relatively few people who were literate. In an internet search, I found estimates of first century literacy rates in Palestine from about one to ten percent. But the Jews put a great emphasis on education, so it may have been higher. At any rate, much transmission of the scriptures was done orally. And so Paul says, “….faith comes by hearing….” If we take out the middle part of this verse, and put the two ends together, this is what we have: “…faith comes…by the word of God.”
First of all, “…faith comes…by the word of God,” initially. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Faith believes the good news that Jesus died for our sins, in our place. Faith lays hold of the promise of eternal and abundant life that the Savior offers us with Himself. Where does that initial faith come from? Peter tells us in I Peter 1:23 that we have “…been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.” We cannot be saved except by hearing and believing God’s Word – in some way, shape or form – presented to us.
Second, the Christian life lived out after salvation must be a life of faith. Four times in the Bible – in Habakkuk 2:4, in Romans 1:17, in Galatians 3:11 and in Hebrews 10:38 – it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” It is faith at the beginning of spiritual life, faith throughout the spiritual life, and faith at the end of life – until we see our Lord Jesus face to face – and then it will no longer be faith, but sight! In the meantime, “The just shall live by faith.”
Let us back up a bit, and define faith by what it says in Hebrews 11:1 and 6 (NIV):
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see….
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to
Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek
We may not be able to see God and His heavenly abode, but by faith He and it are as real as anything we can grasp here on earth by our five senses. Faith lays hold of the absolute fact that God exists. But it goes beyond that. Faith also knows that God will be found of those who seek Him, and reward them with answers to their petitions. So, obviously, faith is an absolutely necessary factor in living out our Christian life!
And if faith is born and made strong by the Word of God, then to neglect the Word is to produce a dead faith – stillborn at the start – or, if living, that faith will be weak and sickly! You cannot live the Christian life apart from faith! And you cannot have faith apart from the Word of God! For the one born of incorruptible seed, through the Word of God, that Word must continue to play a major part throughout his or her life. For “…the just shall live by faith,” and “… faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
DON’T NEGLECT THE WORD!!!