Faith: Is it a gift infused, a gift received, or a decision to believe?
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJ)
There are several views of the role of faith in Ephesians Chapter 2 verses 8-9. It might be helpful to examine briefly these views. These two verses are acknowledged to be scripture by those who accept the New Testament. The different concepts of the role of faith come from trying to understand what these two verses mean. There are, at least, three basic views regarding the role of faith in these two verses.
In brief, the views are as follows.
1. Faith as an infused gift of God. Faith is believed to be infused into the person who is dead-like. While dead, they become gifted with saving faith. In this sense, faith is an infused gift from God. This view holds that no one is saved unless God imparted the gift of faith into them.
2. Faith as a received gift of God. The gift of faith is welcomed and received by a lost sinner who feels his or her deep need of salvation. With this gift of faith, he or she believes the gospel. This view emphasizes the acceptance of the "gift" of faith by the sinner. The sinner willingly and knowingly receives the gift of faith and has believing faith. In this sense, the sinner willingly, knowingly, and actively receives the gift of faith.
3. Faith as a personal decision to believe the gospel. This view holds that the gift of God does not refer to the word, faith; rather it refers to the whole plan of salvation. This view teaches that the whole "by grace you are saved through faith" plan of salvation is the gift of God. For Israel in the Old Testament, the plan was "by the law you are blessed through obedience." The OT involved the "keeping the law." The New Testament involves "faith in Christ." The OT was a system of "works." The NT is based upon "grace."
1. Infused Faith.
Probably the most popular view is that faith is infused into a sinner. Since the human population is held to be incapable of believing the gospel message, it is necessary for God to impart living faith into the dead and unresponsive sinner. After the Holy Spirit has imparted faith into the sinner, the person is able to accept the gospel of salvation.
This view emphasizes the sovereignty of God in saving souls. Whoever God sovereignly chooses to impart life and faith, comes to faith.
2. Faith is a gift.
It is easy to see why this view would be thought to be the case. A straight forward reading of the passage would lead one to believe that faith was itself the gift. Granting that faith is a gift, a gift still has to be received by the one to whom it is offered. So, even this second view requires acceptance of the gift and belief in the Savior by the lost sinner. In effect, it is similar to the third view. It holds that the sinner has some form of real faith in the value of the offer of the gospel.
3. The gift is not faith but the entire plan of salvation.
To understand this view, one needs to understand that some languages have nouns with gender. For example, nouns in Spanish have masculine, feminine or neuter genders. The words, faith and grace are both feminine in Greek while the word, "that" is neuter. So, the sentence reads as follows.
"For by grace (feminine) you have been saved through faith (feminine), and that (neuter).
Some Greek scholars note that "that (neuter)" must refer to the whole phrase. They argue that if "that (neuter)" referred to "faith (feminine)," the word "that" should be feminine and not neuter.
"that" neuter in Greek is "touto, τοῦτο."
"that" feminine in Greek is "taute, ταύτῃ."
Consequently, the phrase may be read as follows.
("For by grace are you saved through faith") that ... is the gift of God. It is not the OT system of laws. It is not ours personal merit or our good deeds. The gift of God is the plan of salvation that is offered in free grace to all sinners who come in faith to the Savior.
This view thinks that God's sovereignty is shown in the words "by grace" and that human responsibility is shown in the words "through faith." God offers salvation as a gift freely to all. There is just one condition for the gift of salvation. The gift of salvation must be accepted in faith. The free offer of salvation is to all races, nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. It is for wicked sinners, polite sinners, socialites, religious devotees, stoned drug addicts, and social outcasts.
However, there is the one condition on the part of the sinner, "faith." The sinner must "believe" the gospel of the grace of God. This faith is apart from works. It is a non-meritorious faith, but it is an absolutely necessity. Salvation is offered freely, but the sinner must be received the offer by faith.
This last view holds that God works through the Holy Spirit who convicts, compels, and convinces the sinner of his or her need of salvation. However, the Holy Spirit does not force a sinner to accept the gracious offer of salvation. The sinner may choose to resist the Holy Spirit's gracious invitation. Furthermore, this view holds that the sinner must really believe the gospel. God cannot believe for us. We must believe, or we will be eternally damned. In this view, human beings have the responsibility (responsibility, i.e., the ability to respond) to accept the gospel message.
This view believes that God's sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the phrase "for by grace are you saved through faith." Since there is free grace on God's part, and, if there is real faith on the sinner's part, eternal salvation will be the outcome for the sinner.
Have you yourself accepted God's gracious offer of salvation?