Those who view faith as a gift interpret man’s condition, described in Ephesians 2:1 as “dead in trespasses and sins,” as a total inability to respond to God in a positive way. But that phrase describes man’s total separation from God, not his inability to respond to God. Sinful man is totally separated from God and therefore without eternal life. Man retains the image of God to some degree; it was severely marred in the fall, but not totally destroyed. Acts 10:2 describes Cornelius before he came to know Jesus Christ as Savior as a devout man who feared God, gave alms, and prayed to God (and God heard his prayers! Acts 10:31). In Acts 17 the Athenians did not have the proper object of faith but worshiped idols. Paul encourages them to seek to know their “unknown God” which of course is Jesus Christ. Men can seek God in their unsaved state as God draws them (John 6:28-29, 44-45).
Another theological problem with the view of faith as a gift of God is that it misunderstands the nature of faith. Faith is not (as they claim) a divine energy, a special power, or an infused dynamic. That confuses faith with the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith is simply faith. It means that one is convinced or persuaded that something is true so that there is a personal appropriation of that truth. There is not a special kind of faith for eternal salvation. There is only a special object of faith—Jesus Christ. The kind of faith one might have in Buddha is no different from the kind of faith that one can have in Jesus. The only difference is the object: Buddha does not save; Jesus saves. To make faith the power of salvation is to confuse faith with the Holy Spirit. According to Ephesians 2:8 grace is the grounds of salvation and faith is the means by which we appropriate that grace. Properly speaking we are not saved by faith, but through faith.
To show that faith is not a meritorious work, the Bible contrasts faith in Christ with meritorious works in both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 4:4-5. Faith means exactly that we can do nothing for our salvation. We can only receive salvation as a gift. Faith is like an empty hand that simply accepts a gift.” ~Dr.Charlie Bing, GraceLife Ministries (excerpt from full article provided at the link)
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