Excerpts from My "A Paper on Faith," Part 3
by Karl Kemp 11/27/2011 / Bible Studies
Part 3 continues where Part 2 ended.
The next section of the paper is titled "Some Verses that Have Been Used to Try to Show that God Just Gives Us Saving Faith." That section covers 14 pages in the internet version of this paper. I'll just include six pages from that section in these excerpts. You can see the passages that are discussed in this section in the Table of Contents. I highly recommend that you eventually read the entire paper on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching). These excerpts only contain some 40 percent of the material contained in the paper.
Acts 3:16. "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him [through it] has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all." This translation of the NASB communicates the idea that the faith which led to the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple by the apostles Peter and John somehow came through Jesus Christ. A more literal translation of the Greek will be helpful here: "And on the basis of FAITH IN HIS NAME, this man whom you see and know HIS NAME HAS STRENGTHENED, and THE FAITH WHICH CAME THROUGH IT [referring to His name] has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all." We have to learn about His name (His name includes all that the Bible reveals about the Lord Jesus) before we can have faith in His name and Him. His name includes, for example, the facts that He is God the Son; He is the Lamb of God; He is the promised Messiah/Christ; He is a Savior; He is the One who brings us to God the Father; and He is a healer. Peter and John (and probably the man who was healed too) had to know (for one thing) that the Lord Jesus is a healer in order to have faith for healing. We have to know His name - we have to know about Him before we can have faith in Him. We respond to God's grace by faith.
Note that "His name" is mentioned twice in this verse and that the name "Jesus" was not specifically mentioned in this verse (in the Greek), which demonstrates that the pronoun after the preposition "through" refers back to the words "His name." I should also mention that Acts 3:6 uses the word "name," "But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - walk!' " His name is often referred to in Acts, with the word "name" being used at least thirty times. I'll quote three of those verses: Acts 4:7, 10, and 12. These verses are directly related to the healing of the lame man in the temple. "When they ["the rulers, scribes, and elders" (Acts 4:5)] had placed them [Peter and John] in the center, they began to inquire, 'by what power, or in what name, have you done this [referring to healing the lame man in the temple]?' (10) [Peter is speaking] let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead - by this name this man stands here before you in good health. (12) And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
In context Peter was exhorting a large crowd of the sons of Israel at the temple to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ (and God and His new-covenant plan of salvation) in faith. In Acts 3:16 Peter emphasized to his audience that the name of Jesus, which God had given to them, had again been proved genuine in the miraculous healing of the lame man. Now it was time for them to repent and submit to that name (which includes, or course, submitting to that Person) and receive new covenant salvation.
Acts 13:48. "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." These words fit a common Biblical theme (Thank God for this Biblical theme!) that emphasizes God's role in our salvation. We desperately need to know the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. (For other verses that emphasize God's role in our salvation see the paragraph that begins with the words, "I believe the Arminian position" in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?," under the Heading "Origin of the Doctrine Once Saved, Always Saved," and add 2 Thess. 2:13; Acts 18:10.) These words were not intended to communicate the idea that God just gives faith to the elect (or that He makes them continue in faith to the end). These Gentiles believed (had faith) in the gospel; it is something they did (but they didn't do it independently of the grace of God). This present paper and "Once Saved, Always Saved?" are full of passages of Scripture that confirm this point. However, it is true, of course, that apart from the plan of God and the grace of God, no Gentiles (or Jews) would have been saved. Note that Acts 13:46 emphasizes that the Jews who rejected the gospel were responsible for their unbelief: "And Paul and Barnabus spoke out boldly and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we are turning to the Gentiles.' "
Acts 2:39. "For the promise [This speaks of the promise of new covenant salvation, with some emphasis on the gift of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter spoke these words on the Day of Pentecost.] is for you and your children, and for all who are far off [Luke apparently intended that we understand these last words to apply to the Gentiles (cf. Eph. 2:13, 17).], as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." The way the word "call" is used here, God doesn't "call" everyone. This is a common use of call in the New Testament (cf., e.g., John 10:3; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:24; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14), which falls in the category of verses like Acts 13:48 (just discussed) that emphasize God's role in our salvation. The way the word call is used here (and often) God called "as many as had been appointed to eternal life" (Acts 13:48). However, we must understand that, in another sense, a very real sense, all are called to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith (cf., e.g., Acts 2:22-40; 17:30, 31; 26:20; Mark 16:15, 16; 1 Tim. 2:4-6). One primary point I want to make here is that there is a big difference between calling the elect to salvation and just giving them saving faith. (We still must respond to God's grace and answer the call, and we must continue in faith to the end.) And keep in mind that God's choosing (and calling) of one, and not of another, is based (at least in part) on His foreknowledge of what is in their heart.
As we seek God for the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches, one thing that we must understand is that words like those in Acts 13:48 and in this verse that emphasize God's role in our salvation weren't given to cause some to question whether they have been called to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. As I mentioned, it is biblical to say that we have all been called to repent, as demonstrated by the verses listed in the preceding paragraph, and by much other Scripture.
Verses that emphasize God's role in our salvation show that He is in control, and they enable us to understand the security we have in Him, security we have in Him as long as we continue to do the things he requires of us by His enabling grace. He didn't just give us faith to begin with, and He will not force us to continue in faith to the end. We are responsible to press on in faith to the end by God's sufficient enabling grace.
Acts 16:13, 14. "And on the Sabbath day we [Paul and his companions] went outside the gate [at Philippi] to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer [for Jews]; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. (14) And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God [This terminology (cf. Acts 17:4, 17; 18:7) means that Lydia was a Gentile attracted to the God of Israel but that she hadn't become a full convert to Judaism. Paul's gospel was perfectly suited for such people.], was listening; and the Lord opened her heart [cf. Luke 24:45] to respond to the things spoken by Paul." These words appropriately show our dependence on God, and He must receive all the glory (we have nothing to boast about in ourselves); but I don't believe they come close to saying that God just gave Lydia saving faith. She was responsible to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith. Her heart was already open (to some extent) to God and His Word (the Scriptures); and for people like her, the gospel is good news indeed. I'll quote from C. Gempf ("New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1994]): "Luke's phrase the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message...is a lovely way of giving credit to the Lord for successful preaching. ... That the Lord was responsible for the successes does not detract from Paul's (or our) responsibility to speak, much less the hearers' responsibility to repent and turn to the true God."
Acts 18:27, 28. "And when he [Apollos] wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren [at Ephesus] encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; (28) for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." The end of verse 27 is frequently misunderstood, as if Luke was saying that the Christians at Corinth had believed through grace. I believe Luke was saying that Apollos "helped greatly those who had believed" at Achaia (a Roman province that included the cities of Corinth and Athens; Acts 19:1 mentions Apollos was at Corinth) through the grace of God which flowed through his ministry. This is a common use of the word "grace" in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Acts 6:8; Rom. 1:5; 12:3, 6; 1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 2:7-9; Eph. 3:2, 7, 8; 4:7). Also note that verse 28 goes on to speak of the effective ministry of Apollos. This ministry was clearly effective by the grace/Spirit of God. Apollos is in the spotlight, starting with verse 24. H. A. W. Meyer (Vol. 4 of "Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament") says, "[grace] is not to be connected with [those who had believed], but with [he helped greatly]; for the design of the text is to characterize Apollos and his workings, and not the [having believed]. The [grace] is to be explained of the divine grace sustaining and blessing his efforts. ... Apollos thus labored, not by his art, but by grace." I. H. Marshall ("Acts" [Eerdmans, 1980]) says the view that "by his (gift of) grace he helped the believers...is preferable."
Romans 10:17. "So faith comes [The verb "comes" was supplied by the NASB in italics; there is no verb in the Greek.] from hearing, and hearing by the word of [concerning] Christ." This verse was discussed earlier in this paper as part of Rom. 9:30-10:18. I wanted to briefly discuss this verse here since it is sometimes used to try to show that God just gives us saving faith. Although it is true that we can't have faith in the gospel before we have heard it, that is very different from saying that by giving us the gospel, God is giving us faith. We still have to submit to the gospel in faith, having heard it. Verses 16 and 18 suffice to prove that the apostle Paul didn't include in verse 17 any idea of God's giving us saving faith. In verse 16 he speaks of the fact that many didn't submit to the gospel in faith; he says that they didn't obey the gospel. And in verse 18 he mentions that the problem wasn't that they hadn't heard the gospel.
1 Corinthians 12:9. "to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing[s] by the one Spirit." In context the apostle Paul is discussing the fact that the Spirit of God distributes the charismatic gifts as He wills. It is clear that Paul is speaking of a charismatic gift of faith here, not saving faith. For God to give a believer such a gift is very different than giving a person saving faith. A charismatic gift of faith can be pictured as an amplification of the faith the Christian already has, which enables them to deal with situations they couldn't handle without this special manifestation of grace. In conclusion, I don't believe this verse offers any real support for the idea that God just gives us saving faith.
Galatians 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [In other words, the apostle Paul had died to the old man, and he was a new creation in union with Christ Jesus.]; and the life which I now live in the flesh [Here Paul doesn't use the word "flesh" in the negative sense he often uses it (e.g., 5:16, 17); he just means the life he is living in the body (in this world). He walked/lived by the Holy Spirit (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:16).] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." The reason we're considering this verse is because of the KJV translation: "I live by the faith of the Son of God." These words have often been understood to teach that the faith we are saved by, and live by, is actually the faith of the Son of God, somehow given to us. And there are several other verses where the KJV translates in a similar way, including Gal. 2:16; 3:22; Rom. 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9; and Col. 2:12. I'm not sure what the translators of the KJV intended to communicate here. Some scholars understand "faith of Christ" in the sense "faith in Christ." Anyway, I believe the NASB communicates the right idea. But it's not just the NASB, it's also the NIV, the Amplified Bible, the RSV and the NRSV, the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, the NAB, and, significantly, the NKJV, namely every Bible I looked at. And there is widespread agreement in the commentaries on the meaning "faith in the Son of God."
This would be an appropriate place to discuss Mark 11:22, which concludes with the words, "Have faith in God." The KJV even translates it this way, and rightly so. However, sometimes you hear it said that the Greek actually says, "Have the faith of God." It's true that the Greek could be translated this way, but the translation "Have faith in God" is no less a literal translation, and it communicates the intended meaning: God is the object of our faith, a worthy object indeed.
Galatians 5:22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness." The NIV and the Amplified Bible both have "faithfulness" with the NASB, but the KJV has "faith." The Greek noun is normally translated faith. In fact the NASB translates this noun as "faith" 238 times, and "faithfulness" only 3 times. Fortunately, we don't have to be overly concerned about which translation is the best here because the Spirit of God will enable us to be strong in faith and faithfulness. These two words are obviously closely related. For one thing, those who are strong in faith (I'm speaking of faith in God/faith in the gospel) will also be faithful (by the grace of God in Christ). The main point I want to make here is that this verse doesn't begin to show that God just gives us saving faith. The apostle Paul is dealing with the kind of fruit that is produced in the life of born-again believers as they walk in/by/after the Holy Spirit through faith in the gospel (see, e.g., Gal. 5:5, 6, 16-18, 25). This good fruit of the Spirit is contrasted with the sinful works of the flesh of 5:19-21. The apostle warns born-again Christians in 5:21 that "those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Christians obviously can still do works of the flesh, but they will not do them to the extent they walk in/by/after the Spirit. That's why the apostle exhorts us to always walk after the Spirit. This is a requirement, not an option.
Paul is not dealing with the source of the faith by which we became Christians here. Furthermore, he is not saying that the Spirit of God makes us be strong in faith (and faithfulness), or that He makes us continue in faith (and faithfulness) to the end; however, he would say that the Spirit enables us to be strong in faith (and faithfulness), and enables us to continue in faith (and faithfulness) to the end. I believe Paul's writings make it very clear that we must continually cooperate with God's saving grace and with His Spirit through humble, obedient, trustful, persistent faith.
Hebrews 12:1-3. [The discussions of Heb. 2:1-3a; 3:12-14, 17, 18; 4:1-3a, 14-16; 6:11, 12; 10:35-39; and 11:1-40 earlier in this paper will help us rightly interpret 12:2, which some see as a verse which shows that God just gives us saving faith. The KJV translation ("Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith") helped initiate this (what I consider to be) wrong interpretation. It should be noted that the word "our" is in italics in the KJV, showing that it was supplied (wrongly I believe) by the KJV. The Greek has the definite article, not the word for "our." (Here, as is often the case, the English does not require the definite article in the translation from the Greek.) I don't believe this verse says anything about God giving us faith; rather it is part of an exhortation for the readers to press on in faith until the end of the race. This interpretation fits the emphasis of the epistle.] "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us [He is referring to those believers spoken of throughout Hebrews chapter 11, who have already finished their race in faith, and who have entered their eternal rest. They (the witnesses) bear witness to the faithfulness of God and to the certainty of eternal glory for those who press on in faith to the end of the race.], let us also lay aside every encumbrance [or, weight; the NIV has "let us throw off everything that hinders." He is speaking of those things, though not in themselves (necessarily) sinful, that are inappropriate for a person making it top priority to rightly run, and finish, the race. We should all prayerfully consider all such things before God.], and the sin which so easily entangles us [In other words, sin causes the runner to stumble and fall. We obviously need to make it top priority to do everything we can to avoid sin. It's very dangerous for runners.], AND LET US RUN [BY FAITH] WITH ENDURANCE [OR PERSEVERANCE] THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US, (2) FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS [[We can learn from, and be encouraged by, those who have run the race before us, but we definitely need to keep our eyes fixed on JESUS. He is our Lord and our Savior and our great high priest, but also, as the following words show, He is the forerunner for us to follow.], THE AUTHOR [This word (author), which was also used in the NIV and KJV, has led some to the mistaken idea that what is being taught here is that the Lord Jesus gives us faith. The Greek noun could be translated "author," but there are other ways to translate this word that fit the context much better. For example, I could be satisfied with "leader," "pioneer," or "champion." These three translations are common in the commentaries, especially the first two. This same Greek noun is used in Heb. 2:10.
As verses 2, 3 show, Jesus is presented here with the emphasis on His having run the race before us (BY FAITH), and having done it perfectly. It is significant that Heb. 6:20 speaks of Jesus "AS A FORERUNNER FOR US." (In the context of Heb. 6:18-20, we see that where we are headed [as we run the race by faith] is "within the veil," where Jesus is now [having finished His race]. In other words, we will be glorified and fully taken to be with God forever.) But there is more, much more; Heb. 6:20 also speaks of the fact that Jesus has become our "high priest." He has earned the right (especially through His atoning death) to become our great high priest. And, in that capacity, He is able to enable all those who look to Him in faith to rightly run, and to finish, the race (see, e.g., Heb. 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 7:11-28).] AND PERFECTER OF FAITH [First, and foremost, He is the perfecter of faith in that He perfectly ran, and finished, the race by faith. I say this because that's what the writer of Hebrews goes on to speak about in the rest of verse 2 and in verse 3. But also, He (our Savior and our great high priest, etc.) is able to make us strong in faith and victorious in every area, as we draw near to the throne of grace in faith (Heb. 4:14-16). I'll quote a sentence from F. F. Bruce ("Epistle to the Hebrews" [Eerdmans, 1964]): "Not only is Jesus the pioneer of faith; in Him faith has reached its perfection."], WHO FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM [This speaks of the joy set before Jesus that would result from His fully accomplishing the Father's will, especially referring to His atoning death. First we should think of the joy of knowing that He had done the Father's will. But also, He knew that by doing the Father's will, He would be saving God's people, and He knew that He was causing the overthrow of sin, of Satan and his followers, and of death (spiritual death and physical death).] ENDURED THE CROSS, DESPISING THE SHAME [[I would translate "DISREGARDING THE SHAME." (See the BAGD Greek Lexicon.) That is, even though the cross was, to say the least, a very difficult assignment for the Son of God, He considered it a small price to pay when compared to the results that would flow from the cross/when compared to the joy set before Him. We too must keep our heart fixed on the eternal glory reserved for us at the end of our race. The trials of this age are very small in comparison to the eternal glory reserved for us. To keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and on the eternal glory reserved for us, is part of what it means to walk in faith. Cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-5:10.]], AND HAS SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD. (3) FOR CONSIDER HIM WHO ENDURED SUCH HOSTILITY BY SINNERS AGAINST HIMSELF, SO THAT YOU MAY NOT GROW WEARY AND LOSE HEART [fainting in your souls]." We don't have to grow weary and faint in our souls. Sufficient grace is always provided for those who keep looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, our forerunner and great High Priest, etc. IN FAITH! He doesn't make us continue in faith (or just give us saving faith to begin with), but He will make us strong in faith and well able to finish the race set before us as we keep looking to Him in faith.
The following section of the paper is titled: "Some More Verses that Will Help Us Understand Faith." I'll include several passages from that section here:
Luke 18:1-8. "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray [WE MUST STAY IN FAITH, ALWAYS LOOKING TO GOD IN PRAYER AND TRUSTING HIM FOR SUFFICIENT GRACE TO STAY FAITHFUL UNTIL THE END. See verse 8.] and not to lose heart [The NIV has, "and not give up."], (2) saying, 'There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man. (3) And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, "Give me legal protection from my opponent." [And we must keep looking to God in faith, praying and trusting that He will make everything right for us, even as He said He would.] (4) And for a while he was unwilling [[God never is unwilling, but He is not always in a hurry to answer our prayers, and especially our prayers for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. As verse 8 shows, the return of Christ, "the Son of Man," is in view here. (God may not always be in a hurry, but He never is late either. And He will make all things work together for our good as we continue to walk in faith before Him.) The return of Christ will mean full victory over all opposition for us, His people. But we must stay faithful until He comes, or until the time of our death, if that should come first.]]; but afterward he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, (5) yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection [The NIV has, "I will see that she gets justice."], lest by continually coming she wear me out." ' [Like the widow, we must continually look to God in faith and come before Him in prayer. Of course God's motives for making things right for us are perfect, unlike the motives of this godless judge, who cared only for his (temporary) peace.] (6) And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; (7) now shall not God [the Judge of the universe] bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night [In other words, they faithfully do what the Lord Jesus exhorted them to do in this parable. If this ungodly judge makes things right for this widow he doesn't care about, how much more shall God make things right for His chosen ones, who continue to look to Him in faith, even in difficult times.], and will He delay long over them? [Sometimes it may seem that He delays long, but He is always on time.] (8) I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. [The Greek behind "speedily" is also used in Rev. 1:1 and 22:6.] However, WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMES, WILL HE FIND FAITH ON THE EARTH?' " In other words, there is no need to be concerned whether the Father will do what He needs to do, and on time; but THE REAL QUESTION IS WHETHER GOD'S PEOPLE WILL PERSIST IN FAITH UNTIL THE END. OF COURSE WE CAN PERSIST IN FAITH UNTIL THE END BY GRACE. That is the point of the exhortation given by the Lord Jesus here. However, we must make it top priority to understand, and to do, what God requires of us. THE VICTORY ISN'T AUTOMATIC; WE MUST CONTINUE TO COOPERATE WITH GOD'S SUFFICIENT GRACE BY FAITH, IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS WORD.
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.