I've heard both of these claims, and they seem to have irreconcilable differences:

  • God does his part (the call/invitation), now you do yours (respond in faith)
  • God not only gave his son for you, but he will give you the faith to believe it.

I'm less interested here in the broader question of the doctrine of election; I'm focusing specifically on the second bullet point: is there scriptural evidence that faith is a gift or something that we receive from God?

11 Answers 11


My position is that faith comes from God. Justification, the act whereby God pardons our sins and gives us the righteousness of Christ, is by grace through faith. There are a number of passages that illustrate this doctrine (ESV):

Jonah 2:9:

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

1 John 4:19:

We love because he first loved us.

Now this faith given to us by God is a living and active faith. It is no dead faith, but produces good works (obedience to the law). As James tells us, if the faith we have does not produce works, it is a dead faith.

  • 1
    Adrian, +1 and thanks for the response--I'm most interested in the Ephesians passage. I assume your position is that the "it" refers to faith, right? I can see this also explained as though "it" refers to salvation, i.e., "...salvation is the gift of God, not a result of works..." Would you consider expanding on that?
    – Ray
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 1:25
  • Also, I hope you don't mind my edits... I'm just a little OCD with separating out the quotations--it just makes it easier for me to read. Feel free to reverse my edit if you disagree.
    – Ray
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 1:29
  • @Ray: Sure. The "it" likely refers to salvation; it doesn't matter from my perspective. The ordo salutis is election, calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification. The term "salvation", in my experience, can refer either to justification, glorification, or the entire ordo. If there is full justification, which is always by grace through faith, then glorification will inevitably follow (John 10:28-9). Glorification occurs if and only if justification occurs, which comes only through faith. Does that answer your question? Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 1:51
  • 1
    Do you mean "systematics" when you say "synthetics"? If so, I would comment that all people use systematics when they approach Scripture. The only question is, which systematics will you use? Proper exegesis is the lifeblood of good systematics. Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 2:40
  • 1
    Good works=obedience to the law is quite the leap. Commented Jul 16 at 11:04

This is a tough topic, because it really brings strong opinions. Typically, this amounts to a lot of heat and not a lot of light.

There are three common views of Justification and faith's role in it. As such, the source of said faith varies as well.

  1. Justification by infused righteousness, such as is found in Roman Catholicism, says that an individual's will was weakened to the point of such frailty that they cannot shake the penalty and grip of sin. This is called original sin. A person (or that person's parents, deciding in their place) can choose to become regenerated by being Baptized. In this act, God has graciously infused righteousness within the individual and the nature of this righteousness is such that if God were not to honor this righteousness as worthy of saving the individual, then God would be unjust. So in this perspective, the individual has retained the capacity to have faith and the faith must originate from within him. This is contrasted with the paradigm of imputed righteousness ,which is outlined in the next two points.
  2. Classical Arminianism (and those traditions in the Wesleyan branch) holds that the individual's will is bound by sin to the point that the person cannot, under any circumstance, have saving faith in God. God quickens every single person to His word, and each individual has the power to reject this quickening and harden themselves or else receive Christ (called Prevenient Grace). In this perspective, the ability to overcome the fall and to have faith comes from God, but the faith comes from the individual (or at least the desire not to reject it, which seems functionally identical to me).
  3. Reformed Christianity (and to a large degree, Lutheranism) holds that the individual's will is bound by sin to the point that the person cannot, under any circumstance, have saving faith in God. Moreover, they see an inconsistency with Arminian theology in that if God quickens all people to the point that they can either receive or reject Christ without effects of the fall and original sin, then the reason why one believer chooses faith and another does not must be because of the individual himself. This means that there must be some "island of" righteousness within the individual that was unaffected by the fall (which they reject) or else God dispenses quickening grace inequitably (which they accept, but clarify that this inequitable nature is unfair but not unjust). Additionally, if faith is not a gift of God, it is considered a work and thus useless for salvation. The Pelagian Captivity of the Church is a long, but good read on the topic.

What is the scriptural evidence that faith comes from God?

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

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.


This is no airtight prooftext, but it does hint at the idea that faith is given by God, and not spontaneously generated in the would-be believer.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29 ESV)

In this verse, Paul is speaking of suffering for the sake of Christ. But the "not only" seems to imply that the readers must already recognize that their belief is something that is granted by God. He expands this concept with which they are already familiar to say that just as they know that their faith is given to them by God, he is now telling them that their suffering is ordained by Him as well.

