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  • Writer's pictureWilson Lim

GRACE: FAITH & WORKS (Part 1) Faith As A Journey of Grace



There has been a lot of different ideas and confusion about the relationship between grace, faith and works.  The aim of this series is to clear up some key aspects so that we gain a clearer biblical picture about our faith journey.  Then we can discover the crucial connection between grace, faith and works.  In Part 1 and 2 we will focus on the role of grace and faith in relation to salvation.  In Part 3 we will wrap up by connecting grace, faith and works and conclude with some important practical applications.

 

FAITH AS A JOURNEY, NOT A GIFT

 

A segment of Christian believers has a theological viewpoint known as Calvinism. The Calvinist view salvation as totally all of God’s grace.  Many Calvinists view our human choice as having little or nothing active to do with salvation.  They reckon man is so utterly stuck in sin, so utterly depraved that is it impossible for man to choose to respond to God’s offer of salvation.  Not even exercise faith to accept God’s offer.  Just like a dead body cannot respond to food that is offered to them. 

 

So, in the Calvinist view God has to regenerate non-believers first.  Literally renew them first.  Then gift them faith to believe.  But this does not make sense. Neither biblically nor experientially.  It puts the horse before the cart.  Theological gymnastics is required to fit into their theological framework.  The Calvinist have developed complex arguments.  Very sophisticated arguments that seem very formidable.  But it can all be pulled down if we can see through the incorrect assumptions.


God’s truths tend to be elegant, beautiful and simple to understand.

 

I believe that truth is usually simpler to explain.  If it too complex or requires many “exceptions to the rule” - it is probably not correct.  God’s truths tend to be elegant, beautiful and simple to understand.


Why is this important?  An incorrect understanding of God’s grace and the role of faith will mess us up later on.  Especially in our journey as charismatics. For we believe in the importance of our active personal faith in appropriating the things of God, the authority and power that God has available for us.  The Calvinist idea of faith nullifies our responsibility.  Because if faith is a gift, then it cannot be a journey to grow in.


We have to take responsibility for the growth of our faith, the exercising of our faith.

 

We have to take responsibility for the growth of our faith, the exercising of our faith. Faith is about trust.  Trust grows especially as we make choices to deepen it.  If a stranger asks to borrow your car – would you lend it to them?  But if we gradually got to know the person.  Accept that they are who they say they are.  Accept they can drive well.   Accept they can take care of our car, etc etc.   Each step we had make a decision that we can trust in some area.  Until we finally trust the person enough to lend them our car!  The development of trust is a journey, so is our faith.

 

The Engel scale

 

The Engel scale assumes a gradual faith journey, due to our evolving perspectives and choices we make along the way.



Allow me to use my own experience to explain how the Engel scale described my faith journey.  My mother brought me to Sunday school when I was about 5 years old.  I was hovering around scale 2 to 4. At 7 or 8 years old, I quit Sunday school because I wanted to spend the Sunday morning reading comics in the newspapers!  Yup! Comics was more important than Jesus!

 

At 15-16, my interest in Jesus was sparked again.  I started dropping by church, attending religious classes to investigate.  I was hovering around 4 to 6 for a few years.  At 18, I went to Melbourne for university. I started attending church and Bible study regularly to seriously investigate about Jesus.   I moved from a 7 to 9 over a few months.  In that period, I had some faith in God.  I was even tentatively praying to God.  But I was not immediately ready to become a Christian yet.  


My faith journey does not match the theory that we get regenerated by God first then we are given faith.

 

Hence, my spiritual journey was gradual. Spanning many years as the Holy Spirit worked upon my heart.  My trust/faith in Him increased in spurts gradually.  So gradual, I do not have a clear moment or date in which I can say I repented and received Him as Saviour.  Partly because the church I was in rarely did salvation altar calls.  Just roughly mid-1983.  My faith journey does not match the theory that we get regenerated by God first then we are given faith.  Because it would mean that God basically switched something on in my heart and I would then trust in Jesus as my personal Saviour.

 

Let me use other examples. My mother had some faith in God before I led her to Christ in her 50s. She was praying to God every day for God’s blessings and protection upon her family decades before her conversion.  In fact, I believe that God heard her prayers and that partly accounted for our family serving God today.

 

John Wesley had some faith in God before he was saved.  In fact, he even went to America as a missionary before he was actually saved after encountering the Moravians.  He had some faith in God, just not the faith that trusted in Jesus Christ to be his personal Lord and Saviour.  One of key reasons why he never embraced Calvinism was because of his own faith journey.  Wesley embraced Arminianism although his stance is known as Wesleyan Arminianism due to his particular emphasis.


This gradual process of a growing exercise of faith points to a faith journey first, followed by salvation process.

 

Many of you came to Christ gradually over an extended period, like me.  Perhaps you trusted in Jesus a little here and there.  Finally, choosing to trust in Jesus to be your Saviour.  This gradual process of a growing exercise of faith points to a faith journey first, followed by salvation process.  Not the Calvinist way.  This explains why some struggle with doubts for a while even after they made a decision to trust in Jesus.  If faith was only given by God – we should not have such issues.  Why would God give us a weak, wavering faith like the book of James talks about?  That is why mentoring is crucial to help guide these budding believers to fully step across the line.  To help them work through the doubts, the struggles, the adjustments.  

 

Some of us came to Christ because something clicked in your hearts and minds.  You knew then that you needed Christ and turned to Him in just a moment.  In such situations it may seem possible that regeneration could have occurred before faith!  In reality, you had a compressed timeline along the Engel scale.  You moved from say a 6 to 10 within a day or less.  You quickly made a decision. 

 

Not me.  I am the typical scientific researcher type. Investigate. Check the facts.  Consider carefully, etc etc. So when I became a Christian, I had little doubts.  Because I worked through those questions before I accepted Christ.  Some of you accepted Christ, then you had to work through the questions and doubts.  Neither way is right or better.  That is just the route we took.  My encouragement is simply this.  Make the journey.  Don’t waste time.

 

CONCLUSIONS


A majority of people had a faith journey usually extending over years before coming to Christ.  This debunks the Calvinist view.

We argued through analysing our experiences that a majority of people had a faith journey usually extending over years before coming to Christ.  This debunks the Calvinist view that faith is only possible purely by the grace of God.  Where God in His irresistible grace, regenerates us in order that we can now have saving faith, a faith given by God alone.  For many, the Engel scale effectively describes many aspects of our typical faith journey.  

 

In Part 2, we will examine the biblical basis for salvation by grace alone and clarify the role of faith and works.


 

Copyright©️2024 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.

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