Our faith is one of the ways God works out his electing will in the world. God elects some for faith, as Paul concludes in Romans 9-11, to herald the work of Jesus Christ for all. Faith is where we see how Election and Vocation are bound together, and this is why, in his miniature summary of salvation in Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul stresses the giftedness of faith. The Holy Spirit’s principle work is to bestow faith on some. As Luther’s Shorter Catechism puts it: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” This isn’t to say we have no agency in our discipleship or that we’re completely passive objects of the doing of God. Rather it’s to recast faith less as a matter of our independent choosing and more a matter of God’s determined calling of witnesses.
Our faith is not what justifies and saves us. Christ has already finished that work for you: “The One has died for all, therefore all have died.” Your decision for Jesus does not effect anything that was not already true about you because of Christ’s work for you. Like Thomas at the end of John’s Gospel, faith instead names truthfully the reality that was already standing there in front of you.
Faith is a perception.
Faith is like Neo in the first Matrix film being roused awake to the shape of the real world, which I suppose makes Morpheus like the Holy Spirit.
Paul says in Colossians 3 that our lives are right now hidden with Christ in God, and by our Paul means everybody. Faith, then, is a waking to our true location. Unlike that awful tract illustration, the one where a crucifix bridges the chasm between God and humanity and faith is the means by which we cross it, faith is the recognition that we’ve all already been carried— like lost lambs— to the Father by our Good Shepherd.
This is usually where someone gripes, “Well, why bother believing if we’re all already hidden with Christ in God?” Such questions always remind of me of the Cypher character in the Matrix, who, knowing the truth about the matrix chooses to return to living in a world that’s a lie.
Jesus Christ is the true story of you and all of the world— why would you choose to live a lie?