Is Faith Necessary?

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”--Eph. 2:8,9

The question posed, is faith necessary, might seem to some to be a strange and ridiculous one. The average Sovereign Grace Baptist would speedily answer in the affirmative. However, there has arisen a movement which denies the necessity of faith in the elect of God. Many of our dearest brethren don’t see this basic, beautiful truth. Hardshellism has replaced gospel preaching as well as the commission. Hopefully, this short article shall put an end to the debate so far as the Word of God is concerned.

Our text verse is a rather familiar one amongst our brethren. We do not deny that God has a chosen people. In fact, we affirm that He has a chosen people who must, and will be saved. They are referred to as “the elect of God”(Col. 3:12), the “chosen of God”(I Pet. 2:4), “the sheep”(Mat. 25:33), and other various names. Salvation is received totally because of the grace of Almighty God. We can do absolutely nothing to obtain or merit eternal life. However, according to our text verse, an elect is saved by grace through faith. This is where hardshellism parts with the historical teaching of Baptists and with the Word of God. Faith is necessary. It is the gift of God, but, nevertheless, necessary, as we shall see. God’s people are a people of faith.

In Jhn. 3:16, we read that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I realize this verse is quoted by the religious world and used in the depths of Arminianism to try and prove that God loves every individual without exception. I emphatically deny that teaching, but, do not deny the inspiration of this verse and thus, the practical application. Therefore, we can obviously see from this passage that the promise of everlasting life is here made to whomsoever “believeth in him.” Again, in Jhn. 3:18, we read, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Again, the promise of eternal life apart from condemnation is here made to him “that believeth.” On the other hand “he that believeth not is condemned.” This tells us that it is not according to God’s way of working to save people into unbelief. Our duty here is to read the Scripture and rely on it for guidance. This portion of Scripture teaches that believers in Christ are saved. How does this portion of Scripture line up with the Bible as a whole? We shall see, for Scripture must interpret Scripture.

In Jhn. 5:24, John is inspired to write these words: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Once again, the Holy Spirit affirms that blessed promise of everlasting life unto Him “that heareth my word, and believeth.” Here, death is, in one sense, the natural state into which man is born. Man is brought into this world “dead in trespasses and sins”(Eph. 2:1). In this state, man is lost and deserving of the death of the eternal lake of fire. In this condition, man has not been “born again”(Jhn. 3:3). On the other hand, the believer is said to be passed from the state of “death unto life.” Life is representative of man’s condition after he has been brought to faith. This man has been “quickened”(Eph. 2:1) and “born again”(Jhn. 3:3). God didn’t, however, quicken this man into unbelief. This would contradict the fact that only the believer is promised eternal life. If the believer has “passed from death unto life,” the unbeliever then has not.
Reveals of the Gentiles, that God “put no difference between us(the Jewish believers) and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Here, the Lord is the One who purified the heart. This is in the Lord’s hand. How does He do it would be our question? He purifies the heart by faith. The “love of God is shed abroad in our hearts”(Rom. 5:5) WHEN He quickens us. Before men’s hearts have been purified, they are without faith. Men have faith because it has been freely given to them by God. Faith is a gift of God(Eph. 2:8). The faith, however, is necessary. This is God’s ordained way to work. God was not limited in His knowledge or ability to work another way. Notwithstanding, this is the way God has chosen to carry out His ordained and perfect will. If God has ever worked another way(which I do not believe He has), it is not recorded within the pages of Holy Writ.

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”--Rom. 3:24-28. Here we have another passage which supports the fact that faith is God’s ordained gift that He gives to His children for whom Christ died. In this passage, we are said to be justified by faith. In the scope of eternity, we are justified because Christ paid our sin debt on the cross at Calvary some two thousand years ago. However, in time, we are justified by faith. The Lord is said to be a “justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” There is no room to deny what Paul was inspired to write. We are not justified by works of the law, for we cannot keep the law. But, Christ, who fulfilled it is our “propitiation through faith in his blood.” Is it not wrong then to tell the world to believe in Christ? Is this not what Paul told the Phillipian jailor(Acts 16:30,31)? Paul realized it wasn’t in his power to save. He also realized that Christ had given His churches a commission to evangelize the world with gospel preaching.

