22nd September, 2019 – Faith is man’s response to the character of God.
Initial discussion: What is it that triggers biblical salvation? It’s not the gospel, for many may hear the gospel, yet not be saved. It’s not calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved, for there is a necessary step before that. It is faith, something that is necessary for repentance which leads to salvation. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. The process is to firstly hear the gospel, then to have faith in God who promises salvation through the gospel. This produces godly sorrow at our sin and repentance which then leads to our salvation. While our salvation is via calling on the name of the Lord to be saved, the process is triggered by faith which comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). That is, faith is a response to hearing what God says about His salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not faith in the process of salvation but faith in the character of God who promises that if we call upon the name of the Lord we will be saved.
It is necessary to have faith in God in order to believe that His gospel is true. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. It is faith in the character of God that activates His gift of salvation offered to all. The calvinists cannot accept this, teaching instead that one must be regenerated (born again) before one may respond positively to God. Thus to them it is regeneration that triggers salvation, not faith in God or His Christ, for the calvinist has to teach that it is impossible to have faith until after they have been regenerated. And for them, Hebrews 11:6 has to be re-written as “For without regeneration it is impossible to please God.” If faith is something the calvinist god imposes upon his chosen ones, then it is impossible for such faith to please him if he has to give eternal life and justification to his people (through regeneration) before they are permitted to be gifted faith to believe and call upon the name of the Lord. Technically, the calvinist should have to please his god via his regeneration; otherwise he could not please his god until he had consequently been granted the “gift of faith”.
Trust and faith? We often talk of trust and faith as if they are interchangeable. But are they? In fact, the two have quite different applications. Briefly, trust is something you build after experiencing satisfactory results. For example, you trust a mechanic to do repairs properly because he has demonstrated this in the past. Trust has to be built upon good experiences, or else it is trust misplaced. On the other hand, faith is that which you have in someone without any concrete evidence to prove such faith. Faith is trust before the good work, not after. Trust is dependent upon past results. Faith is a hope on future results. Trust is logical; faith is illogical. Trust can be explained in terms of statistics and data; faith cannot be explained in terms of any available statistics or data. Trust is a step into the partially-known; faith is a step into the unknown.
Look at faith as a decision taken before you have any viable evidence that your course of action will be positive. If a politician promises something, you should logically demand some demonstration of his delivery on that promise before you accept it. Your lack of faith should cancel out politicians’ promises. But another (not a politician) might make the same promise and you might possibly consider accepting it. Why? The same promise from two people, yet you should reject one and maybe consider the other person? It’s not the promise that you have faith in, but the person who makes the promise. Your faith in the promise depends upon the character of the one making the promise.
In this message, 4102 = pistis – faith; 4100 = pisteuo – believe; believed; believeth; 4103 = pistos – faithful.
Hebrews 11:1-13 – 1Now faith (4102) is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith (4102) we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4By faith (4102) Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5By faith (4102) Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6But without faith (4102) [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe (4100) that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7By faith (4102) Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8By faith (4102) Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith (4102) he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God. 11Through faith (4102) also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful (4103) who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, [so many] as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13These all died in faith (4102), not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Note those words in Vs 13 – These all died in faith (4102), not having received the promises. These people died in faith, without seeing the fulfillment of those promises in this life. This could not be termed trust, because trust depends upon statistics and data to demonstrate the probability that they will occur. But here there is no data before they die, yet they went to their deaths still believing that what God had promised, He would deliver. Statistics cannot back up faith here!
