Yesterday, I presented grammatical evidence that the "gift of God," spoken of in Ephesians 2:8, is salvation and not faith, as I had previously believed and taught for my forty years as a Christian. My "enlightenment" came from reading a Bible study on the Internet at: http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/reformed/godgift.htm. As with every study of theirs that I have used, I am convinced they have been faithful stewards of God's Word. For those who know me as the stubborn Missourian that I am, changing my mind about something requires overwhelming evidence for me to believe differently; some might say it takes a miracle. They would be right.
So, if Paul was saying "salvation" is the "gift of God" and not "faith," what is "faith," and how does a lost person come to possess it? The writer of the Book of Hebrews defined "faith" as: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). As I understand his definition, "faith" is equal to substantive, material evidence. Paul wrote: "Knowing...we have believed in Jesus Christ..." (Gal. 2:16). "Knowing" something requires evidence. "Faith" is that evidence.
The Scripture says that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). As I mentioned yesterday, the Holy Spirit "convinces" the lost soul that he is a sinner, that Jesus is righteous, and that he will one day face God's judgment (Jn. 16:7-11). "Faith" is simply agreeing with God's Word; it is recognizing it to be absolute truth. We sometimes us the phrase, "it dawned on him," or "he has seen the light," to describe a sudden awareness of a fact. "Faith" begins with understanding the Gospel is true.
Faith is when the sinner humbly recognizes his desperate need and acknowledges that God must do all the saving. Salvation is wholly the work of God; faith is wholly the responsibility of man. Man does not contribute to his own salvation. It is the work of God. God alone must do the saving; man must do the believing (Acts 16:31). Those who are saved have only God to thank; those who are lost have only themselves to blame. God gets all the credit for man’s salvation; the unsaved man must take full blame and responsibility for his eternal damnation. The saved person thankfully says, "I’m in heaven because of God!" The lost person must truthfully say, "I’m in hell because of me." His damnation is based, not on God’s rejection of him, but upon his rejection of God (Mark 16:16; 2 Thess. 2:10,12; John 5:40).
The obvious question is, does having faith save you? It depends upon what your faith is based. Some people have faith that they live a good enough life to qualify them to spend eternity with God. Others believe they can make up for their sin by doing good works. Still others choose to focus upon God's love for man, while ignoring His demand for righteousness (holiness). They all believe, but does that mean they are saved?
To be continued, Lord willing.