Tuesday, 26 July 2016
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8
In verse 2:5, Paul parenthetically stated, “by grace you have been saved.” After that, he explained what the resulting actions of that salvation were. Now he returns to that same parenthetical thought to further define what being saved by grace means.
He begins with “For” in order to show that all of the things which resulted from that salvation are connected to this act of grace. In other words, the entire deal is of grace; none is merited. We “were dead in trespasses” but “He made us alive together with Christ” in an act of grace. He raised us up by an act of grace. He made us sit in the heavenlies with Christ by an act of grace.
He continues on with “by grace you have been saved.” It is a repeat of the parenthesis of verse 5. The words “you have been” are in the present indicative active. An indicative serves as a sign or indication of something. In this case, it serves to mean, “ye were saved at first, and continue in a state of salvation” (Charles Ellicott). It is a done deal; salvation is eternal, and it has been “through faith.”
Here he moves from the effect of verse 5 (being saved by grace) to the cause of that occurrence (by faith). The “grace” comes from God while the “faith” came forth from the object of the grace, meaning the man. The faith is the cause of the action, the grace is the effect of the exercise of that faith. Further, “grace” has the article in the Greek, thus it is “the grace.” It is not just any grace, but “the grace of God” which is bestowed upon the believer in Christ and His work.
Next, to demonstrate that “the grace” is truly “grace,” he says, “and that not of yourselves.” One cannot merit grace. The exercise of faith cannot be said to be a work or deed of merit. Instead, it is a logical, necessary choice which one must make in order to be saved. If we want to continue to live, we must breathe. It is not a work of merit, it is a necessary requirement of sustaining life.
When we do what is necessary in order to live, the salvation is bestowed upon us; “it is the gift of God.” A gift is something which costs nothing. It is free and it is without strings attached. Further, a gift is a gift. It is not something that can later be taken back based on another action. If it could be, then it was not a gift from the start. Again as before, logic dictates that salvation must be an eternal decree of God. When faith is exercised, the person is sealed with the Holy Spirit. They are saved and they will keep being saved; once and forever. Therefore, “that” and “the gift of God” are synonymous; the second merely explains the first.
To understand the verse more fully, it needs to be noted that both “grace” and “faith” are in the feminine, but the word “that” is in the neuter. Therefore, “that” is not speaking of only “grace” or “faith.” Instead it is speaking of the entire process of salvation by grace which is through faith. Thus “faith” cannot be considered a work. Here is how the verse looks –
For by grace (feminine) you have been saved through faith (feminine), and that (neuter) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…
The importance of this is seen in in refutation of the doctrine of those who claim that man is “regenerated in order to believe,” and that man does not possess free-will. The argument is ridiculous on the surface, but this is what is taught by some. Instead, the faith is exercised, and the result is being saved by grace, the very thing Paul has been speaking about since verse 5.
The Pulpit Commentary correctly states the nature of the faith –
“It is not that faith is accepted by God in place of works, but because faith indicates that attitude of men towards Christ in which it pleases God to save them, transferring to him all their guilt, imputing to them all his merit.”
Finally, there is an emphasis on the word “gift.” Using an article, the Greek says “of God it is the gift.” The salvation of God is the gift of God based on a mere act of faith by the man. If the faith were a part of the gift, then it wouldn’t really be a gift in the truest sense. At best it could be considered a forced gift, but even that is a contradictory thought.
Life application: Precision of thought is required in order to keep from being duped into bad theology. Please take time to read more commentaries on this verse and then make a logical conclusion based on the best evidence provided.
Lord God, thank you for the gift of salvation which comes by a mere act of faith. Our bodies are pleased to continue functioning when we continue breathing. Breathing is not a work, it is a necessity. In the same way, you offer us life-eternal by exercising a mere act of faith. It is not a work, but rather a necessary condition of life. And when we reach out and believe in the work of Christ, we receive the gift. That is grace! This is simply beyond understanding. Thank You for giving us the avenue of hope which leads back to You! Amen.