Faith believes that things which are seen are not made of things which do appear (Vs 3). And Noah built his ark without any evidence that a flood was coming until the day the ark was needed. All logic at that time would have declared the building of an ark to be the act of a madman. Yet Noah did build it, and it was necessary for him to have built it. If he waited until he saw some evidence for building it, it would have been far too late.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). This can only mean what it clearly says! But the calvinist declares faith to be a gift of God as per
Ephesians 2:8-9 – 8For by grace are ye saved through faith (4102); and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Of course, at face value it could be read as faith being the gift of God. They say that “that” (as in “that not of yourselves”) can only refer to “faith” as its antecedent. However, the Greek grammar precludes this on the basis that “that” is neuter singular, while “faith” is feminine gender. (“grace” is also feminine gender.) “that”, being a pronoun, must refer to a noun (or a phrase or clause) to make sense of the pronoun. So what does “that” stand in place of? It can’t be “faith” nor can it be “grace” because both of these are feminine gender and “that” must refer to something of neuter gender. There is no antecedent noun that “that” appears to refer to, so the clause “for by grace are ye saved” is the most likely antecedent for “that”. (Or even “are ye saved” or “by grace are ye saved through faith” could also be possible.) But it is impossible for “that” to stand for “faith” or for “grace”.
Other verses commonly used to define faith as a gift also can be refuted, some on the basis that “faith” often refers to a belief system, such as “ye should earnestly contend for the faith (4102) which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3)
Romans 12:3b (according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith) is often used to define faith as a gift, yet even calvinist commentaries such as Gill define faith here as referring to faith as representative of what gifts, abilities, light, and knowledge they have, they have then, not of themselves, but from God; that they have not all faith, and all knowledge, or do not know the whole of the faith of the Gospel only a measure of it, which is dealt out, divided, and parted to every man, some having a greater degree of evangelical light than others; and that all have some, but none all. (Gill’s commentary on Romans 12:3)
Therefore faith cannot be defined as a gift from God. Calvinists then say that “saving faith” is different, but where in the Bible does it make saving faith different from other faith? (It doesn’t!) This therefore brings it back to being a response of man to the promises of God, which is exactly how Hebrews 11 describes faith. Look again at Hebrews 11:6 where it says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Even here it would be foolish and illogical to define faith as a gift of God, for this would mean that you cannot please God unless He firstly gives you faith with which to please Him. Calvinists teach that you must be born again (regenerated) before God gives you faith and repentance to confess your sin and believe in Christ to be saved. This must assume that when the calvinist god draws you to regeneration, you cannot receive faith (and therefore cannot please him) until after you have been granted eternal life by God’s Spirit (clearly without faith!). This is confused thinking at best!
Such teaching also assumes that you cannot please God unless you are one of His unconditionally-chosen elect. MacArthur does appear to teach this in the following: A true sense of self-worth comes from understanding our position in Christ. We have been chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Knowing this gives us a sense of our significance and value to God. We were so important to God that He gave up His son to die on our behalf. . . .Thank God for considering you valuable enough to bestow such riches upon you. . . .If you’re struggling with a lack of self-worth, remember that you were important enough for God to give you to Jesus as an inheritance. (The Believers Life in Christ, MacArthur Bible Study Guide [1989/1995], pp. 27,36, & 70) (https://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/ans-attack.htm) and (https://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/Romans5_8.html)
MacArthur’s teaching here assumes that the calvinist god creates 2 classes of people, one created with importance and value to God, and the other group created without importance or value to God. That is, MacArthur’s god creates the important and valuable ones for heaven, and creates the rest who are only fit for throwing on the rubbish heap (or Gehenna, hell etc). Or else there’s a works salvation element here where those who make themselves important and valuable to God will be chosen, and those who don’t, won’t! This is not unconditional election!
In fact, the only way Hebrews 11:6 can make any biblical sense at all is to define faith as man’s response to God’s promises, or rather, man’s response to the character of the one who makes the promises. Faith doesn’t require a belief in the promise itself, but can only make sense if the faith is in the promise-maker. If a person is to please God, then it must be the decision of the person to do so, or else God is compelling the person to please Him, and that makes as much sense as a puppet pleasing the puppet-master because the puppet-master told it to do so!
