Summary of Book 2:
In Book 2 of Institutes, John Calvin delves into the knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, focusing on the doctrine of salvation and the role of Jesus Christ in the redemption of humanity. He begins by discussing the fall of man and the concept of original sin, emphasizing the necessity of a redeemer to restore humanity's relationship with God. Calvin then examines the role of the Law in revealing human sinfulness and the need for salvation, asserting that the Law serves as a guide to show people their inability to achieve righteousness on their own and their need for a savior.
Throughout the book, Calvin explores the various roles of Christ as Prophet, King, and Priest, highlighting the significance of His death, resurrection, and ascension in securing salvation for humanity. He emphasizes that Christ's work as the mediator between God and humanity has earned grace and salvation for believers. Furthermore, Calvin discusses the importance of faith in Christ, asserting that it is through faith alone that individuals can receive the benefits of Christ's redemptive work.
Institutes of the Christian Religion: Book 2
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The two previous books discussed God as the Creator and Redeemer. This book, which offers a complete explanation of the third part of the Apostles' Creed, addresses the process of obtaining Christ's grace, the benefits we gain from it, and the resulting effects, or the workings of the Holy Spirit concerning our salvation.
The subject is organized under seven main topics, which mostly point to the same goal: the doctrine of faith.
1. The first chapter discusses the secret and unique operation of the Holy Spirit, through which we enjoy Christ and all his benefits. This operation forms the foundation of faith, new life, and all sacred practices.
2. The second chapter fully examines faith, which is like the hand that embraces Christ the Redeemer, offered to us by the Holy Spirit.
3. To further explain saving faith and its benefits, it is noted that true repentance always stems from true faith. The doctrine of repentance is generally discussed in the third chapter, with chapters four and five covering Popish repentance, indulgences, and purgatory. Chapters six to ten focus on the different aspects of true repentance, such as mortification of the flesh and the quickening of the spirit.
4. The eleventh chapter explains the doctrine of justification by faith to better demonstrate its usefulness and resulting effects. Chapters twelve to eighteen address related questions, while the nineteenth chapter considers Christian liberty as a kind of supplement to justification.
5. The twentieth chapter is dedicated to prayer, the primary exercise of faith and the means through which we obtain daily blessings from God.
6. Chapters twenty-one to twenty-four discuss the subject of election, as not everyone indiscriminately accepts the fellowship of Christ offered in the Gospel, but only those whom the Lord blesses with the effective and special grace of his Spirit.
7. Finally, the twenty-fifth chapter examines the topic of resurrection, as the difficult battle that Christians must constantly fight can be eased by contemplating the final resurrection.
Chapter 1: The Benefits of Christ Made Accessible to Us Through the Hidden Workings of the Spirit
1. We must now understand how we can receive the blessings that God has given to His only Son, not for personal use, but to enrich those who are poor and needy. The first thing we need to realize is that as long as we are without Christ and separated from Him, nothing He suffered and did for the salvation of humanity benefits us. To share with us the blessings He received from the Father, He must become ours and live within us. That's why He is called our Head and the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. On the other hand, we are said to be connected to Him and clothed with Him. All that He possesses is, as I mentioned, useless to us until we become one with Him. Although it's true that we achieve this unity through faith, not everyone embraces the offer of Christ made by the gospel. This leads us to look deeper and examine the hidden power of the Spirit, which allows us to enjoy Christ and all His blessings. I have already discussed the eternal nature and divinity of the Spirit (Book 1, chapter 13, sections 14-15); let's now focus on the specific point that Christ came by water and blood, as the Spirit testifies about Him, so that we don't lose the benefits of the salvation He has purchased. Just as there are said to be three witnesses in heaven - the Father, the Word, and the Spirit - there are also three on earth: water, blood, and Spirit. The testimony of the Spirit is mentioned twice for a reason, as it is engraved on our hearts like a seal, confirming Christ's cleansing and sacrifice. This is also why Peter says that believers are "chosen" "through the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood" (1 Peter 1:2). Peter's words remind us that for the shedding of Christ's sacred blood to have meaning, our souls must be washed in it by the hidden cleansing of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Paul, when talking about cleansing and purification, says, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). The main point is that the Holy Spirit is the bond through which Christ effectively connects us to Himself. Here, we can refer to what was said in the last Book about His anointing.
2. To better understand this crucial topic, we must remember that Christ came with the Holy Spirit in a unique way, specifically to separate us from the world and unite us in the hope of eternal life. This is why the Spirit is called the Spirit of sanctification, as it enlivens and nurtures us, not just through the general energy seen in humans and other animals, but as the source of heavenly life within us. The prophets highly praise the kingdom of Christ, stating that under it, the Spirit would be poured out more abundantly. One notable passage is from Joel, "It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh" (Joel 2:28). Although the prophet seems to limit the Spirit's gifts to prophesying, he implies that God will enlighten his followers with the Spirit's illumination, even those previously unaware of heavenly teachings. Since God gives us the Holy Spirit for the sake of his Son and has placed the Spirit's fullness within the Son to distribute his generosity, the Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of the Father and other times the Spirit of the Son. As Romans 8:9 states, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his." This encourages us to hope for complete renewal: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11). There is no inconsistency in attributing the glory of these gifts to the Father, as he is their origin, while also attributing them to Christ, who bestows them upon his people. This is why Christ invites all who are thirsty to come to him and drink (John 7:37). Paul teaches that "to each one of us, grace is given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4:7). We must also remember that the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ, not only because the eternal Word of God is united with the Father and the Spirit, but also in relation to his role as Mediator. If Christ had not been empowered by the Spirit, his coming to us would have been in vain. In this sense, he is called the "last Adam" and said to have been sent from heaven as a "life-giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45). Here, Paul contrasts the unique life that Christ breathes into his people, making them one with him, with the ordinary life shared by even the reprobate. Similarly, when Paul prays for believers to have "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God," he also includes "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit," without which no one will ever experience God's fatherly love or the benefits of Christ. In another passage, he says, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5).
3. Here, it is important to highlight the titles that Scripture gives to the Spirit when discussing the beginning and complete renewal of our salvation. First, the Spirit is called the "Spirit of adoption" because it testifies to the unconditional love with which God the Father has embraced us through his beloved and only Son, making us his children and allowing us to confidently approach him. In fact, the Spirit even guides our words so that we can boldly say, "Abba, Father." For this reason, the Spirit is said to have "sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." This means that, as travelers in this world and in a way, as people who are spiritually dead, the Spirit revives us from above and assures us that our salvation is secure in the hands of a faithful God. This is why the Spirit is also referred to as "life because of righteousness." Since it is the Spirit's hidden work that allows us to grow and produce the fruits of righteousness, it is often described as water. For example, in Isaiah, it says, "Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters." And again, "I will pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground." This idea is echoed in the words of our Savior, which I mentioned earlier, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." Sometimes, the Spirit is given this name because of its power to cleanse and purify, as in Ezekiel, where the Lord promises, "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean." As those who are touched by the Spirit regain their full strength and life, it is also called "Oil" and "Unction." On the other hand, since the Spirit is constantly working to conquer and destroy our sinful desires and to fill our hearts with love for God and devotion, it is also called Fire. In the end, the Spirit is described as a Fountain from which all heavenly riches flow to us, or as the Hand through which God exercises his power. This is because, through the Spirit's divine inspiration, it breathes divine life into us, so that we are no longer controlled by ourselves but by the Spirit's guidance and action. This means that everything good in us is the result of the Spirit's grace, while our own abilities without the Spirit are just darkness of mind and a twisted heart. It has already been clearly shown that until our minds focus on the Spirit, Christ is, in a way, unused because we see him coldly outside of ourselves and far away from us. Now we know that Christ is only helpful to those who consider him as their head and the first-born among the brethren, and to those who are clothed with him. This union is the only reason why, for us, the Savior has not come in vain. This sacred marriage, in which we become one with Christ (Eph. 5:30), is achieved only through the Spirit. It is by the same grace and power of the Spirit that we become members of Christ, so that he keeps us under him, and we, in turn, possess him.
4. But faith is mainly God's work, and all those passages that talk about His power and actions are mostly related to faith. This is because it's through faith that God brings us to the light of the Gospel. As John teaches, those who believe in Christ are given the privilege "to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name, which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12). By contrasting God with flesh and blood, John shows that it's a supernatural gift for those who would otherwise remain unbelievers to receive Christ through faith. This is similar to what Jesus said to Peter, "Flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17). I'm only mentioning these things briefly now, as I've discussed them in detail elsewhere. In the same way, Paul tells the Ephesians, "You were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13), indicating that the Holy Spirit is the inner teacher who helps the promise of salvation penetrate our minds. Similarly, he tells the Thessalonians, "God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13), briefly reminding us that faith itself is produced only by the Spirit. John explains this more clearly, "We know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us;" and again, "Hereby know we that we dwell in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit" (1 John 3:24; 4:13). To help his disciples understand heavenly wisdom, Christ promised them "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:17). He assigns the Spirit the task of reminding them of what he had taught verbally. The Spirit of understanding opens the intellectual eye, so it's like a key that unlocks the treasures of the heavenly kingdom and the eye of the mind that enables us to see. That's why Paul highly praises the ministry of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), because teachers would be shouting in vain if Christ, the internal teacher, didn't use his Spirit to draw those given to him by the Father. So, as we've said that salvation is completed in the person of Christ, he baptizes us "with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16) to make us partakers of it. He enlightens us in the faith of his Gospel and regenerates us to be new creatures. Once we're cleansed from all impurities, he dedicates us as holy temples to the Lord.
