“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world.’
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says:
‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation,
I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.’
But Isaiah is very bold and says:
‘I was found by those who did not seek Me;
I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’
But to Israel he says:
‘All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.’”
Verse 17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Where does the faith that delivers a person from all his/her sins come from? True faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
I would like to continue bearing witness to the gospel of the righteousness of God through His Word. Let us begin by taking a look at Romans 3:10-20:
“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.’
‘Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit’;
‘The poison of asps is under their lips’;
‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
How should we understand and believe in these passages to receive salvation? From the very beginning, there were neither the righteous nor those who sought God, but all were sinners. Their throats were open tombs; their tongues were like the venom of a poisonous snake, deceitful and full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet were quick to draw blood. They knew not the way of peace, or the fear of God before their eyes, and only walked in the path to their own destructions and misery. Everyone was a sinner before knowing and believing in the righteousness of God, and the way they found out that they were sinners before God was by the law.
How could we, without the law, know our sins? How could we know God? Did we ever fear God? Romans 3:18 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Did our eyes of the flesh ever see Him? We may perhaps have been slightly conscious of the existence of God, but we neither saw nor feared Him. How, then, did we find out that we were sinners? We came to know the existence of God by hearing His written Word. This is why hearing comes from God’s Word.
We know that God created the world because it is thus written in the Scripture, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). It is by hearing this Word of God that we came to know and believe in His existence, and to believe that He is the Creator of the whole universe. If it weren’t for the Word of God, there would have been no one who knew of Him, nor feared Him. Neither could we have known of our sins without the Word of God—not a single person.
In other words, we were fundamentally ignorant of God, worshipping futile things, and unaware of our own sins. But God gave us the law, and this is how we came to know of our sins before God. It was by hearing His Word of the law as the Ten Commandments and the 613 detailed articles of the law that we came to know our shortcomings and sins.
No one can know even one’s own sins without the Word of the law. Almost every convict behind bars would claim that he/she does not know what his/her crime was, or why he/she had been locked away. Many of them claim to be innocent; that they were sent to prison wrongfully and unjustly. Without knowing the law of God, we cannot know of our own sins, saying, “I have always acted in this way. Everyone does it. How can this be sin?”
Only by seeing and hearing the law of God have we come to realize our sins. We have come to know that our worship of other gods, our calling of God’s name in vain, our failure to observe the Sabbath, our killing, our adultery, our theft, our lying, our envy-our failure to live by the Word of God, in short-are all acts of sin because the law of God says so. This is how we have realized and recognized that we were sinners before God, by the Word of the law. Before this law, we did not even know our own sins.
Having realized that we are sinners, what, then, should we do before God? We need to ask how our sins can be forgiven. It is by hearing the Word of God that we come to know our sins, and realize our need for salvation. Just as the hungry feels the need for food, those who recognize that they have broken God’s law and know that they are grave sinners realize their need for salvation. This is how we come to look for God and recognize our need to believe in His righteousness through Jesus Christ, whom He sent for us. As “faith comes by hearing,” we know our sins by hearing the Word of God.
We now know that we are sinners. What should we do to be delivered from our sins then?
Salvation comes by faith in His Word that stands in the center of our hearts, just as we came to realize our sins by hearing and learning the Word of God. As Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”
By giving us His law, Got let us know that we are sinners before Him, as we have failed to live by His Word. We consequently have two different needs: we want to live by the law, but at the same time, we desperately seek our salvation from sin. But because “…now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed,” those who are to be delivered from their sins must find redemption by their faiths in this righteousness of God, not in the law. We know that this deliverance does not come by obeying the law of God, but by believing in the salvation given by God, in the very righteousness of God that has saved us through Jesus Christ.
What, then, is this righteousness of God and His salvation? This is the gospel of the water and the Spirit, spoken of in both the Old and the New Testaments. The gospel of the water and the Spirit appears in the Old Testament as salvation by faith in the sacrificial system, and in the New Testament as faith in the baptism of Jesus and His Cross. Romans 3:21-22 says, “Being witnessed by the law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.”
How can we then receive the righteousness of God? We can receive the righteousness of God by knowing, through the Word of God witnessed by the law and the prophets, that Jesus is God and our Savior, and by being saved from all our sins through our faiths in Him.
