Faith: Where Does It Originate?
God or Us?
By Dr. Ken Matto
(Mat 17:20 KJV) And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
(Rom 1:8 KJV) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
One of the most confusing issues of our day is the subject of the origin of faith. On one hand in the above verses we read that one group had such great faith that it was spoken about by others and on the other hand another group of Jesus’ followers did not even have the faith the size of a grain of Mustard Seed. How come one group had such great faith and the other had none?
First of all we must look at the words used in the Greek for faith, faithfulness, and believe. This is important because we must know how God uses the terms in Scripture. This will alleviate much confusion over the words.
Faith - “pistis” (pistis) - It is a noun which means it names a person, place or thing. The word “faith” in the New Testament is always translated as a noun.
(Phil 2:17 KJV) Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
Faithfulness - “pistos (pistos) - It is an adjective which modifies a noun showing the quality of the thing named or to specify something as distinct from something else.
(1 Cor 1:9 KJV) God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The adjective points to God as being faithful.
Believe - “pisteuw (pisteuo) - It is a verb which denotes an action. The word “believe, believed, and believer in Acts 5:14” in the New Testament is always translated as a verb.
(Acts 8:13 KJV) Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
Where does Faith originate?
Many feel that a person must exercise faith to become saved because we read in many places in the Bible where it teaches we are saved through faith. (Eph 2:8 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Luke 18:42 KJV) And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. Here are two verses which seem to indicate that our faith is the one that saves us and heals us. The question is not whether salvation or healing can come by faith, the question is where does the faith come from to believe. Faith is manifested in two ways and that is belief and action on that belief (James 2:14-26). These two methods show that a person does have faith but it still does not tell us the origin of our faith and that is what is at the heart of this article.
If we are going to understand faith we must first look at the condition of man before salvation. (Eph 2:5 KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Man in his unsaved state is dead. The word “dead” in Ephesians 2:5 is the word “nekrous” which means “dead, lifeless, or useless.” The next question which must be posed is what can generate from a person who is dead? The answer obviously is nothing because a dead person just continues to decay until they finally become bones and ashes. Just like a physically dead person, a spiritually dead person cannot generate anything either. When Lazarus was dead in the tomb was he able to bring himself back to life? The answer is no, the Lord Jesus Christ had to resurrect him to life before he could once again function as a human being. The raising of Lazarus was an example of the spiritual raising of the believer. We are spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead and after Christ saves us we are then spiritually alive as Lazarus was physically alive. Now, since man is spiritually dead, there is no way that faith can be generated from a dead person. That is just a stark reality.
Now we come to the part where we can find where faith originates. In the early church after the giving of the Holy Spirit, God had made faith one of the gifts. (1 Cor 12:9 KJV) To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; In 1 Corinthians 12:9, God had included the gift of faith as one of the spiritual gifts but then later on as the provisional gifts started to wane, God had made sure the gift of faith continued. At first, there were only some who had the gift of faith but then God made the gift of faith a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22 KJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Now faith, being a fruit of the Spirit, is given to every believer when they become saved and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
So now that we have seen that the Bible is clear that faith is now a fruit of the Spirit and given to those who become saved. This means that there is an order: First, salvation, then faith, then belief which is built upon that faith, then as we continue to believe and act we become faithful. So a person who is unsaved does not have the Holy Spirit living in them, which means they cannot have any faith because they are spiritually dead and are of the world. (Rom 8:9 KJV) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Another clear verse is Romans 8:9 which teaches us plainly that if a person does not have the Holy Spirit, then they are not of Christ, and they would then be void of all the fruits of the Spirit. The only way a person can have faith, is when they become saved first and are then given faith through the Holy Spirit. Remember Ephesians 2:8? (Eph 2:8 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8 is one of the most plainly written verses and the most ignored on this subject. We are saved by the grace of God which is not of ourselves, that is, we do not initiate salvation because we are spiritually dead and we cannot initiate the faith through which salvation comes because it too is a gift of God. It all comes in one package at one time, at the moment of salvation, and it all comes from God as He regenerates us.
We have clearly seen that faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and only those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit can have faith. This means that no unsaved person can ever have believing faith before they are saved. Spiritually dead people cannot generate anything spiritually, just as a physically dead person cannot generate anything pertaining to physical life. So it is important that we know that salvation, faith, and belief are part and parcel of the Christian walk. It is always salvation first, never faith first!