Jun P. Espina         9 min read
Updated on February 18th, 2020
Do you have faith in Jesus Christ? Or, why do we believe in our President—why do we believe in online banking, for example? It is because we believe based on facts; or on some hard evidence of truth. But I am wondering why in spiritual matters we always find ourselves less enthusiastic to believe. We always doubt. The apostle Peter, for example, denied Christ three times, and Thomas wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection unless our Lord would appear to Him physically. Why don’t we have faith in Christ when we have all the evidence at our fingertips to prove His claims?
I find from the Holy Bible that faith in Christ is a gift. Or that you’re being gifted to believe in our Savior Jesus. However, you may reject it as you may reject a gift you receive on your birthday. It is not true that since God is the one giving, then such an offer or grace is irresistible. No, the hyper-Calvinist erred in this matter. As we are gifted to believe, so we have also the free choice to disbelieve based on man’s inherent FREE WILL.
Why don’t we have faith in Jesus Christ when we have all the evidence at our fingertips to prove His claims?
Wrote the apostle Peter in answer to the question why did Christ delay His second coming: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).
The above verse tells us that our Lord Jesus is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” It means that ALL can repent, and that Christ doesn’t desire for anyone of us to go to hell. He desires, not forces, us to repent. He wishes we would receive His gift of faith voluntarily out of trust in His promises.
In Matthew, Christ also said that despite His invitation to believe and come to Him, people continue to reject Him—they are unwilling to come!
Now we’ve proven that although faith in Christ is a gift, we can reject that grace. God’s grace is resistible. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, gave a sermon before the Jews and the high priest and said: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:51) Even the word “resist” is used by Stephen to show that God’s grace can be resisted.
As we need to receive the GIFT, so Christ Himself taught this:
Our Lord used the phrase “unwilling to come” and even added that “and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” Receiving Jesus by faith, therefore, requires human free will!
Unwilling to Believe and Come to Christ Jesus
The Human Responsibility to Believe
Here are the beautiful verses in King James Version concerning the grace to believe. I want them written here for us to feel God’s word around His gift of faith in Christ Jesus. Samuel Clarke (first published: 1750) compiled in the book, “Precious Bible Promises”:
In salvation, there is a human responsibility required. We find in Ephesians 2:8-9 this oft-quoted verse: “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, so that no one may boast.” It means that SALVATION or ETERNAL LIFE is a gift of God, but FAITH in relation to salvation is not, or to be precise, it is NOT AN IRRESISTIBLE GRACE.
Faith Comes from Hearing
In Romans 6:23, it says that “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” SALVATION or ETERNAL LIFE is “the free gift of God.” But FAITH (that is required to be saved) “comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17)
Those who are unwilling to believe in Christ for the salvation of the soul as what Judas Iscariot did will not be saved. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey [not exercising human responsibility to believe] the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
The Faith of Cornelius Upon Christ Jesus
Having Faith, But Not Salvation
There was a man who had the gift to believe. His name was Cornelius. He prayed daily and gave alms to the poor. (cf. Acts 10:1-2) He also shared his faith to all his household. This man didn’t know about Jesus. He just believed in God in a way pleasing to our Lord. He got faith but not salvation! Had he died believing, he would have landed at the gate of Hell since he was unsaved! Believing in God and the saving faith in Christ are two different things.
Of Rejecting the Gift of Faith
We could be a staunch believer, but devoid of Christ’s Spirit in our life; our souls are still unforgiven as with Paul or Cornelius or the Ethiopian Eunuch despite our intense search for God. I experienced it before. I studied Law for a little while, but filled my notes instead with written prayers to a God I didn’t know. As you read this article, you may have realized that you too have the gift of faith. If Christ desires that all will get salvation, then it is logical that He also would give us all the gift of faith. The work of Christ is to give us His light for He “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9, KV) All have the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, but some would reject the gift instead.
The Jews rejected Christ as their most-awaited Messiah because our Lord did not fit into their narrative that the Messiah should save them from their political rulers, the Romans, and should usher a universal peace. Among the Gentiles, many reject Christ since they love their sinfulness and the pleasures of this world. The teachings of Christ don’t conform to their culture of impurity and worship of demons and the desires of their heart for divorce and abortion. Wrote the apostle Paul, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant. . .unholy. . .lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (2 Tim. 3:2-5a) People may receive the gift of faith. In fact, they are “holding to a form of godliness.” Everybody tells you they believe God. But when we present the Gospel that FAITH IN CHRIST as our Redeemer opens the door of God’s kingdom, most people get offended since they want to enter heaven by their own good works minus the Savior’s intervention.
