We are justified by faith, and not by works of the Law. Yet how do we get faith?
Faith is not something we are born with. It is not a product of our imagination, or an act of the will on our part.
Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is created and sustained by God the Holy Spirit working through the proclaimed Word of Christ (Romans 10:10-17).
So that we might obtain faith, so that He might give us faith, Jesus Christ created the Means of Grace. These are the Word of God preached and proclaimed, and also the Word of God attached to physical forms in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Without these Means of Grace there can be no faith whatsoever.
Without the Word of God coming to us through proclamation (sermons and absolution) and through Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) there can be no faith.
And God is more gracious still. He has appointed officers to preach this Word of Christ full time. Pastors are called to be the continuous announcers of the Word, the administrators of the Sacraments, so that we can be certain that faith is continually being created and sustained among us. There will always be someone preaching and teaching the Word.
This is God’s grace: that for some strange reason, contrary to all human understanding, He actually loves us. And because of this He is constantly showering us with His gifts, His Word and Sacraments through the everyday work of pastors, so that we might trust Him.
Call it what you will: grace, love, mercy, favor. God’s attitude toward sinful humanity is one of steadfast care. And because of this He does all that He can, even becoming a man to die the most excruciating death imaginable, that we might believe in Him.
God’s grace alone creates faith. Without it no one can believe. With it we are saved from death and hell.