threshing

Gifted faith, working faith or faith in Christ?

What is the true nature of faith? Is it supernatural? How can we know for sure if we have real saving faith? What if I am not really sure about my faith? These are all questions we will look at in this article…

Before the arrival of modern combine harvesters, a threshing board served to separate the desired harvest from the chaff. The threshing board was pulled by horses or oxen in a circle as the heavy plank did its job over the wheat. Once separated, the useless chaff would often blow away in the wind and the wheat grain and hay could be collected.  

It’s actually not very popular today if you try to separate the truth from the lies. It is often taken as argumentative and divisive and people take offense. In fact, I am told, each person possesses their own truth and to leave it at that. Everything is determined as the individual perceives it. Truth is, in other words, as subjective as what beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history

George Orwell

All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays

When dealing with certain issues we need to separate truth from lie. Kids may believe the lie that since Superman can fly they can too. Onc e they put it to the test, gravity would quickly respond with the hard, objective (excuse the pun) truth. Thud!

superkid
Superman encounters gravity

When handling truth from a biblical perspective, we always want to be as objective as possible. The truth is what sets us free, and we need to run the threshing board of Scripture to separate truth from lies in our thinking. While we continue to live under wrong thinking we may suffer unnecessary consequences. Thud!

With matters regarding salvation, faith is a very important topic and we need to take extreme care. The consequences are eternal. Is what you know about believing what the Bible teaches or more of what you feel it should be, based on your perception? Is faith something people are incapable of so God must gift it to certain individuals in order to be saved? Or, perhaps faith can be disingenuous and therefore only that which is evidenced by good works should be considered authentic saving faith?  If this is the case, how can I objectively know for certain I am saved?

I submit to you that both ideas are logical and reasonable to presume but they are not objective truth as taught by Scripture. Not to worry though, any false notions we have will be blown away in the wind as we run the threshing board of Scripture over these ideas and what will remain is the truth.

Faith is a gift given by God

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

This confusion heavily relies on Ephesians 2:8 to prove the notion that faith is the gift God gives not salvation. So, when a person believes it is really because God gifted them faith to believe.

This is the position of Calvinists like John MacArthur. In an article titled “Is faith a gift” MacArthur wrote this…[red comments mine]

“Some have objected to this interpretation, saying that faith (pistis) is feminine, while that (touto) is neuter. [correct, a neuter pronoun cannot be referring back to a feminine noun] That poses no problem, however, as long as it is understood that that does not refer precisely [precisely but sort of?] to the noun faith but to the act of believing [that argument makes no sense at all since belief is the same word in Greek. Calvinism loves to say God gifts you faith to believe so in Greek that would be pistis to pisteuo…that is nonsensical]. Further, this interpretation makes the best sense of the text, since if that refers to by grace [no, not by grace either since grace is a feminine noun as well] you have been saved through faith (that is, to the whole statement), [no to the whole statement but rather to the whole context of Ephesians 2] the adding of and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God would be redundant, because grace is defined as an unearned act of God. [precisely the point! The emphasis is being made that salvation is a gift not of ourselves, not of works that we do as it says in the following verse. Eph 2:9] If salvation is of grace, it has to be an undeserved gift of God. [The presumption here is that if we have faith it is not of grace unless God gifts it but the verse nature of faith is a non-work and non-meritorious response]. Faith is presented as a gift from God in 2 Peter 1:1, [faith here is in the active voice meaning they received the faith or meaning they had the same teaching 2 Cor 4:13].  Philippians 1:29, [the object of faith had been given them Rom 10:17. ]and Acts 3:16 [the word comes is not in the Greek, it is faith through Him not faith gifted by God]

My intention here is to show Scripture does not teach faith as a gift rather it is ours and everyone has it to respond to the Gospel otherwise they are counted as disobedient. How can someone who cannot obey (hasn’t been gifted the faith to believe, be considered disobedient?).

