Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Does Ephesians 2:8-9 say that faith is a gift?

(For those who saw me post this Monday on the group blog, I apologize for the redundancy. I wanted to put it here for any readers that may have misssed it there and for my own records. I did change the last paragraph.)
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Bible Knowledge Commentary
Ephesians: Harold W. Hoehner, AB, THM, THD, PHD, (Director of Doctor of Theology Studies, chairman and professor of NT literature and exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary)
offered this exegesis:

These verses explain "the incomparable riches of His grace" (v. 7), expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, It is by grace you have been saved, and adding that the means of this salvation is, through faith. Hence, the basis is grace and the means is faith alone. (cf. Rom. 3:22, 25; Galatians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a "work." It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God's free salvation.

Paul elaborated, And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Much debate has centered around the demonstrative pronoun "this" (touto). Though some think it refers back to grace and others to faith, neither of these suggestions is really valid because the demonstrative pronoun is nueter, whereas "grace" and "faith" are feminine. Also, to refer back to either of these words specifically seems to be redundant. Rather, the nueter touto, as is common, refers to the preceding phrase or clause. (In Ephesians 1:15 and 3:1, touto, "this", refers back to the preceding section.) Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2: 4-8a), whose basis is grace and means is faith. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is "not from yourselves"), but rather, its source is God's grace for "it is the gift of God."

Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2Tim 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom 4:5). Therefore, since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (cf. Rom. 3:27; 1Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1Cor. 1:31).

I wanted to see if this verse truly says that faith is a gift (although I know there are other verses that are used by the Calvinist to say that faith is bestowed on a person who is totally depraved, uninterested in the Lord, and God regenerates him, puts faith in his heart, and then he believes the gospel after having already been regenerated.) ... but I just wanted to see if it was in this verse. This verse causes me to praise God! Salvation is by grace though simple trust in Christ and it is absolutely free! (Free to us, costly to God.) He is so generous!


  • I agree with the diagram you presented. I think the phrase "it is the gift of God" refers to the work of salvation.

    If one is going to describe faith as a work, then to be grammatically consistent, we must say that grace is a work also. Is grace a work of God or a quality of God? If it is merely a work, then it comes short of the glorious designation that scripture bestows on it.

    If grace is not a work (and I believe it is not), then neither is faith. So those who try to say that the exercise of the free-will in salvation is a work are mistaken.

    There certainly are works of God that stem from His grace, but His grace is an amazing attribute of His deity and sovereignty.

    By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at 4/12/2006 9:24 AM  

  • John 14:6 (HCSB)
    I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    John 6:44 (HCSB)
    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, ....

    John 10:27, 28 (HCSB)
    My sheep hear My voice. I know them and they follow Me.
    I give them eternal life, and they will never perish -- ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand.

    One who is drawn by the Father WILL "seek" Him and WILL "choose" Him (s/he WILL follow Him). The gift of eternal life is entirely of Him, including its "means".

    By Anonymous Jim McDermott, at 4/12/2006 1:38 PM  

  • Hi Gordon, I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks for your visit.

    Jim McDermott,
    Yes, I have heard those verses many times and I challenge you to see that John 6:44 is not exclusive, IOW, it doesn't prove IG. It only says that no one can come to God on His own, the HS draws us through the gospel. Now Jim, my friend :~), before you refute what I just said, lets hear your thoughts on the post itself, which is Ephesians 2:8-9, not John. Thanks!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/12/2006 1:45 PM  

  • Those WERE my thoughts on the post itself!

    I agree that John 6:44 is not a "proof text" to demostrated irresistable grace (among other portions of Scripture, it contributes to the understaning of the doctrine), but what it says is what it says!

    By Anonymous Jim McDermott, at 4/12/2006 2:18 PM  

  • I have wrestled with this verse before.

    While I like the diagram, and think I agree with it, I could not, in good conscience, disagree with anyone who disagrees with me on it.

    But, in toto, tuoto notwithstanding, I think the overall thrust of Scripture taken as a whole, teaches salvation as a gift.

    I also think that faith is a gift from God.

    So there you have it. The most indefinite definitive answer you ever received...as a free gift.

    (Two things I hate are repetitiveness and redundancy)

    By Blogger Joe, at 4/12/2006 2:48 PM  

  • Hello Rose

    Jim, John 6:44 is in the present tense. Calvinists never attempt to show from this text that it has any application beyond when Christ was on the earth.

    Christ had not died and risen then and the Gospel was not yet offered, drawing all men.

    The Jews hearts were being hardened so that they would reject Christ. Hence, no man could come to Christ except that he was drawn.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 4/12/2006 4:13 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Just wanted to say thanks for this excellent post and for the diagram!

