VERSE OF THE DAY
For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.
It’s no mistake that you are in faith for it is by God’s Grace that you are saved through faith. It is not by your own doings not your own efforts, but of the father’s own given gift so that no one can be boastful about all for it is all by gods gift.
What does Ephesians chapter 2 mean?
Chapter 2 emphasizes the theme of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. First, Paul describes the process of salvation as the result of God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1–10). Human effort, and human goodness, are completely ineffective in our salvation. Second, Paul transitions to a focus on unity in Christ (Ephesians 2:11–22). This includes tearing down the previous divide between Jews and Gentiles who are now one spiritual family.
The first section (Ephesians 2:1–10) begins by noting believers “were dead” in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) in which they had previously walked, following the way of Satan (Ephesians 2:2). This is true of all believers before coming to faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:3). Yet God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:4) has made us alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). This is Paul’s first mention of being saved by grace. The contrast between death and life offers a stark contrast between the unsaved and saved.
Ephesians 2:6 continues with a focus on believers being raised up with Christ, mentioning grace a second time (Ephesians 2:7). Ephesians 2:8–9 are some of the most well-known words in the Bible, emphasizing salvation by grace through faith. It is not the result of works, so no one has reason to brag. Verse 10 ends this section by noting that we are God’s workmanship or “artwork” and have been created to do good works. In fact, God prepared in advance for believers to accomplish these tasks.
The second section (Ephesians 2:11–22) transitions to unity in the body of Christ. Writing to Gentiles, Paul notes that they were once called “the uncircumcision” (Ephesians 2:11). They were separated from Christ, without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12). Yet through Christ they have been “brought near” (Ephesians 2:13). The dividing wall has been taken down (Ephesians 2:14), with the law of commandments abolished to make one new family (Ephesians 2:15), creating reconciliation and ending hostility (Ephesians 2:16).
Jesus came to reach people of all kinds and in all places (Ephesians 2:17). Through Him we “have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18), emphasizing the triune nature of God. Gentile believers are no longer “strangers and aliens” but are united with Jewish believers in Christ (Ephesians 2:19). This united family, the church, is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Everything grows from Him and for Him (Ephesians 2:21–22).
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul’s writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
The first three chapters of Ephesians focus on doctrinal issues; the last three show how those principles should be applied in real life. Chapter 2 makes a pair of related points about our status as saved believers. First, salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God, not human efforts. Second, this means all Christians are part of the same family, Jew and Gentile alike. This bridges chapter 1’s explanation of God’s awesome glory to chapter 3’s discussion of God bringing His long-awaited plan into action
What does Ephesians 2:8 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]
Paul returns again to his theme of grace in this classic verse. Salvation’s source is grace; the means of salvation is faith. We believe by faith to be saved (Romans 10:9), but would never choose to believe apart from the grace of God operating in our lives. That salvation would never be available, other than as a result of the grace of God. Both parts are important in the discussion of salvation.
Immediately following this declaration, Paul repeats and clarifies it. Paul does not want anyone to think salvation is based on something they had done, or could ever do. No action is good enough to provide our own salvation. No good deeds can undo the sins we have committed. Salvation is a gift. Further, it is a gift only God can provide. No matter how much we desire to give salvation to another person, we cannot. Only God can offer the gift of eternal life. Instead, we are called to proclaim the gospel, live it, share it, pray for the salvation of others, and help people grow in the grace of God. The Lord must be the one to provide salvation and does so as He chooses.
Ephesians 2:1–10 clearly explains the relationship between our lack of obedience, the grace of God, and our salvation. Those who are saved by Christ do not deserve this salvation. It is only by mercy, and by grace, that God chooses to forgive. In this section, Paul will repeat the claim that human effort has no impact on salvation whatsoever. No Christian can brag about their ”goodness,” since we are saved entirely by the grace of God, not by our own good deeds.
