Not Your Own

We often hear that faith must be personal. “My faith,” they say. People might tell us they’ve persevered through trials due to their faith. Were it to have failed, they would’ve been lost. But they had enough. At least that’s what they say. I don’t know about you, but I get the impression that they think this faith is their own, as if they produced it. As if it were due to strength of character or moral upbringing.

On the contrary, though we must hold faith individually:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Romans 4:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

It is not our faith, it is a gift of God so that we might not boast about ourselves.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

John Calvin comments on this verse:

For by grace are you saved. …God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own…

Not of works. …Many persons restrict the word ‘gift’ to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith [only] is the gift of God, but that salvation [entirely] is given to us by God…

For we are his work. …The apostle affirms that we are God’s work, and that everything good in us is his creation; by which he means that the whole man is formed by his hand to be good. It is not the mere power of choosing aright, or some indescribable kind of preparation, or even assistance, but the right will itself, which is his workmanship; otherwise Paul’s argument would have no force.

Created to good works. …[Paul] says, that, before we were born, the good works were prepared by God; meaning, that in our own strength we are not able to lead a holy life, but only so far as we are formed and adapted by the hand of God. Now, if the grace of God came before our performances, all ground of boasting has been taken away…

To reiterate, faith is not a result of human will:

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy Romans 9:15-16 (ESV)

To this, Calvin comments:

It is not then of him who wills, etc. …That none of you may think that they who are elected are elected because they are deserving, or because they had in any way procured for themselves the favor of God, or, in short, because they had in them a particle of worthiness by which God might be moved, take simply this view of the matter, that it is neither by our will nor efforts…that we are counted among the elect, but that it wholly depends on the divine goodness, which of itself chooses those who neither will, nor strive, nor even think of such a thing… [Emphasis mine]

Therefore faith is not subjective. It is not of ourselves so that we may not boast. Just like the scriptures, faith is not a matter of one’s own opinion.

***

Now, if we accept that faith is not of ourselves, we who profess faith must also realize that we, ourselves, are not our own, either.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

77s – The 77’s – Bottom Line,   Uploaded to YouTube on Apr 6, 2008, posted by Neamberthal, Lyrics

Earn Your Place In Heaven?

Recently, two prominent personalities implied one could earn one’s way to heaven. I’ll let them say it in their own words. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is quoted as saying:

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to Heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed,” he told the New York Times, citing his work on gun control, obesity, and anti-smoking laws. “I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in Heaven. It’s not even close.”

On April 15, 2014, in a Back of Book Segment: Life After Death with guest Pastor Robert Jeffers, Bill O’Reilly opined:

“I’ve always felt there is a battle between good and evil and if there is a heaven you have to earn your way in through your actions on Earth.”

Pastor Jeffers corrected the statement by quoting from the book of James.

And, of course, for those who are old enough to remember or are well–schooled in the classics, there’s Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven:

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

These things they say make me wonder…

But then I remember that He saved us, not because of good works we have done, but according to His own mercy.

I recall that entrance to heaven depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Finally, I know that we were ransomed from our futile ways, not with perishable silver or gold, but with Christ’s precious blood.

And, lest we think these assurances are merely cherry picked scriptures, He states, through His prophet, in a single passage excerpted here:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The dead are incapable of earning anything. Only by His mercy does He raise us to life that we might repent of our pride and circumspectly follow Him. And only His way leads to life eternal.

Heaven’s Peak by Greg Willis

Heaven’s Peak by Greg Willis (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)