In fact, everything we have looked at so far here has to depend upon the will of man to have faith in a God who doesn’t deliver on those promises until after they are dead. Noah didn’t have to have faith to build an ark; God could have just ordered him to do so and made it impossible for Noah to refuse. God could have cracked the whip and threatened Noah with all sorts of dire punishments if he didn’t do as he was told. If Noah built the ark under such circumstances, then faith is certainly not a factor here. However, for Noah to build the ark by faith can only assume that Noah did it of his own free will, and that he had an option to refuse. Being forced to build the ark removes that option of refusing and therefore there is effectively no decision for Noah to make, and no decision means no options and therefore no faith to choose the right option. Noah’s faith in God, therefore, must have been involved in a decision he was not forced to make. Faith makes absolutely no sense at all unless it is used for the purpose of justifying the making of a certain decision. Faith is senseless without the freedom to choose between alternatives. If only one door is available, and you must go through a door, then it takes no faith to walk through the only one available. Faith therefore assumes free will to choose!
So let’s assess other examples of faith in the Bible for consistency of meaning.
1/. Matthew 6:30 – Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little faith (oligopistos – from oligos – little, small, plus 4102)?
If you only have one pathway to walk, how is it possible to exhibit little faith? And, if God is the giver of faith, then it’s the calvinist god’s fault that they have little faith! He should have gifted them more faith!
2/. Matthew 8:10 – When Jesus heard [it], he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith (4102), no, not in Israel.
What? God’s elect nation lacking in the faith which is found here in a Roman centurion? If faith were a gift to God’s elect, then how may a non-elect Roman (not of the house of Israel!) exhibit more faith than God’s chosen people?
3/. Israel were the people of God, or as Jesus said, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Faith in the following can only mean personal response!
Matthew 15:21-28 – 21Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] to dogs. 27And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 28Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great [is] thy faith (4102): be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
This woman is not only not of the elect nation of Israel, she is a Canaanite, a people who should have been destroyed when Joshua led Israel into the promised land! Of all people, if faith were a gift of God to His elect, she should not have had any faith at all! Yet she has great faith according to Jesus. Consistency demands that faith is not just something associated with God’s people. Yet the calvinists teach that faith is a gift only to God’s chosen people! Guess who’s wrong!
4/. Now another one for you to look at. Is this teaching that Jesus healed the blind men because of their faith in Him? Would Jesus have healed them if they had said, “No!”?
Matthew 9:28-29 – 28And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe (4100 – pisteuo) ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith (4102) be it unto you.
It is even clear to blind Freddy and his dog that these men were healed because they chose to believe that Jesus was able to do it. If we assume (for the sake of the calvinists) that God gave them faith to be healed, then why bother asking them the question in the first place? Surely Jesus would have known that they had been ordained to have faith and therefore ordained to be healed? Such a scenario is absurd. But Jesus said it was because of their faith that they were healed, not the faith gifted to them by God. They had a choice and they chose to believe!
5/. Are not these the disciples who have been chosen by Jesus (in Mark 3)? So, surely, God would have given them the gift of faith? After all, the calvinists have to declare these disciples the elect of God, don’t they?
Mark 4:39-40 – 39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith (4102)?
Well, why did they have no faith? Clearly because the calvinist god didn’t give them any! Clearly, even though they were chosen, they weren’t of the elect!???
6/. Here’s one that involves one of the calvinists’ favourite scam verses, Acts 13:48, which they claim “proves” that people are ordained to eternal life. However, the few verses before Acts 13:48 (always read the context!) demonstrate that what the Gentiles were getting had already been offered to the Jews who had rejected it, causing it to be offered instead to the Gentiles. So let’s look first at the following where it declares that God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Acts 14:27 – 27And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith (4102) unto the Gentiles.