Chapter 2: On Faith: Its Definition and Unique Characteristics
1. All these things will be easily understood after we have given a clearer definition of faith, so as to enable readers to grasp its nature and power. It is important to remember what was previously taught: first, that since God prescribes what we ought to do through his Law, failing in any aspect subjects us to the terrible judgment of eternal death, which the Law warns against. Secondly, because it is not only difficult but completely beyond our strength and ability to fulfill the demands of the Law, if we only look to ourselves and consider what we deserve, no hope remains, and we are left abandoned by God under eternal death. Thirdly, there is only one method of deliverance that can save us from this terrible fate - when Christ the Redeemer appears, through whom our heavenly Father, out of his infinite goodness and mercy, has chosen to help us, if we truly embrace this mercy with faith and firmly rely on it. Now it is important to consider the nature of this faith, through which those who are adopted into God's family can enter the heavenly kingdom. To achieve such a great goal, it is clear that no mere opinion or persuasion is enough. And even more care and diligence is needed in discussing the true nature of faith, as many people today are misled by harmful misconceptions. Many people, when they hear the term faith, think it means nothing more than a general agreement with the Gospel story. Moreover, when faith is discussed in religious teachings, by simply presenting God as its object, they lead souls astray with empty speculation instead of guiding them to the right path. This is because God dwells in an inaccessible light, and Christ must intervene. That's why Christ calls himself "the light of the world" and also "the way, the truth, and the life." No one can come to the Father (who is the source of life) except through Christ, for "no one knows who the Father is except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." For this reason, Paul says, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." In Acts 20, he states that he preached "faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," and in another passage, he quotes Christ as saying to him, "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and as a witness... to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Paul also says that in Christ, the glory of God is visibly revealed to us, or in other words, we have "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It is true that faith is directed towards God alone, but we must also acknowledge Jesus Christ, whom he has sent. God would remain distant and hidden from us if we were not enlightened by the brightness of Christ. The Father entrusted everything to his only begotten Son so that he might reveal himself through Christ and, by sharing his blessings, display the true image of his glory. As mentioned earlier, we must be guided by the Spirit to seek Christ, and we must also remember that the invisible Father can only be found in this image. For this reason, Augustine, when discussing the object of faith, says, "The thing to be known is where we are to go and by what way," and immediately adds that "the surest way to avoid all errors is to know him who is both God and man. It is to God we tend, and it is by man we go, and both of these are found only in Christ." Paul, when he preaches faith towards God, certainly does not intend to undermine what he often emphasizes - that faith has all its stability in Christ. Peter aptly connects both, saying that through Christ "we believe in God" (1 Peter 1:21).
2. This problem, like countless others, can be attributed to the Schoolmen, who have somewhat obscured Christ. If our focus is not directly on Christ, we will inevitably get lost in numerous complexities. In addition to making faith unclear and nearly nonexistent with their vague definitions, they have created the concept of implicit faith. By labeling profound ignorance as implicit faith, they deceive the unfortunate masses, leading to their destruction. To put it more bluntly, this idea not only hides true faith but completely eradicates it. Is it faith to understand nothing and simply submit your beliefs to the Church without question? Faith is not based on ignorance, but on knowledge – not just knowledge of God, but of His divine will. We don't achieve salvation by blindly accepting everything the Church says as truth or by leaving the responsibility of inquiry and decision-making to the Church. Instead, we attain salvation when we recognize God as a merciful Father through Christ's reconciliation and accept Christ as our source of righteousness, sanctification, and life. It is through this knowledge, not the submission of our understanding, that we gain entry into the kingdom of heaven. The Apostle Paul, when he says, "With the heart, man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10), implies that it is not enough to have implicit faith without understanding or even questioning. What is required is an explicit acknowledgment of God's goodness, which is the foundation of our righteousness.
3. I won't deny that there are many things we don't understand and won't fully comprehend until we leave our mortal bodies and come closer to God's presence. In such situations, it's best to withhold judgment and strive to maintain unity with the Church. However, it's ridiculous to label ignorance mixed with humility as faith. Faith is about knowing God and Christ (John 17:3), not just showing reverence for the Church. Some people have created a confusing maze out of this so-called "implicit faith," blindly accepting all sorts of ideas, even outrageous errors, as long as they are presented in the name of the Church. This unquestioning acceptance, which can lead to disaster, is justified by the claim that nothing is believed definitively, but only with the added condition that it aligns with the Church's faith. This way, they claim to find truth in falsehood, light in darkness, and genuine knowledge in ignorance. Instead of spending more time refuting these ideas, I suggest that the reader compare them with our perspective. The clarity of truth will provide a sufficient rebuttal. The issue they raise is not whether faith can coexist with some remaining ignorance, but rather they argue that people can genuinely believe while living in and even embracing profound ignorance, as long as they submit to the authority and judgment of the Church regarding unknown matters. This completely disregards the consistent message of Scripture, which teaches that understanding goes hand in hand with faith.
4. Indeed, we acknowledge that as long as we are on this earth, our faith is not complete. This is because many things remain hidden from us, and we are often clouded by misconceptions and errors. Even the wisest person, who has achieved great spiritual growth, must continue to move forward and strive for further progress with a humble and teachable attitude. This is why Paul encourages believers to be open to further understanding when they disagree on certain matters (Philippians 3:15). Our experiences show that as long as we are in this physical body, our spiritual growth is not as complete as we would like it to be. When we read the Bible daily, we come across many unclear passages that reveal our lack of understanding. God uses this to keep us humble, giving each person a certain level of faith so that even the best teachers are always willing to learn. We can see examples of this incomplete faith in the disciples of Jesus before they were fully enlightened. They struggled to grasp even the most basic teachings, hesitated over small details, and made little progress despite being in the presence of their Master. Even when they heard about Jesus' resurrection, it seemed like a dream to them. Although Jesus had previously acknowledged their faith, we cannot say that they were entirely without it. In fact, if they had not believed that Jesus would rise again, their enthusiasm would have faded. The women who prepared spices to anoint Jesus' body were not acting out of superstition, but out of faith in Jesus' words. However, their faith was still clouded by ignorance, leaving them in a state of shock and confusion. They are said to have truly believed only when they experienced the reality of Jesus' resurrection, which allowed the seed of hidden faith within their hearts to grow and flourish. Thus, they had a genuine but incomplete faith, having accepted Jesus as their only teacher. Through his teachings, they became confident that he was the source of salvation and that he had come from heaven to gather disciples and lead them to the Father's grace. This shows that faith is always a mix of belief and doubt in everyone.
5. We can also refer to their faith as implicit, meaning it is more of a preparation for faith. The Gospel writers often describe people as believers even if they were only amazed by the miracles and believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, without fully understanding his teachings. The respect they showed and their willingness to follow Jesus is considered faith, even if it was just the beginning of their faith journey. For example, the nobleman who believed in the healing of his son is said to have believed again when he returned home (John 4:53). He first accepted Jesus' words as a divine message and then submitted to his authority and teachings. Although he was open to learning, the term "believed" in the first instance refers to a specific faith, while in the second instance, it places him among the disciples who were devoted to Jesus. A similar example is found in the story of the Samaritans who believed the woman and eagerly went to Jesus. After hearing him, they said, "Now we believe, not because of your words, but because we have heard him ourselves and know that he is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world" (John 4:42). These examples show that even those who haven't fully grasped the core teachings can still be called believers if they are willing to obey and learn. However, this willingness to learn and desire for progress is very different from the willful ignorance of those who are satisfied with the so-called implicit faith of the Catholic Church. If Paul strongly criticizes those who are "always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," then those who openly choose to know nothing should be rebuked even more harshly.
6. True knowledge of Christ involves accepting Him as presented by the Father, which is through His Gospel. Christ is the goal of our faith, and we can only move towards Him with the guidance of the Gospel. The Gospel reveals the treasures of grace to us, and without it, Christ would not benefit us much. This is why Paul emphasizes the importance of faith and doctrine, saying, "You have not so learned Christ; if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Ephesians 4:20-21). Although I don't limit faith to the Gospel, as Moses and the Prophets also provide a foundation for faith, the Gospel offers a fuller revelation of Christ. Paul refers to the Gospel as the doctrine of faith (1 Timothy 4:6) and states that the Law was abolished with the arrival of faith (Romans 10:4). This new teaching method allowed Christ to better illustrate the Father's mercy and confirm our salvation. To better understand this, let's look at the relationship between faith and the word. Faith and the word are inseparable, like rays of light from the sun. In Isaiah, the Lord says, "Hear, and your soul shall live" (Isaiah 4:3), and John writes, "These are written that you may believe" (John 20:31). The Psalmist also encourages faith by saying, "Today, if you will hear His voice" (Psalm 95:7), with "hear" meaning "believe." In Isaiah, the Lord identifies the members of the Church by saying, "All your children shall be taught by the Lord" (Isaiah 54:13). The Evangelists often use the terms "believers" and "disciples" interchangeably, as seen in Luke's Acts. If faith deviates from its intended target, it loses its nature and becomes uncertain and aimless. The word is the foundation upon which faith rests and is sustained; without it, faith cannot exist. We are not discussing whether human ministry is necessary to spread the word of God that generates faith; rather, we are saying that the word itself, regardless of how it reaches us, is like a mirror in which faith sees God. Whether God uses human agents or works directly through His power, He always reveals Himself through His word to those He wants to draw to Himself. Paul refers to faith as the obedience given to the Gospel (Romans 1:5) and praises the Philippians for their obedience of faith (Philippians 2:17). Faith involves not only knowing that God exists but also understanding His will for us. It is essential to know not only what God is in Himself but also how He chooses to reveal Himself to us. Faith, therefore, is the knowledge of God's will for us as determined by His word. The foundation of faith is the conviction of God's truth. It is not enough to believe that God is truthful and cannot lie or deceive; you must also be firmly convinced that every word from Him is sacred and inviolable truth.
