Question: Is faith a gift from God (Ephesians 2: 8), or is it a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5: 22)?
Answer: Ephesians 2: 8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Galatians 5: 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . faith.” Christian faith is a mental appreciation of, and a heart’s reliance upon God and Christ. This definition is based upon the Apostle Paul’s statement in Hebrews 11: 1: “Faith is the substance [confidence] of things hoped for [heart’s reliance], the evidence of things not seen [mental appreciation].” The Apostle here traces the matter in the reverse order of its development. Mental appreciation must be present as the foundation upon which the heart’s reliance is built as a superstructure. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Even before one comes to Him in justification and consecration he must “believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11: 6).
Some draw a wrong conclusion from Ephesians 2: 8, thinking that our faith is not our own faith, not of our own volition, but an impartation, a gift from God. Of course, in one sense every gift and blessing which we enjoy comes either directly or indirectly from God (James 1: 17). But the proper understanding of this passage is that it is of God’s grace and not of personal merit on our part that salvation is offered to us. Although salvation is offered to us as a reward of faith (including true faith’s obedience), yet we cannot even boast of our faith as though it merited the Lord’s favor, for our faith is something which is the indirect result of Divine providence. Millions of others in the world might exercise just as much faith as ourselves if they had been favored of God with as much light, intelligence and knowledge as a basis for faith.
Nevertheless, we have much to do with our own faith, and must exercise a certain amount of it even before we come to God through Christ and are accepted by Him on the basis of Jesus’ ransom merit. Otherwise, we could not become tentatively justified, which of course precedes consecration. Furthermore, the faith which will enable the consecrated ones to come off victors is not merely the natural faith with which they started, and which led them to tentative justification. It is a higher attainment of faith, the result of being taught of God through His Word, spirit and providences. In this sense faith is a fruit of the spirit. Thus depending upon the standpoint from which we view the matter, faith may be considered as either a gift from God or as a fruit of the spirit.