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 3:36

The context of John 3 clearly explains disobedience is to reject what God gave (not faith) but His Son! Whoever believes (obeys) will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,

Colossians 3:5-6

that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:12

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

1 John 5:4

This is a perfect example of the kind of deception that goes on today. Verses are taken out of context to make a pretext. When put to the test of Scripture, these theories don’t hold up. They are false! Not true! Here are more Scripture verses that state faith is ours (Mark 10:52, Hab 2:4, Jam 1:3, Matt 15:28, Heb 12:2, Mark 11:22)

Saving faith must be accompanied by works

This is the notion that faith must be proven to be authentic. Interestingly, the verses that are quoted to back this idea up are both in James…

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

James 2:19

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

James 2:14

The demons believe is used as an example of someone who believes but because he does not have works it is not saving or true faith. So, to begin with using demons as an example of becoming saved is false since demons cannot be saved. They’re locked into their choice from the fall of the angels and hell was prepared for them at that point (Matt 25:41). Also, why is the fact that demons shudder a bad thing? Shouldn’t they shudder? What do we expect them to do, get up and serve the Lord? No, they are demons, their response to the Lord Jesus was to shudder! (Matt 8:29). Demons know their destiny is appointed. (Rev 12:4)

Again, James 2:19 is using the demons as an extreme example of a visible, notable response from faith which is James’ point for writing. They said they had faith but they were useless about it to those they were in contact with.

How are we justified? We are justified (saved from the penalty of sin) at the moment of trusting in Christ (Rom 3:28).

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 5:1

Romans explains clearly that justification before God is at a moment in time by simple faith in Christ. James 2 explains justification before men is a lifelong process of showing our faith to others. See more about James 2 here.

James is not teaching that works prove true, ‘saving’ faith. In fact, the Bible never using ‘true faith’, ‘real faith’, ‘saving faith’ or any such qualities to faith. The Bible also never requires a certain amount of faith to be saved. When the Bible says they believed, they were saved. They may not have demonstrated it as much as we know but that is not important to mention because justification is by faith alone and not by any works that we can do (Eph 2:8-9). To require works to authenticate faith to be saved is to annul the Gospel of grace.

Faith in Christ

Faith in Christ is what the Bible does teach! We saw above that God does not gift anyone the ability to believe. “The TULIP is a pretty flower but bad theology” I once heard a preacher say. He was right. Neither does the Bible require evidence for faith. Both of these positions really end up at the same false conclusion. You must demonstrate faith if you are truly saved. If God gifted you faith to believe then you will demonstrate faith sooner or later. If your faith was saving faith then you will demonstrate it as well because real faith works. Both require works in their dilema to prove they are saved. This is very contrary to the whole of Scripture which says God gave His son (who paid for the sins of mankind and rose again) so that whoever believes can be saved! That is why it is called Good News!

The “works” thesis is all dependent on the faith aspect. Faith must either be gifted or accompanied by works. The real problem here is the focus is all wrong. Paul didn’t go around teaching about the authenticity of people’s faith. He preached Christ crucified! He was about sharing what God did for man through Christ not what man has to do for God to become saved.

but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24

and just a litte later he states…

so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

1 Corinthians 1:31

All through Paul’s letters we find teaching about the Person of Christ, the work of Christ, the body of Christ and the identity of the believer in Christ and the walk of the believer with Christ but we don’t find teaching on the existence of faith, the authenticity of faith or the quantity of faith.

We teaching we do find regarding faith is its object. Faith doesn’t save, the object does. When Christ is the object of our faith then God credits us righteousness.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Romans 4:5

Faith comes (that is, what must be believed in) when the object is taught (Jesus and Him crucified) (Rom 10:14-17).

In Conclusion

We can safely arrive at the declaration that the kind of faith is not the real issue for salvation. The real issue for salvation is where, or better yet, in Whom our faith is placed. Faith is not a gift from God to a select few He has chosen. That is not true, that is a lie! I hope I don’t offend you but remember, when something as important as eternal life and death is at stake it is imperative we be objective. We owe it to ourselves to separate the truth from the lies. Faith is not a work, and we are not saved by works. Why do we feel it necessary to require them to authenticate faith when the Bible doesn’t?

The way we understand this issue affects all aspects of our lives and ministries. Those we disciple are hanging on to our words. What are they taking home with them? Christ and His finished work or whether or not their faith is real?

When we get it separated, the truth is loud. God promises us in His word on the basis of simple faith in Christ that we can know with absolute certainty that we possess eternal life, not on the basis of evidences but on the basis of God’s word. You can rest in that! Here’s two verses you can bank on.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:13

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

John 5:24

Walk assured that Christ paid for you. You believed it. God gifted you life everlasting that moment on. You will not come into judgment. Ever!

Have you rested in this objective, absolute truth? Have you distinguished the truth of childlike faith from the lies? I trust so!

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