Paul repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is accomplished on the basis of grace, through faith. Good works, human effort, and our best intentions will never be enough to earn salvation. Every person is marked with sin, both deliberate and accidental, and for this reason we deserve to be separated from God. Only through His mercy and grace can we be saved, leaving no room for bragging. This also means that all who are saved, Jew and Gentile alike, are part of the same spiritual family. There is no cause for hostility between believers; we are all unworthy, and all saved by the same kindness of God
What Does Ephesians 2:8 Mean? ►
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
God has given humanity an amazing gift, and that gift is salvation – the salvation of the spirit, the salvation of the soul, and the salvation of the body, which was procured through the shedding of Christ’s blood in payment for the sins of the whole world – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Salvation is a gift of grace that is available to every man, and it comes from the God of all grace. Salvation is a free gift from God. Salvation is an unmerited gift and salvation is an eternal gift from the Lord of the universe to fallen man, and it flows from the exceeding riches of His amazing grace, which is found in Jesus Christ, His dearly beloved Son.
This gift of salvation streams to mankind from the Father-heart of a loving God – Who knew that the sinful race of fallen humanity faced a lost eternity without the great and costly gift of His only begotten Son. The sacrificial death of the eternal Son could alone pay the price for the sins of the world and redeem a lost creation.
But God is Spirit, and for the Son of God to shed His blood as the full and final payment for sin, He had to become the Son of Man and be born into the very race that is dead in trespasses and sin and at enmity with God. YES! God has given humanity an incredible gift, and that gift is salvation – but it only comes as a gift of grace – through faith in His only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
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Salvation was conceived before the world was founded. Salvation has nothing whatsoever to do with man’s worth and it has nothing to do with man’s worthiness. It does not rest on my merit or your good deeds and it has nothing to do with anything you or I have done or could do to please God.
However, our salvation has everything to do with what Christ has done for us, and is based on His worth and His worthiness. Salvation is rooted in His merit and His excellence. Our salvation depends entirely on Christ’s worthiness, and the work that He carried out on Calvary’s Cross, when He offered up His sinless life to pay the price for our sin, freeing us from the guilt of sin and the penalty of sin – and breaking the suffocating power of sin in our lives.
And all that humanity has to do to receive this eternal gift of salvation is to believe in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father. All we have to do is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour… to have faith in Him… to believe on His name. God has given humanity the amazing gift of salvation which is given freely, to whosoever will trust in His redeeming work on Calvary – because God is gracious and God is good.
God’s gift of salvation is given by GRACE – for it is by grace that we are saved, through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Him and His finished work on the Cross is ALL that is needed, and whosoever will, may access this free gift of salvation by grace. For by grace ANYONE can be saved. For by grace we are saved… through faith, and that not of ourselves: it is the gift of God.
Salvation is not a work of the flesh, nor is it given because of human merit, lest any man should boast. Salvation is not gained by keeping any Law or engaging in any religious ritual. Salvation is the amazing gift of God’s grace, and does not have anything to do with us. All that is required of you and me is to believe – “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Those of us who believe this by faith are justified, saved, redeemed, declared righteous, positioned in Christ, clothed in His righteousness, in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and have been given a whole host of other supernatural and eternal benefits, simply by believing on the finished work of Christ at Calvary, for He died for our sin according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures. Do YOU believe this?
Let us come humbly before the throne of grace, knowing that we are not justified because of our works or worthiness or merit or religiosity or anything else – but because Christ is worthy. Praise His Name.
Thank You dear Father, for Your free gift of salvation. I am not worthy to receive such a gift, but I thank You in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, my Saviour in Whom I trust. It is in His name I pray, AMEN.
Is ‘Faith’ the ‘Gift of God’? Reading Ephesians 2:8-10 with the Ancients
13/09/2017 | Matthew Olliffe
Most modern interpreters believe the ‘gift of God’ is ‘salvation by grace through faith’. Ancient exegetes said that it was the faith itself.
For [it is] by grace you have been saved through faith, and this [is] not from yourselves, [it is] the gift of God, [it is] not from works, so that no-one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that in them we might walk. (Eph 2:8-10, my translation)
Reformed Evangelicals love this passage … J.C. Ryle was converted simply by hearing it read in church.
