The believer is joined to Christ, spirit to spirit. The believer is married to Christ in the body of the church, his bride. The bond is faith which is a response to the prior embrace of the Redeemer. He reveals himself and reaches out to the sinner who then takes hold of the One who enfolds him. It is a spiritual connection based on the promise of the word and the call of the Spirit. The link is mutual love. Jesus Christ is understood to be trustworthy and the believer becomes trusting. A real and living heartfelt rapport is established. There is a meeting of minds, a harmony of wills, where faith is accompanied by feeling, a keen sense of the relationship that grasps the objective fact, which in turn engenders the subjective enjoyment of his fellowship. The experience is best summed up as, “he in us and we in him’, a warm and intimate communion of persons, two entities in unity. This union with the divine was described by the puritans as, “closing with Christ”. This is to know him rather than to know of him. It springs from an encounter that becomes an enduring kinship and a permanent tie of association and access. Faith is the means of contact with this inestimable privilege – being joined to God in Christ. This is the goal of all gospel endeavour. But its realization is the work of God.
Faith is wrought through miracle and it is a gift of grace. It is a supernatural creation within the human soul, the first evidence of regeneration, and token of our election. It is not a phenomenon that can occur through the effort of man. It is given, and the concurrent and instantaneous cause of dependence upon Christ for salvation. The initiative is the Lord’s: the instinct to believe is the expression of the new nature of man. True faith in God is the precious donation of God himself, the result of his self-giving and gracious saving action. He works of his own sovereign will and we respond of our own renewed and liberated will. The wills coincide but God must first decide. His choice of us enables us to choose him. “You did not choose me but I chose you” (John 15:16) and, “Without me you can do nothing” (John15:5). All spiritual life, which begins with faith, and all fruitfulness proceeds from him. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63).
So faith is not fruit of the flesh. The capacity to believe is furnished by God. The gospel invites us all and it is our responsibility to obey God’s gracious command which man’s nature tends to reject, as Paul and Barnabas discovered in their preaching to the Jews. “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth,’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honoured the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13: 46-48).
This belief of the Gentiles is tantamount to deliverance from spiritual death and inertia (cf Lazarus-John 11:38-34). Hence Paul is able to declare, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ (shared life) . . . . For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast . . . . For we are his workmanship” (Ephesians 2:4-10). God remakes and renovates those who are going to be joined with Christ. We are made fit for the union. Grace effects the transformation and faith expresses the commencement of a new principle of life divinely bestowed. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4: 7).
Faith as a gift is echoed throughout the Pauline letters to the churches. It accompanies the movement of grace within the believer’s soul. “Peace to you brothers” Paul addresses the Ephesians, “and love with faith from God” (6:23). Faith towards God is coupled with the love of God towards fellow Christians. The donation of faith, that personal link with God, causes the disposition to love as God loves. In Romans 12:3 Paul exhorts his readers to humility and sobriety of judgment , “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you”. God not only determines to whom he shall grant faith but also in what measure. The exercise of sovereignty always precedes the recipience of his goodness. “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but to suffer for him” (Philippians 1: 29). Faith is a divine grant to us and believers are a grant to Christ, a reward for his obedience. “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” (John 17:2 cf Isaiah 53:10, “He will see his offspring”. Also see John 6: 39-40.
The evidence of the word of God and genuine experience of grace emphasises the truth that faith is not simply assent to historical fact and theological concepts. It is not to be merely conversant with the Christian faith but to possess communion with God through faith. Faith is action and not attitude alone. It leans toward God and reposes and relies upon him rather than learn of him without yielding to his authority and mercy. Saving trust is not a human talent. It occurs because of divine inducement and enabling.
Faith issues from the Lord’s strong grasp of us and its first stirring is to clasp the Saviour in return. It takes a hold on Jesus and clings to him to the end. It is a sovereign bestowal that is sustained by God unfailingly. What a prize!