Archive for June, 2016

The Complexity: If Faith Is A Gift From God

If faith is a gift given man by God, then human responsibility is negated. If faith is a gift of God and not man’s free will, man no longer bears responsibility for believing. This makes God responsible for man’s lost state.

Consider, many are lost. If they can only be saved as a result of God giving them faith and they remain lost that means God does not give faith to everyone. Thus, God is solely responsible for the eternal destiny of humans. Man has no accountability.

The act of Christ on the cross enables man to believe, but it is the responsibility of man to believe.

Christ is the object of faith. Man is the subjective one expressing faith. The merit is in the object —- Christ.

The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is to draw persons to Christ and wait for their free will response in faith. The moment the person believes the gift of eternal life is imparted.

According to Ephesians 2:8 it is not faith that is the gift of God, but salvation.

Do Other Bible Passages Teach Faith Is A Gift?

Consider some verses used by advocates of the idea faith cannot be expressed unless God gives the gift of faith rather than it being expressed of the person’s own free will.

John 6: 44,45 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….”

Though this passage does not refer to faith, some interpret “draw” to mean “to compel against their will.” The passage says nothing about faith as a gift from God.

The Greek word translated “draw” can mean to coerce, but it also means to attract. In his writings John never uses the Greek word translated “draw” to mean compel. John wrote (12:32) that Christ’s resurrection will draw (attract) everyone to Him, even unbelievers. Clearly “draw” here does not mean God will compel everyone in the world to believe in Jesus.

Acts 3:16, “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man who you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in this presence of you all.”

Some interpret this faith which comes through Him as a gift of God. In the first part of the verse faith is the means by which the healing took place, “in the name” emphasizes God as the object of that faith, not the giver of it.

Receptivity on man’s part, which is faith, is a condition of all spiritual activity. Faith on behalf of the man enabled Jesus to heal him. Such faith is made possible through “His name,” the “Name” being Jesus.

The faith of the man resulted in the healing through Jesus, that is, by the instrumentality of Jesus.

II Peter 1:1 “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ….”

First, it should be noted Jesus is called “God and Savior.” His deity is revealed.

The “like precious faith” is a reference to the body of belief they hold in common. That is what we often call doctrine, core beliefs. It is not a reference to saving faith, but to the code of belief by which God’s people are to live. The word “faith” is often used in the New Testament as a summary body of Christian teachings.

Romans 8: 28 – 30 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called, whom He called, these He also justified, these He also glorified.”

These verses are a summary of God’s dealing with mankind in love. Verse 28 does not relate to all persons, only to those “who love God. For them God is busy in all thing to bring the good out of them for those loving Him.

Verse 29 deals with this purpose. It is an expansion of “His purpose” in the lives of “those who love Him.”

There are five finite verbs in this passage: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

“Foreknew” means to know something in advance. Knowing a thing in advance does not mean to make it happen. A person might see two cars on a collision course before they hit, but that does not mean to make it happen.

Even though God knows in advance who will be saved it does not mean He make it happen.

“Predestined” translates the Greek word horiz with the prefix pro. Horizo is a surveyors term for setting a boundary. Pro means before hand. Thus, in advance God set a boundary of salvation which was Christ. All who are “in Christ” have been predetermined to share His destiny. Simply stated, faith in Christ is the standard for salvation.

In Ephesians 1 in eleven verses “in Christ” appears 10 times. The well defined boundary is Christ. “All” are “called” to come into this boundary. Their response is authored by their own free will.

Predestination does not mean, as many have been mislead to believe, that God arbitrarily predetermines the fate of every person. Such a misconception negates every exhortation to preach the gospel and cancels all calls for evangelism and missions.

The Bible does not present election and predestination in conflict with man’s free will. Election means God chose a plan by which man might be saved. That plan predestined every person who by their own free will trusted “in Christ” for salvation would share His destiny.

Being in Christ goes far beyond regeneration and calls for conformation. That is, believers are to grow in becoming more like Christ daily. Being “in Christ” we are to be “conformed to the image of His Son,” that is Jesus Christ.

Note the progression. God having marked off the boundary, it being “in Christ.” Those within that boundary have responded positively to His call. They are indeed the “called according to His purpose.” These are “justified” and destined to be “glorified.”

Romans 12:3 “Through the grace given unto me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

Paul, in dealing with certain problems in the church at Rome, appeals to his authority as an apostle. Apostleship was the “measure of faith” given him. This is an appeal for individuals not to be self-centered and overestimate their own merit. The term “faith” as used here is depicted as the means by which individuals lay hold on the promises of God. It is not used as a reference to the quantity of faith but the diversity of faith by which others are blessed. The passage is an appeal for persons to recognize the diversity of gifts amid the unity of faith.

In context this verse is not speaking of salvation, but faith in the sense of grasping the nature of one’s spiritual gift and having confidence to exercise it. Obviously faith is depicted here as a bestowed gift. It is not faith given for salvation, but faith given subsequently to salvation for service. The individual expresses personal faith of his or her own free will in order to be saved.

