What is Faith? (part 2) ... Is Faith a Gift?
Does saving faith come by grace (thus making it a gift to the one chosen to be graced) or does faith appropriate saving grace? Here are a couple of verses about that. Do they contradict one another?
… through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2) (compare Ephesians 2:8-9 – through faith)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him… (Philippians 1:29)
OK, many people insist that faith is a gift. I heard a lady just the other day: “I believed in Jesus Christ and He saved me – but even my belief in Him was from Him.” I hear an oxymoron in that statement. Let me say that I fully understand faith to be a gift in one sense:
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. (Acts 18:27)
Without God’s enabling, His grace, we can do NOTHING! I cannot walk to the mailbox if God decides He does not want to allow me. When it comes to seeing and embracing the truth from God about His wonderful plan of salvation, if He didn’t help me see it, I wouldn’t have seen it. He draws all men unto Himself now that He has been lifted up. (John 12:32) He draws ... and we must respond ... with a very personal thing called faith. Faith is not some mystical insight into truth. It is not some deep commitment to change or serve. It is not a work. It is not an effort. It is very simple – it is when a person hears the truth, is convinced about it, and believes. This is not done to us by God or for us by God, this is what God desires of us.
Faith in Christ is the only way a sinner can stand before God, which has always been quite a revolutionary idea in and of itself, because it takes working your way to heaven out of the picture. Faith is the only way we can receive what God has to give. I was thinking about the “gift of God.” This is really the best analogy for salvation because … it is the one that the Bible uses!
We’ve all heard it before – you have to receive a gift or else it is not yours. I was thinking that if I were a Calvinist, I would challenge that idea by saying that this is not necessarily true. Some anonymous billionaire could get my bank account # and go to my bank, fill out a deposit slip, and I would have a gift that I could not reject! I couldn’t reject it because I don’t know the man and there would be no way of refusing the gift. It would be there in my bank account without my having seen or known or heard a word from the giver. It would be mine without my having received it. Is this the picture we have of our God? Does He give saving grace and deposit faith in our heart and mind without us having interacted with Him, without our personal involvement, without our belief? That strikes me as all very impersonal, but if you say “faith is a gift” in this way, I can’t see that it would be anything personal at all. Salvation by grace through faith could just as well be salvation by Grace without faith.
Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved …
The greek word for believe is pisteuō, which comes from the same word used in Ephesians 2:8-9 translated “faith”.
This is something personal – it happens within a person – it is not something done to a person. Believe you must, this is all God requires to enter life. Yes, He requires something, but not works – He requires the righteousness that comes through Christ. He provides the righteousness, we receive it through faith.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
4102 pistis (pis'-tis)
From G3982; persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; - assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.
Here are Webster’s definitions of these words (how can this be a “gift” in the truest sense of the word?)
Believe: to accept as true, genuine, or, to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something, to hold an opinion, to think, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of.
Faith: Belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
Here are the verses I recieved via email:
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:16)
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. (Romans 12:3)
8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? (Acts 15:8-10)
1Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours… (2 Peter 1:1)
1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)