I’m continuing to give thanks to God for His bountiful blessings. Today, I begin a two-part series thanking God for the blessing of faith. Today, I discuss how faith is a gift of God (please, please, please, read this entire blog post before writing me up in some bulletin article somewhere for teaching Calvinism – I flatly reject that error in this post); tomorrow, I’ll discuss the blessings which come from faith.
I was talking with a friend yesterday who avows agnosticism. He prays, he says, in hopes that “Someone is there,” and he says that he can in absolutely no way understand how some can be dogmatic in their atheism. However, he cannot come to a firm faith in the God of the Bible. He wants to know why I have a firm faith; we’re gonna get together in the next few days and have that discussion.
I’m afraid my friend is going to be disappointed, however. I have a terminal degree in a theological field, and I’ve taught undergraduate apologetics – my friend wants a deep theological discussion on rational reasons to accept the Christian faith, and, given my experience and my credentials, my friend thinks I’m the perfect one with whom to have that debate. I’ll share with my friend that it t doesn’t work like that, and that’s not how we come to a real and deep faith in Christ. Yet, I’m more than happy to share with him – and with you – how we can come to a real and deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I were a Calvinist, I’d tell my friend that faith is a gift of God – I’m so depraved that I cannot come to faith on my own, and, if God has elected me in His sovereign wisdom, the Holy Spirit will work on my heart and I’ll come to faith. After all, we read, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). “It is the gift of God” has often been understood to mean that God gives the gift of faith. But, in the context of Ephesians 2, the “it” certainly seems to be the salvation we have in Christ, not faith.
Just because the gift of God in Ephesians 2 is salvation, not faith, does not negate the fact that faith is a gift of God. God doesn’t give faith miraculously, and He doesn’t give faith to one person and not another. However, God gives faith as a gift in a very limited sense – God gives us the tools whereby we can come to faith.
The created world
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19:1)
God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17)
“What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:19-20)
Gaze at the night sky and look at the Milky Way and tell me there is no God. Stand at Niagara Falls and hear the rushing water and see the rising midst and realize that half the natural flow is being diverted for hydroelectricity and tell me there is no God. Watch geese migrate as winter approaches and tell me there is no God. Can’t do it, can you? Of course not.
Notice something quite important: I can argue scientifically and logically and morally that there is A God (or “god”), but no amount of scientific argumentation can separate the God of the Bible from allah (I refuse to capitalize that monster’s name) or even a Flying Spaghetti Monster. How do I know which God to follow?
The revealed Word
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30-31)
“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17)
The message to my friend will be simple: If you want a strong faith like I have, read Scripture. That’s it. No secret formula. No detailed philosophical and theological argument (although I know many). The secret to a strong faith is spending time in the revealed Word of God.
I’m sure atheists would laugh at such a statement. I’m sure my friend may balk. I’m sure some of my friends who value an evidential apologetics would say that I’m being far too simplistic and that more is necessary to build faith.
Nope, I need nothing more than God’s revealed Word to build faith. That’s what God says. I’ll believe Him every time.
Do you want a strong faith that will stand the test of time, a faith that will endure in face of the great challenges of life, and a faith that will endure into an eternity with God? Spend time in Scripture, in that Word of Christ, and your faith will grow immensely.
God bless! May He walk with you as He has walked with me.