Is Faith a Gift?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
Most people will agree that grace indeed is a gift of God, but what about faith? Is that a gift also? (Please also note that the word "gift" in the verse above is singular, and not plural)
Would God really temper with free will? I don't think so.
Consider the following metaphor:
This Sunday I am going to give away free TVs, and you can pick them up from my place. You now have two choices: 1) You believe what I just said, and come and pick up the TV, or 2) You don't believe what I just said, and you stay at home.
The TV is a metaphor for salvation. It's there for you (a free gift of God), but you need to believe that it is so.
Grace is the Gift. Faith is the acceptance of that Gift.
We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith.
- Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 61.1
Faith then, is an important aspect of obtaining grace.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.
- Romans 4:16 (KJV)
We must believe. That part is up to us.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- John 3:16 (KJV)
Our faith increases by studying the Bible.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Romans 10:17 (KJV)
If God would have indeed "installed" this faith in my mind, then why do people still depart from the faith?
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.
- 1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV)
"Depart from the faith" is a clear sign that faith comes from our own free will.
Interestingly enough, God can help with the measure of faith.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
- Romans 12:3 (KJV)
So when we ask God to strengthen our faith, God can help us get stronger by giving us new understanding, or by helping us through hardships. Through these things our faith grows stronger. A bit like how a muscle gets stronger.
In that sense, God is the author and finisher of our faith.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)
Faith is also a gift of the Spirit who boosts the stength of a person's existing faith.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
- 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 (KJV)
Faith is an expression of free will, and I just don't believe that God will ever force faith on us.