DOES GOD GIVE US FAITH? IS FAITH THE GIFT OF GOD?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Does God have to give us faith before we can believe His Word? “For what saith the Scriptures?”
There are two or three verses that confuse people when it comes to this issue. We will look at two here. The primary one is Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Another verse, used less commonly, is Romans 12:3: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Now that we have provided the verses, we would be delighted to expound them! 🙂
It is better if we read Ephesians 2:8 with the next verse as well: “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
There are those who teach that “faith” is “the gift of God.” (Primarily you hear this from Calvinists defending their “Total Depravity” theological point.) Just what is the “that” of Ephesians 2:8? It is the “it” of Ephesians 2:8. So, “that” = “it.” What is “that” and “it?” The clause “it is the gift of God” summarizes the first part, “For by grace are ye saved through faith.” Faith is not the context. Remember, context is key! Context! Context! Context! The context is God’s grace that provides salvation to us in Jesus Christ. “It is the gift of God” accurately summarizes “salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.” We look at another salvation verse of Paul’s writings. Let us look at Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” What is the “gift of God?” Is it faith here? No. The gift of God is what He offers to us “freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Eternal life!
Opponents of the pure Gospel of the Grace of God tell us that we are bragging to say that we are saved by faith. That faith, they claim, is something we did. They argue that the faith in the Bible is something God gives only to “elect” (chosen) people so they can then believe His Word and get saved. True salvation, they say, is being saved by faith God imparted to those He has chosen rather than “salvation you worked for by having faith of yourself” (and in such case, you may or may not be chosen of God). What a bunch of hogwash!
There is no merit in faith per se. Faith is believing in (trusting) something to do its job. The merit is in what faith rests. Merit is determined by whether faith relies on something dependable or relies on something useless. The object of faith alone can have merit, not faith itself! There is no merit in trusting ourselves or our performance in religion. Our performance (physical activity) is useless. Jesus Christ is reliable, and to trust Him is to acknowledge the only thing we can do to be made righteous before God is to rely on Jesus Christ: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Faith is not a work so there is no boasting when it comes to faith. Romans chapter 3: “ To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” God does not have to enable us to believe His Word. We either believe God’s Word or we do not. There is nothing boastful about saying you need to believe God’s Gospel because you are on your way to a Devil’s hell in your own performance!
It is better if we read Romans 12:3 with the next verse as well: “ For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:”
The context here is certainly not salvation by grace through faith. How do we know? We can read, friends! Salvation by grace through faith was already settled in chapters 1-5 of Romans. Here, Paul is talking about Christian service. After giving 11 chapters of information/doctrine, Paul began chapter 12 with service. Notice how Paul opened chapter 12, just before he wrote verse 3: “ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Service! Service! Service!
Reading in Romans 12:4, we see a reference to “offices.” These are roles concerning spiritual gifts. Paul spends the next few verses outlining spiritual gifts: “ Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;  Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”
When Romans 12:3 says “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” it is a special type of faith. It is not faith in the sense of believing God’s Word unto salvation, justification, heaven, eternal life, et cetera. Remember, that was already discussed in Romans. This “faith” of Romans 12:3 is explained for us in verse 6, “let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” There are degrees (“measures,” verse 3) of this type of “faith.” If this is salvation faith, that would mean some people were closer to heaven than others, that they had different degrees of eternal life—this is complete nonsense. No, the “faith” of Romans 12:3 is in reference to spiritual gifts (Christian service) and “proportion.” What does “proportion” mean? See the word “portion” in it? “Proportion” means, “a part, share, or number considered in comparative relation to a whole.”
In the early decades of the Church the Body of Christ, before the completed Word of God was written down, there was limited spiritual understanding because there was limited spiritual information to know. God had not yet revealed everything that He wanted to reveal to Christians (and to mankind in general). As the chief apostle in the Dispensation of Grace, Paul wrote during the Acts period in 1 Corinthians chapter 13:
“ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
During that Acts transitional period, Paul understood that the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ had not revealed everything yet. There was more of the Dispensation of Grace to know about, preach about, and write about. In fact, after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul had nine additional epistles to write in the coming years (Romans, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). These epistles are advancement in doctrine as you move toward the end of Paul’s life and ministry. Once the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write his second epistle to Timothy, the divine revelation ceased. There was nothing left for God to reveal.
Consider Colossians 1:23-26: “…whereof I Paul am made a minister;  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [complete] the word of God;  Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:”
Hence, Paul wrote in his final epistle, 2 Timothy, chapter 3: “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Okay, so, going back to Romans 12:3-4: “ For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:”
In Christian service, we are not to become prideful or think ourselves better than other Christians. When the spiritual gifts were in operation in the first century A.D., believers were to understand that each Christian had a different spiritual gift, a special way to communicate God’s Word before it was formally written down. That arrangement was to benefit every Christian, the whole assembly, not the believer who had the particular gift. As 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” Each Christian had been given a different level of understanding and communicating God’s unprinted Word. Note the spiritual gifts in verses 8-10. Then in verse 11, we read: “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” As Romans 12:3 says, “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Each Christian had an office, a special role in the ministry. You can read about them in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 and Ephesians 4:11. As the years passed, these spiritually-gifted men grew in their understanding of God’s Word and will, before those gifts finally ceased and the completed 66 Bible-book canon came in.
Does the Bible say that faith is something given to us by God? Absolutely not. That is theology and not Bible. That is good religion but bad Bible. Never once in the Bible is faith called the “gift” of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 is talking about how salvation (by grace through faith) is the gift of God. Eternal life through Jesus Christ is the “gift of God” (Romans 6:23). Faith is simply acknowledging that Jesus Christ is totally righteous and that we are not, that He paid the price for our sins because we were totally unable to pay for our sins. It is not hard to comprehend unless we want to complicate it by advancing a pet theological system (Calvinism) and one of its points (“Total Depravity”).
Romans 12:3 refers to Christian service with spiritual gifts. “Faith” in that context refers to belief in whatever (limited) divine revelation had been given up to that point. The Bible is a progressive revelation, please recall. It took a total of 30 to 35 years for Paul to receive all of the details about our Dispensation of Grace, from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. For the first 20 or so years of this period, there were no (written) epistles of Paul. The Church the Body of Christ had supernaturally-gifted men who would communicate those grace doctrines (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists) until the completed written Word of God came into existence (2 Timothy 3:16-17). With the completed Word of God, we no longer have to be concerned with a “proportion of faith” or “the measure of faith.” There is a complete revelation from God, with nothing hidden, and we can trust it all because we have it all revealed in a Book, our King James Bible. Will we read and believe its simple testimony? Or, will we twiddle and twaddle about idle speculations of theologians who are more interested in pursuing total worthlessness?