In other words, we receive the righteousness of God by believing in His Word, witnessed by the law and the prophets of the Old Testament. That the law and the prophets witnessed God’s Word is shown also in the very first chapters of Hebrews and Romans.
That Jesus came to deliver us is the salvation promised to us by God. This promise to save the sinners, who were under the law and bound for their destruction, had been made thousands of years ago by God. He had repeatedly reiterated this promise and revealed just how He intends to keep it through many of His servants who came before us.
Let’s see a passage for example. Leviticus 16:21 says, “Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.” The passages from Romans 3:21-22, that the righteousness of God was witnessed by the law and the prophets, means that the complete salvation of Jesus was revealed through the Old Testament’s sacrifices of the tabernacle and through such prophets as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel.
In other words, God had already revealed, through the Word of the Old Testament, just how He would keep His promise of salvation—that He would do so by sending Jesus Christ, having Him take up all the sins of the world with His baptism, die on the Cross in our place, and thereby pay the wages of all our sins with His own body, all for our deliverance from sin through the righteousness of God. Our salvation is thus not by the law, but by our faith in the righteousness of God, Jesus Christ Himself, as witnessed by both the law and the prophets.
God tells us that we are saved from our sins by believing in His righteousness, which was fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Our faith comes by hearing this Word of God, the Word of Jesus Christ. How can we know and believe that Jesus is our Savior? We know and believe that Jesus is our Savior by hearing the Word of God spoken to His servants, that He had promised to save us according to His plan, and that Jesus came to save us according to this promise and plan. As is written in Daniel 9:24, “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.”
God has set seventy weeks for our people
We continue with the above passage from the Book of Daniel. What the passage describes is the fall of Israel by Babylon, when God determined that the Israelites, because of their idolatry, would be taken to Babylon as prisoners and live there for seventy years as slaves. As determined by God, Israel was attacked and overwhelmed by Babylon, and unable to withstand the devastation, ended up surrendering to the invaders, who took many of the Israelites as prisoners and turned them into their slaves. Among the prisoners taken were also the wise, such as Daniel, whom the Babylonian king made his advisor.
So God punished the Israelites in this way for their sins, but because He was merciful, He did not keep His wrath forever, but instead planned to free them in 70 weeks.
When Daniel, repenting before God on behalf of his people, prayed for His mercy and deliverance, God sent an angel who spoke the above passage: “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.” This passage is God’s promise to Daniel that He would forgive all the sins of His people in 70 weeks when their transgressions were finished. It also reveals to us God’s promised deliverance through Jesus Christ.
Because the Israelites committed many sins, God had to punish them, and for the price of 70 weeks of slavery, God forgave all their past sins. When the transgression is redeemed and an end of sins is made, all the sins of the Israelites would no longer be there. When the reconciliation for iniquity is made, the everlasting righteousness is brought, and the vision and prophecy are sealed up, all of God’s Words spoken to Daniel would be fulfilled. Through the 70 weeks of slavery, all these would come to bear, and on the 70th week, the Israelites would return to their homeland.
This is what God told Daniel through His angel. This promise was a promise made to the Israelites, but it also has a spiritual significance—just as God set 70 weeks for the people of Israel and their holy city, God has prepared for all of us who believe in Him our Holy City of Heaven, our Kingdom of God.
In Romans, it is said, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” When Jesus came to this earth, was baptized, and died on the Cross, all our transgressions were eliminated, our sins ended, the everlasting righteousness was revealed, and the vision and prophecy was sealed up. The passage from Daniel ends with, “To anoint the Most Holy.” What does this mean? The Most Holy refers to none other than Jesus Christ, who would come to this earth to be anointed.
What does it mean to be anointed? That Jesus would take upon the three positions of the King, the High Priest of the Kingdom of God, and the Prophet. As our King, High Priest and Prophet, Jesus would fulfill the will of God to deliver us from all our sins. Just as prophesized by the angel who spoke to Daniel, Jesus Christ took upon all our sins on Himself and was judged in our stead by coming to this earth and being baptized.
“Faith comes by hearing.” How, then, can we hear and believe in this gospel of the righteousness of God? How can we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior? We can hear and believe by the Word of God spoken in the Old and New Testaments-by the words spoken by the prophets of God and His servants. This is why Paul said that faith comes by hearing, and this faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ.
The prophets of the Old Testament, such as Daniel and Isaiah, had prophesized about the coming of Jesus Christ. Isaiah, in particular, prophesized, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” and “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:4, 7).
Who in Isaiah’s time would have believed that Jesus Christ would be born of a virgin to come to this earth as the commonest of all commons, live for 33 years, be baptized, crucified, and raised from death on the third day? Yet Isaiah saw and prophesized, about 700 years before the coming of Jesus, that all these things would come to pass. He bore witness to the fact that Christ would bear our grief and all our sins.
This is why Paul used the Word of the Old Testament frequently when writing the Book of Romans, to explain how the servants of God bore witness to how Jesus became our Savior-by coming to this earth, taking away all our sins, and saving us with the righteousness of God.
For all have sinned
Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Because we were born into sin and have all sinned against God, we have come short before His glory and His Kingdom. But we were justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption in Jesus Christ. Our justification was for free, without a price. We did not have to pay the wages for our sins because Jesus took upon all our sins and paid these wages with His own life on the Cross, all to deliver those of us who would hear and believe in Him.
What do we mean by faith in the salvation from all sins? We simply mean faith in the righteousness of God. Believing in the righteousness of God has nothing to do with works, but everything to do with our hearts. We become justified by hearing the Word of our Lord and believing in it with our hearts. To save us from our sins, our Lord came to this earth, became the Lamb of God, who carried all the sins of the world by being baptized by John the Baptist, and died on the Cross. On the third day, He arose from death, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.
Jesus took upon all the sins of the world onto Himself, paid the price for the punishment of our sins with His own life, and arose from death; all to save us from our own certain deaths. We are saved by believing in this. Our salvation comes by faith, and our faiths come by hearing the written Word of God, and our hearings come by the Word of Christ.
“Faith comes by hearing.” We believe with our hearts. Our intellects are for knowledge, while our bodies are for working, and it is in our hearts that we believe. What, then, should we believe in our hearts, and how? By hearing the Word of God, we can hear His gospel, and by hearing His gospel, we can have faith, and by having faith, we can be saved. When we believe, we believe by the Word of God—that is, we believe in the written Word that proclaims that Christ took upon all our sins with His baptism, carried them, died on the Cross and rose again from death.
To have faith in God’s Word is to have faith in His righteousness. So, faith without hearing God’s Word is futile and useless. Such claims—that God was revealed through one’s dreams and whatnot—are all lies.
We are saved by faith and faith alone. Let us read, one more time, Romans 3:24-26: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Amen. Our Lord was made the propitiation for our sins. Because of our sins, we were made God’s enemies, but Jesus reestablished our relationship with God by becoming the propitiation for our sins with His baptism, death and resurrection.
In the middle of Romans 3:25-26 is the passage, “Because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness.” This passage tells us that God had waited in patience for a very long time, and that He will wait until the Day of Judgment. Those who believe in Jesus Christ, those who believe in the salvation through the water and the blood, those who believe in the salvation of the Son, who became the propitiation to God the Father–all their sins are passed over by God. ‘To have passed over the sins’ means that God has passed over the sins of those who hear and believe in the Word of God and His gospel, the very people who believe in the baptism of Jesus and His blood on the Cross.
We may falter from time to time in our lives, but this is because of the weakness of our flesh and minds, and as long as we do not deny the salvation of Jesus, God will not see all these sins as sins. God does not, in other words, look at the sins of those who are saved by believing in the water and the blood of Jesus Christ in their hearts, but passes over them.
Why, then, does God pass over our sins? How can He ignore such sins, when He is the holy and just God? This is because Christ came to this world and was baptized. It is because Jesus blotted out all the sins of the world with His baptism and crucifixion that God passes over our previously committed sins. Do the sins previously committed refer to only our original sin? No, they don’t, because while they may appear as our original sin, to our everlasting God the Father, everything is in the past.
In the viewpoint of eternity, time in this world always appears as the past. This world has its beginning and end, but God is eternal, and so when we compare His time with our worldly time, all the sins of the world appear as committed in the past before Him. “God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness.” This is why God does not see our sins. It is not because He does not have eyes to see our sins, but He does not see them because His Son Jesus Christ has paid the wages of our sins. Because Christ’s baptism and crucifixion cleansed away our sins, we actually appear before God as sinless people.
How could God see our sins when Jesus Christ, whose fulfillment of God’s righteousness redeemed all those who believe in it, already took them away from us? This is how God demonstrates His righteousness now by passing over the sins that were previously committed, sins that have already been paid by Jesus Christ.
Faith in the righteousness of God comes by the Word of Christ because the Word of Christ itself contains the very righteousness of God. By demonstrating His righteousness, God showed not only His righteousness, but also the righteousness of those who believe in Jesus Christ. God rid us of all our sins, and we, too, believe in our hearts that Jesus has taken away all our sins. This is why we have become as sinless and as justified, as we have put on the same righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27). Because both God and we are righteous, together we are all family, and you and I are His children. Do you believe in this beautiful news?
Does this mean that we have something of our own that we can boast of? Of course not! What is there of ours to boast about when in fact, our salvation is possible only by hearing and believing in the Word of Christ? Were we saved because of our own works? What is there to boast of? Nothing! Were you saved because you had attended early-morning church services? Were you saved because you had never missed a Sunday church service? Were you saved because you had made sure to offer tithes? Of course not.
These are all works, and the faiths based on works and/or the faiths supplemented with works are wrong faiths. We were saved from our sins only by believing in the righteousness of God in our hearts. Faith comes by hearing, and salvation comes by faith in the Word of Christ.
Trying to receive the remission of sins through prayers of repentance, after believing in Jesus, is also a false faith, for true faith comes only by believing in the righteousness of God, not by the deeds of the law. As the Word of God says, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (Romans 3:27-29).
Salvation comes, for both the Israelites and the Gentiles, by hearing and believing in their hearts that Jesus Christ has saved them with His water and blood. We are saved from our sins when we believe in the righteousness of God. When we believe in this righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, we are saved from our sins. God becomes our Father and we become His children. This is the salvation by faith in the righteousness of God, by hearing and believing in the Word of Christ. Our faiths come by believing in the righteousness of God.
Our salvation comes by our faith in the Word of Christ. Do you, then, believe that Christ came to this earth as your Savior, that with His baptism, He took upon all the sins of the world as a propitiation to God, and that he died on the Cross, arose from death on the third day, and sits at the right hand of God the Father? Do you truly believe in this salvation, in this atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ?
There are many people who ask God to appear in their dreams, who say that they will believe if they can only see Him once with their own eyes. Some even claim to have seen Jesus in their dreams, that He told them to do such and such things-build a church here, a prayer center there, etc., but usually something requiring money-and being deceived by such false claims, many are misled and go astray. There are too many sad happenings in this Christian world. You must realize that all these are not the work of our Lord, but of the Devil himself.
If, by any chance, you see Jesus in your dream, don’t take it too seriously. Dreams are only dreams. Jesus is not someone who would appear before you in such a manner-otherwise, there would be no need for the Bible. If Jesus appears before us even once, then we must close the Bible, for there is no need for it any longer. But this will have a devastating effect on Christ’s work of salvation.
If we were to believe in Jesus without the Bible, He would have to appear before everyone. But there is no need for this, for our Lord has already fulfilled all the requirements of salvation. This is why faith comes by hearing and believing in the Word of Christ. Have all the people, then, heard of Jesus Christ? They may have heard of the name Jesus Christ, but not all of them have heard the true gospel. This is why Paul asked, “And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
We must, therefore, preach this gospel that contains the righteousness of God. But with what and how? By what method or how the gospel is preached is not important; all methods of spreading the good news, through spoken words or printed materials, should be used. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of Christ. Printed materials preaching the gospel, too, can lead readers to true faith. Regardless of the method, you must remember that faith can come only by hearing, and hearing only by preaching the good news.
If you really have faith in the Word of God in your heart, then you will know that you are a true Christian. I hope and pray that you know this; that you have been saved from your sins. I also hope and pray that you will hold onto the Word of the water and the Spirit dearly. Let us, then, conclude our discussion by reading Romans 10:17 together.
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Amen. Those who believe in their hearts by hearing this written Word of God are those who have the true faiths. Do you have this true faith? Our Lord has delivered us from all our sins.
How thankful and happy we are that the Lord has taken away all our sins! Without the gospel, people are always discouraged, but just by hearing that Jesus took upon all our sins with His baptism, our hearts can be filled with joy and our faiths can begin to grow.
I thank the Lord for saving us.