Saturday, November 12, 2022

The Origin of Faith


The Bible tells us several things about where faith comes from. Ephesians 2:8-9 describe the concept of “saving faith”, which is the faith that is required to receive the gift of salvation:

For 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. [Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV]

The most important part of this passage is the part about how faith is not of our own doing. If faith is not of our own doing, where does faith come from? Faith is a gift from God, not a result of works. We cannot produce faith by ourselves.

    One of the core doctrines of Christianity is that we are saved by faith, and faith alone. All that is required for one to receive the gift of eternal life is that he admits his sin, repents, and confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord. When we ask Jesus Christ to become our Lord and Savior, He responds by giving us the gift of saving faith, which allows us to fully believe in Christ.

    As mentioned in the first part of this series, faith can refer to both a belief in something without being able to verify, as well as a belief in the abilities of another. The type of faith that I have really been interested in is that of the latter definition.

    The type of faith that has really changed the way I see God and the way that I live my life is the faith that comes from the Holy Spirit, in response to prayer, which provides the individual with the supernatural ability to persevere, to hope against hope, and to believe that God will do what He has promised to do.

    One of the most interesting things that I have read about the aforementioned type of faith comes from Wayne Grudem’s second edition of Systematic Theology:

“Jesus says, ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Some translations vary, but the Greek text is best translated, “believe that you have received it.’ Later scribes who copied the Greek manuscripts and some later commentators have taken it to mean ‘believe that you will receive it.’ However, if we accept the text as it is in the earliest and best manuscripts, the verse says, ‘believe that you have received it’. Jesus is apparently saying that when we ask for something (or perhaps after we had been praying over a period of time), God agreed to grant our specific request. In the personal communication with God that occurs in genuine prayer, this kind of faith on our part could only come as God gives us a sense of assurance that he has agreed to grant our request. Of course, we cannot ‘work up’ this kind of genuine faith by any sort of frenzied prayer or great emotional effort to try to make ourselves believe, nor can we force it upon ourselves by saying words that we don’t think to be true. Only God can give us this assurance, and he may or may not give it each time we pray. This assured faith will often come when we ask God for something and then quietly wait before him for an answer.” (Systematic Theology (Second Edition), page 502)

    If you are anything like me, you are probably saying to yourself, “That sounds good and all, but why would I trust a guy who has the name of a sheriff from the Wild West?”

    While his name may be funny, so is mine, and you have read this much of my writing, have you not? In all seriousness, despite my disagreements with Wayne Grudem’s theology (mainly with his soteriology), I have tremendous respect for his work, and I hope to have the opportunity to thank him in person some day. His description of faith (in the context of prayer) jumped out at me when I read it, and I was able to hear God speak to me through Grudem’s explanation of Scripture. I would love to write more about the night I read this excerpt, but I realize that there is a more important topic to discuss.

    I included Grudem’s description of faith because it helped me understand faith in a much deeper way. While one can convince himself of something that is not grounded in reality, that person would not have the confidence that comes with faith from the Holy Spirit. A delusion must be reinforced in order to remain in the mind of the individual, while faith remains in his mind regardless of whether or not he wants to have faith.

    The faith that I am writing about is a gift from the Holy Spirit, given to some, so that others will be encouraged, the Church will be strengthened, and God will be glorified. In the next part of this series, we will examine the way that faith empowers us to do what God wants us to do, and what it feels like to have faith.

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