Ephesians 2:8-10 is well-known as Paul’s doctrine of salvation in miniature. Reformed Evangelicals love this passage, using it to explain what sits at the heart of the gospel—the relationship between grace, faith, and works in salvation. J.C. Ryle was converted simply by hearing it read in church. It’s a key passage in the popular Just For Starters: Seven Basic Bible Studies. Many of us have put together the puzzle of ‘grace’, ‘faith’ and ‘works’ from Ephesians 2:8-10. The paradigm ‘Not Saved By Works But For Works’ is a vital component of the excellent ‘Christianity Explained’ course, and rests on this passage. Indeed, the current de-emphasis on this in some circles blunts the cutting edge of the gospel.
I grew up Roman Catholic, wondering how I could be good enough for God. Then at university an MTS worker did Just For Starters with me. We opened the Bible, and in that hut at Kensington, I got God’s grace. I realised that my acceptance before God at the judgement is not based on my goodness or moral effort, but on God’s goodness and Jesus’ moral effort. I discovered that I’m saved, not by good works, but for good works. God even gave me the faith that joins me up to Jesus. God predestined the good works that he has now given me to do.
This little passage became the reason to find a Protestant church, go to beach mission, and arrogantly share the gospel of free grace. Even now, I continually return to this beautiful simplicity, because I’ve never graduated beyond my debt to grace, no matter what I think I’ve achieved. As Theodoret said, ‘I own myself wretched—aye, thrice wretched. I am guilty of many errors. Through faith alone I look for finding some mercy in the day of the Lord’s appearing.’
A Disconcerting Surprise
However, I came to discover with surprise and disappointment that many didn’t understand these verses ‘my’ way. Reading commentaries and learning Greek revealed that—in technical language—the demonstrative translated ‘this’ (v8) is neuter, but the noun for ‘faith’ is ‘feminine’. For my naive view to stand, they should agree—but they don’t. My Greek textbook declared, ‘On a grammatical level, then, it is doubtful that either “faith” or “grace” is the antecedent of [touto].’ Was this the death knell to my beloved understanding of Ephesians 2:8-10?
Further reflection yielded other questions. For example, verse 9 doesn’t say ‘good works’ but ‘works’—the adjective ‘good’ is only found in verse 10. So are ‘works’ (v9) the same as ‘good works’ (v10)? Are the works we are saved for different from those we are not saved by? Many say ‘yes’. Some limit the non-saving ‘works’ to ‘pre-baptismal’ ones, but then say that ‘post-baptismal’ works actually do save us. Or does verse 9 merely exclude from saving efficacy ‘ceremonial works’ or ‘Jewish boundary markers’? So are we saved by ‘good works’ after all?
Furthermore, in Ephesians, Paul doesn’t use the ‘justify’ words at all—although Protestants often assume it does. Is it a sound assumption? And what about the relationship between ‘not from yourselves’ (v8) and ‘not from works’ (v9)? What could it mean to say that ‘faith’ is ‘not from works’? And is it true to say that God has predestined our specific and individual ‘good works’? After all, the divine pre-preparation may simply have been God commanding them.
I don’t want to imply that I experienced some terrible existential crisis. I knew that other passages taught that our believing response to God is enabled by God if this one didn’t (see e.g. Acts 5:31, 11:18, 13:48, 16:14). But that didn’t mean I was eager to surrender a reading that had been so important to my early faith. And now I believe that there are good reasons to think that my naive understanding was right after all.
First, Classical Greek literature, the Septuagint, and the New Testament, provide evidence that ‘this’ can indeed refer to ‘faith’. There are 15 certain or highly probable examples of this rule—ten in the classical literaturę, four in the Septuagint, and one in the Greek New Testament.
Second, many ancient exegetes take it that way. As Abraham Kuyper observes:
Nearly all the church fathers […] judged that the words “it is the gift of God” refer to faith […] this was the exegesis […] of those that spoke the Greek language and were familiar with the peculiar Greek construction. 
I can confirm Kuyper’s assertion. Only a minority of ancient commentators associate ‘this’ exclusively with salvation, eight ancient exegetes specifically assert that ‘this’ refers back to a feminine noun in Ephesians 2:8-9, seven taking touto to refer to ‘faith’ (Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Theodoret, Fulgentius, Œcumenius, Theophylact), and one taking it to refer to ‘grace’ (John of Damascus). These interpreters were either native Greek speakers or, in the case of Jerome and Fulgentius, Latin speakers of undoubted Greek ability, or, in the case of Augustine, the greatest extant theologian of the first Millennium.This is doubly important because the ancient Greek-speaking exegetes themselves were inclined to see faith as a human work. They thought human free-will had a controlling place in salvation, and that predestination was simply God foreseeing human virtue. Their exegetical decisions thus were generally in spite of, rather than because of, their theological commitments.In contrast with the ancients, most modern interpreters believe the ‘gift of God’ is the concept ‘salvation by grace through faith’. This is quite acceptable in terms of grammar. Calvin adopted it, and is followed by ‘the great majority of modern commentators’. Only three ‘modern’ commentators agree with the incumbent ancient understanding, and they all died last century! However, 19th century Greek grammars, steeped in the Classical literature from which Koinē Greek developed, articulate the rule that a neuter demonstrative can refer back to a masculine or feminine word. Modern commentators sometimes acknowledge this.
Expository Considerations (Ephesians 2:1-10)
The trajectory of verses 1-7 is not that humans under sin are sick and impaired … ‘dead’ in our ‘transgressions and sins.
The trajectory of verses 1-7 is not that humans under sin are sick and impaired but dead and enslaved. We were ‘dead’ in our ‘transgressions and sins’ (v1), and Paul includes himself with us in that plight (v5). Every human at one time has walked according to the world, the flesh, and the devil (vv2-3), and this requires that God must make us alive in Christ (v5) if we are to exercise faith (v8).
The clause ‘by grace you are saved’ explains ‘he made us alive with Christ Jesus’ (v5). So ‘making alive’ is part of God’s salvation by grace. ‘By grace you are saved’ appears again (v8), but a new, human element is introduced—‘through faith.’ This makes it more likely that the new element, ‘faith’, is the subject of verse 9. That is, Paul has already explained that clause (vv5-7). But the new element, ‘through faith’ (v8) most needed the explanation of verses 8-9. Lest his readers think faith is some independent action on the part of the subject, the Apostle puts it more starkly—‘faith’ is in one sense ‘not from ourselves’, though from another perspective, ‘faith’ is obviously from ourselves. And if ‘faith’ is the gift of God, so too is ‘grace’ and ‘salvation’. It cannot be otherwise. As Œcumenius said, ‘for us to believe [is the] gift of God, and to be saved through faith [is the] gift of God’. It is not ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’.
The Eastern theological tradition considers that the divine cause of faith is adequately explained by God’s initiative-taking in the incarnation and gospel-preaching (Romans 10:14; Chrysostom; Œcumenius). This leaves room for free-will in the scheme of salvation, where grace is ‘fellow-worker’ (synergos) with free-will. It is synergistic.
By contrast, mature Augustinianism holds that the impulse by which we seek God is itself given to us by God. ‘[W]e receive, without any merit of our own, that from which everything … has its beginning— that is, faith itself.’ Likewise, Fulgentiussays ‘and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity’. It is not only the divine invitation to, but the divine enablement of, faith, that more accurately accords with faith being ‘the gift of God’.
Meanwhile, the Eastern tradition tends to take ‘not from works’ to refer to salvation—even though it takes ‘the gift of God’ to be ‘faith’. However, we might consider that ‘faith’ is ‘not from works’ in that no works merit the divine granting of faith. Works are not a condition of the gift of faith. This is how Augustine reads it: ‘And again, lest they should say they deserved so great a gift by their works, he immediately added, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”.’
What ‘works’ is Paul talking about? Barclay rightly says that the ‘works’ of verse 9 are ‘moral achievements’, and should not be limited to Jewish practices and cultural markers.  Even if we did see ‘works’ (v9) as essentially equivalent to the expression ‘works of the law’ in Romans and Galatians, the ‘works of the law’ would still be ‘good works’, as the stipulations of the law of Moses are ‘holy, righteous, and good’ (Romans 7:12). And what the law brings is not a ‘knowledge of Jewishness’ but a ‘knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20). ‘Works of the law’ requires human achievement, because ‘doing’ is the basis of justification by law (Romans 2:12-13, 7:10, 10:5; Leviticus 18:5). The ‘works’ promised to be rewarded at the judgement with eternal life for those who have not sinned but have done the law are ‘good works’ (Romans 2:6-7, 12-13). So ‘works’ (v9) should not be distinguished from ‘good works’ (v10), or limited to pre-conversion works, ethnic boundary markers, or ceremonial Jewish works. ‘Works’ are ‘human achievements’, ‘human effort’, ‘good works’, plain and simple. These ‘good works’ are the purpose of our creation in Christ Jesus—not its basis. Photius of Constantinople, taking ‘works’ (v9) and ‘good works’ (v10) as effectively the same, observes:
But even when we were created for good works, not only have we done nothing good, but we have even returned the very opposite […] But this, being created for good works, is at one and the same time both urging us forward to do [good deeds] and standing [us] apart from good deeds.
‘Standing us apart from good deeds’ can only be a reference to ‘not from works’ (v9). Photius thus equates ‘good deeds’ with ‘works’. Though we have been created for good works, we have done nothing good. Thus, Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches that we are not given saving faith by good works, but with the purpose that we do good works. The works that we are not saved by, these very same works we are saved for. ‘Good works are never the cause of salvation but ought to be its fruit’.
Verse 10 also teaches that God has prepared beforehand these ‘good works’. The prefix pro— is used in Ephesians 1:4, 5, 9, 11 to connote a divine decree before the foundation of the world. Giving pro— the same meaning in Ephesians 2:10, means that God predestined and prepared the specific good works to those to whom he gives faith. The good works do not derive from the believer as they are planned and purposed by God, and therefore they cannot be said to merit salvation or faith. Unsurprisingly, the word translated ‘prepared beforehand’ also appears in Romans 9:23, in a context which suggests divine predestination.
Interestingly, Paul doesn’t use ‘justification’ terminology at all in these verses. The closest we get to it is ‘seated with Christ’ in the heavenlies—clearly a positional category (v6). This is important, reminding us that ‘salvation’ is a broader idea that can encompass other teachings such as predestination, regeneration, sanctification, and rescue from punishment, whereas ‘to justify’ is a more limited forensic category meaning ‘to declare righteous’.
The elderly Bishop Augustine effectively united the majority Eastern exegesis of Ephesians 2:8-10 with a theological underpinning that gave this exegesis its natural home. Augustine’s rejection of the near universal view of predestination according to foreseen virtue and embracing of absolute predestination made him the first thorough-going monergist. His soteriology was more consonant with the interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9 found in the East.
Regarding ‘faith’ as the ‘gift of God’ in Ephesians 2:8-9 has ample support to merit the label ‘catholic’, even if the mature Augustinian doctrine of predestination does not.
Learning these things from both the Eastern and Western exegetical traditions concerning Ephesians 2:8-10 enables us to be ‘more Calvinistic than Calvin’, who thought it an error to say that ‘faith’ was the gift here. But it is quite acceptable according to the rules of Greek syntax. Our modern grammars and commentaries should be revised to reflect that reality.
What does Ephesians 2:8–9 mean?
Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” These powerful verses summarize the main point of the gospel. We are sinners who need a Savior and can only be saved by God’s grace. We put our faith in Jesus who died on the cross to pay for our sins; and we are brought into relationship with our Creator God.
The apostle Paul wrote Ephesians to the Christians living in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. The letter was later broken down into six chapters. The first three chapters focus on God’s grace, and the last three on how believers are to respond to that grace. As a whole, they paint a picture of God’s plan for redeeming humanity from its sinful state.
