“So belief cometh of hearing and hearing by the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17 ASV). Among the many proof texts popular among us, Romans 10:17 is often used to demonstrate that doing something by faith means doing as one has been instructed to do in the word of God. While this principle is certainly true, the passage under consideration does not support this principle. One would be better served to support the aforementioned argument by a study of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.
Romans 10:17 actually says something entirely different when allowed to speak from its own context. In Romans, Paul makes a case for the gospel as the only means of salvation (Romans 1:16-17). This is true, says Paul, because in the gospel is revealed the “righteousness of God” which comes to man by faith, not by works (Romans 1:17; 3:21-22; 4:4-5). Man without Christ, left to pursue righteousness by his own works, is left to a hopeless task. This is true because all people have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile, and violated the law to which they are responsible (Romans 2:12-16; 3:10,23). Because all have sinned, no person can be justified or “made righteous” by their own keeping of the law of God (Romans 3:20). Rather than trusting in our ability to keep God’s commandments perfectly, which even Paul could not do, we must put our trust in the cleansing blood of Jesus and the “righteousness of God,” (Romans 3:21-26; 7:14-25). In Romans 10, Paul laments the fact that many of his Jewish brethren have failed to find the salvation that is in Christ. This is true, says Paul, because “being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God,” (Romans 10:3). Then he says, “For Christ is the end of law unto righteousness to everyone who believes,” (Romans 10:4). All who come to Jesus are freed from law as a system of justification. The result is righteousness for them, but not their own righteousness. It is the righteousness of God, given by God.