What Does It Mean To Hear?
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus Christ responded by saying, “‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31). Inherent in obedience to this law is hearing its words. Without the desire to listen to the message of the Gospel, our actions in this life are worthless. We are told throughout the Bible that “he who has ears, let him hear…” (Matthew 11:15, Revelation 13:9). Furthermore, Jesus states in Luke 8:21, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
With so many verses on “hearing the word of God,” we ought to consider what it truly means to do this. Can we hear and not obey? Can we please God without hearing? Can we accomplish anything in life without hearing instructions? Most importantly, is hearing an act of salvation? By hearing, of course, I do not mean the literal, physical act of receiving messages through the human ear. Otherwise, those who are deaf would never be able to obey the Gospel. In the truest sense of the word’s spiritual application, “hearing” means inviting the Word of God into your heart, either through reading the Bible or listening to its words spoken out loud. After all, “When you read you can understand [the apostle Paul’s] insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:4-5). And also, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). One writer said, “We once saw an educated mute, who was quite an intelligent member of the church of God. We wrote on a slip of paper and handed him the following question: ‘Sir, Paul says faith comes by hearing;’ as you cannot hear, how came your faith?’ He was a good penman, and quickly wrote the following answer: ‘Though I can not hear, thank God I can read. I heard the Gospel like I heard the question you asked me. John says, “Many other signs and miracles Jesus did which are not written in this book; but these are written that you might believe…” I read, understood, believed, and obeyed what was written.’ We were pleased with his answer, for it evinced that he knew much more about the faith required by the Gospel than many who have ears to hear but seem not to understand what faith is, or how it comes” (The Gospel Plan Of Salvation, Brents, 214). It becomes quite clear from these verses that hearing is an absolutely essential part of our walk toward salvation. Without hearing, we can never come to fully understand the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:6) and respond to the gospel call to believe and be baptized!