Monday, May 4, 2015

Faith Is A Gift!

“You have such great faith.” 

Although well-meaning, we often have this attribution directed toward us. Our response, “Really?” Honestly, although we have not depended on a paycheck outside of ourselves since 1982, we are not conscious of initiating or maintaining such a life style. Even now our source of livelihood is through a unique business venture that we did not intend to start. Confident that it is the source of God’s provision I often say that it is still spelled WORK. (I cannot remember when we have had a W-2 attached to our 1040.) 

However, if we view faith as an intrinsic value originating in and/or maintained by us - we are in trouble. “‘Through faith,’ another threadbare word, which, withal, has been dreadfully darkened by many comments, and has unfortunately been so represented as that people fancy it is some kind of special attitude of mind and heart,...” MacLaren’s Exposition 

God causes

It is my intention here to focus on the root. The Scriptures are replete with exhortations toward the bearing of good fruit. Yet if our emphasis is on fruit-bearing only we are in danger of encouraging pietistic elitism–having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.  This is just the issue Paul confronted at Colossae: “They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” Colossians 2:9  He also reminds the church at Corinth as well as us: “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 If the tree be not firmly rooted in the rich soil of God’s grace-filled surety all efforts at fruit-bearing will prove to be futile–producing only the bitter yield of Wormwood. 

The bond-servant also writes: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”  Ephesians 2:8  Faith is the object of this clause and faith is the it which is the gracious gift of God. “It is a gift, not a purchase; a free gift, without money and without price; what would never have been yours, but for the generosity of God.” Pulpit Commentary Whether the that refers to salvation, grace or faith - matters not. “Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast.” Matthew Henry 

working of grace

If faith be by the working of grace, then it is a gift. God gives gifts, but He doesn’t give them away - the ultimate responsibility lies within the Courts of the King. “it is certainly true that faith is the gift of God. It exists in the mind only when the Holy Spirit produces it there, and is, in common with every other Christian excellence, to be traced to his agency on the heart.” Albert Barnes “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 NIV 

And then there is what is commonly referred to as the “gift of faith” which is more aptly a manifestation or attribute of the Holy Spirit who Himself is the gift: “to another faith by the same Spirit,...” 1 Corinthians 12:9  This passage has suffered violence both at the hands of those that would deny the current efficacy of it along with the other manifestations and also by those who would exalt it to position of a personal attribute. Leave us to say, whatever its true meaning and application, it is a function of the Lord’s own Spirit Who distributes to each one as He wills: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  

immutable sufficiency 

This immutable sufficiency of God is clearly found in Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” KJV “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” NASB “For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” NLT “God never changes his mind when he gives gifts...” GOD’S WORD “For God does not repent of His free gifts...” Weymouth 

There can be nothing derived from such a statement that would engendered slackness in the true believer–the Holy Spirit within him is quickened to love and good deeds. “None can from Scripture abuse this doctrine, or accuse it of any tendency to evil. All who do so, are without excuse.” Matthew Henry 

There can be no greater motivation–not one that gives more glory to the One who is the author and perfecter - the beginning and end - of faith.  The seed of faith is of His origination, it is He who causes its growth - and it is He that will taste of the delectableness of its fruit. “and this faith is not the produce of man's free will and power, but it is the free gift of God; and therefore salvation through it is consistent with salvation by grace; since that itself is of grace,...and gives all the glory to the grace of God:” John Gill 

faithfulness of the Son of God

That is to say, it is this faith that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 11:6) for it is this faith that most closely resembles His Son - “and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 KJV “I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God,...” ISV  The anchor of our faith is secured in the faith of or the faithfulness of the Son of God. “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 

Faith has it source in the faithfulness of God - equips and sustains His elect causing them to persevere - and returns to Him in Glory. “For all the promises of God, whatever their number, have their confirmation in Him; and for this reason through Him also our "Amen" acknowledges their truth and promotes the glory of God through our faith.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 Weymouth 

Sola fide (by faith alone) was the war cry of the Reformation. It was radical then. It is just as radical now. The Reformation was dynamic. Sola fide was not the slogan of a delicate, cloistered piety. It was the ensign of a movement of blood and fire. "Faith alone" is also a confession that God's saving work has been done completely outside of our own experience. There are some who will admit that God alone saves, but they imagine that this saving work is done inside of them. But it was done outside the gate of Jerusalem on a Roman cross. Faith is always directed to this outside-of-me action of God in Jesus Christ. As Bunyan aptly says, it is the righteousness which resides with a Person in heaven which justifies me, a sinner, on earth. Present Truth magazine

sons of Abraham 

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7 Which clause is the predicate?  That is, which one is the cause and which is the effect?  Do we cause ourselves to be sons of Abraham as a result of faith - or are we of faith as a result of being sons of Abraham?  The question is also begged, “Can we cause ourselves to be born again?” The unequivocal answer: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 We become children of God by the effect of the will of God. Similarly: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14  Once again, which is the predicate?  And turning again to John’s Gospel for the unveiled answer: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:6  We cannot possibly be led by the Spirit of God until we are born again by the same Agent–for the will of man can only give birth to the will of man.  

Not all men have faith in Christ; and those who do have it, have it not of themselves; it is the gift of God, worked out through the Redemption which is in Christ through the mighty operation of his Spirit, which is the fruit and effect of His invincible grace. This is because the natural man is wholly captive under the power and dominion of sin, and a slave unto it, and has neither a power nor will to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.”

“Regeneration is monergistic: that is, entirely the work of God the Holy Spirit. It raises the elect among the spiritually dead to new life in Christ (Eph. 2:1-10). Regeneration is a transition from spiritual death to spiritual life, and conscious, intentional, active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit, not its immediate cause.” J.I. Packer 

“Consequently, that faith by which we come into experiential possession of what God in grace has provided is as much a gift as any and every other aspect of salvation. One can no more deny that faith is wrapped up in God’s gift to us than he can deny it of God’s grace. All is of God! Salvation is of the Lord!”  Sam Storms 

What more - or less - could faith be than an absolute trust in God to bring to completion that which He has begun in you?  “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 KJV Paul in his bequeathment to Timothy expressed his confidence not in a what, but in a Whom. And thus faith finds its ultimate expression not as a what–but as a Whom. 

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 

Soli Deo Gloria!