Deconstructing Ephesians 2:8-9
One of the most common New Testament verses needs to be deconstructed in order to fully understand its meaning.
And…its understanding is critical.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
“For by grace”
It is commonly accepted that the meaning of “grace” is the free and unmerited favor or gift of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners. But common acceptance is not the word of God, so here are the verses which substantiate the common understanding:
Rom 5:15 “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”
Rom 3:24 “…being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…”
Notice the following:
- From God’s perspective: Grace is unmerited – God is not gifting grace because of an action or lack of an action on your part. He is the gift giver and to express His love, He decides to make a gift.
- From Your perspective: Grace is free – you can’t buy it nor can you earn it, there’s no need, it’s a free gift.
God certainly has the power to give the gift of salvation through grace.
Should not God also have the ability to determine to whom he makes a gift? (Also known as the sovereignty of God.)
In other words, if we had the ability to demand a gift, would it still be a gift?
“You have been saved”
We know the recipient – “you” and the timing – “have been” saved. In other words, once grace is combined with faith (discussed below) this is a “fete accompli.”
It is finished, it is completed!
Why is this important?
From God’s perspective: He has guaranteed your salvation – this is also known as the “perseverance of the saints.”
John 6:29 “…all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
From your perspective: There is nothing further you need to do – good works are now a product of your completed salvation not a requirement to continue to be saved.
Eph 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Now certainly we have to understand that “faith” is our response.
But, how can that response be in our own power? Prior to salvation, were we not spiritually dead and unable to respond?
Eph 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…”
Col 2:13 “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions…”
How then can dead men muster enough faith to be saved?
“and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”
Okay, here’s the answer – not of ourselves.
But what does “that” and “it” refer to?
Do they pertain to grace, or to faith, or to grace and faith or does it refer to the condition of having been saved.
We’ve already established that “grace” is the Gift of God.
And, we’ve established that prior to salvation, we are dead in our trespasses and are incapable of mustering faith on our own accord.
So, is faith also a gift?
2 Peter 1:1 “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours”
To “receive” faith would mean that faith comes from someone – notice it doesn’t say “to those who have generated their faith.”
Phil 1:29 “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”
Is not granted to believe the receipt of faith?
Acts 3:16 ““And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.”
Can the Lord make it any clearer? “the faith which comes through Him.”
Certainly then, both grace and faith are gifts from God. Technically though, “that” and “it” in Ephesians 2:8-9 refer to faith as a gift. Linguistically in the Greek, “faith” is feminine singular and “that” is neuter singular. This, however, is not a problem if it is understood that “that” refers to the act of faith rather than the noun faith.
In fact, in Paul’s Greek grammar, a pronoun, such as “that,” needs to agree with its antecedent in gender and number. But faith and grace is feminine and “that or it” is neuter so “that” correctly refers to the action of “having been saved.”
“not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.“
This just completes the thought with a little duplicity.
It simply state that grace and faith are gifts – not the result of works, so that no one can boast.
It adds emphasis to the receipt of both grace and faith as unmerited gifts so that no one can boast.
If someone boasts they are saved because of their good works they deny grace.
If someone boasts they are saved because of their intelligence they deny faith.
But, don’t we have a problem?
If salvation, which according to Ephesian 2:8-9, consists of only grace and faith, and we know that both grace and faith are gifts from God, what does man do to be saved?
From God’s perspective – God chooses to whom He gives the gifts of grace and faith, and He utilizes His Word, as the means, and His Servants, as the messenger, to accomplish His choice.
The Choice – Acts 13:48 “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.“
The Means – Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
The Messenger – Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”
Isaiah 52:7 “How lovely…are the feet of him…who announces salvation…” (see also Rom 10:15b)
From Your perspective – Through the receipt of the gift of faith and grace, you respond, in your free will, to the power of the word of God delivered by his servants. Through the same messengers and the same means that God has prescribed.
If you are truly saved, you have nothing to boast about, but everything to be thankful for!