The first chapter of Ephesians says that believers have been blessed by God. It explains God’s plan to redeem humanity by sacrificing His Son Jesus so that people could be forgiven for their sins. Paul then prays that the believers in Ephesus might have a deeper understanding of God’s grace. The second chapter begins by demonstrating how believers have changed from who they were before they believed into who they are now that they believe. The next part of the second chapter and the third chapter reveal that God’s plan includes both Jews and Gentiles. Paul emphasizes that together with the Jews, “Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
Ephesians 2:8–9 encompasses all of the ideas in the first three chapters of the book. It makes it clear that believers are saved by God’s grace through faith and not works. No one can ever do anything to earn salvation or ever be good enough to deserve it. Rather, God freely gives us His grace as a gift (grace) because of His kindness and love for us even though we are unworthy of it. In addition, it emphasizes that we cannot boast in our own power because it is only by God’s power that we are redeemed. He receives all the glory, not us.
However, Paul did not leave it there. In Ephesians 2:10 he stated, “For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Although we are not saved by good works, when we are saved we are transformed; a product of that transformation is good works (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1–14; Ephesians 4:17–32). In chapters four through six of Ephesians, Paul addresses how believers are to live now that they have been made new in Christ. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:14–15).
Ephesians 2:8-9 Commentary
When you look at two very popular verses in the Bible through the lens of history, understanding their meaning has had great impact on modern Christianity. The verses, Ephesian 2:8-9, are a simple, but profound statement about the gift of God that He has given to humanity. However, there are some that suggest that what these two verses teach is justification for a theological system of interpretation that has historically and practically lead to tragic consequences. An examination and commentary of Ephesians 2:8-9 using the rule of Bible study makes clear what these two verses teach.
What is the context of Ephesians 2:8-9?
book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus around 60-64 A.D. Paul spent a great amount of time there and this letter served as short overview of the theological tenets and practical applications of his teaching to them. At first glance, Ephesians 2:8-9 is simple in its presentation:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Examining each phrase in context reveals some amazing things about God and His love for us. Theologically speaking, In Ephesians 2:1-7 we learn that while we were yet sinners and dead in trespasses and sins, God loved us enough to quicken us, or give us life. Practically speaking, we lived our lives in the ways of the world, according to Satan and an unholy spirit of disobedience. We lived amongst a world that operates through the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of our flesh and minds as the natural children of anti-Christ destined to eternal wrath.
However, God loved us so much that He extended mercy to us while we were yet sinners by mercifully giving us this new life through Jesus Christ. Like Christ, He has raised us up together so that one day we all would sit together in Heaven. This manifestation of God’s grace and mercy would be demonstrated to us in the ages to come by God’s kindness toward us through Jesus Christ.
What does Ephesians 2:8-9 teach?
These verses are really a summary of what the chapter teaches. Each phrase teaches us the following:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith…”
There are three components to this phrase. If you have ever diagrammed sentences in school, you can see the relationships of these components. First, “By grace” is a prepositional phrase that refers to why we are saved. Second, “are ye saved” is a verb phrase that describes the verb “are saved”. The word “ye”, describes who are saved. Third, “through faith” describes how we are saved. Together the phrase, “For by grace are ye saved through faith” tells us that because of God’s grace (why) He saved us (who) through our faith (how). With this in mind, those of you who have diagrammed sentences can see that the subject of the first phrase or sentence is salvation.
“It is the gift of God…”
This is where many get confused and come up with alternative meanings of these verses, they wrongly define what is the gift of God. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves what is being described by the word “It?” Some would say grace. Others would say faith. The key is to ask what are these two components talking about? The answer again is saved or salvation. Remember, the first phrase is talking about why, who, and how God saved us. As we saw in the context of Ephesians 2:1-7, the topic of this passage is salvation.
Some claim that the gift of God is faith. But, there are three problems with this. First, it ignores the context and structure of the first phrase in the context of the larger passage. Second, they confuse the faith for salvation with the faith as the fruit of the Spirit. These two aspects of faith are described in Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1) is the hope of salvation we have through faith in Jesus Christ, Who is defined as our hope (Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:13). This faith for salvation is an anchor for our soul (Hebrews 6:18-20). At the moment we are saved, God immediately gives us the Holy Spirit of promise as the earnest, or non-refundable guarantee of our inheritance, Who seals us until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:9-14; Ephesians 4:30).