The believer in Christ is an overcomer. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God--I Jhn. 5:5. How can we deny this? We are promised that we have and will overcome this world if we believe on Christ. Here is not stated that the elect overcome the world. That would be a true statement if it did. But, more to our inept understanding, the Lord simply says, “he that believeth Jesus is the Son of God is he that overcometh the world.”

Hardshellism says that a man can desire Christ as much as he wants to, but, he can’t come if he’s a non-elect. This type of thinking mixes truth with heresy. Surely a non-elect can’t come to Christ. However, he will never yearn for the saving power of the blood of Christ. He will not see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior. Those who do see this are the elect of God and will come. Hardshellism and the priesthood of the church heresy generally declare(if not by doctrine, by practice) that those outside of believers in the doctrines of grace are lost. There is absolutely no scriptural warrant for any such belief. There are many babes in Christ who know him, but, lack a knowledge of true doctrine. Anyhow, we do not know who the elect are. We do not have the power to distinguish.

In seeing that faith is essential to salvation, we then should pose the question, “How does the Lord impart faith to His elect?” We will affirm, as have our Baptist forefathers, that He does it through the gospel message. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God”(Rom. 10:17). This is not to give ability to anyone apart from the working of the Holy Spirit to believe the gospel message. It is asserted, however, that the Holy Spirit works through the gospel to impart faith to His elect people. There is no salvation apart from believing in Christ. This point has been sufficiently stated. However, faith must have an object. Nobody has faith in “nothing.” Faith has the object of Christ and His salvation. Therefore, when the gospel message is preached(read, taught, heard, witnessed, etc.), the Holy Spirit distinguishes between the elect and non-elect and grants faith to His sheep.

In II Ths. 2:13,14, we read, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul here states, through inspiration, that these were “from the beginning chosen,” as are all of God’s saints. He also shows the necessity of the “sanctification of the Spirit”, or quickening, or regeneration. However, he uses the conjunction “and” to show that the “belief of the truth” is equally as vital. Then, in the following verse states, “Whereunto He called you by our gospel.” This is God’s overall plan summed up in this passage. He has a chosen people whom He will call to belief in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. There is no gap of any time frame between regeneration and believing in Christ. This would conclude that man could be a regenerated unbeliever, and this is a contradiction of terms. When the Lord calls, or regenerates, one of His own, He supplies him with the faith necessary to be saved, through the gospel message that he has heard.

“Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only(as it does generally to all who hear it), but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance:”--I Ths. 1:4,5a. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth”--Jam. 1:18a. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise”--Eph. 1:13. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”--Rom. 1:16,17. These verses should suffice our need to prove that God saves His elect by drawing them by His Spirit through the gospel message.

Now, some would say, “But, you are limiting God. You are taking away from His glory.” To this, we turn to I Cor. 1:21, which says, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
In this verse, we have explained the reason God saves His people by bestowing faith to them through the gospel. The reason is because it pleased Him to do so. I am not limiting the Lord in saying He works this way. God could have saved His elect any way He desired to do it. That was by the foolishness of preaching. Does God work in ways that aren’t pleasing to Him? Does He change? To both questions, we answer in the negative. God always carries out His well pleasing will.

In conclusion, to answer our original question, “Is Faith Necessary?”, we conclude that it is. “Without faith it is impossible to please” God(Heb. 11:6). Therefore, God grants faith to the recipients of His Sovereign Grace through the gospel message as it pleases Him to do so.

In the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “I am quite certain that God has an elect people, for he tells me so in his word. And I am equally certain that everyone who comes to Christ shall be saved, for that also is his own declaration in the Scriptures. When people ask me how I reconcile these two truths, I usually say that there is no need to reconcile them, for they have never yet quarreled with one another.”1

12200 Quotations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon(Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 1988)p. 64.


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