There’s a lot of confusion out there when it comes to the word “faith”. Most of it creeps in over time as people become increasingly removed from the biblical concept. Of course, some use the Bible to justify their self-revelatory versions of “faith”. And everyone but atheists (whose “faith” is in “nothing-ness”) seem to have some kind of “faith,” usually affectionately termed “my faith”.
The trouble with these misconceptions of faith is they’re mostly self-induced, meaning faith is treated like something you must drum-up from within, more like an emotion.
So what’s the big problem with self-induced faith?
1. Self-induced faith hijacks the doctrine of sin. It underestimates the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God. We are more wicked than we know; and God is more holy than we can conceive. Human depravity is total. Our mind, will, and emotions are incapable of the righteousness required by God to enter His eternal presence. As Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
2. Self-induced faith hijacks salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Self-induced “faith” is really “faith in faith”–or more specifically, faith in self. Often, people with self-induced faith talk more about being “spiritual” than having faith because they aren’t keen on historical, propositional truth as recorded in the Bible. The result is a self-induced faith directed toward self while biblical faith is directed toward Jesus. And any faith directed toward the self is by definition a “faith + works” system of salvation that falls short of God’s glory.
3. Self-induced faith hijacks salvation by God’s grace alone. If “faith” is something you must work up in yourself, God’s grace is rendered meaningless. God grace is God’s undeserved favor, meaning no amount of good deeds or self-actualization (aka, “name it and claim it”) can earn God’s grace. You can’t earn that which is un-earnable. Self-induced faith turns biblical faith into “works of the law”.
4. Self-induced faith hijacks the doctrine of perseverance. If faith is something you are primarily responsible for coming up with, then faith is something you are primarily responsible for maintaining. And there is no guarantee that you will keep “the faith”.
Biblical faith, on the other hand, acknowledges man’s inability to come to God for salvation on his own because it recognizes the sinfulness of sin and the holiness of God.
Biblical faith acknowledges that man’s only hope is trusting (faithing) in Jesus Christ alone for deliverance from his sin debt to God.
Therefore, biblical faith in Christ alone is the Christian’s only hope of salvation and perseverance because only biblical faith depends on God’s grace. Biblical faith is grace-dependent. In fact, faith is a gift of God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8–For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Philippians 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.
We can no more perfectly obey the command to “Believe” than the command of “Do not lie.” Faith must first be granted by God according to His eternal purposes. But self-induced faith turns biblical faith into “works of the law” rather than a gift of grace.
So how do you know you have received the gift of faith? That’s the question people often pose in reaction to salvation by God grace through a faith that is itself a gift of grace. If you are trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and living out the “obedience of faith” (Rom.1:5; 16:26), then you’ve received His grace.