The Holy Spirit then produces the evidence of things not seen, which is the fruit of the Spirit. Part of this fruit of the Spirit is faith (Galatians 5:22-23). Since the Ephesians 2:1-8 is talking about salvation, it cannot be talking about the faith as the fruit of the Spirit because we do not get the Spirit until immediately after God saves us. Therefore, the faith described in Ephesians 2:8 is not a fruit of the Spirit received from God, it is the faith through which God saves us at the moment we realize in our heart of hearts that what God says about us needing salvation through Christ is true and our notions of salvation by any other means are false.
The third and final problem with claiming that the gift of God is faith is that in the Greek language, like other languages, words can have masculine, feminine, or neuter genders. The word faith is feminine in gender. The subject of the first phrase is also referred to by the next phrase, “and that not of yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8). In this next phrase, “that” is referring to what is being described. Since we have determined that the subject is salvation, the word “that” cannot be talking about faith. Likewise, the gender of the word “that” is neuter, not feminine, so it cannot be talking about faith, which has a feminine gender. Additionally, the gender of the word “it” is also neuter so neither “that” or “it” can refer to faith.
“Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Finally, we come to the end of Ephesians 2:8-9. This puts to rest any idea that Ephesians 2:8-9 is., then no one can boast about how they saved themselves. This is made clear in Romans 4:1-5 where we are told that Abraham was declared righteous through his faith in what God said, not his works. It was the moment that Abraham realized in his heart of hearts that what God was saying was true that his faith became the instrument through, which God would save him.
Some would say that faith is a work and quote John 6:26-41, but this is not talking about salvation, it is talking about doing works. This refers back to faith being the evidence of things not seen and the fruit of the Spirit. Practically speaking, it is this evidence that then motivates us to do good works for God. This is why Jesus referred to them seeking Him not because of the miracles He did, but because they wanted food. The people wanted to see a sign, or the evidence, before they believed. This is contrary to the teaching of Scripture that it is after salvation that we get to see the evidence of things not seen and have the ability to see and understand things that unbelievers cannot see (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). We conclude then that our salvation is a gift of God that no man can earn.
What is the meaning of Ephesians 2:8–9?
Ephesians 2:8–9 is a familiar passage dealing with God’s grace in the matter of salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Before looking at the meaning of an individual verse (or two), it is important to get a feel for the context. Ephesians was written by Paul to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, which had a significant population of Gentile believers.
Paul spends Ephesians chapter 1 telling them of the incredible blessings they have in Christ. He tells them how they have been chosen and sealed with the Holy Spirit. He also prays that they will fully understand all of the spiritual blessings they have in Christ.
Chapter 2 begins by contrasting the believers’ current position in Christ with their condition outside of Christ—they had been dead in their sins. In Christ they have been reconciled to God, and Jewish and Gentile believers have been reconciled to each other.
Chapter 3 further elaborates on God’s plan to include Gentiles and Jews together in Christ. This unity is something that most people did not expect. Paul then thanks God for all the Ephesian believers, whether Jew or Gentile.
Chapters 4–6 encourage the believers in Ephesus to live up to their position in Christ. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). These three chapters contain some of the most pointed and practical behavioral guidelines for Christians. Importantly, people do not obey these guidelines in order to become Christians or to become acceptable to God. Rather, they follow these guidelines as a natural part of living out their position in Christ.
This brings us back to Ephesians 2:8–9. The popular notion is that God accepts good people and rejects bad people. Most people, whether in Christianized countries or those steeped in other religions, usually operate under the idea that God accepts or rejects people based on some level of goodness and/or religious performance. The whole book of Ephesians rejects this premise, and Ephesians 2:8–9 specifically refutes it: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:7 says that God has given incredible blessings to those who are in Christ “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.” In other words, God has chosen to save sinners, not based on their goodness but on His kindness. He does this to demonstrate His grace—that is to say His undeserved favor. By definition, grace is a blessing that is undeserved and unwarranted—grace is a gift freely given based on the kind intentions of the giver to a recipient who has no claim to it.