  • 1
    Very good verse! I must agree. I'm certainly going to be looking at the ECF's and seeing what they said about that verse. Also noteworthy, Paul uses the verb ἐχαρίσθη. That doesn't simply mean "to give." It means to give graciously, i.e. via grace. The root verb is χαρίζομαι, and χαρίζομαι is related to the noun χάρις, of course, meaning "grace."
    – user900
    Commented Mar 10, 2013 at 8:30

Saving Faith is a Gift.

~All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (1995).

(1.) Man’s inability vs. God’s ability.

Compare: Jhn. 12:39-40

For this reason they could not [οὐκ ἠδύναντο] believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”1 (Cf. Jhn. 6:44, 65; 8:43, 47; 10:26; 14:16-17)2

With: Act. 16:14

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.3 (Cf. Jhn. 6:37,4 39, 45; 10:16, 27, 29)5

(2.) The gift of faith.

(a.) Definition.

Sinclair B. Ferguson:

…faith is not a package placed in our hands. It is the activity of the whole man, directed by the Spirit towards Christ. God does not believe for us, or in us; we believe. Yet, it is only by God’s grace that we believe. His gift is simultaneously our act.6

(b.) Direct testimony.

(i.) Act. 13:48

…as many as had been appointed [τεταγμένοι] to eternal life believed. (Cf. Rev. 13:8; 17:8; Psa. 139:16; Jer. 1:5 Gal. 1:15)

Darrell L. Bock:

Those who have been ordained to eternal life believe. The word τάσσω (tassō, ordain) appears four times in Acts (13:48; 15:2; 22:10; 28:23; in the rest of the NT: Matt. 28:16–17; Luke 7:8; Rom. 13:1; 1 Cor. 16:15–16). In the other contexts of Acts, it means “appoint” or “assign” to something. Here it refers to God’s sovereign work over salvation, where God has assigned those who come to eternal life (BAGD 806 §1b; BDAG 991 §1b). The passive voice indicates that God does the assigning.7

See F. F. Bruce (quoted in note 7) for additional support.

(ii.) 1Jn. 5:1

Whoever believes [πιστεύων, present active participle] that Jesus is the Christ is born [γεγέννηται, perfect passive indicative] of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. (Cf. 1Co. 12:3;8 Jhn. 1:13;9 3:3, 6, 8; 6:63)

John R. W. Stott:

gegennētai, whose perfect tense means literally ‘has been born (RV “begotten”) of God’. The combination of present tense (ho pisteuōn, believeth) and perfect is important. It shows clearly that believing is the consequence, not the cause, of the new birth. Our present, continuing activity of believing is the result, and therefore the evidence, of our past experience of new birth by which we became and remain God’s children.10

Note also that γεγέννηται is passive (i.e. it is something done to us, not something we do). John Piper:

Unborn babies do not choose to be born. It is a gift. And dead people do not fulfill the condition of faith in order to live. Life brings the gift of faith. If we believe, we have been born again, not the other way around.11

Compare with: 1Jn. 2:29

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices [ποιῶν, present active participle] righteousness is born [γεγέννηται, perfect passive indicative] of Him.

James R. White:

Every consistent Protestant would say, “the reason one practices righteousness is because they have already been born of Him. We do not practice righteousness so as to be born, but instead the birth gives rise to the practice of righteousness.” And such is quite true. But, this means that in 1 John 5:1 the belief in Jesus as the Christ is the result of being born of Him. The verbal parallel is exact: in 1 John 2:29 “the one practicing righteousness” is a present participle; in 1 John 5:1 “the one believing” is a present participle. In both passages the exact same verb in the exact same form is used (γεγέννηται). Therefore, sheer consistency leads one to the conclusion that divine birth precedes and is the grounds of both faith in Christ as well as good works.12

(c.) Indirect testimony.

(i.) Col. 1:3-4

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; (Cf. 2Th. 1:3; 2:13-14; Eph. 1:15-16)13

James R. White:

Paul began many of his epistles with thanksgiving to God for the love and the faith of the Christians to whom he was writing. …Why should we thank God for the faithfulness of Christians? Why should God be thanked when we hear of the faith of others, or see their faith increasing? If faith is something within the capacity of every unregenerate…why should we thank God when one person exercises it? Unless, of course, faith finds its origin in God Himself…14

(ii.) Eph. 6:23

Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God [ἀπὸ θεοῦ] the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sinclair B. Ferguson:

There would be little point in praying for what comes from the Father and the Son unless that faith were, in some sense, given by them.15


Act. 18:27 — …those who had believed through grace [πεπιστευκόσιν διὰ τῆς χάριτος],

1Pe. 1:21—who through Him [δι᾽ αὐτοῦ] are believers in God…

Act. 3:16—…the faith which comes through Him [ἡ πίστις ἡ δι᾽ αὐτοῦ]…

1Co. 1:30—But by His doing [ἐξ αὐτοῦ, lit. of Him] you are in Christ Jesus…16 (cf. Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13; Jas. 1:18)

1Ti. 1:14—…faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (Cf. 2Tim. 1:13-14)

Heb. 12:2—…the author [ἀρχηγὸν] and perfecter of faith,17

Gal. 5:22 — …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness [πίστις, lit. faith],

1Co. 2:5—so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ].18 (Cf. 2Th. 1:11)

(d.) Repentance is also a gift.

2Ti. 2:25-26

…if perhaps God may grant [δώῃ] them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (Cf. Act. 5:31; 11:18; 2Co. 7:9-10; Rom. 2:4)

John Piper:

“God may perhaps grant them repentance.” He may, or he may not. God is free. He owes no one the gift of repentance. If our sin has caused us to depart from the truth, lose our senses, and be ensnared by the devil and captured by him so that we prefer what he prefers, God is not obliged to save us by granting repentance. He may, in his mercy, but no one can demand it as a right. It is a gift. It is all mercy.19

(e.) Theological considerations.

(i.) If faith is not a gift then salvation is not by grace alone.

Wayne Grudem:

…the question is…what ultimately makes the difference between those who believe and those who do not? If our answer is that it is ultimately based on something God does (namely, his sovereign election of those who would be saved), then we see that salvation at its most foundational level is based on grace alone. On the other hand, if we answer that the ultimate difference between those who are saved and those who are not is because of something in man (that is, a tendency or disposition to believe or not believe), then salvation ultimately depends on a combination of grace plus human ability.20

If the reception of grace, which is by definition a free gift conditioned upon nothing, is infact conditioned upon the exercise of faith (brought forth as a contribution by the unbeliever), then grace is not grace. H. Hanse:

…faith is not a new human merit which replaces the merit of works…it is not a second achievement which takes the place of the first…it is not something which man has to show, but that justification by faith is an act of divine grace. Faith is not the presupposition of the grace of God. As a divine gift, it is the epitome and demonstration of the grace of God.21

Herman Ridderbos:

Were it otherwise, then the gospel would be a new law, and the whole problem of the impotence of the law would recur.22

(ii.) If faith is not a gift then on the last day believers will have something to boast of.

1Co. 4:7 — For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (Cf. 1Co. 1:26-31)

Why does one believe while another does not? If the reason is not found in God then it must be found in the individual who believes. That individual must be slightly more intelligent, humble, pious, righteous, holy, etc. in comparison with the one who does not believe (i.e. the believer must possess some virtue that the unbeliever does not, there must be a reason for one to believe when another does not). Ultimately, if faith and repentance are not the gift of God, but originate in the individual, then on the last day those who have repented and believed will have something to boast of (surely exercising faith in Christ is “better” than unbelief), for they will have made the “better” choice, in and of themselves, while most did not.

Appendix: Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8; 2Pe. 1:1.

(i.) Phil. 1:29

For to you it has been granted [ἐχαρίσθη] for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him [εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν], but also to suffer for His sake, (cf. Phil. 2:13)

Bauer23 defines χαρίζομαι as “give freely or graciously as a favor,” just as suffering (which is beyond our ability to determine) has been given to the believer as a gift (that we might suffer as our saviour did), so also the faith we exercise (εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν) is freely given as a gift (ἐχαρίσθη).24 Note that πιστεύειν “…is the normal term used for saving faith…”25

John Piper:

Verse 29 could stand by itself to make the point I am stressing. Literally, it says, “It has been given to you on behalf of Christ to believe on him.” Believing is a gift. But let’s not see verse 29 standing by itself. Let’s notice that it begins with for and thus provides the basis for what went before, namely, Paul’s amazing claim that the unified and fearless stand of the Philippians for the gospel in the face of opposition is “a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” …Why is their fearless, unified courage for the gospel a “sign . . . from God”? That’s what Philippians 1:29 answers: their fearless, unified stand for the gospel is a sign from God because God has given two gifts to the Philippians, faith and suffering. Their faith gives them the unity and fearlessness to endure suffering before their opponents. And the fact that this faith and suffering are gifts of God explains why the sign of unified courage in the face of opposition is a sign from God. I have pressed into the context here because I want us to see that we are not playing academic games in arguing that saving faith is a gift of God. This truth, for Paul, was not marginal, minor, or irrelevant for real life. He wanted the Philippians to see how God was at work in their sufferings. And his explanation was that in their suffering, God himself had created a sign—“a sign . . . from God”—for them and for their opponents. And this sign will never be rightly understood where we ignore or reject the truth that our believing is a gift of God. In his providence, God sees to it that his people receive the gift of saving faith.26

(ii.) Eph. 2:8

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [τοῦτο] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (cf. Eph. 1:5-6, 11, 15-16; 2:10; 6:23)

S. M. Baugh:

There is much popular discussion about the word “τοῦτο” (“this”) and its antecedent in v.8b. It is tempting to take the antecedent as “faith” …even though πίστις (“faith”) is feminine and the demonstrative pronoun is neuter. Grammatically, one could suppose that an abstract idea like “faith” or “believing” could be referenced as neuter, but that would make this rather common construction unnecessarily complicated (cf. BDF §131). In Greek, events as a whole are treated as neuter singular things with neuter articles (e.g., το πιστευειν, “believing”), neuter relative pronouns (e.g., Eph. 5:5), or neuter demonstrative pronouns as in v. 8b (also, for example: 6:1; 1 Cor 6:6, 8; Phil 1:22, 28; Col 3:20; 1 Thess 5:18 and 1 Tim 2:1–3). Hence the antecedent of τοῦτο [“this”] is the whole event; “being saved by grace through faith.” One implication of this proper understanding of τοῦτο (“this”) is that all the components of the event are also referenced as originating not from human capacity or exertion but as God’s gift. This means that even the believer’s act of believing comes from God…27

Joel Beeke & Paul Smalley:

That faith is the gift of God is also clear from the context in Ephesians. Man is dead in sin until God grants him a spiritual resurrection through Christ (vv. 1, 5). Believers are God’s new creation in Christ, “his workmanship” (v. 10). Therefore, any motion of a sinner toward God, including faith, must be from God’s grace and for God’s glory. This explains why Paul thanked God constantly for the Ephesians’ “faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints” (1:15-16). Paul not only glorified God for giving them faith and love, but prayed for these gifts: “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (6:23). Faith and love are gifts of the triune God (1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 1:13-14).28

(iii.) 2Pe. 1:1

…To those who have received [λαχοῦσιν] a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ [ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ]:

Thomas R. Schreiner:

The word “received” (lanchousin) connotes the receiving of something by lot. Zechariah obtained by lot the privilege of offering incense in the temple (Luke 1:9). Roman soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus’ garment (John 19:24). Judas was appointed to serve in an apostolic ministry (Acts 1:17). In each instance receiving something by lot is a gift that one receives. [fn. 7: “In this sentence the point of λαγχάνειν is that faith has come to them from God with no cooperation on their part” (H. Hanse, “λαγχάνω,” TDNT 4.2).] According to Peter, what was received was “faith” in God or Jesus Christ. Most scholars maintain that faith refers here to a body of teaching or doctrine (cf. Jude 3, 20). One would expect Peter, however, to speak of faith being “handed down” or “transmitted” rather than received if it refers to doctrine. Hence, Peter likely referred to personal and subjective faith in God and/or Jesus Christ. [fn. 9: Rightly M. Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, 2d ed., TNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 68; Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 168; D. J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 34–35; J. D. Charles, “The Language and Logic of Virtue in 2 Peter 1:5–7,” BBR 8 (1998): 66.] …Faith, which is necessary for salvation, is a divine gift. It cannot be produced by the mere will of human beings but must be received from God himself. He appointed, as it were by lot, that Peter’s readers would receive such faith.29

John Calvin:

He adds, through the righteousness of God, in order that they might know that they did not obtain faith through their own efforts or strength, but through God’s favor alone. For these things stand opposed the one to the other, the righteousness of God (in the sense in which it is taken here) and the merit of man. For the efficient cause of faith is called God’s righteousness for this reason, because no one is capable of conferring it on himself.30


