“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”Romans 10:17 (ESV)
As we embark on this week’s Verse Study Series post, let’s find out what Romans 10:17 really means based on its context in the Bible. Let’s first look at the words “faith” and the phrase “the word of Christ.”
The word “faith” in Romans 10:17 is referring to a specific type of faith: saving faith. It is faith in the message of the Gospel—trust and belief in Jesus and the good news of what He has done for us in His death, burial and resurrection.
“The word of Christ” (seen also as “the word of God” in some translations) in this verse refers back to the Gospel message Paul writes about prior to verse 17. Read it in context below:
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)
The Apostle speaks of salvation and how we are made righteous through believing in Christ Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:5-10). He cites from the Old Testament a verse speaking of a time when “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13).
As we read Romans 10:17, we see that Paul is saying that faith comes to a person when the good news of the Gospel is preached to them and they then believe this good news they have heard: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
What This Verse Doesn’t Mean
My passion concerning this particular verse comes from being wrongly taught about it some years ago. I was previously taught that this verse was about receiving healing or getting other things you pray for—if you speak it out and just have enough faith. I had never heard the verse in the context of those around it, so I didn’t know it was actually about the Gospel, and those teaching never said it was.
To be truthful, this was somewhat discouraging for me as I tried to walk it out. It felt like so much striving in my life as I tried to earn things I needed—even legitimate things—by faith. It felt off to me, but I figured it was just something wrong with me or that I was at fault for. It was so frustrating at times and made my walk with God very discouraging.
Because of that, I want to also bring awareness to the harmful teaching that has surrounded this verse so others do not fall prey to it like I did back then. If you’re wondering where you might find this type of misuse of Romans 10:17, it is mostly found in circles that adhere (often unknowingly) to the false prosperity gospel and Word of Faith (WOF) movement.
The false teaching was that if you declared the things you asked for in prayer repeatedly, it would increase your faith for it. Then, because of your faith you would be given those things by God. You can probably already see how this practice could easily lead to legalistic striving in those who practice it. On top of that, when prayers aren’t answered, it could lead to discouragement and disillusionment in someone’s relationship with God.
We know that we cannot “perform” in order to earn something from God. We can’t make God respond because we think He has to if we exercise our faith. It makes faith into a force for getting answers to our prayers, and usually leaves us disappointed and even burnt out.
Faith, however, is not a force we somehow wield in a way that gets God to move or earn our healing, etc. Biblical faith is about trusting God, firstly believing in Him and what He has done to purchase our salvation, and then in trusting that in all circumstances of our lives, He is always faithful.
The WOF/prosperity gospel movement also has an unbiblical doctrine that God will always heal even in this earthly life because healing doesn’t exist in Heaven. They even express that if you aren’t healed, it’s essentially your fault by saying it is because your faith isn’t enough or perhaps you are in sin or need inner healing. This is akin to how Job’s friends viewed his suffering, suffering which was not due to his sin, that God allowed and turned to good in the end.
While it is true that God desires healing and wholeness for us, He is most concerned with our spiritual state. Our current earthly life is not like Heaven: Earth is currently tainted by sin and suffering due to man’s fall into sin as well as the enemy’s working, both of which contribute to the suffering we see across the world today. Furthermore, Jesus said we will have trials and trouble in this life prior to Heaven. God can and does heal, but sometimes that healing may not come until Heaven.
Relief in Knowing the Truth
Now we can rest in knowing the truth about this verse in context and can avoid wrong understandings about it. And along with the good news of the Gospel, we can share with others the truth about Romans 10:17 for their relief as well.
Praise God it’s not up to us. We thank You, God, that our relationship with You is not based on our performance. Even when we are in need of healing or something else, we can simply pray to the Lord and entrust it into His hands. We need not strive so He will respond. God is faithful and He will answer as He sees fit and in His perfect timing.
And if the answer is never realized on this side of eternity, we can rest in the truth that God knows best how to work all things for good to make us more like Christ in character (Romans 8:28-29). He will help us through every trial and challenge.
Check out more from the Verse Study Series.
I pray that this post has helped and encouraged you today as we sought to find the meaning God intended for this passage when His Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible. He is faithful!
Get free Bible study resources when you signup to receive new posts via email: