Wednesday, October 08, 2014

           How Does God Bring Us to Faith?

            In my last post, I brought out the fact that, just as salvation is a gift of God, so too is faith.  Faith isn’t something at which we arrive on our own.  It’s not a decision that we make.  It’s something that the Lord bestows upon us.  And this naturally leads us to ask: How does God do it?  How does he bring people to faith?
            A passage which addresses this question very clearly is Romans 10, starting in verse 11, which says: For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."  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.  For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 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?  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!"”
            The apostle Paul is very clear that salvation is available to all people.  It will be received by all who call on the name of the Lord.  He then goes on to describe, by way of a series of rhetorical questions, how this takes place.
            He starts off by asking how they can call on him in whom they have not believed.  In other words, if they don’t first believe in Jesus, how are they to call on him and to receive his salvation?  His point is that they can’t.  Apart from faith, apart from a belief in Jesus, people cannot call on him.
            Next, he asks how they can believe in him of whom they’ve never heard.  And, again, the answer is obvious.  Unless they hear of Jesus, they’re unable to believe in him, to call on him, and to be saved.
            He then asks how they can hear without someone preaching.  Unless someone preaches the gospel, unless someone preaches the good news of Jesus, they will not hear.  And, because they cannot hear, they cannot believe, call on the Lord, and be saved.
            He ends by asking how they’re to preach unless they are sent.  No one can preach the gospel unless they’ve been sent by the Lord himself.  And, as believers, we have been sent.  We’ve received from Jesus the Great Commission, by which we’re called to proclaim the gospel to all nations, by which we’re called to make disciples of all nations.
            So what we find in this passage is that we are brought to faith through the Word of God.  God sends his followers to proclaim his Word, giving people the opportunity to hear, to believe, and to be saved.
            As we saw last week, the Spirit of God is involved throughout this process.  He’s the one who calls to us through the message of the gospel and enables us to believe.  So it’s through the Word and the Spirit of God that we are drawn to faith.
            As Martin Luther states in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; in like manner he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in one true faith; in which Christian Church he daily forgives abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ.  This is most certainly true.”

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