7. However, since not every word of God brings a person's heart to faith, we must consider what faith specifically focuses on in the word. God's declaration to Adam was, "You shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17), and to Cain, "The voice of your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10). These statements do not encourage faith but rather shake it. We don't deny that faith's role is to agree with God's truth whenever and however He speaks; we are only asking what faith can find in God's word to rely on and rest upon. When our conscience sees only anger and judgment, how can it not tremble and be afraid? And how can it avoid avoiding the God it fears? But faith should seek God, not avoid Him. It's clear, then, that we haven't yet fully defined faith, as not every kind of knowledge of God's will can be called faith. Shall we replace "will," which often brings bad news and fear, with God's kindness or mercy? In doing so, we undoubtedly come closer to the nature of faith. We are drawn to seek God when we hear that our safety lies in Him, and we are reassured when He says He cares about our well-being. Therefore, we need a gracious promise in which He shows Himself to be a loving Father, as there is no other way for us to approach Him. The promise is the only thing that the human heart can rest upon. For this reason, mercy and truth are always linked together in the Psalms, as they are closely related. It would be useless for us to know that God is true if He didn't kindly draw us to Himself, and we couldn't embrace His mercy if He didn't explicitly offer it. "I have proclaimed your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not hidden your kindness and your truth. Do not withhold your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let your kindness and your truth continually preserve me" (Psalm 40:10-11). "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds" (Psalm 36:5). "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies" (Psalm 25:10). "His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endures forever" (Psalm 117:2). "I will praise your name for your kindness and your truth" (Psalm 138:2). We don't need to mention what the Prophets say about God being merciful and faithful in His promises. It would be presumptuous for us to believe that God is favorable to us if we didn't have His testimony and if He didn't assure us with His invitation, leaving no doubt or uncertainty about His will. We've already seen that Christ is the only guarantee of love, as without Him, everything above and below speaks of hatred and wrath. We've also seen that the knowledge of God's goodness isn't very useful unless it leads us to trust in it, so we must exclude any knowledge mixed with doubt—a knowledge that is far from firm and constantly wavering. But the human mind, when blinded and darkened, is far from being able to understand God's will properly, and the heart, always wavering with doubt, cannot find security in such knowledge. Therefore, for God's word to be fully believed, the mind must be enlightened and the heart confirmed from another source. We will have a complete definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and certain knowledge of God's favor towards us, based on the truth of a free promise in Christ, revealed to our minds and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
8. But before I go further, I need to make some preliminary observations to clear up any potential difficulties for the reader. First, I must refute the pointless distinction made by the Schoolmen between "formed" and "unformed faith." They believe that people who have no fear of God and no sense of piety can still believe everything necessary for salvation, as if the Holy Spirit doesn't witness our adoption by enlightening our hearts with faith. Despite the entire Scripture being against them, they still insist on calling a belief without the fear of God "faith." To refute their definition, we only need to look at the nature of faith as described in the Word of God. This will clearly show how poorly and absurdly they talk about this subject. I have already done this in part and will add the rest later in the appropriate place. For now, I say that nothing could be more absurd than their idea. They claim that faith is an agreement that even someone who despises God can accept as delivered by Scripture. But first, we must see if anyone can obtain faith by their own strength, or if the Holy Spirit, through faith, becomes the witness of adoption. Their childish debates about whether faith formed by love is the same or a different, new faith show that they have never considered the special gift of the Spirit. One of the first aspects of faith is reconciliation, which implies drawing near to God. If they truly considered Paul's words, "With the heart, man believes unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10), they would stop dreaming of that cold quality. One thing should end this debate: assent itself (as I have already mentioned and will explain further later) is more a matter of the heart than the mind, more about affection than intellect. For this reason, it is called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5), which the Lord values above all other service, and rightly so, since nothing is more precious to Him than His truth. As John the Baptist says, this truth is, in a way, signed and sealed by believers (John 3:33). There can be no doubt about this, so we can conclude that their claim that faith is formed by adding pious affection to assent is absurd. Assent itself, at least as described in the Scriptures, consists of pious affection. We have an even clearer argument: faith embraces Christ as offered by the Father, and He is offered not only for justification, forgiveness of sins, and peace, but also for sanctification as the source of living waters. It is certain that no one will truly know Christ without also receiving the sanctification of the Spirit. In other words, faith consists of knowing Christ, and Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of His Spirit. Therefore, faith cannot be separated from pious affection.
9. In their efforts to undermine faith by separating it from love, people often focus on Paul's words, "Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). However, they don't consider the context of the faith Paul is discussing. In the previous chapter, he talks about various spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:10), such as speaking in tongues, performing miracles, and prophesying, and encourages the Corinthians to pursue the better gifts, meaning those that benefit the entire Church. He then adds, "Yet show I unto you a more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:30). All other gifts, no matter how great they may be, are worthless if they don't serve the purpose of love. These gifts were given to build up the Church, and if they're not used for that purpose, they fail. To prove this point, Paul lists the same gifts he mentioned earlier but uses different terms. Miracles and faith are used interchangeably to describe the power to perform miracles. Since this miraculous power or faith is a specific gift from God that even a wicked person can possess and misuse, just like the gift of tongues, prophecy, or other gifts, it's not surprising that Paul separates it from love. The main mistake people make is that they don't recognize the various meanings of the term "faith" and assume it always has the same meaning. We will discuss the passage from James that they use to support their argument later (in chapter 17, section 11). Although we acknowledge that faith can take different forms, when discussing the knowledge of God that wicked people have, we believe and maintain, according to Scripture, that only the pious have true faith. Many people undoubtedly believe in God and accept the truth of the Gospel and other parts of Scripture, just as they believe in historical records or events they've personally witnessed. Some even go further, considering the Word of God as an infallible source and not completely ignoring its commands, being somewhat influenced by its warnings and promises. These people are said to have a form of faith, but this is more of a misuse of the term, as they don't openly oppose, reject, or condemn the Word of God but instead show some semblance of obedience.
10. But this mere shadow or image of faith is not significant and doesn't deserve the name. We'll soon explain in detail how different it is from true faith. However, we can briefly mention it here. Simon Magus is said to have believed, but he later showed his lack of faith (Acts 8:13-18). We don't agree with some who say that he only pretended to believe without truly feeling it in his heart. Instead, we think that he was overwhelmed by the majesty of the Gospel and gave some kind of agreement. He even acknowledged Christ as the source of life and salvation and willingly took on his name. Similarly, in the Gospel of Luke, those who let the word's seed be choked before bearing fruit or wither away due to shallow roots are said to believe for a while. We don't doubt that such people eagerly accept the word with some enjoyment and sense its divine power, even deceiving others and themselves with a false appearance of faith. They believe that their respect for the word is true piety since they can't imagine any impiety other than open and blatant disrespect. But whatever agreement they have, it doesn't reach their hearts or take root there. Even if it seems to have planted roots, they aren't alive. The human heart has so many corners for vanity, hiding spots for lies, and is so covered in deceit and hypocrisy that it often fools itself. Those who take pride in such fake faith should know that they aren't any better than devils in this regard. One group is even worse because they can hear and understand things that make devils tremble without feeling anything (James 2:19). The other group is equal to them because, no matter what impression is made on them, the only result is fear and distress.
11. I understand that some people may find it confusing as to why faith is attributed to those who are not chosen for salvation, especially since Paul states that faith is a result of being chosen by God. However, this can be easily explained. Although only those predestined for salvation truly experience the power of the Gospel and have genuine faith, there are instances where those not chosen (the reprobate) seem to have a similar experience, to the point where they themselves cannot tell the difference. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of them having a taste of heavenly gifts and even Christ refers to their temporary faith. It's not that these individuals truly grasp the power of spiritual grace and the certainty of faith, but rather, God allows them to have a sense of His goodness in order to hold them accountable and leave them without excuse. This experience, however, does not include the Spirit of adoption that the chosen receive. If one were to argue that believers have no stronger evidence of their chosen status, I would respond by saying that although there is a similarity between the experiences of the chosen and the reprobate, only the chosen have the full assurance that Paul speaks of, which allows them to confidently call God their Father. As a result, God only eternally regenerates the chosen with an imperishable seed, ensuring that the grace of adoption remains secure and unwavering within them. This does not mean that the reprobate cannot experience a lesser degree of the Spirit's work. In fact, believers are encouraged to examine themselves carefully and humbly to avoid becoming complacent in their faith. It is worth noting that the reprobate only have a vague understanding of grace, focusing more on the appearance rather than the true essence of it. This is because the Spirit specifically seals the forgiveness of sins in the chosen, applying it to their lives through a unique faith. Nonetheless, it is accurate to say that the reprobate believe God is merciful to them, as they accept the idea of reconciliation, albeit in a confused and undiscerning manner. This does not mean they share the same faith or regeneration as God's children, but rather, they appear to have a similar belief under a guise of hypocrisy. I do not deny that God may enlighten the reprobate's minds to recognize His grace, but this recognition is distinct from the special testimony He gives to His chosen. The reprobate never fully experience or enjoy the benefits of this grace. When God shows mercy to them, it is not as if He has truly saved them from death and taken them under His protection; He merely provides them with a temporary experience of His mercy. In contrast, He plants the living root of faith within the chosen, enabling them to persevere until the end. Therefore, the argument that if God truly displays His grace, it must last forever, can be addressed by acknowledging that there is no inconsistency in God allowing some to have a temporary sense of grace that eventually fades away.
12. Although faith is a knowledge of God's favor towards us and a full conviction of its truth, it's not surprising that the sense of God's love, which is related to but different from faith, disappears in those who are only temporarily affected. I admit that God's will is unchangeable and His truth is always consistent; however, I deny that those who are not chosen ever truly understand this secret revelation that Scripture reserves for the chosen ones. So, I don't believe that they truly grasp God's unchangeable will or consistently embrace His truth, as they are satisfied with a fleeting impression. This is similar to a tree that isn't planted deeply enough – it may take root and even produce leaves, flowers, and fruit for a few years, but eventually, it will wither away. In the same way that the image of God could be erased from the mind and soul of the first man due to his rebellion, it's not strange for God to shed some rays of grace on those who are not chosen and then allow those rays to be extinguished. There's nothing stopping God from giving some people a slight knowledge of His Gospel and others a more thorough understanding. However, we must remember that even if the faith of the chosen ones is weak, the Spirit of God is a guarantee and seal of their adoption, and the impression made on their hearts can never be erased. In contrast, the light that shines in those who are not chosen will eventually be extinguished. It's not that the Spirit deceives these people, but rather that He doesn't make the seed of faith in their hearts remain incorruptible as He does for the chosen ones. Furthermore, since it's clear from Scripture and everyday experience that those who are not chosen can sometimes feel a sense of God's grace, it's natural for them to feel some desire for mutual love. For example, there was a time when Saul felt a genuine love for God, knowing that he was treated with fatherly kindness. However, since those who are not chosen don't have a deep conviction of God's fatherly love, they don't truly love Him as children but are motivated by a self-serving affection. The Spirit of love was given to Christ so that He could share it with His followers, and it's clear that the love that Paul speaks of – the love that leads to confident prayer – is meant only for the chosen ones (Romans 5:5). At the same time, we see that God can be mysteriously displeased with His children even though He never stops loving them. He doesn't hate them, but He makes them aware of His anger so that they can be humbled, awakened from their complacency, and encouraged to repent. This means that they can feel both God's anger towards their sins and His favor towards them as individuals. Their fear of God's anger is genuine, but they still turn to Him with a sense of peace and trust. It's clear that some people have a kind of faith that, although not genuine, isn't entirely fake either. They may be carried away by a sudden burst of enthusiasm and deceive themselves, perhaps because they don't carefully examine their own hearts. This might be the case for those who John says believed in Christ but didn't truly commit themselves to Him because He knew their true nature (John 2:24-25). If it weren't true that many people fall away from a superficial faith (which I call "common" because it resembles true, lasting faith), Jesus wouldn't have told His disciples to continue in His word and know the truth that sets them free (John 8:31-32). He was speaking to those who had accepted His teachings and encouraging them to grow in their faith, so they wouldn't let their spiritual laziness extinguish the light they had received. Paul emphasizes that faith is a special gift for the chosen ones, suggesting that many people fall away because they aren't deeply rooted in it (Titus 1:1). Similarly, Jesus says that any plant not planted by His heavenly Father will be uprooted (Matthew 16:13). Some people, who have no shame in insulting God and others, are even more blatantly false in their faith. James speaks out against these people who disrespect faith with their insincere and dishonest claims (James 2:14). Paul also calls for believers to have genuine faith (1 Timothy 1:5) because many people falsely claim to have faith, deceiving others and sometimes even themselves with empty appearances. That's why he compares a good conscience to an ark that preserves faith, as many people have shipwrecked their faith by abandoning it.
