ANSWERS to Objections to Faith Being a Gift of God

1. Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear in the Greek and indicates that the antecedent of THIS, is the neuter IDEA of salvation ("have been saved"), rather than either faith or grace. This is established from the context as well as the grammatical specifics. Even if the bible taught that saving faith is a gift from God, the context and grammatical specifics of this passage would prevent its use as proof for that idea. But what of the suggestion that the bible teaches that saving faith is a gift from God? Some one has proffered several such passages and it is necessary to look at them and determine the validity of the claims.

2. 2 Tim 2:25: "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth..." What does it mean when God "grants" repentance? This question emanates from 2 Tim. 2:25, where the believer is exhorted to continually correct those who are in opposition (to the truth) IF PERHAPS God may grant them repentance leading to the full-knowledge of the truth. The first factor recognizes that Paul has in view the end result of a process that God enables, but is not directly produced by God. The words, "if perhaps" translate the particle, māpote, which most frequently expresses the idea of purpose or result. The word, perhaps, is an interpretive translation which is not required or necessary. The reason that "perhaps" is added is because of the subjunctive mood with the verb (aorist active subj. of didomi), but that is the mood that is used to indicate purpose or result, because the desired action is indeed, a potential. That is, They may or may not respond to the message and change their minds. The grammar easily allows for, "SO THAT God might give." In other words, the communicator of truth is going to speak words to those who are in opposition so that they can be convicted and BE ENABLED through that conviction to change their minds (repent).

The "enablement" or "giving of repentance" is not an ability that God sovereignly produces in someone, but rather an ability that is triggered when and because truth is taught. This enablement is called "the kindness of God" at Rom 2:4, "the KINDNESS of God leads you to repentance." This does not say that God MAKES someone repent, but rather that His activity of kindness LEADS TO - that is, it prompts, elicits, encourages one to accept God's salvation provision. God's kindness, which comes from His love (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8) involves two basic things,

(1) the actual provision of Jesus as the sin bearer, and
(2) the communication of the salvation message.

At Romans 10:17, we are taught that faith (the expression of trusting Christ) comes out from (ek) the experience of hearing, and that that experience of hearing, is through (dia) the word of (about) Christ. In other words, God ENABLES someone to repent/believe because He communicates the information that must be known. Knowledge of that information will then convict the soul of the hearer and will elicit either, acceptance (repentance) or rejection. They will be convicted for certain, because that is what God's word does through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11).

Examples of such conviction are found at Acts 2:37; 5:33 and 7:54, where we see both a positive response and two negative responses respectively. Accordingly, at 2 Tim. 2:25, whether these spiritual rebels will be convicted or not, is not the issue, but whether they will respond to that conviction with a positive or negative expression is the issue. If they respond with a positive expression and repent (change the mind), then it can be said that God gave them repentance since it is His convicting process that enabled them. Thus, Paul's terminology here, is looking at the end result of repentance and not at the mechanics. God performs the mechanics through the communication of the gospel message, but the end result is based on each person's own volitional choice. The second factor is to recognize the universality of the salvation provision and invitation. That is, since Christ died for ALL, and ALL are invited to "repent" then there is no special act of God by which He determines or chooses only certain ones who will be "made" to repent. The word, "give," is also used for this general provision of salvation which is extended to all people as an offer. Notice at Acts 5:31, that the provision of Jesus as the Savior, successful and exalted to the right hand of God, GIVES (didomi, aorist active infinitive) repentance and forgiveness to Israel. In other words, since Jesus died for the sins of the people, salvation is given (offered) to Israel.

But this is obviously an offer that is extended to the nation and not a universal forgiveness. The offer or invitation is that they (each individual) should repent and receive the result, which is the forgiveness of sins. The language at Acts 11:18 is similar, "Well, then, God has GIVEN (didomi, aorist active indicative) to the Gentiles also, the repentance that leads to life." Again, this is a universal PROVISION or invitation, but not a universal salvation. When John the baptizer came proclaiming the gospel in the wilderness, his message was that the hearers should repent. God did not "give" repentance to anyone as a final result, but He did produce a conviction of the soul through the content of the message. On that basis, the final result can be said to be "from God" for without His efforts in convicting through the gospel message, the hearers would be unable to repent. For there to be a change of mind, the mind be exposed to new content.

Jesus too, invited His hearers to repent and believe the gospel as is recorded at Mark 1:15, and the extent of that invitation is clearly seen to be "whoever" (John 3:16). And the ministry of the disciples prior to the crucifixion of Jesus was that people should repent (Mark 6:12). After the resurrection, when the apostles were committed with the ministry of reconciliation, they were to proclaim, "repentance for the forgiveness of sins" to all the nations, (Luke 24:47).

Accordingly, God's message to ALL the people is, "that all everywhere should repent," (Acts 17:30). And Paul's summary of his ministry is recorded at Acts 26:20, that in Damascus, Jerusalem, all of Judea and even to the Gentiles, "that they should repent and turn to God." And finally, in Peter's statement at 2 Peter 3:15 that "The Lord . . . is not willing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance," we see the idea that IF God "gives" repentance to anyone, it would have to be to all, for otherwise, He would be in violation of His very own longings.

 Remember the sentiments of Jesus expressed toward the nation of Israel at Mat. 23:37; "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were UNWILLING." Why did He not gather them all to Himself? It was because they DID NOT want to gather to Him. Why does someone not repent - change their mind about God? It is certainly not because God does not want them to! Quite the opposite; God wants them all to repent. But they do not because they choose for themselves not to accept the salvation invitation that is extended to them in the gospel message.

Jesus invited all, "repent and believe the gospel." And the conclusion to it all, "He who believes in the Son, has everlasting life; but he who is disobedient to (unpersuaded by) the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

3. Phil 1:29 "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake," The verb, granted, is charidzomai as an aorist passive indicative. It means to graciously PROVIDE something. Here, the subject, IT, is found in the verbal construction and is explained by the next two items mentioned. Two things have been graciously provided to these people. Some suggest that this teaches that God has given FAITH to them in order to get saved. However, it is just as viable to see this passage as teaching that God has given or provided the OPPORTUNITY or PRIVILEGE to believe in Christ, as well as the OPPORTUNITY or PRIVILEGE to suffer for Him. Does God GIVE you suffering, or does He ALLOW it? He does not CAUSE IT, but allows it. The best example of this is seen with Job, who went through great suffering because God ALLOWED Satan to afflict him. It is FOR HIS SAKE. That is, when a person trusts in Christ as Savior, Christ gets the glory, and when a Christian suffers for Him, Christ gets the glory. This is the same thing that is in view at 1Cororinthians 3:5, where we read, "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants THROUGH WHOM you believed, even as the Lord gave {opportunity} to each one." The Greek does not have the word, opportunity, but simply, "even as the Lord gave to each one." It has to be determined by context, what it is exactly that God gave. We must go back to the IDEA of believing that was occasioned by the ministry of the apostles. If God GAVE them faith, then there is no need to tell us that it was THROUGH the apostles that they believed. So then the ACT of believing came to them both through the apostles and through God. What did God do? He provided the occasion for HEARING. What did the apostles do? They taught the content of the gospel.. What is the OPPORTUNITY that was given? It is the HEARING of the gospel. Paul tells us that "faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Once again, there is no sense of God giving anyone the faith to believe in Christ.

4. Acts 18:27 "...the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace." This refers to the PLAN (grace) by which God deals with His creation. It is GRACE. That means that it is based on the merits of God, the GIVER, not the merits of the receiver. It does not in anyway mean that there is no volitional responsibility on the part of the receiver. John 1:12 tells us that "to as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God." Paul tells us that God's GRACE has provided the plan, as we see at Titus 2:11, "The grace of God, that brings salvation, has appeared to all men." I am ABLE to hear and believe BECAUSE God has provided the plan. This does not mean that God's grace GAVE FAITH.

5. Heb 12:2 "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" The first issue here is to determine what the subject is. There is more than just saving faith; there is also Christian faith, and there is also THE FAITH as the body of revealed truth. The faith that is the subject of the section beginning at Hebrews 10:19 is NOT saving faith, but LIVING faith expressed by the Christian AFTER salvation. In Hebrews chapter 11, we have examples of faith, but it is not saving faith; it is living faith. Hebrews chapter 12 continues telling BELIEVERS to concentrate on Jesus, who is the author and the perfecter of THE faith. The Greek does not say, "our faith," but it says THE FAITH - the body of divine truth that is to be the object of the Christian's faith while living here on earth. It can, however, be seen to focus just on the FUNCTION of faith in the Christian's life. Jesus is of course, the AUTHOR, that is the ORIGINATING source of both THE faith and our function of faith, but this does not mean that HE gives it.

For that matter, according to the Calvinistic position, it is God the FATHER who gives the faith, and not Jesus. Anyway, the fact that Jesus is the originating source for faith simply means that He is the focal point for salvation - the SYSTEM by which one is saved. That system is by grace through faith. It has always been that way since Adam was saved. However, after the arrival of Jesus and the "appearance" of God's grace, saving faith is now expressed in the COMPLETED work of the Savior rather than the ANTICIPATED work of the Savior, as it was in the Old Testament.

This is what Paul is talking about at Galatians 3:19-26, with the idea of "when faith came." Jesus is the author of the system based on the crucified and resurrected Savior; a system that was only ANTICIPATED in the Old Testament, but fully implemented after the resurrection. Salvation was still by faith throughout the Old Testament, but it was by faith in a PROMISED Savior. Now we put our faith in an ACTUAL historical Savior.

6. Matt 16:16,17 "Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'' And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." It seems that these advocates of "faith as a gift" are grasping at straws with this citation. The subject is NOT faith, but REVELATION. This passage says that God REVEALED something to Peter. It does not say that God GAVE HIM FAITH.

7. Acts 13:48 "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." This does not teach that faith was GIVEN to anyone. This is a different issue, but I will provide a lengthy discussion of it anyway.

Verse 46: The rejection of the Jews (or rather the Jewish nation) as God's present evangelistic agent, was based on their volitional rejection of God. Jesus taught this at Mat. 21:33-46 and Mat. 23:37-38; "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and YOU WERE UNWILLING. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" They had previously been appointed (as a group) to this function and privilege (Ex. 19:5-6), but through their continued failure to represent the Messianic promise to the world, which was ultimately demonstrated by their rejection of the personal presence of the Messiah, God temporarily (for He will again return to them; Rom. 11:25-29) replaced them with a new body (a spiritual nation rather than physical) which is taken out from both Jew and Gentile, and is called the church (1 Peter 2:9-11).

Part of Paul's ministry was to communicate this message to them as he went from town to town, and to announce a formal rejection of the Jewish race as God's priestly house. Many of these occasions are recorded in Acts, and clarify, as does this one, that the Jews made a volitional choice of rejecting the gospel message and clinging to their man-made traditions of works and human heritage as the basis for acceptance before God.

Paul says, "you have evaluated yourselves," which communicates the individual and collective rejection of Paul's message. Paul's message is the eternal life which is offered through the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. It is this that the Jews rejected and in so doing, essentially deemed themselves unworthy of that eternal life. Paul's words that he is now "turning to the Gentiles," is the formal statement of rejecting Israel in preparation for their physical rejection through the destruction of the temple in about 25 years.

Although the quote in verse 47 has the Messiah in view (Isaiah 49:6), Paul applies it to those who are the brethren and the ambassadors of the Messiah, as ones who carry out His purpose. The Gentiles who are present, have heard the gospel message (Verses 38-39) as Paul has been proclaiming it to the Jews on both sabbaths, as well as during the week (verse 43).

This group of Gentiles included both proselytes and non-proselytes (verses 43-44), who are interested in the good news of Paul's teaching; not only that God is offering salvation (eternal life) to all peoples, but also that the Gentiles, as an independent group from the Jews, are being offered the function and privilege of being part of God's evangelistic agent to the world (the kingdom of God). The second factor would have significance only to the proselytes who understood the Old Testament teachings on this, but the first factor (forgiveness of sins) would be a welcome message to the entire group.

Thus, out from this group there are those who express their interest and joy in the message, and in response to it, believe in Jesus. The progress of thought expressed here is common and necessary for embracing God's plan of salvation. There must first come an "interest" in the promise of forgiveness and eternal life, and then a response to the detailed "mechanics" of acquiring that forgiveness. This can be seen, for example, with the Philippian jailor, whose interest was stirred first by the Christian message represented in the songs and praises of the prisoners, and then by their act of trust, when they did not run away. After the impact was made, he asked, "what must I do to be saved?" Upon which, Paul gave him the simple mechanics (Acts 16:31) and then the more detailed mechanics after they had been taken to his home (Acts 16:32), after which, he trusted in Christ as the Messiah/Savior.

Likewise with the Jews on the day of Pentecost, after Peter's message, they were convicted (pierced in the heart) and inquired, "what must we do?" Upon which, Peter told them that they needed to change their mind (repent), which in turn, resulted in believing the gospel (Mark 1:15). And then we see Nicodemus, who when Jesus told him that he must be born again, inquired, "how can these things come about," (John 3:9). And Jesus told him that it was by believing in the Son of Man (John 3:14-15).

At Acts 13:48, Luke's summary of the decision that was made is seen in two parts. First, the interest is expressed when they hear the gospel message, and then they believe. The apparent difficulty and controversy in this passage, revolves around the phrase, "as many as had been appointed to eternal life." The Calvinists, of course, want to make this a pre-determined assignment of God that then virtually "makes" these who have been pre-determined believe in Christ. However, this is neither the intent of Luke nor a grammatical or Biblical necessity.

A. T. Robertson writes, "This verse does not solve the vexed problem of divine sovereignty and human free agency. There is no evidence that Luke had in mind an 'absolutum decretum' of personal salvation" (Word Pictures, Acts).

