Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Gift of God

What is the cause of faith? First, grace and faith have very different definitions. Grace is a characteristic of God. Faith, or lack of, is a characteristic of man. Saving faith is a response to the grace of God. The verb that goes with the noun faith is to believe, or the participle, believing.

A few weeks ago I was at the Big Haus for supper. Another guest said that a friend of his asked him what the “gift” was in Ephesians 2:8. He then asked Evan and me the same question.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The predicate nominative is “It is the gift of God.” The noun that immediately precedes “it” is “faith.” I answered “faith” and Evan answered “salvation.” There was no argument, just different answers.

In the middle of the night I found myself meditating on those two verses. If “faith” was the answer then “not of yourselves” and “not of works” are also refereeing to “faith” not “salvation.” The first seven verses are referring to salvation not to “faith” at all.

Here are two parallel passages.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

Grace is a gift, salvation is a gift. Faith is receiving that which was given. If Saving Faith is not a gift, then what is its cause? We see the answer in several places.

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

The answer to the question is “salvation,” not faith.

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