1. Leon Morris: "John is explicit that they were not able to believe because of another Scripture. The divine sovereignty is strongly insisted upon. The quotation is from Isa. 6:9f., words which are cited by our Lord Himself (Matt. 13:14f.; Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10), and by Paul (Acts 28:26f.). …The present passage ascribes everything to the will of God. Unless His hand is in it nothing is possible. But when John quotes “he hath blinded their eyes...” he does not mean that the blinding takes place without the will or against the will of these people. So with the hardening of their heart. …The ultimate cause of all there is, in a genuinely theistic universe, must be found in the will of God… John makes it clear that the hand of God is in the whole process, even though this means that men do not “see” nor “perceive” nor “turn” nor are they “healed”. God’s purposes are not frustrated by the opposition of evil men. They are accomplished. [fn. 107: Cf. Augustine: “God thus blinds and hardens, simply by letting alone and withdrawing His aid: and God can do this by a judgment that is hidden, although not by one that is unrighteous.”]" {Leon Morris, NICNT: The Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), pp. 604-605. Cf. Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series, Vol. 7, (New York: Coismo, 2007), Augustine, Tractates on John, 53.6, p. 293. See also: Andrew T. Lincoln, BNTC: The Gospel According to St John, (New York: Continuum, 2005), pp. 357-358.}

2. See also: Jhn. 3:3, 6, 63; Rom. 8:7; Jer. 13:23; 1Co. 2:14; Mat. 7:18; Luk. 6:43, 45; 8:12; 2Co. 4:3-4; Isa. 44:18; Deu. 29:2-4; Rom. 9:16.

3. David Peterson: "Luke tells us that she was listening (imperfect tense ēkouen) to the message proclaimed to her, but that it was the Lord who opened her heart (diēnoixen tēn kardian; cf. Lk. 24:45; 2 Macc. 1:4) to respond to Paul’s message (prosechein, as in 8:6, 10, 11; 1 Tim. 4:13; Heb. 2:1; 2 Pet. 1:19, meaning ‘to pay close attention, follow, adhere to’). Lydia’s engagement with what Paul was saying and God’s sovereignty in the process of conversion are highlighted together (cf. 13:48 note; 2 Cor. 4:5-6; 1 Thes. 1:4-5; 2 Thes. 2:13-14). Stott observes that, ‘although the message was Paul’s, the saving initiative was God’s. Paul’s preaching was not effective in itself; the Lord worked through it. And the Lord's work was not in itself direct; he chose to work through Paul’s preaching. It is always the same.’" {David G. Peterson, PNTC: The Acts of the Apostles, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2009), p. 461. Cf. John R. W. Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World, (InterVarsity Press, 1990), p. 263.}

4. D. A. Carson: "The thought of v. 44 is the negative counterpart to v. 37a. The latter tells us that all whom the Father gives to the Son will come to him; here we are told that no-one can come to him unless the Father draws him (cf. Mk. 10:23ff.). And again, it will be Jesus himself who raises such a person up at the last day. The combination of v. 37a and v. 44 prove that this ‘drawing’ activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call ‘prevenient grace’ dispensed to every individual, for this ‘drawing’ is selective, or else the negative note in v. 44 is meaningless. Many attempt to dilute the force of the claim by referring to 12:32, where the same verb for ‘to draw’ (helkyō) occurs: Jesus there claims he will draw ‘all men’ to himself. The context shows rather clearly, however, that 12:32 refers to ‘all men without distinction’ (i.e. not just Jews) rather than to ‘all men without exception’. Yet despite the strong predestinarian strain, it must be insisted with no less vigour that John emphasizes the responsibility of people to come to Jesus, and can excoriate them for refusing to do so (e.g. 5:40)." {D. A. Carson, PNTC: The Gospel According to John, (Leicester: Apollos, 1991), p. 293. Cf. J. Ramsey Michaels, NICNT: The Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2010), p. 386; Leon Morris, NICNT: The Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), n. 110, p. 371.}

5. See also: Deu. 30:6; Eze. 11:19; 36:25-27; 37:5, 14; Jer. 24:7; 31:33; 32:39-40; Act. 3:26; 1Th. 1:4-5; 1Co. 3:6-7; 12:3; Phil. 2:13; Eph. 2:10; Jas. 1:18; 1Jn. 5:1).

6. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Contours of Christian Theology: The Holy Spirit, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), p. 126. Cf. R. C. Sproul, Jr., ed. After Darkness, Light: Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Sola Fide,” p. 88.

