If faith comes from witnessing a miracle, how can it be a gift?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 11:20-24 NASB:  
20 Then He began to reprimand the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment, than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24 tells us there were cities who refused to repent even though they saw Jesus’ miracles. Does this imply that faith comes from our ability to deduce from things we’ve seen? I believe to answer this question we need to understand that there are different kinds of faith and we need to determine what kind of faith is Matthew talking about.

The scripture tells us we are saved by grace through faith that does not come from our abilities. Saving faith is a gift from of God so that no one can brag that he or she did anything. Doesn’t this tell us that if we have faith in someone because we witnessed him or her perform a miracle, that it is not faith unto salvation? Let me put this another way: If I see something and deduce something from what I saw, I am exercising my own ability to reason.  But saving faith is a gift that does not come from my own ability. This is why I say there is more than one kind of faith.

You can have faith in a doctor’s ability to diagnose a disease, or faith in your wife’s fidelity, or faith in many other things that result from our experiences and our ability to infer from them. These are all types of faith, but not saving faith. So, what kind of faith Matthew is talking about in Chapter 11?

These cities may have gained faith in Jesus’ abilities from watching him work miracles. But faith in Jesus’ abilities to heal is not faith unto salvation. Jesus made it clear that these folks witnessed miracles and still rejected Christ’s message. He said they are worthy of a greater punishment than Tyre and Sidon. Consider, a gift is something we can accept or reject. These people made a conscious effort to reject Jesus’ message, even if it meant rejecting things they saw with their own eyes. Matthew Henry put it this way, “Christ knew that the hearts of the Jews were more bitter and hardened against his miracles and doctrines, than those of Tyre and Sidon would have been therefore their condemnation would be the greater” 1 They refused to have faith in Jesus’ ability to heal or that his healings were works of God. Did they also reject salvation through Jesus blood after he was crucified?  

What are your thoughts?

  1. Henry, Matthew. 1706. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/matthew/11.htm

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