An Attempt to Argue Against Faith as A Gift
Recently a visitor responded to my recent post entitled, "Is Faith a Gift, What Does Jesus Say?" where I point out that Jesus says, "no one can come to me unless the Father grants it" ...In the post it shows that this passage is affirming nothing less than that no one can believe in Christ unless God grants it.. and when accompanied by v. 37 that all that the Father gives to me WILL come to me, and those who comes to me will not be cast out" Jesus is plainly saying that all who are given Him by the Father will believe in Him and He will not cast them out. The act of "giving" of the Father to the Son is prior to the faith of the same individual, and that these texts show that such faith is certain, not merely a possibility. All those whom He grants (v 65) and draws (v.44) will be raised up at the last day without exception the text affirms. So no one can believe on Jesus unless God grants it (vs 65) and all to whom God grants it will believe (vs 37). This is a univeral negative and a universal positive and forms a syllogism. This leaves no room for the idea that the passage somehow affirms that all given to Christ have the OPPORTUNITY or natural ability to believe, as the visitor attempts to assert but that grace alone is what saves.
Here is the visitors response in full, with my own critique of their response following:
IT IS NOT FAITH, BUT RATHER SALVATION THAT IS THE GIFT OF GOD
"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." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
By grace through faith you are saved, NOT, by grace you can have faith and are saved.
Firstly, Iâ€™d like to offer a definition for the words grace and faith.
- Grace is Godâ€™s unmerited favor - something that is done for us without our help and is neither deserved nor undeserved.
- Faith is each personâ€™s positive response to God, our decision to believe and trust, that comes from the free will that God has given us
It is true that faith is evident in some persons but not others, and it is true that grace has nothing to do with it. All humans are able to obtain Godâ€™s grace ,â€œFor the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all menâ€ (Titus 2:11), and all humans are capable of faith, "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Romans 12:3) so God is being quite just when the author above says that â€God requires faith of all menâ€ . The difference lies in the free will that God has given us in choosing whether or not we respond to his grace with faith or whether we choose to ignore it. Regardless of what we choose, we are all capable. The only difference is whether or not we are willing.
"No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65)
â€œall that the Father gives to me will come to Me." (John 6:37)
It is wrong to assume that this then means â€œJesus is stating that no one can believe in Him unless God grants it, and all to whom God grants it will believeâ€. We see in the scriptures that "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." (John 3:35) and "Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." (John 17:2)
Jesus states, that nothing happens without it being allowed by God. In giving all things to Jesus, God is granting all mankind with an equal opportunity to be saved, but that does not mean that all mankind will believe and be saved. Godâ€™s will as we se in 1 Timothy 2:4 is â€œWho desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truthâ€. Jesusâ€™ power extends over all of mankind, including those who do not believe and God has given Jesus power to save â€œas many as thou hast given himâ€, yet as many, does not mean that all will be saved.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3: 16).
In sending his son to die for us, God has made atonement for our sins through His grace. This is for everyone, but the condition still lies in that we need to believe in order for his grace to become a reality in the form of salvation in our lives. That is, we need to respond in faith, and when we respond in faith, we receive the gift of salvation. Why is it a gift? It is a gift because we did nothing to prompt God to provide us with atonement in the first place. He did this out of his love for us.
â€œBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for usâ€ (Romans 5:8)
Grace and faith are both dependent on each other in order for us to receive salvation but it is important to remember that it was not our faith that moved God to respond with grace. God had already moved through his grace, and our faith is the response to what we believe God has done. God does not force people to believe, our belief comes from our desire to submit to God, and put our trust in him. It comes from our free will. It would be pointless for God to desire us to love and trust him, if this love and trust was nothing more than him making us love and trust him. God longs to have relationships with us, a relationship is one that is entered into voluntarily by both parties and although God has given all men a measure of faith, it is up to us to act on that, and take that step in trusting him and loving him. It is not grace alone, that makes men to differ, for God has made his grace available to all men through the death of his one and only son, Jesus, rather it is as the scripture says: by Godâ€™s grace through our faith, that we are saved. All men can attain Godâ€™s grace, all men have been given a measure of faith by God, all men stand equal and so it is our free will that makes us respond differently to the offer of salvation. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
A very simple example to explain how grace and faith are both dependant on each other, and to show that it is not just by grace alone that people respond in faith but rather free will, is this:
A store in your suburb announces that they will be giving a free TV to each family, simply by coming to collect it from the store. You can respond to this announcement in several ways:
You can believe and trust what they have said, and make your way to the store to pick up your TV.