At face value it could appear as if God is now giving faith to the Gentiles by opening a previously-shut door. But opening a door is not necessarily giving faith to the Gentiles, but instead can be simply making it available to them. But how do you make faith available? What is it that faith requires? Faith requires a promise-maker to have faith in. Opening the door to the Gentiles here is simply permitting the Gentiles to be able to receive the promise that salvation could be theirs if they believed, as per Acts 16:30-31 – 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe (4100 – pisteuo) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
It is clear that the salvation of the jailer and his family was a direct consequence of the Gentiles now being permitted to access the promise of salvation. Truly, salvation no longer was for just Israel, for Israel had rejected the gospel, and it was subsequently given to the Gentiles. Look at the following to understand how the message of the gospel, being rejected by the Jews, was now offered to the Gentiles who had up until now been denied the gospel, not being of the house of Israel.
Acts 13:45-48 – 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 48And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (4100).
Note that “ordained” in Vs 48 is not as per the original. It should read “appointed”. The Jews were originally appointed to eternal life but after rejecting it, the appointment went to the Gentiles who had gathered eager to hear the gospel for themselves. (“everlasting life” in Vs 46 is the same term used as for “eternal life” in Vs 48. The Gentiles got that which the Jews had rejected!)
7/. Romans 4:5 – But to him that worketh not, but believeth (4100) on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith (4102) is counted for righteousness.
It is the height of absurdity, that one’s righteousness should be dependent upon whether or not God gives one faith. (And the calvinists declare that we must be made righteous through regeneration before we may be given faith!) Why not just make that person righteous without having the extra step of faith. In fact, if God makes one righteous merely by putting him on the list of the elect, then adding extra steps such as faith is like so much mumbo-jumbo. Does the calvinist god need a person’s faith before he makes him righteous? Note again that calvinists teach that you are righteous before you are given faith to believe.
8/. Romans 10:17 – So then faith (4102) [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The context of this is the bringing of the message of the gospel via God’s messengers who bring the gospel of peace (Romans 10:13-15).
Romans 10:15 – And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel (euaggelizo) of peace, and bring glad tidings (euaggelizo) of good things!
The context talks of those who evangelise (preach the gospel, bring glad tidings of salvation). Therefore faith comes by hearing the gospel which in turn is the word of God. It is the gospel which triggers the need for faith, and that faith must be in the one who sends the message, that is, God. But if being saved is an automatic consequence of regeneration, then why would faith need to come through hearing the gospel of salvation from God? What is the relevance of faith here if it is something God gives to people, not of themselves lest those calvinists should boast!
9/. And how can someone stand by faith, yet take heed lest he fall (obviously no longer standing by faith)?
Romans 11:20-21 – 20Well; because of unbelief (apistia – from negative form of 4103) they were broken off, and thou standest by faith (4102). Be not highminded, but fear: 21For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he also spare not thee.
10/. How can continuing in the faith be an example of faith as a gift? Especially if you can also be moved away!
Colossians 1:22-23 – 22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23If ye continue in the faith (4102) grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
11/. How can one be shipwrecked through lack of faith if faith is a gift of God?
1 Timothy 1:19-20 – 19Holding faith (4102), and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith (4102) have made shipwreck: 20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2 Timothy 2:17-18 – 17And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith (4102) of some.
12/. And if one is saved through faith which calvinists define as a gift of God, then how can they depart from their faith later on? Doesn’t the calvinist gift of faith ensure that the person has guaranteed salvation for eternity?
1 Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith (4102), giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
Or perhaps this is an example of Calvin’s doctrine of temporary faith where God gives some people a taste of the good life, only to pull the plug later on, declaring it to be an inferior work of the Spirit? (If you don’t believe me, try reading Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 11)
The Bible consistently demonstrates faith to be an act of the will in response to the promises of God. Calvinists love to claim that the Bible consistently teaches the lack of free will for mankind, but never demonstrates its consistency throughout the Bible (nor anywhere, for that matter). Here we have biblical evidence of the need for free will as the basis for responding in faith to the promises of God, or, more correctly, faith in the character of the one who makes such exceedingly great promises (2 Peter 1:4). After all, why promise anything at all if you control all the responses of mankind to those promises? To use a favourite phrase of Spurgeon, it is the height of absurdity.