“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Saving faith is a gift from our Creator Himself, given only to His elect, who are certain to persevere until the end of life. Texts such as John 6:44 and Ephesians 2:1–10 reveal this precious truth, which is why the Westminster Confession of Faith stresses the work of the Spirit in bringing us to faith (14.1). Yet this is not all that the Westminster Confession says about the supernatural character of faith. God most often works through ordinary means, and so He does not usually give His elect faith apart from certain means that He has established. As Westminster Confession 14.1 says, faith “is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.”
Note the emphasis on Scripture as the means by which faith is wrought. The confession acknowledges that the teaching and preaching of Scripture are the ways that the Holy Spirit works faith in us. God’s work of regeneration is required if we are to believe (John 3:3–8; Eph. 1:3–10; 2:1–10), yet He calls us to faith through the preaching of the gospel. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Our Lord saves us through what Paul refers to as a foolish message (1 Cor. 1:21), namely, “Christ crucified,” a truth foreshadowed in the Old Testament and made plain in the New Testament (vv. 22–24). When the Word of God is proclaimed faithfully, God’s Spirit accompanies it to change the hearts of His chosen and make them receptive to the message (Ps. 119:18; 2 Peter 1:21). He illumines the meaning of His Word, penetrates our souls with the knowledge of our sin and our only hope of salvation in Christ, and elicits our faith in the Savior.
If we would have strong faith, then, the most important thing we can do is hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word as often as we can. As the Word is preached in corporate worship, the Spirit generates faith in those who do not yet believe and strengthens the faith of those who are already saved. But God also calls people to faith and builds them up when God’s Word is taught in other settings: at home, in the classroom, in Bible studies, in ordinary conversation, and elsewhere. Jesus strengthened the faith of His disciples by teaching them the living and active Word of God (Luke 17:5–6; Heb. 4:12–13). Today, He uses the same Word to make us mature in the faith.
Without the proper diet, our bodies will be weak and sickly. The same is true of our faith. If we do not nourish it regularly, we will be tossed about by every wind of doubt, and we will fall into sin more readily. We feed our faith by hearing the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This is the proper diet that the Lord has ordained for our souls. Let us take as many opportunities as we can to hear the Word of God so that we will grow strong in our faith.