13. We need to pay attention to the different meanings of the term "faith," as it is often used to mean sound doctrine, like in the passage we mentioned earlier and in the same letter where Paul tells deacons to hold "the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." Similarly, when he talks about some people turning away from the faith, or when he says that Timothy was raised in the faith. In these cases, faith refers to the entirety of heavenly doctrine. However, sometimes faith is used to describe a specific belief or trust, like when Matthew talks about the people who lowered the paralyzed man through the roof, and Jesus saw their faith. Or when Jesus praises the centurion's faith for believing that his son would be healed without Jesus needing to be physically present. In these instances, faith is focused on a particular aspect of belief. We've also discussed how Paul uses the term faith to refer to the gift of miracles, which some people had even if they weren't truly devoted to God. In another passage, he uses faith to mean the teachings that instruct us in our beliefs. When he says "that which is in part shall be done away," he's referring to the Church's ministry, which is needed in our current imperfect state. It's important to understand these different meanings of faith, as it helps us better grasp what kind of faith sets the children of God apart from unbelievers. This is the faith that allows us to call upon God the Father, to move from death to life, and to have Christ dwell within us as our eternal salvation. Hopefully, this explanation has provided a clear and concise understanding of the power and nature of faith.
14. Let's now go over the parts of the definition one by one. After carefully examining them, I believe there will be no doubts left. When we talk about knowledge, we don't mean comprehension like the kind we have for things that fall under our human senses. This type of knowledge is so much greater that our human minds must go far beyond their limits to reach it. Even when we do reach it, we don't fully comprehend what we feel. Instead, we understand more from the sheer certainty of our belief than we could ever grasp about any human matter using our own abilities. This is why Paul beautifully describes this knowledge as the ability "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:18-19). He wanted to convey that what our minds embrace through faith is infinite in every way and that this kind of knowledge goes far beyond all understanding. However, since the "mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations" is now "made manifest to the saints" (Colossians 1:26), faith is sometimes referred to as understanding (Colossians 2:2) and knowledge in the Bible, like when John (1 John 3:2) says that believers know they are the children of God. And indeed, they do know this, but it's more because they trust in God's truthfulness rather than any logical proof. Paul also highlights this when he says, "while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight)" (2 Corinthians 5:6-7), indicating that what we understand through faith is still distant from us and beyond our sight. From this, we can conclude that the knowledge of faith is more about certainty than clear understanding.
15. We want to emphasize that faith should be strong and unwavering, as it is not satisfied with uncertain opinions or vague ideas. The certainty that faith requires must be complete and decisive, as is typical for matters that are proven and confirmed. Unbelief is deeply rooted in our hearts, and we are prone to it. Even though everyone verbally acknowledges that God is faithful, truly believing it requires a great struggle. When put to the test, our wavering reveals the hidden doubt within us. The Holy Spirit strongly attests to God's authority to heal this unbelief and encourage us to fully trust in God's promises. David says in Psalms 12:6, "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times." In Psalms 18:30, he adds, "The word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him." Solomon also states in Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is pure." There is no need for further quotes, as the 119th Psalm extensively discusses this topic. Whenever God recommends His word in this way, He indirectly rebukes our unbelief, aiming to eliminate any lingering doubt from our hearts. Many people struggle to find comfort in the idea of divine mercy, as they are plagued by anxiety and uncertainty about whether God will be merciful to them personally. They may believe in God's mercy, but they limit its scope. They think that God's mercy is vast and available to many, but they are unsure if it extends to them or if they can access it. This incomplete understanding leaves them feeling doubtful and uneasy. In contrast, the Scriptures consistently associate faith with full assurance, a confidence that leaves no doubt about God's goodness being offered to us. We cannot have this assurance without truly experiencing God's kindness and love. The Apostle Paul connects faith with confidence and boldness in Ephesians 3:12, saying, "In whom (Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him." This clearly indicates that our faith is not genuine unless it allows us to confidently approach God. Such boldness comes only from trusting in God's favor and salvation. In fact, the term "faith" is often used interchangeably with "confidence."
16. The main point on which faith revolves is this: We must not think that the promises of mercy that the Lord offers are only true outside of us and not within us. Instead, we should make them our own by embracing them internally. This is how confidence, which is also called peace (Rom. 5:1), is created. This confidence brings a sense of security that calms our conscience when facing God's judgment. Without it, we would be constantly troubled and filled with fear, except for those brief moments when we forget about God and ourselves. But those moments of forgetfulness are short-lived, as the memory of God's judgment always comes back to haunt us. In short, a true believer is someone who is convinced that God has forgiven them and is a loving Father to them, expecting everything from His kindness. A believer trusts in the promises of God's favor and confidently looks forward to salvation, as the Apostle says, "We are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14). This means that only those who confidently believe they are heirs of the heavenly kingdom have genuine hope in the Lord. A believer is someone who, trusting in the certainty of their salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death. This is illustrated by Paul's powerful statement, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38). Similarly, Paul believes that our understanding is not truly enlightened unless we know the hope of the eternal inheritance to which we are called (Eph. 1:18). Throughout his writings, he consistently implies that we don't truly grasp God's goodness unless it leads to a sense of security.
17. But some might argue that this is very different from the experience of believers, who, when recognizing God's grace towards them, not only feel uneasy (which often happens), but sometimes tremble and are overwhelmed with terror, as they face intense temptations in their minds. This doesn't seem to align with the certainty of faith. To address this issue and maintain the doctrine previously mentioned, we must clarify that when we say faith must be certain and secure, we don't mean an assurance that is never affected by doubt or a security that is never troubled by anxiety. Instead, we argue that believers constantly struggle with their own distrust and are far from believing that their consciences are always at peace, undisturbed by any turmoil. On the other hand, no matter how they are attacked, we deny that they completely lose and abandon the sure confidence they have in God's mercy. Scripture doesn't present a more vivid or memorable example of faith than in David, particularly when considering the consistent course of his life. Yet, his mind was far from always being at peace, as evidenced by countless complaints, of which we'll mention just a few. When he rebukes the turbulent emotions of his soul, isn't this a criticism of his unbelief? "Why are you downcast, my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God" (Psalm 42:6). His fear was undoubtedly a clear sign of distrust, as if he thought the Lord had abandoned him. In another passage, he confesses more fully: "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before your eyes" (Psalm 31:22). In yet another passage, he anxiously and miserably debates with himself, even questioning God's nature: "Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" (Psalm 77:9). What follows is even harsher: "I said this is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." As if in despair, he condemns himself to destruction. He not only admits that he is troubled by doubt, but as if defeated in the struggle, leaves himself with no hope—God having abandoned him and turned the hand that used to help him into the instrument of his destruction. Therefore, after being tossed about in tumultuous waves, it's not without reason that he encourages his soul to return to its peaceful rest (Psalm 116:7). And yet, strangely enough, amidst these upheavals, faith still supports the believer's heart, much like a palm tree that bears any weight placed upon it and rises above it. In this way, David, when he seemed to be overwhelmed, never stopped pushing himself to draw closer to God. But the person who, while anxiously battling their own weakness, turns to faith is already largely victorious. We can see this from the following passage and others like it: "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Psalm 27:14). David accuses himself of fearfulness and, by repeating the same thing twice, admits that he is continually prone to agitation. Yet, he is not only dissatisfied with himself for feeling this way but also works hard to correct it. If we were to examine his situation more closely and compare it to that of Ahaz, we would find a significant difference between them. Isaiah is sent to alleviate the anxiety of an impious and hypocritical king and tells him: "Take heed, and be quiet; fear not," etc. (Isaiah 7:4). How did Ahaz react? As we've already mentioned, his heart was shaken like a tree in the wind: even though he heard the promise, he couldn't stop trembling. This, then, is the fitting reward and punishment for unbelief: to tremble so much that, during times of trial, one turns away from God, who can only be approached through faith. On the other hand, believers, though weighed down and nearly crushed by the burden of temptation, always rise up, albeit with effort and difficulty. Thus, being aware of their own weakness, they pray with the Prophet, "Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth" (Psalm 119:43). These words teach us that believers sometimes become speechless, as if their faith were overthrown, but they don't withdraw or turn their backs. Instead, they persist in the struggle and, through prayer, rekindle their sluggishness so as not to fall into a stupor by giving in to it. (See Calvin's commentary on Psalm 88:16).
18. To understand this, we need to go back to the distinction between flesh and spirit that we've mentioned before, as it becomes very clear here. Believers find two principles within themselves: one fills them with joy in recognizing God's goodness, while the other fills them with bitterness due to their awareness of their fallen state. One principle leads them to rely on the Gospel's promise, while the other worries them with the realization of their sins. One makes them excited for the anticipation of life, while the other makes them afraid of death. This contrast is due to the imperfection of faith, as we never fully overcome our doubts and become completely filled with faith during our lives. This is why we experience these conflicts: our doubts, which are tied to our human nature, rise up to challenge the faith that exists in our hearts. But if a believer's mind has both certainty and doubt, does that mean faith is not based on a clear understanding of God's will for us, but rather on a vague and confused one? Not at all. Even though we may have various thoughts and be swayed by doubt, it doesn't mean we lose our faith. We may be shaken by our doubts, but we don't lose our footing. In the end, faith always overcomes the challenges it faces and prevails.
