Article 7: Faith God's Gift
But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ's death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God's grace--which he owes to no one--given to them in Christ from eternity.
Since we are fallen by nature, and can do nothing on our own to come to faith in Christ–indeed, we cannot even do anything to prepare ourselves to come to faith apart from a prior act of God on our behalf–the Canons again remind us that faith does not arise because fallen sinners have the power, desire, or the ability to believe the gospel when it is preached to them.
The Scriptures repeatedly tell us that faith is a gift from God. In fact, faith only arises in the human heart when the Holy Spirit creates it in the human heart through the preaching of the gospel. As Luther once pointed out, God creates faith in the heart, just like he created the world from nothing. Unless and until God does this, we gladly remain unbelievers.
This very point is made several times in passages such as Ephesians 1:3-14 and Romans 10:9-17, where Paul states,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of ChristAs can be seen in these two representative passages, the Scriptures are crystal clear about the source of faith--it comes from God through the word. Sadly, many of our contemporaries continue to stumble over these words, unable to shake their confidence in the fallen human will.
Only those whom God has chosen from before the foundation of the world truly come to faith in Christ. Inevitably, they do come to Christ because they are drawn to Christ and then enabled by God to trust the Savior. When the gospel is preached to the elect, God creates faith in their hearts, and they respond to the proclamation of the gospel by trusting in Christ alone.
The Scriptures teach, (as do the Canons, which summarize the biblical teaching), that faith itself is a gift from God. This creation of faith is directly connected to the preaching of the gospel. Hence, if we wish to see people come to faith in Christ, it is useless to entice them, manipulate them, or appeal to their so-called “felt needs.” They cannot, and will not, come to Christ because they remain dead in sin.
The biblical solution to the problem of human inability to trust Christ is a simple one. If we wish to see people come to faith in Christ, then we preach Christ to them as clearly and as directly as we can, trusting that the blessed Holy Spirit will create faith in their hearts through the means of the gospel proclamation.
Once again, we must keep in mind that the end (the salvation of God’s elect) is directly connected to the means (the preaching of the gospel). Let us not divide what God has so carefully and wonderfully joined together. Faith is a gift created in the heart by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel.