Home
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
 

 
Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!

Is Faith A Gift of God?
-by Tony Warren


Is faith a gift of God or the human response of man? This is an often asked and quite controversial question, but it is one which is amazing to me. particularly in light of how openly and clearly this question is answered throughout the Holy Scriptures. Thus I can only surmise that many are simply predisposed to rejecting any idea of Sovereignty of God that doesn't put the onus or burden on man's own action of faith. In reading through passages like Ephesians chapter 2, some have concluded that faith as a gift is unbiblical. They claim that the passage in the original Greek does not show faith as a gift, but salvation or Grace. But upon careful consideration, we find what it really shows is that salvation by Grace, through faith are all one gift of God. We could no more separate either faith or Grace from salvation as we could water from life. Clearly, without prejudice, if we cannot merit our own salvation, then faith, which is a requirement, cannot be by human response.

Ephesians 2:4-10

  • "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
  • Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by Grace ye are saved;)
  • And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
  • That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his Grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
  • 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.
  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Often people tend to neglect to look at the whole context of these passages, choosing instead to isolate verse 8, while molding and manipulating the Greek. But the context shows that God equates the unbeliever with being a dead man who is unable to have a work of faith, unable to believe, unable to respond to Christ, or to do anything to help his position. We are equated to a corpse, unable to work, move, have faith or do anything. And yet while we are spiritually dead (and all that entails), God Himself empowers us, BRINGING us to life in Christ Jesus, just as the example of Lazarus (John 11:1-26) illustrates. Lazarus wasn't physically resurrected from the dead because the body still had a twitch that brought him back, or because it had some inherent faith or possessed free will to respond to Christ's call to come forth. The dead can neither respond nor do they have free will. Indeed it is precisely the opposite. Lazarus was resurrected and came forth not by his own faith, but by the power of the faith of Christ. Likewise, no man spiritually dead can come to Christ except the father draw him. These are clear biblical principles. The believer's faith is not part of the price of redemption as many theologians have carelessly postulated, it is the agent of Grace and redemption. An unregenerate man, dead in trespass and sin, cannot have faith of himself to do anything. He does not possess the work of faith, which is the work of the Holy Spirit.

John 6:29

  • "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
The Jewish people were observers of the works of the law, and rested in this for faith unto salvation. But Christ explains that belief is the work of God that is "required," thus it cannot be a mere human response. Any requirement for salvation is a work. What they should have learned from Christ's words is that what is required is a penitent humble spirit, which can only be a gift of God. Faith is the work of Christ's Spirit, efficiency and operation. Man cannot have belief, nor desire Christ apart from the work of faith through the Spirit of life dwelling within him? That is why the Lord declares that we are his workmanship (Ephesians 2:4-10), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Clearly, our faith is ordained, authored and perfected in God. Let us first succinctly define the words Grace and Faith.


Grace: Simply put, Grace is Godís unmerited and salvific favor, through divine influence of the Holy spirit. This favor is evidenced by God renewing the heart and in helpfor His children. In other words, it is the approval of God that is freely given His people, without respect to their person or merit. Grace is more than favor, it is the operation of God's Spirit within man unto salvation neither deserved nor undeserved.

Faith: Saving faith means more than just man's belief, conviction, knowledge or conscious assent. It is a God given influence, the favorable response to God that we might spiritually receive and trust in that which we may not physically see. It is the spirit of belief to understand that God is faithful and true.

 
As it is written, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -Hebrews 11:1." Faith then is Godly belief or conviction, our spiritual assurance and confidence. It is the evidence of our spirit witnessing with Godís Spirit that what we hope for is assured. And clearly it must be by God that we are infused with or have transmitted this very real, efficacious and substantive conviction of belief. In other words, it is the salvific agent of our salvation working within us to belief, which is the Holy Spirit. Ephesians plainly declares that Grace is through faith, which means that faith is not the product of our own free will, but an agent of God's unmerited favor. An unregenerate human nature will not have saving faith, as this belief comes only when someone is humbled of the Spirit to submit to God via the new nature. Indeed, how could we have the "real" assurance of things hoped for, assurance of faith, without the Spirit of truth? The very reason we know truth is by the Spirit, through the word. So the whole idea of faith born of ourselves is visceral, disjointed and Biblically contradictory. Since revelation of truth, which inspires faith, is by divine fiat, not human response. Left on his own, no human would respond in a way that would show faith.

