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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "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). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Is Assurance of Salvation Presumptuous? | Main | Regeneration (excerpt) by Matthew Barrett »

    Is Faith a Work? (Revisited)

    Faith is not considered a work because we attribute our faith to the work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit as He opens our heart to the gospel. By the mercy of God, we are granted a new heart which can look away from self to Christ alone for salvation. However, faith WOULD IN FACT BE A WORK if it were not recognized as the result of the Lord opening the heart - or the regenerating work of the Spirit. As such a person would be ascribing their believing (at least partly) to their own wisdom, humility, sound judgment and good sense but not to Christ alone. As J. I. Packer once said, "the saving power of the cross does not depend on faith being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it."

    "It is because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:30-31

    Related Resources
    Why Is Faith Not a Work? by Matthew Barrett

    Posted by John on October 23, 2013 04:09 PM

    Comments

    Faith is still a work. It is simply a non-meritorious work. God does not exercise faith, we do. Jesus himself called faith a work (John 6:29). He said, "This is the work [you must do] for God, namely, believe on the one whom he sent." Here the genitive for "God" (TOU THEOU) is objective genitive as context indicates. Thus believing or having faith is the work we are commanded to do. Elsewhere repentance and faith (Acts 17:30). Faith is something we DO. That means it is a work. Sure, it is the effect of regeneration. But that does not make it a non-work. It only makes it a non-meritorious work necessary for justification (as in justification by faith). That is how justification is still by grace as well (Rom 5:1; Eph 2:8-9). Food for thought.

    I'm curious about your comment concerning non-meritorious work. How is it non-meritorious if we are justified on the basis of it? Based on your understanding, our eternal destiny hinges on that work - our work. If I take your understanding and apply it to Abraham: "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness", then it is most definitely a meritorious work - Abraham worked, and God rewarded that work (i.e. applied merit). Thus, salvation is not ultimately in the hands of God, it is in the hands of man.

    However, Scripture tells us that all of salvation is not our own doing (our own work) - it is a gift of God . Additionally, repentance is described as being granted (Acts 11:18) - also not a work of man but a fruit of our regeneration by God. It seems, then, that John 6:29 is translated correctly "of God" - not "for God". It is a genitive of possession - faith is the work of God. The fruit of that work by God is that we possess faith.

    Why is it that people want to take some credit for there Salvation? I agree that Faith is a work, its a WORK of God in my heart put there By God so I will believe in my Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
    Thank You Heavenly Father.

    Everything that pertains to salvation is a gift of God. Whether faith is considered a work or repentance is considered a work or obedience is considered a work is not relevant. The determination of whether you are saved is conditioned upon being born again and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a foundation of union with Christ. Everything, whether it is faith or obedience is fruit that is an outgrowth of Christ in us. 1 John makes loving, not sinning, and believing pure outworkings of being born again. Much debate is waisted in a fruitless effort to make one fruit or another the root. That isn't off the reservation speculation by the way. Calvin and many others hold to the same reading of Scripture. Soteriology must begin and end with a study of our union and communionn with Christ.

    Couple of Key Quotes I think helpful in this regard:

    "Sinners cannot obey the gospel, any more than the law, without renewal of heart." - J.I. Packer
    ---------------

    "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, MORE VITAL, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith." - Michael Haykin

    I think we all agree faith is something WE DO and that it is non-meritorious... but does it become a MERITORIOUS work when a person disregards God as the author of it in our heart. Some people deny God's work of regeneration as the cause and thus ascribe faith to their own insight or good judgment.

    Why is this important? One major reason is because the biblical doctrine of "faith alone" has often been wrongly used to undermine the biblical doctrine of "grace alone" when its original purpose was to point to it.

    Faith is a work...it is a work of God in the heart of man.

    Wisdom, humility, sound judgment, good sense, repentance [godly sorrow], obedience to the gospel, and insight are all factors besides faith mentioned above as also required for salvation. Why limit the question to faith since you enlarged the discussion to other character qualities? In addition, the scriptures include understanding, knowledge, love, hope, and godly fear as essentials to being saved. All these saving virtues the scriptures bear out as being sourced in God. A virtue is a work.
    Hope: “In hope against [human reason for] hope he believed” (Rom. 4:18). “In hope we have been saved” (Rom. 8:24). “God…has caused us to be born again to a living hope [rebirth yields hope]” (1 Pt. 1:3).
    Love: "those who perish…did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2Th.2:10). “Whoever loves is born of God” (1 Jn. 4:7).
    “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three” (1 Cor. 13:13) is a truth that substantiates that all three virtues abide in the heart inseparably.

    To Stephen Hyde. Faith is non-meritorious precisely because it is an effect of regeneration. Regeneration is by grace (Eph 2:1, 5). Of course Jews understood Abraham's faith as meritorious. But Paul does not. It is something we DO but an effect of something God does (regeneration). That is how justification can be said to be "by grace" (Rom 5:1).

    There is no dichotomy between faith being a gift of God and it being something we DO. It is both. Yet, precisely because it is something we DO, it is a work. Precisely because it is a fruit of regeneration make it of grace. Thus, faith is a non-meritorious work of man necessary for justification that is by grace precisely because faith is an effect of regeneration.

    The context of John 6:29 is clear. In verse 28 the Jews ask, "What shall we do in order that we might do the works of God?" Jesus answered, "This is the work [you are required to do] for God, namely, you should believe in the one whom he has sent." So, faith is a work, and it is given by grace. It is both. Just because faith is the product of regeneration does not disqualify it (any more than repentance or perseverance) as a work.

    I think we are in agreement here, Stephen, but it is incorrect to assume that works are irreconcilable with grace or that works necessarily entail merit or that one cannot assert such a thing as non-meritorious works.

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