The word of Christ is what brought us out of the world and that to which we were converted. When we drift away from it, we become confused, and we begin dividing, bickering and fighting among ourselves. The solution is given elsewhere in the Bible: Get back to what brought us together in the first place—the combination of the word of Christ and devotion to Him, to the love that we had at the beginning (Revelation 2:4-5).
Genuine ignorance may be a defense before God, but neglect never is. We need to remember Hebrews 2:3, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" God can forgive ignorance because we cannot believe what we did not know, and even though we may be punished in our ignorance, it is far different from being punished when we know better. Yet, "to whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). We are not in ignorance. If we are slipping away, it is because of neglect.
One way we can be unworthy at Passover time (I Corinthians 11:27) is by neglecting or forgetting what we are now. We need to evaluate faith in light of the Passover and the state of our minds and our hearts as we approach it. Moffatt translates Romans 10:17 as, "Faith must come from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the word of Christ." We are saved by grace through faith, and faith comes from knowledge of God and His Word, so the importance of studying His Word, meditating on it, seeking practical applications for our life, cannot be overstated.
Along with obedience, practical application of God's Word is a must if we want to have saving faith. We must check ourselves before Passover to see whether we have passed up or neglected opportunities to make practical use of our faith. This means so much to our attitude, the way we approach life on a daily basis.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Pre-Passover Look
What is being heard (in the phrase "faith comes by hearing") is not specified. If we lift it from its context, without considering the rest of what Paul says, we still get a truism: Faith, or belief, follows hearing (or reading). However, the rest of the verse says, ". . . and hearing by the word of God." This relates directly to faith. The faith, the belief, that God is interested in will come from a specific message—one that has its origin in God, not the world.
Therefore, it is the message of the Bible because it is the Word of God. It is not limited merely to the gospel—or even to the New Testament—but the whole Book is part of the gospel! A number of commentators say they believe that it is more understandable if the very last word of verse 17 is translated into the word "Christ." "Word of God" is not wrong, but they feel it is more specifically correct as "Christ" because He is God.
In the context of the book of Romans, the gospel is called the "gospel of Christ," because Paul says, for instance, in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." In other words, it is the message that He brought.
It is His message that produces the faith that will save.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wisdom of Men and Faith
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, the Bible. Unless the words spoken conform to it, they are merely doctrines of men and do not reflect the true God, for those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. This requires searching the Scripture as the Bereans did to verify if the preacher's words are true (Acts 17:11). One cannot know the true God unless one knows the truth of God.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Faith Toward God
In the spiritual sense, "eating" occurs primarily when one hears and reads. A person ingests messages and concepts into the mind through words, which establish and nourish his pattern of life. Those words, if one permits it, create a faith upon which one bases the way he lives. This faith is almost entirely dependent upon the quality of what is heard and whether a person believes it enough to follow it. These verses reveal that only the words of God or Christ, His gospel, His truths, will form the faith that leads to salvation because they will form the correct beliefs and thus the correct way of life. This is the faith of Christ; the person who has it believes what Christ believes. This is a simple, understandable, true formula.
Zephaniah 3:1-2 shows what happens when a person rejects or disbelieves His words: "Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD; she has not drawn near to her God." That person comes to great dismay. This does not mean we cannot have words other than God's in our mind, but the children of God must filter everything through God's words to test their validity before they allow themselves to believe them firmly enough to make them part of their belief system.
Put another way, there is faith and then there is the faith, the faith that brings salvation. This faith arises from believing God's words. What we believe will determine our conduct and attitudes whether or not we stop to think about those beliefs because what is contained in the heart will come out (Matthew 12:34-35). Only God's words truly produce spiritual strength. In our recent past, "eating" and believing the wrong words set the church up for the scattering that has occurred. For quite a while, worldly things gradually corrupted the spiritual health of God's children, weakening them through spiritual malnourishment and changing their faith.
I Corinthians 1:10 provides a first-century account of a congregation suffering from this process of ingesting the wrong words: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Division troubled this congregation because the members held dissimilar views on beliefs that are basic to spiritual unity. I Corinthians shows disorder, confusion, argument, and offense as symptoms of spiritual weakness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)
Faith comes by hearing—hearing the Word of God. Those words contain the evidence by which one can reason, judge, and choose what one will do with his life. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). He cannot lie. He has never gone back on a promise. If He did, He would cease to be God. God expects us to reason with His truth as our foundation. Understand that God's Word is not everything in terms of life, but His Word is the foundation against which we evaluate all the other words that we have heard and been taught all through the years.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part One)
Faith does not "come" through natural genetic processes. Faith truly has a vital link with blood—the blood of Christ, "whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith" (Romans 3:25). But an individual does not inherit faith through a natural bloodline; God did not see fit to encode faith in human DNA, so that it could be passed to offspring.
Christ's disciples, in asking Him to "increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), exhibit their understanding that God, not genetics, is the ultimate source of faith. Because "God shows no partiality" (Acts 10:34; see Romans 2:11), He has no proclivity to limit His giving and increasing of faith to a particular racial stock. For that reason, faith as a characteristic does not "belong" to a particular race as, say, a set of facial features is peculiar to a given race.
In His time, then, God made faith available to the Gentiles and with it, spiritual salvation, which has its taproot in faith:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, . . . [so] that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14).
Peter says as much to the church gathered in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:17-18, he connects "the gift" given to the Gentiles with belief—faith—in Christ:
"If therefore God gave them [Gentiles] the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" When they heard these things they became silent: and they glorified God, saying, "Then has God also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
God's Israel crosses natural racial or ethnic distinctions; the faithful of any race make up the Israel of God. These are the faithful who receive "the blessing of Abraham" (Galatians 3:14).
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith
God has set up a system to call, convert, and educate a people for Himself. They are a minority, very few in number. They are not mighty, noble, and learned, but the weak of the world. God calls them and gives them His Spirit and teachers to help them understand. Of all people on earth, only they have a chance to understand the Bible.
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 10:17:
1 Corinthians 1:18-21
2 Corinthians 5:7
2 Thessalonians 3:2
2 Timothy 3:1
1 John 2:14-16