1st Corinthians 2:13-14

  • "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
  • But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
To think that we can believe and have the faith of Christ apart from the Spirit of truth is nonsensical. Our very real faith, the assurance of things hoped for, is spiritually discerned. Everything that we know and have faith in was spiritually discerned. And without the spirit, the word of God is just as much foolishness to us as it is to the natural man without the Spirit of truth to believe.

Faith is contrasted with law keeping and works throughout scripture specifically because it is not of man. We do not come to Christ because some of us are inherently more faithful or humble than others, but because of the divine favor of God to draw us. Faith cannot be by the exertion of the will of man, but the power of the will of God. Thus, by God we have justification by Grace, through faith. And no such justifications can ever be by man's own free will.

Romans 5:1

  • "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"
Titus 3:7
  • "That being justified by his Grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Is justification by man's own human response? God forbid! We are both justified by faith, and justified by Grace, and so it is obvious that faith is just as much the gift of God as Grace is. Both in Romans chapters 4 and 5 God makes the contrast between faith with works abundantly clear. It is indisputable that we are not justified by works, we are justified by faith. So any claim that faith is not a gift should be considered spurious because it would mean we justify ourselves.

Some have objected claiming that the context of Ephesians chapter 2 is of free salvation by Grace through our own faith. By this they mean it details how a person is saved, and not how a person believes. But that is most certainly not true. How a person believes and how a person is saved is synonymous, inextricably linked by God because God declares we are justified by faith. No one is saved without justification by faith, and no one has faith "apart" from the Grace of God. Else justification is not of Grace, through faith, as God's word declares. So the whole theological conundrum of a "non-gift-faith" theology is foreign to the word of God.


  • Justification is not of ourselves
  • justification is of God
  • Justification is not of works
  • Justification is by Grace
  • Justification is by faith

 
All these Biblical points are clearly defined and confirmed within scripture. If salvation is of God, not of ourselves, not of works, by Grace which is through faith, then unambiguously faith is undeniably a gift, and not of ourselves. You cannot have Grace come through faith, and then claim that the faith is by our own free will. Faith as a gift is the free and undeserved favor that God bestows upon His people that they might "believe" and become His children and share in the inheritance of eternal Life.

2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14

  • "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
  • Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Being chosen into sanctification of the Spirit and "belief" of the truth, and that ordained from the beginning, should destroy any objection of human response as a determining factor. The clear connection between the sanctification of the Spirit, and our belief of the truth is as solid as a Rock. It is an illustration of the principle of cause and the effect. Those laboring in a vain attempt to make the artificial distinction between justification by Grace through faith and salvation do so because of their own agenda. Not any biblical mandate. Justification can only come by the free sacrifice and propitiation of Christ Jesus, and that the very same Grace of God which is justification by faith. Our own? God forbid! It is faith that our Lord God is not only the initiator of, but also who completes it. The Phrase "you Complete me" has a whole different meaning when applied to the faith of Christ.

Hebrews 12:2

  • "Looking 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."
Clearly Christ is the author or originator of our faith, and also the completer or perfector of it. How then does man retort, "No God is not the author of our faith, we must author it ourselves, and then he will act?" is that not a repudiation of God's word? Hebrews chapter 12 is plain that it is not a faith that is of ourselves, but one that originates with Christ, and that is completed in Him. And this confirming once again that our faith is indeed powered by the Spirit of Christ, without which, we have no saving or justifying faith.

1st Peter 1:5

  • "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
If we are kept only so long as we have our own faith, then we most certainly are not kept by the power of God, but by our own. We can thank God that our faith doesn't come through our own free will, our own free agency, or our own righteousness, but through the Spirit of the perfect Christ living within us. This is the power of the Spirit "that kept us through faith," according to Christ as author and finisher of it. Faith is by Christ's righteousness and will, not our own.

