February 27, 2020

How Is Faith a Gift?

Nathan W. Bingham & Steven Lawson
How Is Faith a Gift?

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord in faith will be saved. But how do we acquire faith in Christ? Today, Steven Lawson explains Scripture’s teaching that saving faith is a “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: How is faith a gift? I'm here on the Ligonier campus with one of Ligonier's teaching fellows, Dr. Steven Lawson. So, Dr. Lawson, what does Ephesians 2:8 mean when it says that faith is a gift?

DR. STEVEN LAWSON: Well, a gift is something that has to be given to you. And what is given to you is something that you do not already possess. The Bible teaches that all unbelievers are dead in trespasses and sin. A dead person cannot believe in Christ. In fact, I remember the day when I was in seminary, the professor asked the question, "What can a dead man do?" And one fellow student in the back row said, "Stink." That's really all a dead man can do. There is the bondage of the will. There is no inherent faith towards Christ that is present in the spiritually dead sinner. This is a very important theological truth. Therefore, if anyone is to call upon the name of Jesus Christ, faith must be given to them. In fact, a new heart must be given to them that turns them around, away from their sin and the world, and they are turned. It's a heart that now is alive unto to God and is turned to Christ. And in that very moment, faith is imparted by the Holy Spirit to the spiritually made-alive sinner. And in that second, they call upon the name of Christ with the faith that is given to them.

Many other passages teach the same. Hebrews 12 verse 2 says Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. All faith within the one who believes was authored by Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:29 says it's been "granted" unto us to believe in Jesus Christ. And Acts 3 verse 16 says all faith in Christ is faith that has come from and through Christ. So, all faith in Christ originates in Christ Himself. He must grant this faith, and He grants it to those who have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. Second Peter 1:1 says faith must be given.

There are many other passages to which we could go. You quoted Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; [and] that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not as a result of works, lest anyone should boast." The antecedent to "gift" is actually "faith." The closest antecedent is not "grace." It's actually "faith." Listen to the verse again. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; And that not of yourselves." What's not of yourself? Well, if it's anything in that sentence, it's faith is not of yourself, but it's really both. Both grace and faith are not of yourself.

So, the glory of the gospel is that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Not only does God provide the salvation, but He also provides the faith to believe in this so great salvation. So, faith must be given before anyone can call upon the name of the Lord.