7. Darrell L. Bock, BECNT: Acts, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), p. 465. Cf. F. F. Bruce: "There is no good reason for weakening the predestinarian note here, as (e.g.) H. Alford does by rendering “as many as were disposed to eternal life.” The Greek participle is τεταγμένος from τάσσω, and there is papyrus evidence for the use of this verb in the sense of “inscribe” or “enroll” (cf. ὁρισμὸν ἔταξας, “thou hast signed a decree,” in Theodotion’s version of Dan. 6:12). The idea of being enrolled in the book of life or the like is found in several biblical contexts (e.g., Ex. 32:32-33, Ps. 69 [LXX 68]:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27), in the pseudepigrapha (e.g., Jub. 30:20; 1 Enoch 47:3; 104:1; 108:3), and in rabbinical literature (e.g., TJ Rosh ha-Shanah 1.9.57a; TB Rosh ha-Shanah 16b). The Targum of Jonathan on Isa. 4:3 (“written among the living”) explains this as being “written for the life of the age to come” (i.e., eternal life)." {F. F. Bruce, NICNT: The Book of Acts: Revised Edition, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), n. 111, pp. 267-268.}

8. John Piper: "...it is unwarranted to make the phrase “by the Holy Spirit” mean something so different in the second half of the verse. When Paul says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit,” he is using the same phrase with the same meaning: speaking by the Spirit means speaking under a decisively effective influence of the Spirit. That’s the meaning the phrase has in the first half of the verse, and there is no reason to think it does not have that meaning in the second half of the verse." {John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 556.}

9. John Piper: "Here’s how John says this with triple clarity. There are three negations: (1) not of blood (literally “bloods”), (2) not of the will of the flesh, and (3) not of the will of man (literally, of a male, that is, a husband). …The alternative to all three of these negated human causes is God himself. Verse 13: “. . . who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”" {Ibid. pp. 533-534.}

10. John R. W. Stott, TNTC: The Epistles of John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975), p. 172. Cf. John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 532; James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), p. 288.}

11. John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 532.

12. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), p. 288.

13. See also: Phm. 1:4-5; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:3-4; 1Th. 1:2-3; 2:13.

14. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), p. 291. Cf. Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1997), p. 235.

15. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Contours of Christian Theology: The Holy Spirit, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), p. 128.

16. John Piper: "“From him” we are in Christ Jesus. This is not our doing. We do not unite ourselves to Christ. To be sure, God unites us to Christ through faith, as we can see especially in Philippians 3:9, where we are “found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of [our] own . . . but that which comes through faith in Christ.” But what Paul stresses when he is eliminating all boasting, except boasting in the Lord, is that this union with Christ through faith is “from God,” not from you. You are the one who acts the faith, but God is the one who gives the action of faith and union with Christ." {John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 545.}

17. Paul Ellingworth: "Discussion of whether ἀρχηγός here means “beginner” or “leader” involves to some extent a false antithesis. In the immediate context, the contrast with τελειωτής requires the meaning “beginner” (Johnston); but the presupposed teaching about Christ “bringing many sons to glory” or to perfection (→ 2:10; 11:40) suggests the meaning “leader” or “pioneer.” …The author’s thought is not at this point moving in substitutionary categories, but → 2:9 on ὑπὲρ παντὸς, and → ἀντὶ below. τελειωτής***, “apparently coined by the author” (MHT 2.365; cf. G. Delling in TDNT 8.86f.), clearly recalls τελειόω, particularly in 2:10; 11:40. Τῆς πίστεως: → 4:2; no stress can be laid on the use of the article as such, but πίστις is usually anarthrous in Hebrews, and where the article is used (4:2; 13:7), it refers to the faith of specified groups. Here there is probably a direct reference to the faith of the author and his readers, coupled with a less direct reference to the faith of the OT believers discussed in chap. 11. The context suggests that Jesus is understood as being himself a believer (cf. πεποιθὼς, 2:13 in an OT quotation; πιστός, 3:2). The context also suggests that faith is understood as a quality of persistent attachment to Christ, not acceptance of “the faith” in the sense of a series of catechetical propositions." {Paul Ellingworth, NIGTC: The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), p. 640.}

18. Anthony C. Thiselton: "The word πίστις, faith, emerges as in other Pauline passages as a response to the proclamation of the gospel which is itself a gift of God. It is no precarious human construct, produced only by the sway exerted by clever rhetoric or manipulatory presentations of belief systems. It does not exist (ᾖ, subjunctive of εἰμί) by virtue of all that Paul has placed within the category of “human wisdom” (ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων) and judged deficient under the critique of the cross. This, by contrast, operates ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ, i.e., by the effective and creative agency [power] of God." {Anthony C. Thiselton, NIGTC: The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2000), p. 223.}

19. John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), p. 546.

20. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids: Zondervan PublishingHouse, 1994), p. 678.

21. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Vol. 4, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1967), H. Hanse, “λαγχάνω,” p. 2. Cf. Markus Barth, AB: Ephesians, (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1974), p. 225.

22. Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1997), p. 234.

23. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), “χαρίζομαι,” p. 884.

24. Cf. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), p. 292.

25. James R. White, The God who Justifies, (Minneapolis: BethanyHouse, 2001), p. 105. Cf. Gerald F. Hawthorne, WBC: Philippians, (Waco: Word Books, 1982), p. 61.

26. John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), pp. 543-544. Cf. Steven J. Lawson, Foundations of Grace, (Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2006), p. 392; William Hendriksen, NTC: Exposition of Philippians, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), p. 90.

27. S. M. Baugh, EEC: Ephesians, (Lexham Press, 2016), pp. 160-161. Cf. Andrew T. Lincoln, WBC: Ephesians, (Word Books, 1990), p. 112; Peter Thomas O’Brien, PNTC: The Letter to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans; Leicester: Apollos, 1999), pp. 175-176.

28. Joel Beeke & Paul Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology: Vol. 3, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021), p. 359. Cf. William Hendriksen, NTC: Galatians and Ephesians, (Baker Book House, 1953), p. 121; John Piper, Providence, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), pp. 542-543.}

29. Thomas R. Schreiner, NAC: 1, 2 Peter, Jude, (Nashville: B&H, 2003), p. 285. Cf. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Calvary Press Publishing, 2009), pp. 324, 327; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Vol. 4, ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1967), H. Hanse, “λαγχάνω,” p. 2.

30. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. & ed. John Owen, (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1855), pp. 366-367. Cf. Thomas R. Schreiner, NAC: 1, 2 Peter, Jude, (Nashville: B&H, 2003), p. 286.

Καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν.

~ Soli Deo Gloria

  • 2
    Though not in full agreement this is an excellent answer. +1 Commented Jul 16 at 11:21

I find Jesus' parable on the mustard seed the most helpful.

He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32)

What I get out of it is this: With one's faith, as with the mustard seed, it takes something from both sides (you and God) for it to grow. There is no clear line of demarcation between your effort and that of God's.

In fact, I find this principle of "no clear demarcation" to be a useful one in understanding the Bible. For example, it also seems to resolve the contradiction between God's will and your own petitionary prayer. In reality, the two need not be mutually exclusive (just like the electron having properties of a particle and a wave, in physics).


It is both a gift and something that we can multiply or diminish through our choices.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8)

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Neglect not the gift that is in thee (1 Timothy 4:14)

Clearly, even though God gives us gifts, it is our responsibility to multiply those gifts; see the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25).

Consistent with this view, in Alma 32, the word of God is compared to a seed (see also the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13), every good seed when planted can bring forth fruit, and when the word of God is planted in our souls and nourished by our own good choices, our faith grows:

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow. (Alma 32:30)

The same warning applies that it is possible to lose our gift of faith through neglect:

But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. (Alma 32:38)

Faith is a living thing. It is like a muscle. Like any living thing, it can be strengthened through exercise and nourishment, or atrophy and even die through disuse, abuse and neglect. Life is a gift, but we can strengthen, increase and multiply life. It is the gift of God, and our use, increase or forfeiture of the gift is our own choice.


Faith comes from God because it is symbolized by the gold we are counselled to buy.

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Rev 3:18, KJV)

The same symbolism is found in 1 Peter to describe faith as gold tried in fire:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7)

James also spoke of the same trying of our faith that brings about patience and makes us perfect (1:3-4)

In addition, we also see Paul mentioning that faith is a fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23)

Indeed, "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17)

To summarize, faith is from God. Through trials and experiences we learn to exercise this faith and receive more faith. Therefore let us learn to "put on the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:11) and "above all, taking the shield of faith" (Ephesians 6:16).


I believe part of the confusion may come from conflating faith to equal faith in Christ/God.

Faith definition: Confidence in something or someone.

