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"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Romans 3:10-11) If this is true, which I wholeheartedly believe is true; a natural unregenerate does not comprehend or care about spiritual matters. The spiritually dead has to be made spiritually alive in order to comprehend spiritual things and desire God. Scripture uses the word quicken, quickeneth, quickened, I.e. to "impart life" (John 5:21; 6:63; Romans 4:17; 1Timothy 6:13; Ephesians 2:1,5; 1 Peter 3:18). My opinion is that one will believe after being quickened and cannot believe before hand. Grace is the gift spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9, faith is the result of the individual's eyes being opened to the truth. After experiencing salvation/becoming born again I believe faith is progressive. (2 Thessalonians 1:3; Jude 1:20)
Faith itself (in any degree) is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as Paul noted in Ephesians 2:8-9. As a gift, the initial endowment of faith is a one-time event. However, those to whom that faith has been given are also then intended and expected by God to continually grow and mature in their faith through obedience to God (in gratitude for the grace and mercy He has shown in having saved them); and through progressively greater understanding of God and of His will through study of His Word (the Bible), and by communing with Him in prayer. In that respect, faith is also a process. (This maturing process is evident in passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and Hebrews 5:11-14.)
For by grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. Faith is not a work. Faith is what we believe. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life. Eternal life is the GIFT when we believe. Over 90 times the book of John says to believe to be saved. What is faith? John 11:25-26. Jesus saith unto her. I am the resurrection, and the life; He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, hall never die. Believest thou this? John 3:18 He that BELIEVETH on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not, is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only Begotten Son off God The gospel. First Corinthians 15:1-4 That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that He was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures. Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also, AFTER ye BELIEVED, ye were sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise. Born of God, Born again. John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that BELIEVE, on His name. First John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that BELIEVE on the name of the Son of God, that YE MAY KNOW YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent me, that all that seeth the Son, and BELIEVETH on Him, may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and BELIEVETH on Him that sent me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, and shall not come into judgement, but is passed from death unto life. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in Him, should not perish, but HAVE EVERLASING LIFE. John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that BELIEVETH on me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE. John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifed up, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life. Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by FAITH, and not by the deeds of the law. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that BELIEVETH, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Acts 16:31 And they said, BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house. Faith comes from hearing, hearing by the word of God. Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but BELIEVETH on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness. Faith, believe, trust are all used together as something that has to come from us. We are justified by faith. We all deserve to go to hell. We all sin. But Jesus took the punishment for our sins, so that we would not have to go to hell to pay for them. First John 2:2 And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. But only those who BELIEVE IT are saved.
I believe it is both a gift and a process. Rom.10:17 shows it is a process, so does Heb.11:6. But then if you really break down Eph. 2:8 you can begin to see it is also a gift. Man doesn't have the faith to be saved, saving faith is a gift from God. The man in Mk. 9:24 said, "I believe, help thou mine unbelief". That is exactly where I was before salvation. I believed, I believed all the Sunday school lessons with all the Bible characters, I believed the Biblical teachings of my parents, and Pastor. See I believed all my life (or I had faith) but I wasn't saved. What I had was an historical faith, but I needed more. Since my faith which grew did not save me, then what more could I need? I needed a saving faith which is nothing more or less than the faith of Jesus Christ. This is found in many verses, here's a few: Rom.3:22 Gal.2:16 Gal.3:22. I guess we could say, my faith in Jesus Christ is quite the process, but the faith "of" Jesus Christ is purely a gift from God (and "that" not of yourselves). It's not my faith that finished the work on Calvary but it was his, and he had to give that faith to me for me to be saved. Now that I am saved, I read my bible, I hear bible teaching and preaching and my faith grows stronger and stronger. What kind of faith did Jesus have? Ps.16, & Acts 2 tell us that while his soul was in Hell he awaited for the great gulf to be crossed and he believed he would be brought through many waters, and he was 100% spot on. Folks, I am that saved today by his faith. It is a faith that gives a salvation without wrath and contrary to most its without doubting!
There is a problem inherent in your question that is common throughout nearly all Christian theology, and that is over-simplification and dualism. Much truth is hidden from us by these problems, which unfortunately are frequently taught from the pulpits. Dualism is the attempt to say something is either/or when the actual truth is most often that the two "options" are simply two facets of a many faced gem. If we claim that one or the other must be true and anything else is false we dismiss not only the truth of the other option, but also the truth contained in every other facet of the matter being studied, and I see this problem all the time. Faith is a gift, and that is usually the only answer I get when I try to nail down the simplistic as to what faith is. That only tells us how it is received, not what it is, and the failure to properly define it entirely invalidates the gift because the recipient cannot tell if what he has been given is faith or not. There is one text in Paul's writings that would seem to indicate that faith is a process. That text is Rom 1:17 which speaks of moving from faith to faith. This indicates there are at least two levels of faith, thus that there is a process in learning and growing in faith. I have spent much time studying processes in scripture and know beyond any shadow of a doubt there is a process to salvation, something that is regularly rejected by many on this forum, who go back to the overly simplistic answers without ever looking at the texts I provide. I do not teach salvation by works as they claim, but we are told, "By their fruits you will know them," (Mt 7:16, 20; Mt 12:33, Lk 6:44). This implies work, but the works of the flesh will never provide fruits of the spirit. It is only the work of the spirit within us THROUGH FAITH that produces works of God through us. Our good works are caused by the salvation of God within us, they do not save us, but they do show whether the spirit of God is in us at some level. I have never found in scripture a clear process of learning faith, but I have found three very clear levels of faith and some indications of how we move from faith to faith. These levels are shown in several prophecies, but the two clearest are the doves released by Noah, and the three major feasts of Israel. The first level of faith is represented by Passover and the first dove. That dove flew over the waters and could not find a place to rest its foot. IN Passover God could not indwell his people so he had to place his spirit (shekainah) inside a room in an external temple. This temple itself demonstrates these three levels of faith as well, and Passover is the outer court. This level of faith begins the salvation process and it is at this level that God declares us righteous, calling what is not (our righteousness) as though it were (Rom 4:17) because he covers us with his own righteousness. The next level of faith is the Pentecostal level. The dove returned to Noah with an olive leaf, proving it found a place to rest, and at the second Pentecost the tongues of fire came down and entered the 120 in the upper room. At the first Pentecost the people refused to enter the fire and only Moses went into the darkness where God was (Ex 20:20, 21). These people only had a Passover level of faith and could not tolerate the presence and the word of God. They refused to allow God to speak to them directly and required a prophet (Dt 18:15-22). Pentecost is characterized by the law and learning obedience. Even Jesus had to learn such obedience (Heb 5:8) and only by learning this obedience ourselves can we move into the final level of fath/salvation, which is the Glorified body (Tabernacle -- 2 Cor 5:1-10). At this point the dove went out into the world to do God's work, and never returned. The doves of Lev 14 also show this as does the scapegoat in Lev 16, which removes the sin of the world.
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