What God has done for believers in Christ is going to bring Him glory, and Ephesians 2:8–9 further explains how He gets all the glory. First, “it is by grace you have been saved.” If we are saved by grace, this means that it is not because we are good or deserving; rather, it is because God is good and gracious.
Second, we are saved “through faith.” In order to be saved, there is a necessary human response to God’s grace. The response is not trying to be “good enough” to be saved. The response is simply trusting (having faith in) God to save on the basis of Christ’s goodness. Furthermore, we must understand that faith is not a good work in itself that God rewards. Faith is simply casting our unworthy selves on the mercy of a kind and forgiving and gracious God.
The next clause in Ephesians 2:8–9 is a little more difficult to understand: “And this is not from yourselves.” The interpretive issue is what the word this is referring to. Some interpreters think that it refers to faith. Thus, the verse could be paraphrased, “You have been saved by grace through faith, and even this faith is not from within you.” Those who accept this interpretation emphasize that, without the work of God in our lives, we could not even believe the gospel in order to be saved. Undoubtedly, this is true, but it may not be the best interpretation of this particular verse. The reason is that the gender of the word this (in Greek) does not match the gender of the word faith, which would normally be the case if this was a pronoun referring to faith.
Some will take this to refer to grace. Undoubtedly, the meaning is true as well. Grace, by definition, is from God and not from within ourselves; however, grammatically, there is the same problem with making the pronoun this refer to grace as to faith—the genders do not match. The same is true if this refers back to the phrase have been saved.
The best explanation is that this refers to the whole plan and process of “salvation by grace through faith,” rather than any specific element of it—although, admittedly, the bottom line is hardly any different. Salvation-by-grace-through-faith is not from ourselves but is “a gift of God, not of works.” Once again, the nature of grace is reiterated. This whole plan and process of salvation comes from God as a gift, not from ourselves as the result of works or good things that we have done.
The result of the process is “so that no one can boast.” In Ephesians 1:14, we are told that the salvation explained in verses 3–14 is “to the praise of His [God’s] glory.” If the plan and process of salvation were from ourselves, based on our good works, then, when we achieved the necessary level of goodness to warrant salvation, we could boast. “I did it!” we might say, or, “I gave it my all and overcame tremendous obstacles, but I finally ascended to the highest levels of goodness and holiness, and God gave me what I deserved!” And we could look down on those who did not make it: “Those others failed because they lacked the fortitude, insight, and piety that I cultivated.” Boasting would abound. If the plan and process of salvation were based on human works, then we would elevate ourselves over other people and even in some sense over God Himself, because our salvation was our own doing, not His. Ephesians 2:8–9 says an emphatic NO. The plan and process of salvation is from God as a gift, it is by grace, and it is accessed through faith in God’s promises in Christ. Nothing about salvation is worked up from within ourselves, and it is not based on good things we do. Boasting in our own achievements is out of place, but, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:17, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Many people memorize Ephesians 2:8–9, and it is an excellent synopsis of the gospel, but the passage does not end at verse 9. Verse 10 is necessary to complete the thought. Someone might wonder what place good works have in the life of a Christian. We have already seen that chapters 4–6 are all about good works and right behavior. Just as chapters 4–6 come after chapters 1–3, so Ephesians 2:10 comes after Ephesians 2:8–9, not only sequentially but also conceptually and chronologically. We are not saved by doing good works, but we are saved for the purpose of doing good works: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Good works are a vital part of the Christian life because doing good is one of the reasons God saves us—He has things for us to do. But the sequence is all-important—good works are not the cause of salvation but the purpose of it. God saves us so that we can go into the world, doing good works in His name, and this brings Him all the more glory (cf. Matthew 5:16).
Given the truth of Ephesians 2:8–9, it is crucial to ask oneself, “What do I rely on for my salvation?” Are you relying upon good things you have done, or do you recognize that you have nothing to contribute and simply cast yourself upon the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ?