Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Spirit's Work of Creating Faith in Barren Hearts through the Gospel Word


1) Heidelberg Catechism

21 Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

2) Scripture

Romans 10:17: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.


The true faith that unites us to Jesus Christ is a gift. The Spirit of God brings about true faith in a person’s heart. But notice that the Spirit uses something to create true faith in Christ in our hearts. He uses the gospel. Just as a farmer tills a field with a plow, and a surgeon performs surgery with a scalpel, and I write these words with a computer, so the Spirit uses the instrument of the gospel to bring about faith in our hearts.

Two things are never to be separated in Scripture: Word and Spirit. God has chosen to work through his word. Just as the Lord created the universe by speaking (for example, Gen. 1:3; Ps. 33:6), so he creates faith in our hearts by his powerful gospel word! Just as the universe was created out of nothing by the word of God (Heb. 11:3), so the Spirit uses the gospel to create faith in our barren hearts.

One of the issues at the time of the 16th century Reformation, was this: Is the Word of God sufficient for faith and practice, or do we need something more than God’s written Word? Rome said that to Scripture we must add tradition, which comes through the church and its teaching office (the magisterium). The Charismatics (such as Muntzer) said that the Spirit worked without God’s Word (which was called a dead letter) through new revelation. Against both of these views, the Reformation said that the Spirit works through the gospel to bring about faith in our hearts, and this is the teaching of Scripture.

One important application of this truth that the Spirit works through the word of the gospel is the importance of being in a church where you can regularly hear the gospel! If the gospel is not heard, then faith cannot spring up and grow in our hearts! For the sake of our souls we need to regularly hear the gospel, for this is what the Spirit uses to produce faith in Christ, as well as strengthening our faith once it is present.

Discussion: Who produces faith in Jesus Christ in our hearts? What does the Spirit use to bring about faith in our hearts? Why is it important to hear the gospel regularly?

Prayer Starter: Pray for those who have the responsibility to teach and preach the gospel such as pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. Ask the Lord to give them a clear understanding of the gospel, and opportunities to proclaim it.

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