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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, November 12, 2023

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17; p. 1204 Scofield).

One of the greatest problems in preaching is to make people see that salvation is not by “decisions” or any other human work, but is entirely by grace. Salvation is not presented to people as a reward for their goodness, or for their “decisions” or “rededications,” but is given to them freely through simple trust in Jesus Christ.

No matter how often we preach this great truth, many people will not understand us, and others will oppose us, as though it were not their duty to obey God by trusting Christ.

When people are brought to church to hear the preaching of God’s Word, they still do not understand what it means to simply trust in Christ.

I am sometimes discouraged when I read modern gospel tracts that give five or six things a person must do to be saved. They often say “You must believe this – or that.” “You must realize this and that.” And “you must then do something else.” And it all comes down to saying a “sinner’s prayer” of one sort of another, often adding that you must make Christ Lord of every area of your life, or some similar words. I think that all these points, though given by well-intending men, confuse the issue of salvation rather than clarify it.

Our text gives a plain answer, one that I wish were preached without apology in our churches. The text is practical and easy to understand.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

That is simple, plain and clear. Let me illustrate this. If a man says that he is thirsty, the plain and practical answer is, “Take a drink of water!” If another man is hungry, tell him to go to the kitchen and “get something to eat!” And, so, we must make it just as plain when a man tells us he wants to have faith in Christ. It is enough to say to him,

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

Any other information he may want or need can be given to him at another time. But in the act of preaching, it is enough to tell him, if he wants saving faith in Christ, that

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

And so, without a further word of explanation, we will go right into the text, and find in it the answer to the question of how faith comes to an unconverted soul.

I. First, the way faith in Christ comes.

Our text says,

“Faith cometh by hearing…” (Romans 10:17a).

Faith comes only by hearing and not in any other way. Faith comes only in the most natural and simple way, by hearing the Word of God.

Faith does not come by inheritance. It is not passed on from one generation to the other,

“Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh…but of God”
     (John 1:13; p. 1114).

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6; p. 1117)

and nothing more. The new birth is not passed on from parents to children. Nothing spiritual is inherited. All children, even those of godly Christians, are

“shapen in iniquity” (Psalm 51:5),

“estranged [turned away] from the womb” (Psalm 58:3).

No matter how godly the parents are, their children must for themselves become personal believers in Christ Jesus.

Nor does faith come by memorization. The Catholics have long taught that confirmation and full entrance into the church follows memorization of a “catechism.” But memorizing a set of doctrines, or even memorizing Scripture and being able to repeat the verses, does not guarantee saving faith. The Pharisees studied and memorized the Scriptures, but Jesus said,

“In them [the Scriptures] ye think ye have eternal life”
     (John 5:39; p. 1121).

Yet Christ indicated that they did not know Him.

The great figures of Christian history knew much Scripture, but were yet unconverted. Men such as Augustine, Luther, Bunyan, Whitefield, Wesley and Spurgeon had studied the Bible for years, and knew many verses by memorization, and yet did not have saving faith in Christ until they were converted.

“Faith cometh by hearing…” (Romans 10:17)

not by memorization.

Then, there are some who think that faith comes by feeling. But feelings come and go. Mere emotions cannot ensure true faith or real salvation. You may have a feeling when true faith comes, but that feeling must not be the basis of your faith. That old hymn, “The Solid Rock,” makes this plain when it says,

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
     (“The Solid Rock,” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).

The word “frame” means, “mood, state of mind or feeling.” I dare not trust the sweetest mood I have! I dare not trust the most pleasant feeling I experience!

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Now think positively about the text,

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

Faith comes when the Word of God reaches your mind, and grasps your heart, and moves you to trust Christ Jesus.

Sometimes faith in Christ comes by hearing a simple statement of the Gospel. My wife was saved directly after hearing a simple sermon on John 3:16. This was also the experience of several leaders in our church. Such people already wanted to be saved, and when they were told that Christ loved them and wanted to save them, they immediately came to Him and were converted in an instant!

Others come to Christ when they hear the negative side of the Gospel. When they hear of depravity, the complete ruin of human nature, and the judgment to come, they think, “Yes, that is true,” and they come to Jesus.

Yet, there are others whose faith in Christ comes when they hear of the love and pity of Jesus. They believe in Jesus when they hear sermons preached on “This man receiveth sinners.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour.” “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Such preaching of the Word regarding the love and mercy of Christ, has moved them to come to Him by faith. Faith comes by hearing of the free forgiveness of Christ, obtained by His agony, His stripes, and His crucifixion.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

II. Second, things which often block people from saving faith in Christ.

One thing is lack of attention. Sleepy hearers are not likely to be led to faith in Christ. Eutychus went to sleep and fell from the third loft, and “was taken up dead” (Acts 20:10). But a sleepy hearer like him is not likely to be converted, even if he heard the Apostle Paul preaching, as Eutychus did. You must pay attention if you expect to receive the Word. You must listen carefully to the preaching, and think about the Word if you expect to be converted by it. If you don’t think about the sermon, you may remain a hearer only, and so perish in unbelief.

Another thing that blocks saving faith is lack of purpose. Many come to the preaching service with no purpose, no eagerness to find salvation. If you came to hear the preaching with the intention of wanting to know Christ you would undoubtedly find His Word effective in bringing you to salvation quite quickly.

With others a lack of openness blocks saving faith in Christ. If a person makes up his mind what he will believe before he hears the sermon, he is not likely to be convinced. When a person’s heart rebels against the Word, well then, faith will not come, and cannot come, no matter how many times he hears the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing when a man gives himself up, and surrenders to the Word of God. Surrender, yield, give up, let go of your own prejudices, abandon yourself and surrender yourself to the Word of God. Say within yourself, “It is the truth of God, I cannot argue against it. I receive it joyfully.” That is the way faith in Christ comes to every convert.

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”
     (Romans 10:17).

III. Third, the importance of faith coming to you by hearing.

I have been preaching a very simplified version of Spurgeon’s sermon, “How Can I Obtain Faith?” Let the “prince of preachers” himself give you the third point in his own words.

If you have been a hearer and faith has not come to you, you are, this moment, in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. You believe not in Christ, and you make God a liar, because ye have not believed in his only begotten Son. The wrath of God abideth on you. You are dead while you live – without God, without Christ, and strangers of the covenant of promise. My soul pities you – will you not pity yourselves? Hearers only; faithless, graceless, Christless! Christ died, but you have no part in His death. His blood cleanses from sin, but your sin remains upon you. Christ has risen, and he pleads before the throne, but you have no part in that intercession. He is preparing a place for his people, but that place is not for you. Oh, unhappy soul! Oh, wretched soul! Out of favour with God [you are] at enmity with eternal love, destitute of eternal life!...
Ah, remember, though your present state is terrible it is not all. You will soon die, and you will die without faith. Remember that word of Christ, it is one of the most terrible I know of, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” To die in a ditch, to die in a prison, to die [hanged by the neck], none of us would desire; but to die in your sins! O God, it is hell, it is eternal damnation. May the great Lord save you! But to perish for ever will be your lot as surely as you live, except you believe in Jesus and that speedily, for soon you will be out of the reach of all hearing. No more sermons, no more invitations of grace…No more the preacher’s voice saying “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?” No more the pitiful accents of one who loves your souls, and fain would snatch you as firebrands from the flame: around you all will be dark, and hard, and the only message for you will be this – “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still”…
Ah! Then it [will not lessen] your miseries that you once heard the gospel; it will rather increase your torment. Conscience will cry aloud – “I heard the gospel of grace, and I heard the arguments which proved it true, but I rejected [the] gospel which God himself proclaimed…I rejected it, I wilfully rejected it, not because it was not true, but because I [chose to] believe a lie, and would not believe the living God.” Eternal Father, who art mighty to save, let not one among us go down into the pit with a lie in his right hand, refusing to accept the gospel of thy blessed Son! (C. H. Spurgeon, “How Can I Obtain Faith?” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, volume XVIII, pp. 47-48).