Question 35: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, where does this faith come from?
Answer: All the gifts we receive from Christ we receive through the Holy Spirit, including faith itself.
In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul gave thanks to God for his brothers and sisters, mentioning specifically their faith, hope, and love (1 Thess. 1:2-3). And then he explains the reason for which he thanks God for these things, tracing them back to God’s grace: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (vv. 4-5). Paul thanks God because God is responsible for all good that he sees in the church at Thessalonica.
Notice how God’s sovereign power and goodness are highlighted in various ways in verses 4-5. Paul addresses his readers as those who are “loved by God.” But doesn’t God love everyone? Yes, he does. The Lord is good to all (Psalm 145:9), but Paul is not highlighting God’s general benevolence here. He is speaking of the love that moved God to set his special affection on the Thessalonian believers from eternity, choosing them to belong to him apart from any good in them at all. God’s election is an expression of his love.
But how does Paul know God chose the Thessalonians? Verse 5 gives the evidence, namely, that when Paul preached the gospel to them, it did not fall on deaf ears. Rather, it came to them in great power from the Holy Spirit, producing conviction of sin that led to repentance and faith. In other words, their response, which was produced by the Holy Spirit, was the evidence that God had chosen them from eternity to belong to him.
Faith is not something we can produce out of the flesh. It requires new spiritual life that only the Holy Spirit can produce in us. If we believe in Christ, it is because God has given us faith, in fulfillment of his purpose from eternity.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. What does this passage teach us about conversion to Christ? How should it encourage us in sharing the gospel with others?