From the Reformer
He reminds us that the doctrine by which God invites us to himself at this day is the same with that which he formerly delivered to the fathers; and why did he say this? That we may know that the calling of God will in no degree be more profitable to us than it was to them, except we make it sure by faith. This, then, he concedes, that the Gospel is indeed preached to us; but lest we should vainly glory, he immediately adds that the unbelieving whom God had formerly favored with the participation of so great blessings, yet received from them no fruit, and that therefore we also shall be destitute of his blessing unless we receive it by faith. He repeats the word “hear” for this end, that we may know that hearing is useless except the word addressed to us be by faith received.
But we must here observe the connection between the word and faith. It is such that faith is not to be separated from the word, and that the word separated from faith can confer no good; not indeed that the efficacy or power of the word depends on us; for were the whole world false, he who cannot lie would still never cease to be true, but the word never puts forth its power in us except when faith gives it an entrance. It is indeed the power of God unto salvation, but only to those who believe. (Rm 1:16) There is in it revealed the righteousness of God, but it is from faith to faith. Thus it is that the word of God is always efficacious and saving to men, when viewed in itself or in its own nature; but no fruit will be found except by those who believe.
—John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews (4:2)
Pulling It Together
I can still hear my parents’ question: “Did you hear me?” Of course I heard them; I had ears that worked. Still, I had not engaged with what they said to me. I had heard but not truly listened. All of humanity is much the same; they have ears to hear but have not necessarily heard. They have not listened to him in a way that yields a benefit. Perhaps there will be time later, they may think, to actually listen attentively.
Elsewhere, Paul exhorts that “now is the day of salvation.” (2Co 6:2) When you hear the word of truth, that good news of salvation, listen. Only those who believe this gospel will share in its glorious fruits. God has promoted himself to many who hear the offer but refuse its goodness. Do you hear the word? Do you sense the virtue of its author? God will not withhold what he has offered. He will make good on his promises—unless you choose not to receive the offer of his eternal friendship. In which case, hear this: another promise awaits.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers