Is faith a gift from God or is it something that comes from the heart of man? This is a question that I want to examine and answer from two different perspectives. The first perspective will be from the character and nature of God himself and his relation to his creatures and secondly we will examine the question from the direct testimony of Scripture.
The first thing we want to examine and establish is the holiness and absolute perfection of God. The Biblical usage of the word “holy” means to be sacred or set apart. God is “set apart” from His creation. He transcends and is outside of His creation. He is not corrupted by or a part of His creation. He is perfect and does not change for He is outside of time and space (Creation). He is immutable (unchanging) in His perfection. Time is the measure of change in a system. We as creatures exist in time and therefore we change. What is interesting is that the Bible commands us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16) and commands us to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt 5:48).
How is it possible for us to be holy as God and perfect as God when we are creatures, especially fallen, sinful creatures (Eph 2:1-3)? The Bible even says that our best efforts towards holiness are worthless to God (Isa 64:6). Our best efforts don’t even get off the ground when trying in and of ourselves to reach for God’s holiness (Job 14:4). Jeremiah 17:9 tells us our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick. God as the example of perfection and holiness is the standard for holiness and perfection. God is still the standard for these even if we have no ability as creatures to be set apart (holy) or perfect and immutable as He is. For us to have communion with God we must meet His standard. If God were to justify us before Him because of a faith that was self generated how could that faith possibly be the grounds by which God can commune and enter into a relationship with us? How can a genuine faith come from a deceitful and desperately sick heart? A self generated faith would be filthy rags and worthless to God. Even Adam and Eve before they were tainted by sin and objectionable to God (Ecc 7:29) were still creatures and were not able to have full communion with God. No one has seen God, (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12, 1 Tim 6:16) this would include Adam and Eve. What man has seen has been the pre-incarnation of Jesus Christ (Gen 18:1, Isa 6:1, Eze 1:28) or Christ incarnated in human flesh (Phil 2:7), but no one has seen God in the Spirit. Only those who have been sealed in the righteousness of God (Rom 1:17, Eph 4:30) can have full communion with God and will finally see God (Matt 5:8). A faith that came from man would be fickle, changing, tainted by sin, unpleasing to God and unable to persevere till the end (1 John 2:19). Romans 8:8 says that those in the flesh are not able to please God. A faith that comes from those that are in the flesh and have a heart of stone (Eze 36:26) will not and cannot be pleasing to God. Faith that can justify a sinful creature before God (Rom 5:1) must by necessity come from God and not from the heart of man. It must be the work of God (John 6:29). A faith from God is a faith that satisfies Him and will be a faith that perseveres till the end. Both our righteousness and our faith are the gift of God (2 Cor 5:22, Rom 1:17, Eph 2:8-9).
What is the testimony in scripture? Jesus tell us in John 6:29 that it is God’s work that we believe. In Galatians 5:22 we are given the fruit of the Spirit of God, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the elements that make up the righteousness of God that has been imputed to us. As you can see in that text “faithfulness” is a part of the fruit of the Spirit of God in our lives. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul tells us that grace, salvation and faith are all a gift of God. In Philippians 1:29 we are told that it has been granted to us to believe. In Acts 13:48 Luke records that all those that God had appointed to eternal life were the ones that believed. Those that God intended to save were given the gift of a life giving faith that was pleasing to God and the grounds for their justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ. In Acts 16:14 we see this gift of faith being played out in the life of Lydia as we see that God opened her heart to believe what Paul was preaching. Hebrews 12:2 says that Christ is both the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who authored and began it and He is the one who will persevere and finish our faith. This is also confirmed in Philippians 1:6 which say that the Spirit of God who began the work in us will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus. The testimony of Scripture is powerful. Faith is a gift from God. Praise God.
To teach that faith is something that we do and accomplish on our own is to say that we have the ability to please God in and of ourselves outside of God’s grace. This is the epitome of pride and needs to be repented of. This elevates our own heart and abilities to the level and nature of God. If God is the standard of perfection and God is not pleased with anything other than perfection how then can we say that a faith that comes from our own being is pleasing to Him. This is to say that we are capable of being perfect, that we have the ability to generate something that meets God’s standard. This could not be more prideful. Let us examine our hearts and submit our wills to the infallible and unchanging Word of God.