Or, you can choose not to believe that they are really giving out free TVâ€™s, perhaps you assume that there is a catch of sorts or you simply donâ€™t believe it to be true.
Whether you believe or not, is not affected by the storeâ€™s decision to give out free TVâ€™s. At the same time, the storeâ€™s decision to give out free TVâ€™s is not affected by whether or not people will believe.
The storeâ€™s move to give out free TV is grace. It happened because they wanted to give them out, not because anything the people had done had prompted them to.
Your response to their offer of a free TV is faith. Each person is capable of believing that it is true, but not all will choose to believe.
The TV is the gift, it is salvation. Only those who had faith in what the store announced and acted upon that by going to the store, received the gift. The TV.
In order for people to receive the gift, two things were necessary, the graceâ€¦ it was by the storeâ€™s grace that the store was giving out free TVâ€™s, and faithâ€¦ which moved the people to respond. Only with those two things working together were the people able to obtain their gift. Without the grace, and without the response of trust and acceptance, the giving or obtaining of the gift is not possible.
But, it was not the storeâ€™s move to give out a gift that made any difference to whether people believed the claim or not. The people exercised their free will, to either believe and act on their belief or not believe, and do nothing about it.
My critique of this common response:
Dear Alejandra K. Cares Henriquez
Thanks for your extended response. A few things need to be said with regard to your assertions:
you said >>>>
By grace through faith you are saved, NOT, by grace you can have faith and are saved.
Actually it is not grace PLUS faith that one is saved but grace through faith. Faith is the instrument which takes hold of Christ and his work, but it has no redemptive value in itself. It is the Holy Spirit which unites us to Christ through faith, not because of it. We all agree that a person must believe for justification before God. But no one is naturally willing to submit to the gospel (Rom 3:11, 12; John 3:3). Faith is not part of the price of redemption, as you would have it. Look at the context of the passage you are quoting: it says, "even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ--by grace you have been saved." In other words, an unregenerate man who does not have the Holy Spirit, cannot understand spiritual things, they are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14). Apart from the Holy Spirit, man has no free will to believe the gospel. His will is in bondage to the corruption of nature. Are you claiming that a person, dead in sin, blind, deaf to the things of God, desires Christ apart from a supernatural work of the Spirit? There is overwhelming evidence to overthrow this false understanding.
C.H. Spurgeon, in his "Fire: the Want of the Times" once said:
"Brethren, there is nothing in the gospel, apart from the Spirit of God, which can save a man, for man hates the gospel with all his heart! Though the reasonableness of the gospel of Jesus ought to make the belief of it universal, yet its plain dealing with human sin excites deadly antagonism. Therefore, the gospel itself would make no progress were it not for the divine power. There is an invisible arm which pushes forward the conquests of the truth. There is a fire unfed with human fuel, which burns a way for the truth of Jesus Christ into the hearts of men."
Your response presupposes that man has a 'free will' but does the the Bible gives any evidence of this?. May I ask where the Bible tells us a man has a free will, or are you using unaided logic alone to draw this conclusion? It appears, from my perspective at least, that you are claiming that, apart from the Holy Spirit opening his heart, a person, of his natural strength, can open their own dark heart to the light having a natural desire for spiritual things. But can the unspiritual desire the spiritual? Does the unspiritual have the mind of Christ that he might understand spiritual things?
