Ephesians2v4to10. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Over and over again the little phrase: saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so than no one can boast has been quoted to prove that saving faith is a gift from God and to believe anything else would be to make faith a work. This is a gross misrepresentation of the Scripture. It is the fact that we have been saved that is the gift of God. Salvation is the gift of God. Faith is the means by which we accept the gift. Faith has to be exercised. It is our responsibility. We do not merit salvation by faith. We simply receive it by faith.

If an eye surgeon spent 2 months of the year visiting remote parts of Bangladesh offering to do eye operations out of the goodness of his heart and free of charge - all the poor people with cataracts would need is faith in the surgeon. They would not go about saying, "I will have the operation done if someone gives me faith." No one talks like that because they know faith has to come from within. It is the patient's responsibility. Nor would a blind person who has the operation and whose sight is restored say that faith earned or merited him the services of the surgeon. He or she would be thankful to the surgeon. Their renewed vision is a free gift from the surgeon.

Faith is a virtue like honesty, courage or a forgiving spirit. It is our responsibility. Faith is a function of the will. It can be exercised, withstand testing, grow stronger but it can also grow weaker, waver and be lost. To think about faith as a sort of God induced response to Jesus sacrificial death makes a nonsense of Jesus' appeal to the will, "Take up your cross, deny yourself, follow me."