Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith.
from faith for faith
When I first taught this passage in small group, I thought everything about this passage would be hard-hitting and hard to swallow. All of it except for this statement, “from faith for faith”. In my immaturity and inexperience, I taught this line as almost a throwaway, obvious point of doctrine. I attempted to glance past it by claiming, “and of course, our faith comes Jesus Christ” as if I was saying something so primary and elementary that there was no way I needed to deep dive into this doctrine.
But one particular young lady stood up and defiantly, with her face twisted in anger, responded in a firm voice, “NO! That is not right! My faith comes from within me. It is my faith!”
I was stunned. The room was shocked. How do you respond to that? I certainly didn’t know.
And if I wrote this commentary even a year ago, I would go into her non-denomination upbringing and the abundance of Biblical illiteracy that haunts our churches. And with such a passionate outburst, it could be all of that, and it certainly does not help matters much.
But this is what I know for a fact since that moment: whatever we know about God is from God.
1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
Hebrews 5:11–6:3 About this, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.
Let us count the implications of such a doctrine. For us to know anything of God and anything he might give to us, He would have to give the knowledge of the gift as well as the gift itself. We can look upon this and think that in 1st Corinthians, Paul is simply talking about spiritual gifts. But that is not the context of chapters 1 to 3, namely, all things comes from God, especially all truth (1 Corinthians 3:19-23).
God is truth and God gives the truth but he must also give us the understanding to handle the truth. We see this throughout the Bible where the Prophets were given clear words to preach only to have people reject the words of God over and over again. I find it fascinating in these post-truth and post-modern times where progressive thinkers make the claims that we cannot be certain about any truth and then proceed to reject the word of God. Yet, when we read the word of God, we read in Scriptures of people rejecting the word of God.
We also know that there is nothing within us that is good
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Romans 3:10–18 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
And we have known this since the beginning:
Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Remember, the Flood did not save humanity from death. Only Jesus Christ did that. But that is another chapter later in the book.
Finally, the author Paul explicitly states this in his epistle to the church in Ephesus:
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.
We can attempt to do Bible gymnastics and that the thing “that is not of your own doing; it is the gift from God” is not faith but rather, grace or salvation. But think about that for a moment: none of those are of our own doing, and all of those things–grace, salvation, faith–are a gift from God. (I did not call them ‘gifts’ but rather, a singular ‘gift’ because God has not given one gift with other the other. The gift of salvation comes with grace and faith, among other things that I promise we will get into later in this book.)
Why am I saying all of this? Because I want us to avoid the trap that this young lady and what I have heard from countless Christians since of this error: our faith is not our own–it is from God.
We must understand that as sons of Adam, we are born into sin and apart from God. There is nothing inherently good within us. That is a hard truth to hear. And we don’t like hearing it. But what is true now is as true as what Christ preached in his day:
John 6:52–66 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Jesus took it one step further: “There is nothing in you that is alive. Apart from God, you are dead.”
If there is nothing good in us, and we know that faith in God is a good thing, then with whom does faith originate from? God, who alone is good, or Mankind, who has nothing within him that is good.
Evil, corruption, deceit, sin does not beget good. A wicked heart does not generate a good heart. Faith does not come from evil, but good.
We must let go of the modern false doctrine that all humans must have some ounce of goodness within themselves so that they can choose God or not God. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And because of that sin, we all deserved death.
But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)