2nd Peter 1:1

  • "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ:"
Again, clearly the power of faith is obtained through the righteousness of God, not ourselves. So why are so many so intent on robbing God of His sovereignty? The righteousness of faith illustrates to us that whatsoever is not of faith, is sin (Romans 14:23). This because our justification is by faith of Christ, not of ourselves. Thus without it, we have sin. Those theologians who would teach that faith is a human response, are not reading the biblical definition of it. They are teaching their private interpretation of it. For faith is the very spiritual essence of belief of things man cannot see. All to whom God authors faith, will come to Christ and believe the truth via the Spirit. It won't be all who freely will themselves to believe, but all who are drawn to believe. It is impossible to come to Christ with saving faith or belief, except the Father grant it.

John 6:37

  • "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
It doesn't say all who choose to believe will come, but all given to come. Could someone come to Christ and not be cast out of themselves? It cannot be. Those who come to Christ, and who stay to believe on Christ and obtain faith unto salvation, do so not by their own merit, humility or free will. They do so because God Spiritually moved them to come. The fact is, no man would ever come to Christ to believe except they were given to do so of the Father. Without this free gift of the spirit to draw mankind unto saving faith, they would never come to believe.

John 6:44

  • "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
If no man can come to Christ except God drag him there, then how is faith to believe on Christ not a gift? It makes no sense because who of themselves could have the faith to come freely to Christ, when God clearly says no one can come? It takes faith to come to Christ, and no one inherently has such faith to come. It is something which the father has to Spiritually impart to him in order for him to move towards belief in Christ. Both Grace and Faith are divine gifts imparted by the same operation of God. He gives faith by Grace, unto salvation. Grace is His favor, faith is the agent, salvation is the result.

Colossians 2:12

  • "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."
Saving faith is through the operation of God, not the operation of man. And that word operation is the Greek word [energeia] from where we get the English word, energy. Our faith is produced by the energy the Holy Spirit of God operating within us. It is the power unto salvation.

Ephesians 1:18-19

  • "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
  • And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,"
It is abundantly clear that belief is not of ourselves or by our own (alleged) free will, but by the working power of God within us.

The objection to these truths is that, "if faith is a gift, then men no longer bear the responsibility to believe the Gospel." But that is an objection without solid Biblical foundation. For the sovereignty of God does not negate responsibility, anymore than sovereign God calling sinners to respond, even though they won't, negates responsibility there. The moral obligation of man is a constant, and remains so even when the carnality of man overwhelms him. A famous Theologian once made the analogy, "Inability to pay a debt does not excuse a debtor who has recklessly squandered his estate!" That was an excellent analogy, since unsaved man likewise has a debt that he owes to God, which must be paid. Man is responsible to believe, and just because he loves his sin so much that he won't ever come to God under God's terms does not mean that responsibility is no longer there. Thus if Creator God decides to choose to save one, ten or a thousand, regardless of their reprobate heart, then that is God's sovereign right to do so. And who are we to reply against Him for doing so (Romans 9:16-23). We don't make the righteous rules here, the righteous Creator God does, and we live by them, or we die by them.

On another front, there are also many commentators, both "free will" and "Sovereignty of God" proponents, go to great lengths to extrapolate in ostentatious and pedantic language through countless pages how this passage could not be referring to faith as a gift. They explain how the pronoun there, which is [touto] in Greek, is neuter in gender, while the Greek word faith [pistis] is feminine, and thus they surmise that we cannot link the word "that" to "faith" without some mitigating factor. However, they fail to declare how often a neuter pronoun will refer to an entire phrase or idea as its antecedent. And since the whole "Salvation by Grace, through faith," is one thought or principle, it is very likely illustrating the whole (salvation by Grace through faith) as the gift of God, that is not of ourselves. In any case, we need not spend months sorting out that Red Herring, since the Bible is replete with proofs that faith is a gift from God. Faith as a gift does not stand or fall on that one passage of Ephesians 2:8. So let's just skip the Greek lesson and get right to the heart of the matter. Which is that the proponents of the theory that faith is not a gift, are in essence plainly declaring that it is by God's Grace, "plus" man's faith, that people are saved. Because that is what separating God's Grace from man's faith does. But what the scriptures plainly say is that we are saved by Grace "through" faith, and that not of yourselves. Thus Grace cannot come "through faith" except faith be as much the gift as Grace. Else, Grace itself is not Grace and becomes merited by our own faith. i.e., without our own faith, there is no Grace. That throws a cog into the whole Grace thingy!