“…the measure of faith” that “God has dealt to each one” means that God equips each believer for a particular task and expects the individual to discover and fulfill his or her role. Once this is discovered the individual becomes content and does not aspire to be and do more than God desires. Neither will such a person settle for being less than God intends.

Is Faith A Form Of Works That Earns God’s Favor?

Those who advocate faith is a gift of God consider faith a form of works. In other words, a means of earning God’s favor. No person can by any means do that.

Faith is the abandonment of any personal attempt to perform any work to earn God’s favor. It is simply a willingness to accept the work done by Christ on the cross as the only sufficient means of salvation. Faith accepts what has already been accomplished for us by Christ.

Faith merely holds out its hand and allows God to put in it what He has provided. Faith does nothing more than receive the gift. The merit is in the giving, not the receiving.

Even John Calvin readily acknowledged this. He wrote, “His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”

(John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 227-229).

In Ephesians 2:8 it is salvation that is the gift of God, not faith.

The key to unraveling this passage is the word “that,” as “and that not of yourselves.” It is a neuter demonstrative pronoun. At issue is does it refer to grace, faith , salvation or something else.

“That,” the pronoun, is neuter, but “grace” and “faith” are feminine nouns. Pronouns should agree with their antecedents in gender and number. That grammatical principle means “that” does not refer back to “grace” or “faith.”

Rather than “that” referring to a particular word it relates instead to a concept. That concept is found in Ephesians 2: 4-8a, especially verse 8a. The concept is salvation by grace through faith. It is salvation, not faith, that is the gift of God.

The Contention

Some Christians believe people are spiritually incapable of believing unless God gives them saving faith and they become spiritually born again. This new life enables them to have faith.

This concept is based on the belief that as a physically dead person is unable to respond to physical stimuli so a spiritually dead person is incapable of responding to spiritual influence, be it human or divine.

This is based on understanding “dead” in passages such as Ephesians 2:1 means the person is without the capacity of response until given new life.

Other passages used to support this concept are: Job 5: 20; Psalm 30:3, 33:19; John 2:6; Luke 15:24, 32; Romans 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:21,22; Colossians 2:13; I John 3:14; Rev. 11:8; 3:1,2.

In reality not one of these passages teaches what proponents advocate. The words “dead” or “death” in each passage mean the person is physically dead or Spiritually separated from God.

There is not one text that teaches a lost person is incapable of responding to God’s loving drawing. There are passages that teach God draws and people are open to coming to Him.

“If any man thirst, let him come to Me” (John 7:37).

“…the Spirit and the bride say come…” (Rev. 22:17).

These and other verses defy the claim of persons like John MacArthur who claim a lost person is as incapable of responding to God as a “cadaver.”

But a few verses that call upon individuals to exercise personal faith of their own free will are: John 1:12,13; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; Ephesians 2: 8; Romans 3:21, 22, 25, 26, 28, and 4:3-6.

A starving homeless person may be invited to a banquet. The food is provided for him, but he alone can eat it for himself. Of his own free will he chooses to eat or not to eat. He must still decide for himself. Likewise unsaved persons are not like cadavers, they must choose to believe or not to believe.

God is more attentive to the spiritual interest of the lost than most Christians are aware. Cornelius, a lost Gentile, prayed, God heard his prayers, and answered them (Acts 10:30-35).

Cornelius heard Peter preach the gospel and of his won free will responded in faith and was saved (vss. 44-48).

In Philippi Paul and Silas witnessed to a group of women. It is said of one of them, Lydia, God “opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).

The removal of the mental veil did not consequent in God giving her faith. It was the occasion for her of her on free will to express her faith in Christ.

Christ marveled over the “great faith” of the Roman soldier. Faith came from the centurion, not from God, was the cause of Christ marveling.

What Is The Origin Of Faith?

Jesus Christ spoke often of faith. It is essential for salvation and expedient for a consistent walk with Christ.

Does God arbitrarily save certain people who are spiritually dead and after they have been born again give them faith?

Ephesians 2:1 is used by some as a proof text for this concept: “You He made alive who were dead in trespasses.”

Or, do individuals of their own free will choose to trust Christ, that is, exercise faith, for salvation which God gives after the individual exercises personal faith?

Bottom line: does salvation come before or after faith is experienced?

The Reform view is a person must be regenerated before he can believe and have faith.

Conversely, most evangelicals believe a person of his own free will granted them by God freely trusts Christ as Savior and the immediate gift of God thereafter is regeneration.

Two concepts distilled are:


Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

Adherents of this view believe faith is a divinely imparted means of salvation. God chooses who to give it to.


Persons who hold this view believe being spiritually dead does not mean a person does not have the ability to respond when God draws him.

Being spiritually dead means a person is separated from God by sin, but can respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit by his own free will. Faith is a pauper, without merit, responding to the gift offered by God.

The merit is in the giving, not the receiving. The recipient can do nothing to earn, merit, or deserve the gift.