19. So, it all comes down to this: As soon as we have even the smallest amount of faith in our minds, we begin to see God's face as calm, peaceful, and kind. It may be far away, but it's clear enough to know that it's real. As we continue to grow in our faith (which should never stop), we get a closer and more certain view of God, becoming more familiar with Him as we go. In the beginning, our minds may still have a lot of ignorance when it comes to knowing God, but this ignorance gradually fades away. However, this partial ignorance or unclear understanding doesn't stop us from having a clear knowledge of God's love, which is the most important part of faith. It's like someone who is locked in a prison cell with only a small opening to let in sunlight. Even though they can't see the sun directly and only get a bit of its light, they still know where the light is coming from and benefit from it. In the same way, believers may be limited by their earthly bodies and surrounded by a lot of uncertainty, but they are still able to see and feel secure in God's mercy through the small glimpses of light that shine upon them.
20. In various passages, the Apostle skillfully refers to the limited understanding of divine wisdom we have in this life. When he says, "We know in part, and we prophesy in part;" and "Now we see through a glass darkly," (1 Cor. 13:9, 12), he suggests that we only have a small portion of God's wisdom during our time on earth. Although these expressions don't simply mean that our faith is incomplete while we live in our physical bodies, they do imply that we need to continually learn due to our imperfections. At the same time, he reminds us that our limited human abilities cannot fully grasp the vastness of God's wisdom. This is true for the entire Church, as each person's understanding is hindered by their own ignorance. However, Paul also emphasizes that the small taste of faith we do have is genuine and not misleading. He says, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," (2 Cor. 3:18). With such limited knowledge, it's natural for us to experience doubt and uncertainty, especially since our hearts are naturally inclined towards disbelief. Additionally, we face countless temptations and challenges that constantly test our faith. Our conscience, weighed down by the burden of our sins, can also cause us to doubt. It may complain, accuse, or even rebel against us. When we face difficult situations that seem to indicate God's anger, or when our conscience finds reasons to doubt within ourselves, unbelief uses these opportunities to try and push faith away. The goal of unbelief is to make us think that God is against us, causing us to fear Him as an enemy rather than hope for His help and support.
21. To withstand these attacks, faith arms and strengthens itself with the word of God. When we are tempted to think that God is our enemy because he causes us pain, faith reminds us that even in our suffering, God is merciful, and his discipline comes more from love than anger. When we think of God as the punisher of evil, faith reminds us of the forgiveness he offers to all who turn to his mercy. In this way, the faithful mind, no matter how troubled or torn, eventually overcomes all obstacles and does not let its trust in God's mercy be destroyed. In fact, the struggles that challenge and disturb our faith actually help to strengthen it. A good example of this is how the saints, even when they feel God's hand weighing heavily upon them, still bring their complaints to him and continue to call upon him, even when he seems least likely to listen. They would not cry out to him if they did not have hope for comfort, and they would not call upon him if they did not believe he was ready to help them. Just like the disciples who, despite being scolded by Jesus for their weak faith when they thought they were going to die, still asked for his help (Matthew 8:25). Jesus, in rebuking their lack of faith, did not reject them or treat them as unbelievers, but encouraged them to overcome their weakness. As we have already said, we maintain that faith, once it has taken root in a believer's heart, can never be completely removed. It may be shaken and swayed, but its flame is never entirely extinguished, and it always remains, even if hidden beneath the ashes. In this way, the word of God, which is an indestructible seed, produces fruit that is similar to itself, and its essence never completely withers away or dies. Believers have no greater reason to despair than when they feel that, according to their current circumstances, God's hand is against them. Yet, even in this situation, Job confidently declares, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." The truth is that unbelief does not rule in the hearts of believers, but only attacks them from the outside. It does not fatally wound them, but merely annoys them or, at most, inflicts a wound that can be healed. Faith, as Paul says (Ephesians 6:16), is our shield, which either deflects these attacks entirely or at least reduces their impact, preventing them from reaching our core. When faith is shaken, it is like a soldier who, after being hit by a powerful blow, is forced to step back and give ground. And when faith is wounded, it is as if the shield has been pierced but not completely penetrated. The faithful mind will always rise and say with David, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). It is indeed terrifying to walk in the darkness of death, and it is impossible for believers, no matter how strong they may be, not to be afraid. But since the prevailing thought is that God is present and looking out for their well-being, the feeling of security overcomes the fear. As Augustine says, whatever weapons the devil may use against us, he cannot conquer the heart where faith resides, and so he is defeated. If we judge by the outcome, not only do believers emerge unscathed from every battle, ready to face the next challenge after a brief rest, but the words of John in his epistle come true: "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). It does not say that faith will be victorious in just one fight, or a few, or a single assault, but that it will triumph over the entire world, even if it is attacked a thousand times.
22. There is another type of fear and trembling that, instead of weakening our faith, actually helps to strengthen it. This happens when believers consider the examples of God's punishment on the ungodly as warnings not to provoke God's wrath through similar wickedness, and they remain vigilant. Or, when they reflect on their own inherent wretchedness, they learn to rely entirely on God, without whom they feel as fleeting and unstable as the wind. For example, when the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of the punishments that God inflicted on the Israelites in the past, he is not undermining their confidence in their faith. Instead, he is trying to shake off their complacency, which can suppress faith rather than strengthen it. Similarly, when he warns, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12), he is not telling us to doubt our faith, but rather to avoid arrogance and overconfidence in our own abilities. He tells the Gentiles not to be presumptuous just because the Jews were rejected and they were accepted in their place (Rom. 11:20). In this passage, Paul is not only speaking to believers but also to hypocrites who only care about outward appearances. He is not addressing individuals, but rather contrasting the Jews and Gentiles. He first explains that the rejection of the Jews was a just punishment for their ingratitude and unbelief, and then he warns the Gentiles not to let pride and presumption cause them to lose the grace of adoption that has recently been granted to them. For even among the rejected Jews, there were some who remained part of the covenant of adoption, and there might be some among the Gentiles who, lacking true faith, were only filled with empty, worldly confidence, and thus misused God's goodness for their own destruction. However, even if you believe that these words were meant only for true believers, there is no contradiction. It is one thing to prevent believers from becoming overconfident by curbing the excessive boldness that can sometimes arise from our human nature, and it is another thing to frighten their consciences and prevent them from feeling secure in God's mercy.
23. So when he tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, all he's asking is for us to recognize our own weaknesses and rely on the strength of the Lord. Because nothing encourages us to put our trust in the Lord more than doubting ourselves and being aware of our difficult situation. This is how we should understand the Psalmist's words: "I will come into your house with your abundant mercy, and in reverence, I will worship in your holy temple" (Ps. 5:7). Here, he connects confident faith in God's mercy with a religious fear that we must feel when we come into the presence of the divine majesty and realize our own impurity. Solomon also says, "Happy is the man who always fears, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble" (Prov. 28:14). The fear he's talking about is the kind that makes us more cautious, not the kind that leads to despair. It's the fear we feel when our minds, overwhelmed by our own weaknesses, find balance in God; when we're discouraged by ourselves but find courage in God; when we doubt ourselves but trust in God. So, it's not contradictory for believers to feel both fear and secure comfort as they recognize their own flaws and focus on God's truth. You might ask, how can fear and faith coexist in the same mind? It's just like how laziness and anxiety can coexist. Unbelievers try to avoid the fear of God by being indifferent, but they can't escape God's judgment. Similarly, God can teach his people humility and keep them in check while still allowing them to fight courageously. And it's clear from the context that this is what the Apostle meant since he explains that the reason for fear and trembling is that God works in us to desire and do his good pleasure. We should also understand the Prophet's words in the same way: "The children of Israel will fear the Lord and his goodness in the last days" (Hos. 3:5). Not only does devotion to God create reverence for him, but the sweet appeal of his grace fills a person with both fear and admiration, making them realize their dependence on God and humbly submit to his power.
24. Here, we don't support the harmful philosophy that some semi-papists are currently starting to promote in private. Unable to defend the blatant doubt taught by the Schoolmen, they turn to another idea, trying to create a blend of faith and disbelief. They agree that when we look to Christ, we have a solid basis for hope; but since we are always unworthy of the blessings offered to us in Christ, they want us to waver and doubt because of our unworthiness. In short, they place our conscience between hope and fear, making it switch between the two. They completely contrast hope and fear, with one falling as the other rises and vice versa. This way, Satan, realizing that his usual methods of destroying faith's certainty are too obvious, tries to undermine it indirectly. But what kind of confidence is it that is constantly replaced by despair? They say that if you look to Christ, salvation is certain; if you look to yourself, damnation is certain. Therefore, your mind must alternate between doubt and hope, as if Christ were far away instead of living within us. We expect salvation from him not because he is distant, but because he incorporates us into his body, making us not only partakers of all his benefits but also of himself. So, I argue that if you look to yourself, damnation is certain; but since Christ has shared himself and all his benefits with you, making everything that is his yours, you become one with him. His righteousness covers your sins, his salvation erases your condemnation, and he presents his worthiness to prevent your unworthiness from being seen by God. This is the truth. We must never separate Christ from us or us from him; instead, we must firmly hold onto the connection that binds us to him. The Apostle teaches us this: "The body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10). According to these critics' trivial arguments, he should have said that Christ indeed has life in himself, but you, as sinners, remain subject to death and condemnation. His message is very different. He tells us that the condemnation we deserve is wiped out by Christ's salvation, and to support this, he uses the argument I mentioned earlier—that Christ is not outside of us but lives within us. He not only unites us to himself with an unbreakable bond but also brings us closer daily through a remarkable communion until he becomes entirely one with us. However, I don't deny that faith sometimes experiences interruptions when it is weakened by intense attacks and its light is obscured by the darkness of temptation. Despite this, faith never stops longing for God.