Romans 11:6

  • "And if by Grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise Grace is no more Grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more Grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Grace cannot be a reward of merit for our own work of faith, else it is no more Grace. It must be by Christ's work of faith (2nd Thessalonians 1:11) in us. Thus we labor because of the faith of Christ in us. Faith being the agent of Grace, the spirit of truth working within us unto belief. Too often theologians confuse faith as an instrument of salvation, when faith is the agent of salvation, the Holy Spirit of truth working within us unto belief. We do not have faith of ourselves, thus it is given of the Lord, not an instrument of our own free will.

Philippians 1:29

  • "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;"
God concedes to his people this advantage of faith to believe, as well as our suffering for Christ, which were both the honorable gifts of God. These were things that were given to us. It is this faith of Christ to believe, given by the Holy Spirit, which unites our spirit to agree with His Spirit, evidencing that we are saved. There are actually two kinds of faith. There is faith, which is mere human belief. And then there is saving faith, which is salvific belief. In other words, if I sit on a chair, I have a certain faith that the chair will hold me. That is "common belief" and is not the faith whereby we are justified. All people have this common faith in something. On the other hand, in order to have saving faith, I must have the Spirit of truth within me, which is the substantive evidence of things hoped for. vis-ŗ-vis, the declaration that Grace is through faith, illustrates it is the agent of Grace, and not that we have it because of our own human response. We must understand that there is a difference, and that difference is works. His Spirit testifies with ours, working faith, evidencing that we are God's Children. We believe this specifically "because" we have this faith witnesses by that Spirit.

Romans 8:15-16

  • "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
  • The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"
We believe or have faith because of this Spirit. Our position as children of God is evidenced by the working of this faith, which is the testimony of His Spirit bearing witness with ours. It is this spirit of truth working such Graces in us, that we believe the word and discover this labor in our own souls. Again:

2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14

  • "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
  • Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
So, faith as a gift? Is faith a gift from God or a human exercise? From my reading of scripture, I "believe" that the answer should be a foregone conclusion. To claim that it is not faith, but salvation that is the gift, is not really exegeting, but rather interpreting. Since the passage clearly states that faith is an agent of Grace, which we are justified by, and thus is part of that salvation. It says, "Grace through faith, and that not of yourselves but the gift of God." Which means salvation is by Grace, through faith. It's all one process of salvation by the sovereign will of God, through faith. Faith that not all men are given, so it is faith given according to God's Grace.

2nd Thessalonians 3:2-3

  • "And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
  • But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil."
It is the faith of Christ that establishes some (not all), and it is not our own but saving faith. We must then ask the pertinent question to the detractors, "is faith something that we produce of ourselves that merits God's choosing us?" The obvious conclusion of this unbiblical viewpoint is that God does not unconditionally elect, but rather, foresees who has faith and "chooses" them upon that condition. Which is of necessity a gospel of works, which cannot be Grace, nor of Christ. The truth is, Godís faithful testimony must pierce through the darkness of man's heart by the Spirit, in order to bring us to the light of belief in Godís covenant promise of salvation by faith. And salvation by faith cannot be by the will of man, but the will of God.

May the glorious light of God's truth shine within many dark places. And may it reveal a humble and contrite heart that is willing to receive faith as the gift, rather than demand credit or merit for human response. To let Grace be favor rather than debt or reward. May God grant us wisdom to see the cause of the faith effect.

Amen!

Peace,

Copyright ©2009 Tony Warren
For other studies free for the Receiving, Visit our web Site
The Mountain Retreat! http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/
-------------------------*---------------------------

Feel free to duplicate, display or distribute this publication to anyone so long as the above copyright notice remains intact and there are no changes made to the article. This publication can be distributed only in its original form, unedited, and without cost.

Created 05/24/09 / Last Modified 05/29/09
The Mountain Retreat / twarren10@aol.com


[ Top | Eschatology | Bible Studies | Classics | Articles | Sermons | Apologetics | F.A.Q. | Forum ]

Home