You said>>>IT IS NOT FAITH, BUT RATHER SALVATION THAT IS THE GIFT OF GOD
Faith is part of that salvation .... Eph 2:8 itself says by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves but the gift of God. [this was not the passage we we exegeting]. Natural man has no desire for spiritual things so He even needs the Holy Spirit if he is to believe. He must be quickened. It is not by the will of man (John 1:13) that one is born from above. Man's fallen will itself is directed by his heart of stone which is naturally hardened to the things of God. Ask yourself, can a natural man change his own will and humble himself apart from grace? This is a salvation of merit and contrary to the Christian message for it assumes some persons can conjure up a love and desire for Christ and not others.. To claim we can have faith springing out of our fallen natures is to make faith into a work.
First I suggest you need to prove to all of us from the Text of Scripture that man even has a free will. Then your statement might have validity. Apart from that you are imposing your own belief into the Scriptures. i.e. this is an assumption you bring from outside Scripture. For the Scriptures CLEARLY teach that man is a slave to sin until Christ sets him free. Is a slave free? He loves darkness and hates the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19). He is a slave to darkness. Can those who are corrupt, BY NATURE, make their own heart love Christ or see his beauty and excellency?? No, this also comes about by grace.
Also God commands all persons to repent and believe the gospel. But this does imply any man has the natural desire or ability to do so. Only those God has granted repentance (2 Tim 2:25) wil have such desires. God also commands all persons to obey the Ten Commandments? Does this imply anyone can perfectly do so? In other words, God commands us to do something we are utterly incapable of. Why would he do this? Romans 3 teaches that it is to reveal our impotence and sin: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin."
In other words, the purpose of the divine legislation is to reveal not what we can do, but what we cannot do. And the Bible says "This is the command of God, to believe in his Son." God commands it. This does not mean we are willing. Willingness comes from grace, not nature.
You admit>>>> "It is true that faith is evident in some persons but not others, and it is true that grace has nothing to do with it. All humans are able to obtain Godâ€™s grace"
So you acknowledge that grace has nothing to do with the reason some have faith and not others. Can you prove your assertion from Scripture? Are all humans are ABLE to take hold of God's grace purely by nature as you claim? Please show us where the Scripture asserts fallen man's moral ability to desire Christ? In other words, you are claiming that the Holy Spirit is completely unnecessary in the preaching of the Gospel to unbelievers. So accordingly, we should, therefore, forget about praying for unbelievers for, in your view, God can do nothing to help them. The moment you admit the necessity of the Spirit, then you admit that man has no free will to believe apart from Him. Your definition of grace, in your response, precludes God doing ANYTHING to change the heart for it is merely a willingness on God's part IF MAN WILL.
But the Scriptures contradict your understanding - Consider the following:
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. (1 Thess 1:4, 5)
No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
In other words, your definition of grace is totally inadequate. Grace is much more than simply God's unmerited favor. It also includes the work of the Holy Spirit prior to salvation in opening blind eyes to see the truth, opening deaf ears and turning our heart of stone to a heart of flesh (according to Scripture). God does a work of grace in men's hearts, which are naturally hostile to the gospel. Cessation of hostility is not done through mere persuasion but because the Holy Spirit illumines and quickens the heart of those he came to save.
"It does not depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy" (Rom 9:16) The Scriptures plainly testify that the Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing (John 6:63). Nothing means nothing. We must become spiritual to exercise a spiritual will.
You said >>>"God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Romans 12:3)
Again, you have completely misquoted the text and even taken it out of context. This is written to Christians and Christians only, not to the unregenerate. In context Paul says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers". "Brothers" does not include unbelievers. So actually this verse loudly proclaims that God's giving a measure of faith is ONLY to the elect, not universally. He does not give this measure of faith to all, but to those who he is speaking to in the passage. Not only have you read this in isolation apart from context, but have misquoted it. Read it again considering that he just said "I appeal to you brothers...."
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."
you said >>> The difference lies in the free will that God has given us in choosing whether or not we respond to his grace with faith or whether we choose to ignore it. Regardless of what we choose, we are all capable. The only difference is whether or not we are willing.