25. The same idea is taught by Bernard in his Fifth Homily on the Dedication of the Temple, where he discusses the nature of the soul. He says that when he thinks about the soul, he sees two opposing aspects. On one hand, when he considers the soul in its natural state, he realizes that it has been reduced to nothing. There's no need to list all of its miseries: weighed down by sin, clouded by darkness, trapped by temptations, filled with desires, controlled by emotions, deceived by illusions, always leaning towards evil, and inclined to every vice. In short, it is full of shame and confusion. If even our best deeds are like filthy rags when seen in the light of truth (Isaiah 64:6), what must our worst deeds be like? "If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23). So, humans have undoubtedly been subjected to emptiness and reduced to nothing. But how can someone be nothing if God raises them up? How can they be nothing if they have a divine heart? Let's take heart, my friends. Even if we are nothing in our own hearts, perhaps there is still something of us in God's heart. O Father of mercy! O Father of the wretched! How do you plant your heart within us? Your heart is where your treasure is. But how can we be your treasure if we are nothing? All nations before you are as nothing. Notice that it says "before you," not "within you." That's how they appear in the light of your truth, but not in the light of your love. You call things that don't exist as if they did, and they don't exist because you call them "things that don't exist." Yet, they do exist because you call them. Even though they don't exist in themselves, they exist with you, as Paul says, "Not by works, but by him who calls" (Romans 9:11). Bernard then explains that this connection between our nothingness and our greatness is truly amazing. Things that are connected don't destroy each other. He clarifies this further in his conclusion: "If we carefully consider both aspects of our nature - our nothingness and our greatness - our boasting might seem restrained. But perhaps it's actually increased and strengthened because we don't boast in ourselves, but in the Lord. We believe that if he decides to save us, we will be saved, and this gives us hope. But let's aim even higher: let's seek the city of God, the temple, our home, and our spouse. I haven't forgotten who I am when I say, with fear and reverence, that we exist - we exist in the heart of God. We exist because of his greatness, not our own."
26. Furthermore, the fear of the Lord, which is consistently attributed to all the saints and is called "the beginning of wisdom" in one passage and wisdom itself in another, comes from two sources. God deserves the respect of both a Father and a Lord. Therefore, anyone who wants to worship Him properly will strive to be both an obedient child and a loyal servant. The prophet describes the obedience given to God as a Father as honor, and the service performed for Him as a master as fear. "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?" But while these two aspects are distinguished, it is clear that they are also intertwined. Thus, the fear of the Lord can be defined as reverence combined with honor and fear. It is not surprising that the same person can experience both feelings; for anyone who reflects on what kind of father God is to us will find ample reason, even without the existence of hell, to consider offending Him more terrifying than any death. However, our human nature is so inclined to sin that, in order to restrain it in every way, we must also consider that all wickedness is abhorrent to the Master under whom we live; and that those who provoke His anger with their sinful lives will not escape His punishment.
27. There's nothing contradictory in what John says: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment" (1 John 4:18). He's talking about the fear of unbelief, which is very different from the fear that believers have. Unbelievers don't fear God because they don't want to upset Him; they only fear Him because they know He has the power to punish them. So, they tremble in fear when they hear about His anger. They're afraid of His anger because they believe it's hanging over them, ready to strike at any moment. On the other hand, believers are more concerned about offending God than they are about the punishment. They're not scared of punishment as if it's about to happen to them, but they're more careful not to do anything that would provoke it. That's why the Apostle tells believers, "Let no one deceive you with empty words; for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience" (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6). He's not saying that God's wrath will come upon them, but he's reminding them to think about how God's wrath is prepared for the wicked because of their sins, so they shouldn't risk provoking it. Threats usually don't have much effect on the wicked; in fact, they often become more stubborn and resistant when God warns them verbally. It's only when they actually feel His punishment that they're forced to fear Him, whether they want to or not. This kind of fear is called "servile fear," and it's different from the free and voluntary fear that's appropriate for God's children. Some people make a subtle distinction and say that sometimes this forced, servile fear can lead to a genuine, proper fear of God.
28. We understand that the divine favor, which faith is said to be connected to, includes the possession of salvation and eternal life. This is because when God is gracious to us, we lack nothing good, and we can be confident in our salvation when we know of His love. As the Prophet says, "Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved" (Ps. 80:3). The Scriptures also suggest that the essence of our salvation lies in the removal of all hostility and our acceptance into God's favor, implying that when God is reconciled with us, all danger is gone, and everything good will come our way. Therefore, faith, which grasps the love of God, has the promise of both the present and future life, and provides ample security for all blessings (Eph. 2:14). We must determine the nature of this from the word of God. Faith does not promise us long life, wealth, or honor (as God has not chosen to grant us these things), but it assures us that no matter how poor we may be in terms of present comforts, God will never abandon us. Our main security lies in the hope of eternal life, which is confirmed by God's word. No matter what hardships and disasters God's children may face in this world, they cannot prevent His favor from being complete happiness. When we wanted to express the essence of happiness, we referred to God's favor, from which all blessings flow. Throughout the Scriptures, they direct us to the love of God, not only when discussing our eternal salvation but also any blessing at all. For this reason, David sings that experiencing God's loving-kindness is sweeter and more desirable than life itself (Ps. 63:3). In short, if we have all earthly comforts but are unsure of whether we have God's love or hatred, our happiness will be cursed and miserable. But if God shines His fatherly light upon us, even our miseries will be blessed, as they will help us towards our salvation. Paul, after mentioning all kinds of adversity, proudly declares that they cannot separate us from the love of God. In his prayers, he consistently begins with God's grace as the source of all prosperity. Similarly, David counters all the fears that plague us with merely the favor of God, saying, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" (Ps. 23:4). We also realize that our minds will always waver until we find peace in God's grace and are fully convinced of the truth in the psalm, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance" (Ps. 33:12).
29. We believe that faith is based on a free promise, because that's what faith is all about. Of course, we know that God is always true, whether He's giving orders or forbidding things, making promises or giving warnings. We listen to His commands, follow His rules, and pay attention to His warnings. But faith really starts with a promise, stays with it, and ends with it. We look for life in God, a life that can't be found in commands or warnings of punishment, but in the promise of mercy. This promise has to be free, because if it depends on conditions and our own actions, it only promises life as long as we can find it within ourselves. So, if we don't want our faith to be shaky and uncertain, we need to rely on the promise of salvation that God offers freely and willingly, based on our need rather than our worth. That's why the Apostle Paul says that the Gospel is the word of faith (Romans 10:8). He doesn't give this credit to the rules or promises of the Law, because the only thing that can truly strengthen our faith is the free message of God reconciling the world to Himself. That's why Paul often talks about faith and the Gospel as if they're connected, like when he says that he was given the task of spreading the Gospel to bring people to faith, that the Gospel has the power to save everyone who believes, and that it reveals God's righteousness through faith (Romans 1:5, 16, 17). It makes sense, because the Gospel is all about bringing people back to God (2 Corinthians 5:18), and there's no better way to show God's love, which is what faith needs to know. So when we say that faith depends on a free promise, we're not saying that believers don't accept and follow all of God's word. We're just pointing out that the promise of mercy is the most important part. Believers should definitely see God as the judge and punisher of evil, but they should also focus on His mercy, because that's how He's shown to us: as a God who is "good and ready to forgive," "full of mercy," "slow to anger," "good to all," and showering "His tender mercies over all His works" (Psalms 86:5; 103:8; 145:8, 9).
30. I won't spend time addressing the harsh criticisms of Pighius and others who argue against this specific aspect of faith, accusing us of tearing faith apart and only focusing on a fragment of it. As I've already mentioned, I agree that the overall focus of faith is the truth of God, whether He is warning us or offering us hope through His favor. In fact, the Apostle attributes faith to Noah when he feared the world's destruction, even though it wasn't visible yet (Hebrews 11:17). If fearing the upcoming punishment was an act of faith, then threats shouldn't be excluded when defining faith. This is true, but it's unfair and false to accuse us of denying that faith relates to the entire word of God. We only want to emphasize two points: that faith isn't complete until it reaches a free promise, and that faith connects us to God by uniting us with Christ. Both points are important to consider. We're discussing a faith that distinguishes God's children from the condemned and believers from unbelievers. So, does simply believing that God is just in His commands and truthful in His threats make someone a believer? Not at all. Faith doesn't have a solid foundation until it's based on God's mercy. And what's the purpose of talking about faith? Isn't it to understand the path to salvation? But how can faith save us unless it incorporates us into Christ's body? Therefore, there's nothing wrong with emphasizing faith's specific focus when defining it and adding a unique characteristic that sets believers apart from unbelievers. In short, those who criticize this view of faith have no valid argument, unless they also want to criticize the Apostle Paul, who specifically refers to the Gospel as "the word of faith" (Romans 10:8).
31. So, as we've already discussed, faith needs the word just as much as a tree needs a living root to bear fruit. This is because, as David says, only those who know God's name can have hope in Him (Psalm 9:10). However, this knowledge isn't just up to each person's imagination; it relies on the testimony that God gives about His own goodness. David also says in another verse, "Your salvation comes according to your word" (Psalm 119:41), and "Save me, for I have hoped in your word" (Psalm 119:146, 147). We need to pay attention to how faith is connected to the word and how salvation follows from it. But we're not ignoring God's power here. If faith can't stand firm when faced with God's power, then it won't give Him the honor He deserves. Paul talks about Abraham's faith in God's promise of a blessed offspring, saying that Abraham believed God could fulfill that promise (Romans 4:21). Similarly, Paul says about himself, "I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Now, it might seem like a small thing to believe in God's power, but when we think about how often we're filled with doubt and fear, it's clear that truly trusting in God's power is a significant step in our faith journey. We all agree that God can do anything He wants, but when even the smallest temptation makes us afraid, it shows that we're not giving as much importance to God's promises as we are to the threats that Satan throws at us.
This is why Isaiah, when he wanted to make people truly believe in their faith, spoke so highly of God's limitless power. He often seems to start talking about the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation, but then goes off on a tangent, describing in great detail how amazingly God controls the heavens, the earth, and all of nature. But everything he says is relevant because unless we see the power of God, to whom all things are possible, we won't really listen to or appreciate His word. What's important here is the effective power of God, as true faith always puts that power into practice. Specifically, it focuses on the works where God has shown Himself to be a loving Father. That's why the Bible often talks about redemption, so the Israelites could learn that the God who saved them once would continue to protect them. David also shows us that the blessings God gives to individuals can strengthen their faith for the future. In fact, even when it seems like God has abandoned us, we should look back on His past kindness and find courage, as it says in Psalms 143:5, "I remember the days of old: I meditate on all thy works," and Psalms 77:11, "I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of old." However, without the word of God, our thoughts about His power and works will fade away. That's why we can confidently say that there is no faith until God shows us clear evidence of His grace.
