God has given us ears so that we, among other things, would gladly and diligently listen to the preaching of His Word. Contrary to God's will many people listen to evil talk and close their ears to God's Word. Jesus says: "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" (John 8:47). Many refuse to go hear the preaching of God's Word. But with these words Jesus does not mean merely listening to preaching. He means accepting and believing the Word. And thanks to God, there are those who hear His Word in faith.
The Holy Spirit regenerates a person through certain means. They are called the means of grace. These means are the Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The same faith-strengthening power is in Holy Communion, which is meant for those who already believe.
Our sense organs are the receptors of God's Word. They cannot, however, as if with a power of their own, give us the blessings of the Gospel. The power to regenerate is in God's Word. "Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me", says Jesus (John 6:45). Conversion and the ability to hear in the right way are not human accomplishments, but God's accomplishments.
Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ" (Rom.10:17).
In describing faith, God's Word uses illustrations related to perception through the senses, through hearing for instance. We would be mistaken, however, were we to say that God works only through the sense of hearing. When the Bible speaks of hearing God's Word, it does not only mean hearing vocally produced words.
When the rich man in hell asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers still living on earth, Abraham rejected the request saying: "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them." The rich man did not understand the matter, but kept on insisting: "No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." But Abraham replied: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead." In this account (Luke 16:22-31) hearing cannot mean hearing vocally produced words, for Moses and the Prophets were dead and Abraham rejected the request to send men from the dead to earth. Moses and the Prophets mean the written Word of God. The Holy Spirit works through this Word and we must hear it.
"These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31). We may accept God's grace directly from the Bible by reading it. But we cannot use such reading as an excuse to reject the means of grace and fellowship in a Christian congregation.