R. J. Knowling, in the Expositor's Greek Testament, writes, "There is no countenance here for the 'absolutum decretum' of the Calvinists, since verse 46 had already shown that the Jews had acted through their own choice." The morphology of the word can go either of two directions. On the one hand, the more popular, it is seen as a perfect passive participle of the verb, tassō, which is rendered, "as many as WERE appointed (set) unto eternal life." On the other hand, as a perfect middle participle, it would be rendered, "as many as had set themselves unto eternal life." As Knowling observes, "Some take the word as if middle, not passive . . . and in support of this Rendall refers to 1 Cor. 16:15." There we find the aorist active indicative with the reflexive pronoun, heautos, so that it translates, "and they have set (or appointed) themselves to the ministry of the saints." But it seems that the basic meaning of the verb is altered when one tries to fit this at Acts 13. For it is certain that these unbelievers have not "appointed" themselves unto eternal life, but perhaps have "dedicated themselves" to the pursuit of and acquisition of eternal life, so that upon hearing what was required for the possession of life, they would follow through and believe. But as observed, it seems that this changes the basic meaning of the word.

The verb itself occurs only 7 other times in the New Testament; two of which are in the active voice (Acts 15:2; 1 Cor. 16:15), three are in the passive voice (Luke 7:8; Acts 22:10; Rom. 13:1), and two are in the middle voice with an active function (Mat. 28:16; Acts 28:23;) and all but one clearly indicate the idea of appointment, and even there (Acts 15:2), "they appointed" is easily conceded so that we have, "they appointed that Paul and Barnabas . . . should go up to Jerusalem." The LXX does not differ significantly from this usage and does not lend support for the middle voice usage at Acts 13. The better translation thus, seems to be "as many as were appointed unto eternal life." However, the idea of "appointment" to salvation by a sovereign act of God cannot be found in Scripture, while the teaching that God places someone into the state of salvation based on His foreknowledge is clearly stated in several passages.

This then, is an acceptable understanding of this passage from the standpoint of Volitional Theology; that God foreknows the decision that each individual will make and assigns that person to a destiny of either heaven or hell based on whether he rejects or believes in Christ. What makes this an obstacle for Calvinists is that generally speaking, they fail to acknowledge the place that foreknowledge has in the whole redemption process or the fact that faith precedes the impartation of spiritual life. Not to mention the huge vacancy in Calvinistic theology in understanding the whole reason for the angelic revolt.

In summary, the alternative for Acts 13:38, that these are ones "who have set themselves (or appointed themselves) to (the pursuit of) eternal life, while being grammatically feasible, seems not to be the best choice. The idea that God appoints some to eternal life does not violate the principle of volition, when we recognize that such an appointment unto eternal life; such a placement into the status of salvation, is based on God's foreknowledge of what decision a person would make, and that it is the actual volitional choice of each individual that determines whether a person is saved or not. See Studies on the Bible Fragrances website: Predestination; Election; Foreknowledge; Regeneration.

8. John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." See: THE DOCTRINE OF DRAWING -  John Chapter Six

9. Rom 3:24 "...being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." This does not teach that FAITH is a gift. It says that BEING JUSTIFIED (made righteous) is a gift. Objection: To those who conclude that faith is not a gift of God then I ask, is it something that we produce as merit for God to choose us? The obvious conclusion from this viewpoint is that God, then, does not unconditionally elect, but rather, foresees who has faith and "chooses" them upon a condition. Correct me if I am wrong but I don't see any other conclusion one could come to if this is the case It leans toward a man-centered theology by leaving salvation entirely in man's hands.

<< Clearly the bible requires the expression of faith in order to acquire the gift of eternal life. Also the bible clearly distinguishes between faith and works, so we know that the expression of the REQUIRED faith is NOT some kind of works. Some think that man's depraved condition prevents him from expressing any kind of positive response toward God. That results from a misunderstanding of what the bible teaches about depravity.

Re: 1 John 5:1 >>In the New Testament God is clearly active, creating a people for himself by calling them out of darkness and enabling them to believe the gospel and walk in the light. John teaches most clearly that regeneration precedes and enables faith. "everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" ...The verb tense make's john's intention unmistakable: Every one who goes on believing [present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [perfect, completed action with abiding effects]. " Faith is the evidence of new birth, not the cause of it. This is consistent with john's whole book (cf. 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:2-3, 4:7). <

As fervent as he is to claim that this verse makes regeneration precede faith, it does no such thing.

1. Everyone who IS BELIEVING that Jesus is the Christ: That is, everyone who RIGHT NOW is living a life characterized by belief in Christ - - IS SOMEONE who has been born of God.

2. This is not saying that faith comes first. It is saying that the person who IS BELIEVING - that is one who IS A BELIEVER - is EVIDENCING that he has been born of God. Ie, that he is a child of God.

3. Has been born: this is a perfect passive indicative to indicate a completed fact. This is not claiming HOW someone comes to have faith. It is simply communicating the FACT or the STATUS of one who is expressing his faith. Other passages teach that faith comes first - John 1:12.


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