However, a question might arise regarding the perspectives on Sarah and Rebekah, who both seemed to be driven by their passion for their faith and went beyond the boundaries of the word. Sarah, in her eagerness for the promised child, gave her maid to her husband. It's undeniable that she made mistakes in many ways, but the only issue I'm referring to now is her being swept away by her zeal and not staying within the limits set by the word. Nevertheless, it's clear that her desire came from faith. Rebekah, on the other hand, was divinely informed about her son Jacob's election and secured the blessing for him through a deceitful scheme. She tricked her husband, who was a witness and servant of divine grace, forced her son to lie, and corrupted divine truth with various frauds and deceptions. In the end, she made a mockery of his promise and did everything she could to render it useless. Despite this behavior being immoral and blameworthy, it wasn't entirely without faith. She must have overcome many obstacles to develop such a strong desire for something that offered no earthly benefits and was full of challenges and risks. Similarly, we can't say that the holy patriarch Isaac was completely devoid of faith when, after being informed of the honor given to the younger son, he still favored his first-born, Esau. These examples show that errors can often be mixed with faith, but when faith is genuine, it always takes precedence. For instance, Rebekah's specific mistake didn't nullify the blessing, nor did it negate the faith that generally governed her mind and was the driving force behind her actions. However, Rebekah's actions demonstrated how easily the human mind can deviate when it allows itself even the slightest indulgence. Although flaws and weaknesses may cloud faith, they don't extinguish it. These examples serve as reminders of how closely we should adhere to the word of God and support the idea that faith falters when it's not backed by the word. Just as the minds of Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah would have strayed from the right path if not for the hidden guidance of Providence keeping them obedient to the word.
32. On the other hand, we have a good reason to understand all the promises in Christ since the Apostle considers the whole Gospel to be about the knowledge of Christ and states that all of God's promises are in him, yes and amen. The reason for this is clear: every promise God makes shows his good will. This is always true and doesn't conflict with the fact that the great benefits God constantly gives to the wicked are actually preparing them for a heavier judgment. Since they don't believe these benefits come from God or recognize them as his, or if they do, they don't see them as signs of his favor, they don't learn about his mercy any more than animals do, even though they also enjoy God's generosity according to their nature and never look beyond it. However, it's true that by rejecting the promises generally offered to them, the wicked bring a harsher punishment upon themselves. Although the promises only show their effectiveness when received in faith, their reality and power are never destroyed by our disbelief or ingratitude. So when God invites us through his promises not only to enjoy the fruits of his kindness but also to think about them, he's also showing his love for us. As we've said, every promise is a sign of God's favor towards us. Now, it's undeniable that God loves no one outside of Christ. He is the beloved Son in whom the Father's love resides and from whom it extends to us. That's why Paul says, "In whom he has made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). It's through Christ's involvement that love spreads to reach us. In another passage, Paul calls Christ "our peace" (Ephesians 2:14) and also portrays him as the bond that unites the Father to us in fatherly affection (Romans 8:3). So whenever a promise is made to us, we must look to Christ. For this reason, Paul rightly says that in Christ, all of God's promises are confirmed and fulfilled (Romans 15:8). Some examples are presented as opposing this view. When Naaman the Syrian asked the prophet about the true way to worship God, it's argued that he wasn't told about the Mediator, yet he's praised for his piety (2 Kings 5:17-19). Similarly, Cornelius, a Roman pagan, couldn't have known what even the Jews didn't fully understand. Nevertheless, his prayers and alms were pleasing to God (Acts 10:31), and the prophet approved of Naaman's sacrifices. Both cases must have involved faith. Likewise, the eunuch whom Philip met wouldn't have traveled so far to worship if he didn't have some faith (Acts 8:27, 31), yet he shows his ignorance of the Mediator when questioned by Philip. I agree that their faith might not have been explicit regarding Christ's person, power, or role given by the Father. However, it's certain that they held beliefs that provided a glimpse of Christ. This shouldn't be surprising, as the eunuch wouldn't have traveled from a distant country to Jerusalem to worship an unknown God, and Cornelius couldn't have lived in Judea for so long without learning the basics of sound doctrine. As for Naaman, it's unreasonable to think that Elisha gave him many detailed instructions but left out the most important part. So even though their knowledge of Christ may have been vague, we can't assume they had none at all. They used the sacrifices of the Law and must have distinguished them from the false sacrifices of the Gentiles by their purpose, which was to point to Christ.
33. A simple outward expression of the word should be more than enough to create faith, if it weren't for our blindness and stubbornness. Our minds are so drawn to vanity that they can never fully grasp God's truth, and they remain blind even in His light. This is why the word has no effect without the illumination of the Spirit, and it also shows that faith goes beyond human understanding. It's not enough for the mind to be enlightened by the Spirit of God; the heart must also be strengthened and supported by His power. The Schoolmen miss the mark here, focusing only on the basic agreement of the understanding when it comes to faith, while completely ignoring the confidence and security of the heart. Faith is a special gift from God in two ways: first, by purifying the mind to appreciate divine truth, and then by establishing it in that truth. The Spirit doesn't just create faith, but gradually increases it until, through faith, we are led into the heavenly kingdom. As Paul says, "That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us" (2 Timothy 1:14). It's easy to understand what Paul means when he says (Galatians 3:2) that the Spirit is given by the hearing of faith. If the Spirit only had one gift, it would be absurd to say that the author and cause of faith is also its effect. However, after celebrating the gifts God bestows upon His church and gradually perfecting it through faith, it's not strange for Paul to attribute to faith the very gifts that faith prepares us to receive. Some may find it paradoxical when it's said that only those to whom it is given can believe in Christ. This is partly because they don't recognize how deep and profound heavenly wisdom is, or how slow the human mind is in understanding divine mysteries. It's also because they don't consider the firm and unwavering constancy of the heart, which is a crucial aspect of faith.
34. But as Paul argues, "What man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God no one knows but the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11). If we hesitate even about things we see with our own eyes, how can we be confident in the divine promises that we can't see or understand? Our human understanding is so limited that the first step in learning from Christ is to let go of it (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21). It's like a veil that prevents us from seeing divine mysteries, which are only revealed to those with childlike faith. "Flesh and blood" don't reveal these mysteries (Matthew 16:17). "The natural man doesn't receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; he can't know them, for they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). So, we need the Holy Spirit's help, as it's the only source of true understanding. "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34); but "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10). This is how we come to understand Christ's teachings: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father" (John 6:44, 45, 46). So, we can't come to Christ unless the Spirit draws us, and when it does, our minds and spirits are lifted far above our own understanding. When our souls are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, it's like receiving a new eye that allows us to see heavenly mysteries that were previously too bright for us. It's only when our minds are illuminated by the Holy Spirit that we begin to appreciate the things of God's kingdom; before that, we were too dull and insensitive to care for them. This is why Jesus had to open the minds of the two disciples to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 45). And even though the Apostles were taught by Jesus himself, they still needed the Spirit of truth to help them fully grasp what they had heard. The word of God is like the sun that shines on everyone, but it's useless to those who are blind. We're all naturally blind in this regard, so the word can't enter our minds unless the Holy Spirit, our internal teacher, opens the way for it by enlightening us. I've discussed in more detail elsewhere (Book 2, chapters 2 and 3) how difficult it is for people to believe due to our corrupt nature, so I won't repeat that here. Just note that when Paul talks about the "spirit of faith," he means the faith we receive from the Holy Spirit, which we don't have naturally (2 Corinthians 4:13). In his prayer for the Thessalonians, Paul asks that God would "count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power" (2 Thessalonians 1:2). By calling faith a work of God and describing it as his "good pleasure," Paul makes it clear that faith doesn't come from our own nature. He even adds that faith is a demonstration of divine power. When Paul tells the Corinthians that faith is not based on "the wisdom of man, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:4), he's talking about external miracles. However, since unbelievers are blinded to these miracles, he also includes the internal seal of faith that he mentions elsewhere. God doesn't give this gift of faith to everyone; instead, he grants it to specific individuals as a special privilege. We've already looked at some Bible passages that support this idea, and Augustine, a faithful interpreter of Scripture, agrees. In one of his sermons, Augustine quotes Jesus saying, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44) to show that faith in Jesus is a gift, not something we earn. Augustine wonders why God gives faith to some people and not to others. He admits that he doesn't know the answer, saying that it's a deep mystery related to the cross and God's judgments, which we can't fully understand. He recognizes that our ability to believe comes from God, but he can't explain why some people receive this gift while others don't. All he can do is marvel at the mystery, not try to explain it. In summary, when Christ gives us faith through the work of his Spirit, he also makes us part of his body, so that we can share in all his blessings.
36. The next essential step is for the mind's understanding to be transferred into the heart. The word is not truly accepted in faith when it just briefly occupies the brain; instead, it must take deep root in the heart and become an unbreakable defense against all temptations. If the Spirit's illumination is the real source of understanding in the intellect, its role in strengthening the heart is even more evident. This is because there is more doubt in the heart than confusion in the mind, and it's harder to instill confidence in the soul than to fill it with knowledge. As a result, the Spirit acts like a seal, imprinting our hearts with the very promises that were previously made clear in our minds. It also serves as a guarantee in establishing and confirming these promises. As the Apostle says, "In whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the guarantee of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13-14). You can see how he teaches that believers' hearts are marked with the Spirit like a seal and refers to it as the Spirit of promise because it validates the gospel for us. Similarly, he says to the Corinthians, "God has also sealed us and given the guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:22). And again, when talking about a full and confident hope, he bases it on the "guarantee of the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 5:5).
37. I remember what I said earlier, and I'm reminded daily through experience that faith often faces various doubts. This means that believers' minds are rarely at peace or at least not always calm. However, no matter how much they may be shaken, they either escape the whirlpool of temptation or remain steadfast in their place. Faith finds security and protection in the words of the Psalm, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore, we will not fear, even if the earth is removed, and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea" (Ps. 46:1-2). This wonderful sense of peace is also described in another Psalm: "I laid down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me" (Ps. 3:5). It's not that David always felt this way, but as his faith made him aware of God's favor, he boldly despised anything that could disturb his peace of mind. That's why the Scripture encourages us to have faith and be at peace. In Isaiah, it says, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Is. 30:15), and in the Psalms, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." This is similar to the passage in Hebrews, "You have need of patience" (Heb. 10:36).
