But this is incomplete, after all, how do we who have faith get faith to be exercised in the first place? Yes, from God, but by what means? When we have first believed, even then the faith was already present to be used. How does faith come?
Rom 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Calling comes through believing, believing comes through hearing, hearing comes through the word of God. This is something very basic that is overlooked: a person cannot be reliable unless they make themselves liable. Suppose I say “I will return your hammer tomorrow if you lend it to me today.” If you trust me (give me strength to do good) then you will lend me the hammer. Suppose, you accidentally left your hammer at my house and I return it. I may have acted faithfully, but in your ignorance/neglect you did not actually place faith in me. One might argue that it was in fact God that placed the faith and I was rewarding his faith, which would be true by our discussion.
But the point is that unless a promise is extended, no faith can take place. Faith comes by hearing because only at the point of hearing is faith possible. You cannot believe before you are promised. So how does God impart faith? By speaking his promises to you, by inviting you to rely upon him!
This in part explains two strange passages of hope in scripture.
1Pe 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
1Pe 4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Counting these as one passage, we see that Messiah preached to imprisoned spirits and specifically to the dead. Why so that they might be judged but LIVE according to God! Preaching produces hearing, produces faith so that even that dead have the opportunity to believe. I say this is hopeful because to me it answers the question “What about people who have never heard the gospel?” It seems intuitive to say that if God loves the world more than I do, then he is more willing than any of us to say who can be saved. Do we honestly think, God sits on his throne biting his nails because he is powerless to save people who die in ignorance? God is not bound as many preach. God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy and even death cannot thwart him. If we have had doubts Peter should lay them to rest.