Hebrews 11:1 (note this does not specify faith is only toward Jesus/God)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

James 2:17-18,22 (again not necessarily about Jesus/God)

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

All mankind lives life by faith, not necessarily faith in Christ, but as we all have it from birth, so it is a gift much like our existence (or anything/everything on earth). We breathe, hoping to fill our lungs with air. We build relationships hoping that it will be responded in kind. We believe in people. We practice X hoping to achieve Y. So much of what we do is based on faith, which may be attributed to experience, habit, or knowledge, but everything starts with small steps or hope for something. Faith in Christ, similarly, can grow by experience, habit, and knowledge as well.

Faith as mentioned in many other answers, needs to be practiced to grow into assurance. Faith can(should) be directed to the Savior who salvation is through. We need to exercise faith in Christ to grow in testimony/assurance of him.

Greater faith is a gift to some 1 Corinthians 12:9

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit


Grace and Faith are two different things

Other answers have cited various passages of grace and predestination, confusing it with determinism, including the source of faith. Actually there's only one reference, that is Ephesians 2:8 which has been misinterpreted by some to mean faith is an act of God. The Greek scholars have demonstrated beyond doubt that the demonstrative pronoun in that sentence, refers to the salvation described in the verse; and we need to separate this act of grace with means of obtaining it, that is faith, to avoid mixing the two and ridding our accountability for which we deserve the reward of eternal life. Commentaries of Henry Alford and John Eadie are helpful.

Thus, the topic comes down to the issue of determinism (Augustine/Calvinism) Vs freewill. Another reference that could be used is:

(ESV) Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

This verse describes the favour on believers, that God not only made us believers, but also sufferers for him. It will be a forced determinist interpretation that would say that faith is of God, excluding freewill. Only under Molinism do we have both predestination and freewill.

There are certain passages which distinguishes the act of grace with the means by which we obtain that grace; which is the crucial thing in solving this problem. Obtaining a gift does not render the gift earned wages. Faith has been distinguished with works.

  • Acts 8:20-22 [ESV] But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

  • Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?”

  • Rom 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Chrysostom's commentary on John's passages that are often used by determinists are very notable. Homily 46 on the Gospel of John:

John 6:44 "No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him."

The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, "that nothing lies in our own power"; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. "For if a man comes to Him," says some one, "what need is there of drawing?" But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor. Then He shows also the manner in which He draws; for that men may not, again, form any material idea of God,..


Faith cannot come from God. If faith came from God then every person would have faith.

While I am no expert on language (refer to this link), the often quoted Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

For by grace (dative feminine singular) you have been saved through faith (genitive feminine singular). And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (God's gift; genitive masculine singular), not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In Ephesians 2:8-9, above, while I am merely guessing because I cannot analyse the entire phrase linguistically, from what I can understand somewhat, it appears:

  1. "Grace" is dative, which means it is given to the person

  2. "Faith" is genitive, which means it belongs to the person

  3. "Gift" is nominative

  4. "God" is genitive, thus "God's gift".

While I am happy to be corrected, I guess Ephesians 2:8-9 may indicate:

For by grace given as a gift of God has saved you because of your faith

Obviously, we can quote countless references that say faith is a person's faith, such as:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. Romans 1:8

I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:12

He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:26

However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying thatAbraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Romans 4:9

All of the quotes above refer to a person's or people's faith and not to God's faith.

In short, God gives (dative) his gift of grace to those who possess (genitive) faith.

  • Welcome to the site, Dhammadhatu. I just wonder if you have considered Romans 12:3 where God has dealt to Christians the measure of faith they have? And Galatians 2:16, that we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ? And Romans 3:22, that the righteousness of God is by faith of Jesus Christ to all who believe? I may be wrong, but I think the OP's Q is confined to the origination of saving faith. Nobody would disagree that it becomes personal to the individual, once given by God. Is not the giving of faith a gift of grace? A good start to a deep subject!
    – Anne
    Commented Jul 17 at 11:32
  • Thank you for your warm welcome Anne. In Galatians 2:16, the word "faith" is Genitive Feminine Singular and the word Jesus is also Genitive Masculine Singular. Since faith is not "Nominative", Galatians 2:16 does not appear to say: "Jesus's faith". Instead, Galatians 2:16 appears to say: "your faith about Jesus". This reading appears confirmed by the later: "So we, too, have believed in Christ (Noun - Accusative Masculine Singular)". It appears the faith & belief belongs to the person and not to Christ. Commented Jul 17 at 11:47

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