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