- Conference Media
- New City Catechism
- Read the Bible
All the gifts we receive from Christ we receive through the Holy Spirit, including faith itself.
From the Holy Spirit.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteous- ness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
We must realize that Christianity is the easiest religion in the world, because it is the only religion in which God the Father and Christ and the Holy Spirit do everything. God is the Creator; we have nothing to do with our existence, or the existence of other things. We can shape other things, but we cannot change the fact of existence. We do nothing for our salvation because Christ did it all. We do not have to do anything. In every other religion we have to do something . . . but with Christianity we do not do anything; God has done it all: He has created us and He has sent His Son; His Son died and because the Son is infinite, therefore he bears our total guilt. We do not need to bear our guilt, nor do we even have to merit the merit of Christ. He does it all. So in one way it is the easiest religion in the world.
This question deals with how believers come to faith and so receive the salvation purchased by Christ. It’s a question best asked in retrospect, as we look back over our lives and ask, “How did I, a fallen sinner, come to love Jesus and believe his gospel where so many others have not?”
In order to understand the magnitude of this, you have to under- stand that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18). Although we can intellectually comprehend the facts of the gospel, apart from the gracious intervention of God, we would reject it as folly. But the catechism reminds us that God does intervene. The Holy Spirit gives new life to sinners who were otherwise “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). As the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts so that we embrace the risen and reigning Christ as he presents himself through the gospel. Even faith (our obedient response to the gospel) is a gracious gift of God. This amazing truth has huge implications for how we view our salvation, the Christian life, and worship.
First, it confirms that our salvation is truly all of grace. None of us can boast that we’re saved because we made the most of the salvation offered to us. We certainly aren’t saved because we had enough moral and spiritual sense in and of ourselves to believe the gospel or because we were catechized so well (although that is important). No, we are saved only because, in his divine compassion, the risen Christ gave us the spiritual sight to believe the gospel. By his Holy Spirit, Jesus tilled the rocky soil of our hearts so that as the seed of the gospel was sown, it would bring forth the fruit of faith and repentance. If we believe the gospel, we should praise God for giving us the grace to believe it, for he is the only One who made the difference for us. Therefore, the Christian life must be marked by gratitude and humility. In and of ourselves, we are no better than our non-Christian neighbors. The only difference is that something (or, rather, someone) absolutely wonderful has come into our lives and changed everything.
Finally, knowing that our faith is a gift of God changes how we view public worship, particularly the preaching of the gospel. Through gospel proclamation, the risen Christ presents himself in saving power and transforms people for eternity. Eternal life does not begin when Christ returns; eternal life begins today as the Holy Spirit brings that life to us through the gospel, the power of God unto salvation. As we sit in our pews hearing the gospel, we are not just listening to a religious lecture. The greatest power in all the world is at work bringing new life to sinners. Heaven is coming to earth, a glorious “not yet” is breaking into the “here and now.” Public worship is the center of God’s redemptive action until Christ’s return when the world will behold him. Until that time, we behold him by faith, week by week, as we gather together in his name to worship him and hear his Word. And by the Holy Spirit, we are progressively being transformed in a way that will last for eternity.
Holy Spirit, you sought us when we could not seek you because we were dead in our trespasses and sins. You are the giver of our faith; none of us would believe apart from your regenerating grace, by which you make hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Let us put aside all boasting in light of your undeserved mercy. Amen.