God’s Gift of Faith Leads to the Second Birth Experience
To erase any doubt in the gray area of faith (deep faith versus shallow faith in God), Christ taught that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The second birth is a definite experience. I wrote somewhere about the harlot, Mary, who became Mary Magdalene, the saint. Or Paul’s conversion from a church persecutor named Saul to Christ’s servant known as the apostle Paul. You can experience the second birth. Can you imagine staying in a dark tunnel for long years, but then you met Christ by faith and a bright light entered your subway-house and in a heartbeat you saw different things and vivid new colors? By the Spirit’s inspiration, Paul described the second birth phenomenon with this truth: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13-14a) The gift of faith when pursued and applied by trusting Christ and in His Word is just a rescue operation of sorts, a transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the domain of Christ, which is the kingdom of the Light of God. When you believe, the Holy Spirit is there beside you so you could keep on believing until Christ’s Spirit indwells you. (Rom. 8:9) Christ said in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit “abides WITH YOU and will be IN YOU.” When that happens (when the Holy Spirit indwells you!), you are born of God’s Spirit or born again.
Faith in Christ, Not Just Faith in God!
The Bible also said that those who wouldn’t believe in God are sheer fools (cf. Psalm 53:1). But the kind of faith in Philippians 1:29 is different, for it is not just faith in God but also faith in Christ. Before I learned of Christ, I had faith in God, but the gift of faith we are talking about is faith in Christ Jesus. Let’s try to study Philippians 1:29 in New American Standard Bible (NASB) for another perspective:
In NASB, it is the same idea stated in a more negative (the use of “not”) tone. “[To] you it has been granted… to believe in Him.” Philippians 1:29 is all referred to faith in Christ both textually and contextually.
I experienced having God’s appointment for my salvation, when in the course of my long search for Him, I met a pastor who shared to me Christ, how the Lord Jesus bled for my sins.
I say this again, for the sake of consistency, that I believe with all of my heart that God gives the gift of faith in Christ to all the peoples of the world regardless of color or academic capacities. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” (cf. John 3:16a). But God, in His infinite wisdom, knows who will receive the gift of faith in Christ. He knows that Judas could never be a true child of God by faith in Christ alone. God knows our heart that He Himself created. We can never lie to God! If we have the heart of a Cornelius or Saul (Paul), then God will honor our faith. He will send somebody (or through a piece of a gospel tract or other divine means) to help us with our faith as what He did to Lydia or Cornelius. By His grace, our Father God won’t stop chasing after us until we come to know Jesus Christ and His Gospel—until we receive our souls’ salvation through the work of the Holy Spirit in the second-birth experience.
God Helped Cornelius to Know Christ
I studied the life of Cornelius as revealed in Scriptures and was so amazed by the fact that Christ personally sent the apostle Peter to teach Cornelius on how to be saved. It means that all the religious activities of the latter were wrought as a believer in God, but not as a believer in Christ. Hence, Peter was sent on a long journey for a Save-Cornelius Mission. Observe the following Scriptures:
“Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, ‘Cornelius !’ And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea…. And he [Cornelius] reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.‘” (Acts 10:2-8; 11:13-14 NASB).
Cornelius was righteous like most of us (devout, giving alms, always praying), but unsaved—not born again by God’s Spirit! God through an angel sent for Peter so that Cornelius will hear of Christ and will get saved. If you have the gift of faith, working it out and joyful and positive in the heart, then God will find a way to save you.
What do we mean by working out our gift of faith? In Romans 12:3, the apostle Paul wrote about this truth that “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” We have a gift of faith which we can use to find the truth. For around two years, for example, I received a copy of the Armstrongism magazine, and before I became a Christian, I talked about religion with the Catholic nuns and with my close friend who was a faithful member of the Jehovah’s Witness. All these inputs helped me widen my search for the truth.
I experienced having God’s appointment for my salvation, when in the course of my long search for Him, I met a pastor who shared to me Christ—how the Lord Jesus bled for my sins!
Maybe, you’ve experienced being invited to a church or a Bible Study. Or perhaps, you’ve rejected all of God’s invitations for you to know Jesus Christ more.
But remember God will save you sooner or later. You will meet Christ assuredly and be sorry for your long delay in actually believing. Again, it would only happen if you have the gift of faith in Christ, which is neither cold nor careless but rather persistent, and in the constant attitude of searching. “Draw near to God,” wrote James, “and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7 NLT)