Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bible Questions Answered! #2: The Origin of Faith

Origin of Faith
Q. I’m learning that Jesus is the author of our faith, and that faith itself comes from God. What about Scriptures where Jesus seems frustrated when he sees a lack of faith in people? What about in times of healing when Jesus would say something like “according to your faith;” things that make it seem like our amount of faith is up to our control? Is faith something we build by obedience in reading his word or something he builds as we read and obey?

The bigger picture surrounding this question is God’s sovereignty vs. man’s responsibility. Which is true? They seem to contradict each other. Is God in control or is man responsible? Yes. Both are taught in Scripture. An antinomy (an-TIN-uh-me) is 2 apparent opposites both taught as true. We know that the Bible teaches that ultimately God is completely in control and has decreed and allows all things that happen. But the same Bible teaches that man still makes choices that are real and is responsible for those choices. Sometimes the word of God will emphasize God’s perspective (He is behind the scenes ruling over everything), and in other places Scripture will emphasize man’s perspective (we don’t see God ruling, we see us making choices). Usually people will take all the Scriptures that emphasize one side or the other and say that’s all there is. Balance is so crucial! We can go to the extreme on either side. I would say that the balance, in this case, does seem to be tilted towards God’s sovereignty; but Scripture clearly teaches that we are responsible before God for our actions, choices, obedience and/or disobedience.

Now specifically concerning the issue of faith, we see that faith comes from God: not all have faith (2 Thess 3:2b); faith then comes (by hearing the word, Rom 10:17); faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9); coming from the author & perfector of our faith, who is Jesus (Heb 12:2). We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2) and cannot even see the kingdom of God until we are born again (John 3). So God must raise us up from the dead, give us new life and fill us with faith as his word penetrates us to the very core (Heb 4:12).

Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is a substance. It is an inward evidence; an assurance; a conviction (ESV). The verb is believing, but the noun is FAITH. Faith is SOMETHING. When we believe Christ, we possess eternal life inside of us by faith. We have the substance. This one true faith (“the” faith that was “once for all delivered to the saints” Jude 1:3) is ours from God. Glory to God!

At the same time, we are responsible before God for believing. We are commanded to believe! Everything God commands us to do, we are responsible to do. But here is the problem. We are NOT ABLE to do ANYTHING that God commands us to do…EVER (within ourselves).

Take the Law for example. God gave us the Ten Commandments. They are commandments, and yet we cannot obey them. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 718b, ESV). And yet our inability does not get us off the hook. We ought to obey, but we are dead. So God could have judged us, but he gave us Jesus – who did what we could never do. He fulfilled the Law of God, and lives it out through us (Jeremiah 31:33). With God’s command (a command that we cannot obey in our own strength) comes the supernatural power to obey that command through faith in Jesus Christ. So, God gives us the power to do what we could not otherwise do. He is glorified, and we are forgiven!

Jesus commanded the man with the withered hand to stretch it out (Luke 6:10). This was the one thing the man could NOT do! But with the command came the power to obey and do the impossible. The man stretched it out and he was whole! He had not healed himself; Jesus did it!

We are commanded to have faith (John 10:38). Unbelief is a sin (Rom 11:20, Heb 3:19). But we do not believe until our eyes are opened. We need God’s help. So from God’s perspective, he gives us faith. He does through us what we cannot do ourselves. But from man’s perspective, we are required to have faith, and are guilty before God when we do not. Jesus was right to be frustrated at people’s unbelief (Mark 6:6). God hates sin, but has decreed that it exist (to show his glory by way of comparison). God could have decreed that sin not exist. But God chose to allow some things that do not please him (sin, sickness, suffering, the death of the wicked – Ezek 33:11, hell) to still exist. He decreed these things and allows these things because in his infinite wisdom he knows they will best show forth his glory. Therefore, God knows we cannot obey. But we are responsible to obey him. And it is right of him to judge us when we don’t. But in Christ we may obey him and escape judgment! Glory to God!

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