How do you know this?. Did you get this idea from Scripture or some other authority? You created a presupposition that all men can believe the gospel apart form the Holy Spirit because you claim that grace is ONLY grace offered and God does nothing for unbelievers beyond that. This is not only unbiblical, but Pelagian, a heresy condemnd by many church councils. Is it not grace itself that makes us humble and willing? "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
you said >>>>
Jesus states, that nothing happens without it being allowed by God. In giving all things to Jesus, God is granting all mankind with an equal opportunity to be saved, but that does not mean that all mankind will believe and be saved.
No he does not say this. You are rewriting the Scriptures. Jesus says nothing of the sort. He says "ALL that the Father gives to me will come to me." (John 6:37). Look closely, ALL, not some. All who are given to the Eternal SON, will believe the gospel. This text could not be plainer. So no one can believe UNLESS God grants it, and ALL to whom God grants it will believe. If the passage meant what you say (that it merely gives all the opportunity), then it would mean universalism, that all will believe the gospel, but this simply is not the case.
>>>> Jesusâ€™ power extends over all of mankind, including those who do not believe and God has given Jesus power to save â€œas many as thou hast given himâ€, yet as many, does not mean that all will be saved.
Yes, it actually does. Look at the passage in John 17 where you got this. It does not say that Jesus merely gives opportunity to all that the Father has given him, but rather that "he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." AS MANY as thou hast given him, not all persons whatsoever. Rememeber the same word is used earlier in John 6 which says that ALL who the father has given the son will believe. ALL, NOT SOME. Then in John 17 he further says,
"I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine."
In other words, those who the Father has given the Son are not the same as the rest of the world, for he only prays for them, and actually excludes the rest of the world in his prayer.
You said>>>>God does not force people to believe, our belief comes from our desire to submit to God, and put our trust in him.
I would argue that you have a very unbiblical view of man's condition prior to salvation. To think that fallen man will naturally desire Christ or to submit to God, apart form the work of the Holy Spirit, is pure Pelagianism. How can an unspiritual man desire spiritual things?
you said again>>>It comes from our free will.
So you claim that man can freely believe in Christ apart from the Spirit of God? All the Scriptures contradict you. Man's will is in bondage to corruption. We are naturally hostile to God because of what we are. Our choices result from our nature and disposition. We hate God by nature. None of us naturally see Christ's beauty and excellency.
Jesus says some do not believe BECAUSE they are not his sheep (John 10).
Finally, you do not explain why one person believe the gospel and not the other. Is one naturally more humble than the other? more sensitive to spiritual things? If so it would be salvation based on merit, on the character of the person believing over the one who does not. God's love for his own would then be conditional. But God saves in spite of ourselves. To say God's free gift does not include His Holy Spirit to grant understanding and moral ability is to think way too highly of those who are dead in sin. Dead in sin because they have no spiritual life in them. Spiritual life comes prior to willingness.
You store analogy of givine free TVs away is flawed and here's why I think so: Consider that a blind man is not helped by merely shining a light into his eyes. He must be healed and given eyes to see before He sees. Grace does not merely stand aloof and hope that the blind man will see by exercising his will. He comes and delivers him. So your analogy has the prior assumption that the gift of God is both desirable and something we have the ability to receive. But neither can be proved from Scripture. In fact, the Scripture testifies that the new birth is what causes faith (1 John 5:1)
Lastly, if faith is not the gift of God then the Scripture gives false witness about itself. Paul thanks God for the faith of the Thessalonians and others. Can you thank God for your faith Alejandra? or is this the one thing you contributed to the price of your redemption? You would then have to pray, "God, thank you for everything, except my faith. I PRODUCED THIS and others did not, therefore God you helped me because I helped myself. You get credit for most, but I get credit for that" This is boasting, I would argue, and therefore contrary to the gospel. The true gospel leaves no room for boasting. You must be able to give thanks to God for all that you have, not just some.