The Gift of Faith
Our Confession says, “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 14.1). Observe five things about faith.
1. Faith is a gift. Faith is described as “a grace” (cf. “saving grace” SC 86, LC72) because it is a precious endowment that we obtain (Philippians 1:29) from the gracious hand of God who grants it (2 Peter 1:1). Men do not, cannot, produce faith. It must come to us from outside of us as a donation of divine favor. Here the wisdom and glory of God in salvation are displayed. For while God graciously offers salvation to sinners on the condition of faith in His Son (WCF 7.3), God Himself graciously supplies the very condition that He requires. In this way, salvation is all of grace. Therefore, the apostle Paul can declare, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
2. Faith enables us to believe. There is a cause and effect relationship between God’s grace and our response to that grace (Acts 18:27). Apart from grace men cannot believe in Christ (John 3:3, Romans 8:7-8). We see that it is God’s beneficence upon us that begets our belief inside of us. By grace men are enabled to believe in Christ (John 6:44-45). God regenerates us and reveals Christ to us. We receive and rest upon Christ for salvation.
3. Faith is the work of God the Holy Spirit. It is the fruit of effectual calling (See: WCF 10, SC 31, LC 67). The Holy Spirit is the Effectual Agent of effectual calling. He shines the light of the gospel into our souls, causing us to see and savor the beauty of our Savior. Being thus enabled and persuaded by the Holy Spirit, we personally take hold of Christ with our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:13; Ephesians 1:17-19).
4. Faith is (ordinarily) produced by the ministry of the word. The Holy Spirit works with and through the reading and preaching of the word of God. His influence supplies the power and persuasion to believe. His word supplies the content (declarations, commands, promises, warnings, etc.) of our belief. The Holy Spirit illuminates the very words which He has inspired. God testifies to God, and God enables us to understand and believe God’s testimony. We say “ordinarily” because while God ordinarily uses means, He is free to work without, above, or against them (WCF 5:3). The means of grace are tools that God is pleased to use. They are not inviolable rules by which God almighty is prevented from accomplishing His good pleasure. God can deliver cities by means of swords and horses, but He can also deliver them apart from swords and horses (Hosea 1:7).
5. Faith is increased and strengthened by the word, sacraments, and prayer. Even a little faith is a very powerful force (Matthew 17:20). Yet, that doesn’t mean that we should settle for just a little faith. Our faith should grow more and more over time. The greater our faith, the greater our happiness and comfort in Christ. Do you seek increased joy and peace? Then you must increase your faith in Christ. God’s prescription for increasing your faith are His means of grace: the word, sacraments, and prayer.
Have you believed in Jesus Christ to the saving of your soul? Praise God for the gift of faith!