A Brief “Bonus” Summary from Books At a Glance
By Todd Scacewater
Just as Paul had to write about the same topic more than once (Phil 3:1), so I am not bothered by writing again to you, dear Prosper and Hilary, about a topic on which I have written much. I am sure that God will reveal the truth to them if they continue to inquire and seek him. Indeed, they believe that we can only be saved from original sin by Jesus Christ and that the wills of human beings are anticipated by the grace of God, thus distancing themselves from the Pelagians. But I must write now to explain why they are incorrect to say that the beginning of faith precedes God’s grace and only the increase of faith comes from God’s grace.
The Scriptures testify that the beginning of faith comes from God’s grace. Romans 11:35–36 says that all things are “from him and through him and in him,” which includes faith. Philippians 1:29 says that faith in Christ is given to believers. Second Corinthians 3:5 says that not a single thought is from ourselves, but our sufficiency comes from God. Thought precedes belief, since a person thinks about what might be true and then believes it or not. Even if the two seem united, they are distinct, for one can think and yet not believe. In fact, believing is simply thinking with assent. If, therefore, thinking precedes belief, and no single thought comes from ourselves but comes from God, then how could belief precede the grace of God? In the case of Abraham, God promised faith to the nations and accomplished it, showing that he would “do what he promised” (Rom 4:20–21). God produced the very faith he promised. If we achieved our own faith, then “grace is no longer grace” (Rom 11:6). Besides all this, passages such as Rom 12:3 (“God has given to each the measure of faith”) and Eph 6:23 (“…faith from God the Father”) state that all of faith is from God, not only the increase of it.
I used to agree with Cyprian who believed that faith was from ourselves and that by it we obtain the gifts of God by which “we live temperately, justly, and piously in this world” (Titus 2:12). I expressed these views in my Commentary on Some Statements in the Letter to the Romans. There I argued that God chose Jacob instead of Esau before they were born because he foreknew which of them would believe. But now I realize that this view implies that Jacob merited God’s grace, but then grace would no longer be grace. I had not yet discovered the “election of grace” (Rom 11:5). Indeed, our election and our faith all comes from God, “for what do you have that you have not received?” (1 Cor 4:7).[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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