38. Hence, we can see how harmful the old-fashioned belief is, that our strongest evidence of God's favor towards us can only come from our own moral guesses, based on how worthy we think we are. If we were to judge God's feelings towards us by our actions, it's true that we wouldn't even be able to make a weak guess. However, since faith should be in line with God's free and straightforward promise, there's no room for confusion. What kind of confidence can we have if we think this way - God will be kind to us only if we deserve it through our pure actions? We won't discuss this topic further now, as we've already set aside a proper place for it. But it's clear that nothing is more opposed to faith than guessing or any other feeling related to doubt. It's terrible how some people twist the meaning of the verse from Ecclesiastes, which they often quote: "No one knows either love or hatred by all that is before them" (Ecclesiastes 9:1). Even without arguing that the common translation of this verse is incorrect, it's obvious what Solomon meant - that anyone trying to figure out who is favored or disliked by God based on the current state of things is wasting their time and causing themselves unnecessary distress. This is because "all things come alike to all; to those who sacrifice and those who don't." So, God doesn't always show His love to those who enjoy constant success, nor His hatred to those who suffer. This also shows the limitations of human understanding, as we often struggle to comprehend matters of great importance. For example, Solomon said earlier, "What happens to humans happens to animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other" (Ecclesiastes 3:19). If someone were to conclude from this that we only believe in the immortality of the soul based on mere guesswork, wouldn't they be considered crazy? So, are those who can't find certainty in God's favor because they can't see it with their physical eyes in the current state of the world any more rational?
39. But some argue that it's reckless and arrogant to claim an undoubted knowledge of God's will. I would agree if we believed that we could fully understand God's incomprehensible plan with our limited minds. However, when we simply say with Paul, "We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12), how can they argue against this without disrespecting the Spirit of God? If it's sacrilege to accuse the revelation He has given us of being false, uncertain, or ambiguous, how can we be wrong in asserting its certainty? Still, they claim that it's presumptuous for us to boast about having the Spirit of God. It's hard to believe that these people, who want to be seen as the world's leaders, could make such a fundamental mistake in understanding the basics of religion. This would be unbelievable if it weren't for their own writings proving it. Paul says that only those led by God's Spirit are His children (Rom. 8:14), but these individuals think that God's children should be led by their own spirit and not by the divine Spirit. He tells us that we can call God our Father because the Spirit guides us in doing so (Rom. 8:16), yet they take away the Spirit's guidance when invoking God. He states that only those led by Christ's Spirit are His servants (Rom. 8:9), but they imagine a Christianity that doesn't need Christ's Spirit. He promises a blessed resurrection only to those who have the Spirit dwelling in them (Rom. 8:11), yet they envision hope without this feeling. Perhaps they'll argue that they don't deny the need for the Spirit, but they believe it's more humble not to recognize it. But then, what does Paul mean when he tells the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5). And John says, "Hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he has given us" (1 John 3:24). Isn't it doubting Christ's promises when we consider ourselves His servants without having His Spirit, which He said He would pour out on all His people (Isa. 44:3)? And don't we insult the Holy Spirit when we separate faith, which is His unique work, from Him? These fundamental principles of religion show that it's absurd to accuse Christians of arrogance for claiming the presence of the Holy Spirit, as Christianity itself doesn't exist without this belief. This situation demonstrates the truth of Jesus' words: "The world cannot receive the Spirit because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17).
40. They argue that faith's certainty can be undermined not only in one direction, but also in another - that is, while a believer may currently be in a state of righteousness and able to judge God's favor, they cannot know for sure if they will persevere until the end. This would be a poor guarantee if we could only guess that we are in God's grace for the moment, but have no idea about our future. The Apostle Paul speaks very differently, saying, "I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38). Some try to avoid the impact of this statement by claiming that Paul had this assurance through a special revelation. However, this argument doesn't hold up, as Paul is discussing the blessings that all believers share through faith. It's true that Paul also warns us about our weakness and instability, saying, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12). But his intention is not to frighten us, but rather to teach us to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand, as Peter explains (1 Peter 5:6). It's absurd to limit faith's certainty to a specific moment in time, since faith's nature is to extend beyond this life and reach towards eternal life. Believers can thank God's favor for the fact that they are enlightened by His Spirit and can look forward to heaven through faith. Therefore, it's not arrogant for a believer to confidently acknowledge this; rather, anyone who is ashamed to admit it is not showing humility or submission, but instead displays great ingratitude by hiding God's goodness.
41. Since faith's nature couldn't be better or more clearly demonstrated than by the substance of the promise it relies on as its foundation, and without which it immediately falls or vanishes, we have derived our definition from it. This definition is in line with the Apostle's description when he says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). By "substance," he means a kind of support on which the pious mind rests and leans. It's as if he said that faith is a kind of certain and secure possession of those things promised to us by God. We could also interpret "substance" as confidence, though I prefer the other interpretation, which is more widely accepted. To indicate that until the last day, when the books will be opened (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12), the things related to our salvation are too high to be perceived by our senses or seen by our eyes, and that there is no way for us to possess these things unless we can go beyond our intellect and raise our eyes above all worldly objects, he adds that this certainty of possession relates to things hoped for and not seen. As Paul says (Rom. 8:24), "A hope that is seen is not hope," and we "hope for that we see not." When he calls it the evidence or proof of things not present, it's the same as if he called it the appearance of things not apparent, the sight of things not seen, the clarity of things obscure, the presence of things absent, and the manifestation of things hidden. God's mysteries, including the things related to our salvation, cannot be discerned in themselves or in their own nature. We can only see them in his word, and we should be as firmly persuaded of its truth as if we held that everything it says were done and completed. But how can the mind rise to such a perception and foretaste of divine goodness without being wholly inflamed with love for God? The abundance of joy that God has stored up for those who fear him cannot be truly known without making a powerful impression. Those who are affected in this way are raised and carried entirely towards him. It's not surprising that no sinister, perverse heart ever experiences this feeling, which transports us to heaven itself and allows us to access God's most hidden treasures and holiest parts of his kingdom, which must not be profaned by an impure heart. The idea that love comes before faith and hope, as the Schoolmen say, is a mere dream. It is faith alone that first generates love. Bernard's view is much better: "The testimony of conscience, which Paul calls 'the rejoicing' of believers, I believe to consist in three things. First, you must believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by God's indulgence; secondly, that you cannot have any good work unless he also gives it; and lastly, that you cannot merit eternal life by any works unless it is also freely given" (Bernard, Sermon 1 in Annunciation). He later adds, "These things are not sufficient but are a kind of beginning of faith; for while believing that your sins can only be forgiven by God, you must also hold that they are not forgiven until persuaded by the Holy Spirit's testimony that salvation is stored up for us; that as God pardons sins, gives merits, and rewards after merits, you cannot stop at that beginning." We will consider these and other topics in their proper place; for now, let's focus on understanding what faith is.
42. Wherever there is true living faith, it must be accompanied by the hope of eternal life, or rather, it must create and show that hope. If this hope is missing, no matter how well we may talk about faith, it's clear that we don't actually have it. For if faith is a strong belief in God's truth – a belief that God can never be false, never deceive, and never fail – then those who have this assurance must also expect that God will fulfill His promises, which they believe to be absolutely true. In other words, hope is simply the expectation of the things that faith already believes to be truly promised by God. So, faith believes that God is true; hope expects that He will show His truth in due time. Faith believes that He is our Father; hope expects that He will always act as a Father towards us. Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us; hope expects that it will be revealed one day. Faith is the foundation on which hope rests; hope nourishes and supports faith. For just as no one can expect anything from God without first believing in His promises, so too must our weak faith, which could become tired and fall away, be supported and nurtured by patient hope and expectation. This is why Paul rightly says, "We are saved by hope" (Romans 8:24). For while hope quietly waits for the Lord, it keeps faith from rushing ahead too quickly, strengthens it when it might waver regarding God's promises or start to doubt their truth, revives it when it might be weary, and keeps its focus on the ultimate goal so that it doesn't give up midway or at the very beginning. In short, by constantly renewing and reviving itself, hope continually provides more strength for perseverance. The importance of hope in strengthening faith becomes even more apparent when we consider the many forms of temptation that those who have embraced God's word face and struggle with. First, the Lord often tests us by delaying the fulfillment of His promises longer than we would like. In these situations, hope's role is to do what the prophet advises: "Though it tarry, wait for it" (Habakkuk 2:3). Sometimes, God not only allows faith to weaken but even shows His displeasure openly. In these cases, there is an even greater need for hope's support, so we can say with another prophet, "I will wait upon the Lord that hides His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him" (Isaiah 8:17). Scoffers may also appear, as Peter tells us, asking, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). Even the world and our own flesh may suggest the same thing. In these moments, faith must be supported by the patience of hope and focus on the contemplation of eternity, remembering that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4).
43. Because of the close relationship between faith and hope, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture. For example, when Peter says that we are "kept by the power of God through faith until salvation, ready to be revealed in the last times" (1 Pet. 1:5), he is actually referring to hope. This makes sense, as we've already established that hope is like the nourishment and support for faith. Sometimes, faith and hope are mentioned together, as in the same letter: "That your faith and hope might be in God" (1 Pet.1:21). In another letter, Paul connects hope with expectation (Phil.1:20), because when we hope patiently, we wait for God to reveal His timing. A better understanding of this topic can be found in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In another passage, Paul says, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Gal.5:5), meaning that after accepting the message of God's free love, we wait for Him to make our hope a reality. It's clear now how ridiculous it is for Peter Lombard to claim that hope has two foundations: God's grace and the merit of our works (Sent. Lib.3, Dist. 26). Hope can only be based on the same foundation as faith. We've already demonstrated that the only foundation for faith is God's mercy, which we should focus on completely. Lombard's reasoning is strange: he says that if we hope for something without merit, it should be called presumption, not hope. But who wouldn't be appalled by the idea that trusting in God's truth is considered rash and presumptuous? God wants us to expect everything from His goodness, yet these people claim that relying on it is presumptuous. Such a teacher is well-suited for the misguided schools he found. Since God's word encourages sinners to have hope for salvation, let's confidently trust in His truth, disregard any reliance on our own works, and place our hope in His mercy. The one who said, "According to your faith be it unto you" (Mt. 9:29) will never deceive us.