Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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The Gift of Faith

Rev. Angus Stewart

 

In the pulpits of many churches statements like this are often heard, "God will do everything possible to encourage us to make us the right choice." If this is true, why is it that God has decreed that many never hear the gospel? Why has He eternally "ordained" false teachers in many churches to preach the false gospel (Jude 4)? How is this going to encourage people to believe? Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21), if He wanted him to repent? What did Paul mean when he wrote, "whom [God] will he hardeneth" (Rom. 9:18)? Why did David pray, "Let their eyes be darkened that they see not" (Ps. 69:23)? If God is doing all He can to bring everybody to conversion, why does Scripture declare, "God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear" (Rom. 11:8)? If God is doing "everything possible" to bring all to salvation, why did He not elect all and irresistibly call them to faith? The god who does all he can to bring all to salvation and yet fails is not the Almighty God of the Bible who "doeth according to his will ... among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35).

God works faith in His elect alone by his Holy Spirit, as Westminster Confession 14:1 declares, "The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their soul, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts."

The natural man’s will is bound by Satan who takes him captive at his will (II Tim. 2:26). Thus "there is none that seeketh after God" (Rom. 3:11). To the elect alone (Acts 13:48), "it is given in the behalf of Christ ... to believe in him" (Phil. 1:29). Even the activity of believing ("to believe") is a gift of God ("it is given").

The Canons of Dordt, the Reformed creed composed by the most international body of theologians, sets forth the scriptural teaching on faith as a gift (III/IV:12). Faith is "the gift of God not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure" nor "because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation." Rather, faith is the gift of God "because it is in reality conferred, breathed and infused into" man, and "because [God] who works in man both to will and to do ... produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also."