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.
Jesus told the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Religious credentials and a respectable life do not gain entrance to the kingdom. Why is that? It is because “flesh” (fallen human nature) only gives birth to “flesh” (John 3:6). Humanity, corrupted by sin, does not have the power within itself to respond to God with true, living faith. Only the Spirit of God can produce that, and that is why being born again is also referred to as being born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
We are naturally dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), unable to respond to God, unable to please him in any way (Romans 8:7-8). This is why we need the miracle of regeneration, or the new birth from above, produced in us by God’s grace. This new birth is also known as “regeneration,” or the implanting of new spiritual life in us where none existed before. This new life issues forth in a response of faith toward God, as we entrust ourselves completely to his promises in Christ.
We are dead, and only God can bring us back to life. Through the powerful working of the Spirit in the preaching of the gospel, God gives us the faith that unites us with Christ and leads to salvation. From beginning to end, our salvation is entirely by grace.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: John 3:1-21. What does Jesus teach about the new birth, and what does that have to do with faith?