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02/07/2010 / Test All Things

Lesson 32 – Irresistible Grace

In the last few study sheets, we have considered the subject of “saving faith.” In this sheet we will conclude our study of this subject with some very sound comments from the book, Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Hoeksema.

“Faith is not another work on the part of man, by performing which he becomes worthy of salvation. All the work that makes us worthy of righteousness and eternal life and glory has been performed and completely finished by Christ Himself. This is true even of faith itself. Christ merited faith for us by His perfect obedience. Nor may we say that faith is a condition upon our fulfillment of which God is willing to give us the salvation merited by Christ for us. There are no conditions whatsoever unto salvation. It is free and sovereign.”

“The bond whereby we are united with Christ is faith. This faith we do not possess of ourselves. It is strictly a gift of God, wrought in us by the Spirit of Christ.”

“A distinction can be made between the essence and the operation, or between the potential and activity of saving faith. Faith is, first of all, a spiritual disposition, a power or aptitude to apprehend and appropriate Christ and all His benefits … It is the fitness to believe in distinction from the act itself. We may illustrate this by many natural examples. When a child is born, it has all the faculties and powers and gifts it will ever have, even though they do not as yet actively function … If later in life the child develops into a great mathematician or skillful musician, this mathematical bent of mind or artistic tendency was not added to the child’s talents after it was born; his talents were all given with birth. The same may be said of saving faith. As a spiritual ability, it is given with our spiritual birth, that is, in regeneration, while it develops into the conscious activity of believing through contact with the gospel applied to the heart by the Spirit of Christ. Without this spiritual ability it is impossible for a man to believe in Christ. If a child is born blind he cannot be taught to see. If he is born deaf, the activity of hearing will never develop. The same is true spiritually. By nature, the sinner is born blind and deaf and dumb with regard to spiritual things.”

“This ability of saving faith is, of course, the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is true that the power of faith becomes active belief only through the gospel.”

“We must also remark here that this ability or potential of faith is wrought in the heart immediately by the Spirit of Christ. The power of faith may be wrought in the heart of the smallest infant as well as in the heart of the adult.”

“This potential of faith can never be lost. The activity of saving faith may be very weak at times, may seem to have died out and disappeared, so that we seem to have no hold on Christ and the precious promises of Christ. But the power of faith, the potential of faith, can never be lost — Once a believer, always a believer.”

“Faith cannot be called a condition, a prerequisite, which man must fulfill in order to receive salvation and all the benefits of grace. Faith certainly is not a condition which man must fulfill in order to receive the gifts of grace. On the contrary, faith itself is one of the chief gifts of the grace of God to the sinner. One does not receive grace on condition that he first believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, he receives the gift of faith in order that he may now live from out of Christ. There are no conditions for salvation, simply because salvation is never dependent on anything in man. By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.–Eph. 2:8.”

“The real work of God is that we believe in Jesus Christ Whom God hath sent. (John 6:29) … Faith is God’s own work, the work of His free grace within us, the spiritual means of God, the spiritual dispositions whereby God ingrafts us into Christ through the Holy Spirit, and whereby He causes all the blessings of salvation to flow out of Christ to us-ward. It is the bond to Christ whereby our soul cleaves unto Him, lives out of Him, and receives and appropriates all His benefits.”

“Faith reveals itself as spiritual knowledge. Here a new knowledge is meant, which you did not possess as a sinner and of which you received the power in regeneration. The man that has this knowledge discerns spiritual things. The natural man does not see any of this, but the spiritual man that has the gift of faith discerns all things. On the other hand, if one is not born again he cannot even see the kingdom of God.”

“The knowledge of saving faith is spiritual. It is experiential. It is not a theoretical knowledge about God in Christ, but it is the knowledge of Him. There is a wide difference between knowing that thing or person … A dietitian may be able to analyze every item on a menu and inform you exactly as to the number and kinds of vitamins each offered dish contains, but if he has cancer of the stomach he cannot taste the food and enjoy it. On the other hand, the man with the hungry stomach may sit at the table with him, know absolutely nothing about the vitamins; but he will order his meal, relish his food, and appropriate it to himself in such a way that he is refreshed and strengthened.”

“So a man may be a keen theologian and though he gives a lecture on the Bread of Life, he does not hunger after it and cannot eat it — if he has not faith. On the other hand, a person may be far inferior to this able theologian in intellectual capacity, but if he possess the knowledge of saving faith he will be like the hungry man that relishes and digests his food. The knowledge of saving faith is the kind of knowledge spoken of in John 17:3: ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.'”


1. Is it possible for an infant to possess faith?

2. What effect does the gospel have upon one who has faith?

3. Explain how one may know a great deal about Christ and yet not know Him.

Memory Verse:

We have memorized Psalm 110:3; II Corinthians 4:6; John 5:25; John 3:8; John 6:37,44; I Peter 1:21.

Let us memorize John 6:29.

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