    By Blogger Redeemed, at 4/12/2006 10:26 PM  

  • A very Blessed Easter to you and your loved ones :)

    By Blogger audrey`, at 4/13/2006 4:45 AM  

  • "He is so generous!"....more than we can even comprehend!

    By Anonymous Steve K, at 4/13/2006 5:51 AM  

    I think I've said this to you before, but I'll say it again.
    I agree with this view of Eph. 2:8-9.
    However, to be consistent, we must place grace and faith in their proprer category of salvation. So while the gift refers back to salvation in general, we cannot escape the fact that grace and faith are a part of salvation, and since they are a part f salvation, then they are gifts.

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 4/13/2006 7:33 AM  

  • Thanks, Jim McDermott. Thanks for the honesty. Love ya bro!

    Thanks for your honesty as well. Indefinite is fine with me! I like your "in tot tuoto..." line. Your are a delight to read.

    Hi DF. :~)

    Hello Sarah,
    You're welcome. God bless you, sister.

    Hello Audrey,
    Your visit here speaks volumes ot me and I appreciate it. Thanks for the encouragement. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 7:50 AM  

  • Hi Steve K.
    Ephesians 3:17... so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    Praise the Lord. Thanks for your visit. How did you happen upon this blog - do I know you?

    Hello Jeremy,
    Thanks for the warm greeting, friend. I can go along with your assessment. My main problem with the insistence on saying that faith is the gift of this verse is that I think it is often used to pound Non-Calvinists over the head with the idea of exclusivity of salvation - not avaiable to all, no freedom to believe the gospel. You know. :~) God bles you, brother.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 7:55 AM  

  • Actually Rose, this interpretation makes salvation every bit as exclusive. What is the difference in saying that "faith is a gift" and "salvation is a gift"?

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 4/13/2006 8:06 AM  

  • Jeremy,
    I know, I absolutely understand that salvation is exclusive to those who believe. The only thing is - does not every man have the capabaility to believe in a truth that is presented to them from the Word, testified to by many witnesses, the HS is there to draw all men, cannot any man believe then? That is the part you and I disagree on. I think the ability to believe is not exclusive (thus faith is not a gift in the strictess sense), but the salvation is a gift only to those who believe this gift is real and receive it.

    If I am wrong, then I hope God will "grant me faith" to see this thing called Total Depravity, Regeneration Preceding Faith and Faith Granted (imposed or imparted - can't think of the right word). Meanwhile I think the Bible teaches me that God offers this gift and that whoever rejects it rejects it, not because they are unable to see it, but because they won't see it. Reason for boasting? No. You know I love Calvinists. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 8:50 AM  

  • Hi Rose!

    I love the work that you put into this post, especially the diagram. I shared my thoughts on the other blog, so I won't be cumbersome and say anything more here.

    I will, however, take this opportunity to wish you John and the family a Happy Easter!

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 4/13/2006 10:43 AM  

  • Who says salvation is a gift?

    Eternal life is clearly identified as a gift.

    Sometimes salvation simply means the eternal life and justification.

    However, there are other aspects of salvation that are conditional, such as deliverance from trial and from the consequences of sin in this life.

    Thus, to talk of salvation as a gift is not using Scriptural language. Far better to talk about eternal life and justification as gifts.

    To treat faith as being an intrinsic part of some 'package' of salvation abstracted from the distinct aspects of deliverance is to read the scriptures through the lens of a deductive argument foreign to the New Testament.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 4/13/2006 11:51 AM  

  • Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...
    Who says salvation is a gift?

    I think Paul did in these two verses.

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 4/13/2006 11:55 AM  

  • With all due respect, Matthew,
    The verse says that salvation is a gift. You're right that every time the Bible speaks of the word "salvation" it is not necessarily speaking of deliverance from eternal condemnation. But ... in this verse it uses the word "salvation" in that sense. Actually, in this verse, the word "salvation" and "eternal Life" may be interchangeable because it is salvation from eternal death - thus, the opposite of eternal death.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 11:56 AM  

  • Jeremy, how did you do that?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 11:57 AM  

  • And Calvinists love you, Ros(i)e!
    ("Back at 'ya)

    :) (I meant to include that in my previous comment)

    No quotation marks needed as to God granting faith!

    I've very briefly addressed hyper-Calvinim; I can't this moment address ultra-dispensatonalism, but the same viewpoint which would restrict John 6:44 to, as the wonderful Les Feldick so frequently says, "Jew only" also must restrict John 14:6. Come now, let us reason together! That said, Matthew's comment posted this morning is more representative of what I've come to expect from him based on his comments during the past week ("right on").

