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Friday, September 02, 2005

Faith: The Gift of God


FAITH
THE GIFT OF GOD
By: Mark Fitzpatrick
It is clear from scripture that faith is a requirement in order for men to approach unto God. (But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6) . What is often not addressed is the origin of this faith, from where does it come. We only have two real options to answer this. Either faith has its origins in the heart of man or in the gift of God. In other words, do we choose God or does God choose us? Doubtless this question will affect other issues, but we will seek to keep ourselves to this point.
We will look at our subject in two ways.
Firstly, in the negative. Secondly, in the positive.
So let us look in the first place at this subject Negatively.
1. The scripture declares that not all possess faith.
Paul wrote to the Believers in Thessalonica: "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith". 2 Thes. 3:1-2
An obvious question needs asking; why do only some have faith and not others? Faith in God is a spiritual quality. Saying that all men have not faith is not like saying 'all men have not motor cars'. The latter is a non-spiritual issue. The former is making a distinction of such importance that it will decide our eternal welfare.
The scripture clearly states that only those with faith in Christ will be saved! Now does that make the fact of my possession of faith a cause for boasting? It clearly does if the faith originated with me. But if God was the author of my faith, there is no room to boast. The only scriptural answer to this is that God has given the gift of faith to some and not all. We will seek to prove this point in this article.
But I can already hear the objections from some that will read this. They will say that this idea makes God to be unjust in his dealings with mankind. To give the gift of faith to some and not to others is unfair. Paul's answer to these types of objections in Romans chapter nine is clear:
"What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. [15] For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. [16] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. [17] For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. [18] Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. [19] Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? [20] Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? [21] Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" Romans 9:14-21.
As I said already, this subject brings in other issues such as Election and Predestination. But we will not be spending time in those areas in this discussion.
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2. Scripture clearly shows that many are prevented from entering into the kingdom of God:
"And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. [10] And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. [11] And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: [12] That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. [13] And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" Mark 4:9-13
The contrast in these verses is stark. On one hand the kingdom is given to the twelve (excluding Judas of course), and on the other it is hidden from those who are without. This does not in any way fit in with the modern "Evangelical" view that God is trying his best to convert as many people as possible.
But just in case you are still not convinced, let us consider another passage. This time from the gospel of John.
John 12:37-41 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: [38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? [39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, [40] He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. [41] These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.
Note that the above account is in the context of a vision of God's glory. Much of the problem today when it comes to this debate is that the glory of God is not central to the discussion. Quite often the central concern is the welfare of men. This is not the biblical position. This is seen in much of modern "evangelism". Results are the gods of the modern preacher, not the glory of God. How we need to go back to the simple methods of our forefathers. The "ALTER CALL" has become a sort of show-off parade. Let us leave the results to God and just concentrate on obedience.
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3. Scripture states that 'faith' is not 'of ourselves'.
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. Ephes. 2:8-9
This scripture is very clear. It says faith is not of ourselves. But some have objected by saying, what Paul means is that the Grace is not of ourselves. We think a quote from John MacArthur would be helpful here:
"Our response in salvation is faith, but even that is not of ourselves [but is] the gift of God. Faith is nothing that we do in our own power or by our own resources. In the first place we do not have adequate power or resources. More than that, God would not want us to rely on them even if we had them. Otherwise salvation would be in part by our own works, and we would have some ground to boast in ourselves, Paul intends to emphasise that even faith is not from us apart from God's giving it.Some have objected to this interpretation, saying that faith (pistis) is feminine, while that (touto) is neuter. That poses no problem, however, as long as it is understood that that does not refer precisely to the noun faith but to the act of believing. Further, this interpretation makes the best sense of the text, since if that refers to by grace you have been saved through faith (that is, to the whole statement), the adding of and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God would be redundant, because grace is defined as an unearned act of God. If salvation is of grace, it has to be an undeserved gift of God. Faith is presented as a gift from God in 2 Peter l:1, Philippians 1:29, and Acts 3:16." (taken from MacArthur's comm. On Ephesians).
WE HAVE LOOKED AT OUR SUBJECT NEGATIVELY. NOW LETS LOOK AT IT POSITIVELY.
Let us ask a question:
Why do some believe when many don't?
To answer this question, let us consider the following passage from the book of Acts.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. [45] But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. [46] Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. [47] For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. [49] And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. [50] But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. [51] But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. [52] And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost. Acts 13:44-52
This statement in verse 48, "and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed", is probably the most striking one on this subject in all of scripture. The meaning is clear; no more or no less believed than were ordained to eternal life. So the answer to our question from this verse is this; the reason we believe is because we have been ordained to eternal life.This is a confirmation of our Lord's word's in John's Gospel:
John 10:22-30 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. [23] And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. [24] Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. [25] Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. [26] But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: [28] And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. [29] My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. [30] I and my Father are one.
Note the reason given by our Lord for their unbelief; because ye are not of my sheep.
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Note the passages which speak of giving thanks for the faith of believers:
Ephes. 1:15-19 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, [16] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; [17] That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: [18] 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, [19] And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
If faith originated with us why would Paul give thanks to God for it?
The same is true of the next verse:
2 Thes. 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
Or consider the clear statement of the Apostle to the Church at Corinth:
1 Cor. 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
Dear Christian, in light of the above scripture how can we say that the faith we have originated in our hearts and not in the gift of God.
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Peter tells us that the faith we have is an obtained faith.
2 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 Saviour Jesus Christ:
The Oxford dictionary defines the word Obtain as:
"have granted to one"
This agrees with Paul's statement to Timothy:
2 Tim. 2:24-25 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
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Consider finally Paul's words to the Church in Phillipi.
Philip. 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;
How these words should inspire us and fill us with praise for the God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.
Amen.
M.F. 4-5-02

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