    God's revelation undoubtedly has been progressive. "'Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.'" James 2:23 (HCSB), quoting Genesis 15:6. Abraham, as a very old, childless man, believed God that his decendants would outnumber the stars in the sky. The Jews (on balance) didn't believe God that the Law (and Prophecy) had been fulfilled. The revelation for us to believe is the EUANGELION (faith comes by hearing, hearing the euangelion).

    Truth: "But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually."

    John 3:8 (HCSB)
    The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    [One must be born of the Spirit; one must be born again (born from above)]

    Unfortunately, I must needs get back to (that pesky) work (again, how ANNOYING!) (truly, thanks be to God for it!).

    By Anonymous Jim McDermott, at 4/13/2006 11:58 AM  

  • Hi Rose!

    I liked this alot--a chance to exercise my brain (in dire need of exercising sometimes).

    I'm still thinking about it as I write this---Maybe because we talked about it a couple of Sundays ago, but I kept thinking of John 6:29 where Jesus says the work God requires is to believe (have faith?) seems to be the same greek root word anyway--pisteuo in John, pistis in Ephesians.

    Of course I can also picture Jesus using little "finger" quotation marks as he says the word work there.

    In Luke the apostles asked increase our faith? (my own prayer at times)Something they needed to be given-like a gift.

    Work or gift?

    Still mulling it all over.

    and Still Just a Bill

    By Anonymous Still Just a Bill, at 4/13/2006 1:04 PM  

  • Hi Bill!
    I am so glad you and Jim are coming here. It is really neat to have some friends from church around the place.
    You bring up some good points. I gotta think about that. My brother also gave me some verses about faith being a gift and so did Bluecollar, but I didn't look at them too closely yet. I don't see it painly in this verse, the exclusivity, that is. Bless you, brother!

    I agree with you about the irony of Jesus' statement about "this is the work of God that you believe..."

    We mull together...

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/13/2006 2:52 PM  

  • Still Just a Bill,
    I rather think the request 'Lord increase our faith' suggests that faith is partly of man and partly of God. It would be unwise to read too much into that verse, however.

    I would say the same of the chap who said 'Lord help thou mine unbelief.'

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 4/13/2006 3:59 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    While sitting at my computer here in Green Bay, WI, I surfed into your site via Jeff at http://anti-itchmeditation.blogspot.com/. Both sites have become daily must-reads for me, providing great insight into Scripture, combined with Godly wisdom. Bleesings 2U!


    By Anonymous Steve K, at 4/13/2006 7:07 PM  

  • Steve k,
    Thank you for saying that to me! I am glad you spoke up because that kind of thing is very encouraging. God bless you.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/14/2006 7:58 AM  

  • Great post, Rose. I've always thought the verse was speaking of grace being the gift, but I can certainly see that salvation is the gift. Actually, they're all gifts (faith (not in the Calvinistic sense), grace and salvation) from God, but I believe the verse is speaking of grace or salvation as being the gift and not faith.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 4/14/2006 9:10 PM  

  • Thanks, Dawn. I see your point. I have some more studying to do. Thanks for your encouragement. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/15/2006 2:55 AM  

  • Not arguing from scripture, but from logical semantics here.

    If it's not a gift, what are the other possibilities?

    A. It doesn't exist.
    B. It's something we claim as a right or that God "owes" us.
    C. We steal it or otherwise wrest it from God.
    D. It's an intrinsic possession and/or characteristic.
    E. It "just happens".

    I'd reject A and E flat out. They just make no sense.

    B--come on, who among us believes God "owes" us anything?

    C--think you can wrest anything from God that He does not want you to have?

    D--Itriguing, but if so, why do some have it and others do not? That would seem to be arbitrary, or else God showing favoritism.

    Kind of leaves "gift".

    By Blogger Jeff H, at 4/19/2006 2:57 PM  

  • What about F - The Holy Sprirt illuminates the truth of the gospel as we hear it and we either don't believe or we do-
    based on any number of reasons within our own mind and heart - like:

    loyalty to religion,
    reluctance to be thought of as a religious freak

    perceived need,
    poorness of spirit
    willingness to believe what we hear
    child likeness
    and on and on....

    By Blogger Rose~, at 4/19/2006 8:31 PM  

  • Great post Rose. To say "Faith is the gift of God, not of works" does not make any sense. To say that salvation is the gift of God makes much more sense.

    I explained to a Calvinist friend how faith is a gift in one sense - he said "so you think that faith is a gift of common grace" - although I don't agree with his term, he translated back into his own understanding very well.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11/18/2008 2:09 PM  

  • Chris,
    You and I see the same problems with the "faith is a gift" interpretation.

    Thanks for visiting! BTW, I hope you don't mind I just advertised your blog in a post. I like your blog a lot.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/24/2008 12:56 PM  

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