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

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

...we have gained access by faith into this grace?

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5)
This makes sense to me - but to those who say that the grace of God first comes upon a person, giving them new life and then gifting them with faith - I wonder what they do with a verse like this? Was Paul teaching MERITED GRACE? Was Paul saying that these people merited the grace of God because they had faith? Well, if we view faith as meritorious, I can see how that charge could be made against Paul - as I read yesterday where it is made against non-Calvinists. However, Paul seems to view faith as a non-meritorious tunnel through which God choses to bestow grace, just as he explain in Ephesians:
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2)

27 Comments:

  • Hi Rose,

    Paul does not speak merely about entering into "grace," but more specifically into this grace"i.e. the grace of justification of which he was just speaking. Being declared righteous i.e. clear of any "judicial condemnation for sin" is the privilege only of those who receive it by faith and not (as we all know) of the whole human race.

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 7/01/2008 11:36 AM  

  • Hello Goodnight!
    Ummmmm.... I was not in that discussion with you - that was Alvin. My point in this post is not about the removal of the sin barrier, but about the ordo salutis (I believe is what it is called). Got any comment in re: to that, what I ponder in this post?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/01/2008 12:19 PM  

  • Rose:

    In the order of salvation (or, at least, as it relates to Romans 5:2) - faith comes before justication i.e. we are not justified until we exercise faith in Christ. As said earlier, the "this grace" of Romans 5:2 is the "justification" of verse 1.

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 7/01/2008 12:28 PM  

  • Colin,
    That would be great if Calvinists could just leave it at that. To quote you: "we are not justified until we exercise faith in Christ." Agreed. What gets weird is when I hear the teaching that people are regenerated before they have faith. According to this passage, if that were true, there would be cases of unjustified regenerate persons.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/02/2008 7:50 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I think that you are failing to recognise that when we say that regeneration leads to faith that it automatically does so. The dead sinner (Ephesians 2:1) needs to a spiritual resurrection. (“Raised in the newness of life” as Paul puts it in Romans 6) He needs to be raised from spiritual death by the power of God. Otherwise, he remains entrapped in his spiritual death, bound hand and foot by the Devil etc., Once the power of God brings the bond of death and Satan, (regeneration) that soul immediately cries out in faith for Christ to save him and that act of faith brings him into the justified state. You give the impression (a subjective statement, I accept) that Calvinists have people running round for a considerable length of time in a state of regeneration but without faith and therefore unjustified. That just doesn’t happen, and therefore the concerns you raise on this matter rise no higher than the very weak “if” that you, yourself, attach to them.

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 7/02/2008 11:28 AM  

  • Rose, greetings!

    It seems to me that the grace Paul is speaking of here is qualified by the demonstrative pronoun, "this" - meaning that Paul is purposely limiting what he describes as "grace" to the previous statement. The previous statement describes our having peace with God through Jesus Christ (as opposed, I suppose, to having peace with God through our own righteous keeping of the law). This peace with God that we enjoy is entered into through that same faith that we call saving faith - I don't think anyone would argue otherwise - but this state of grace is qualified as (or limited to if you prefer) the state or character of our relationship with God. It depends upon something external to ourselves - thus it is a state of grace and not a state of continuing, personal merit through the keeping of the law.

    Paul was not suggesting that people merited the state of grace because they had faith, he was saying that through their faith they have come into a gracious relationship with God - and by gracious I too mean only 'as opposed to one of law-keeping-merit'.

    I think it a bit confusing (doctrinally) to equate this "state of grace" (that Paul qualifies here as being at peace with God) with (or for) that single act of grace by which we (who were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins) were quickened unto new life by/through the receiving of that life giving, repentant, faith by (and through which) we were born again.

    It is the most common thing in the world to muddy the line between justification and sanctification, but I believe that is what we are in danger of doing if we neglect Paul's qualified usage of grace here, and insist that every usage -must- refer to the exact same thing.

    I try not to think of things like grace as a commodity - a rung in the salvation ladder if you will. Rather I remember that it is a word that describes that state of receiving what has not been earned, and it can be used in that way to describe various aspects of God's dealings with us - for all of God's dealings with His children are saturated with grace - and to insist that God doesn't start showing this grace until after we have warranted it by our faith - based upon an equation that ignores qualifications that are in the text - I don't think that would be the best way to understand it.

    I am just reading Colin's replies. I think he more or less said the same thing.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 7/02/2008 5:28 PM  

  • Hey Daniel,
    Good to see you. Interesting thoughts.

    I'm afraid neither you nor Colin have convinced me that this verse does not teach what it sees clear to me to teach: that through our faith - our trusting in the unseen - we have gained access into God's provision for mankind. This is God's program. Faith actually has a meaning in this picture - it is not just an accessory that God gifts us with as He gifts us with regeneration and salvation etc. It is something that He draws out of us, His creation. I think it is awesome the way that He does this without violating our state of being volitional creatures made in His image. You guys seem to think because God is all powerful and sovereign He does all the chooosing. I see Him as being more powerful and sovereign in that He has made others able to do some choosing or rejecting. He is not afraid that He might not end up with any converts this way. He knows that His gracious offer is beautiful and that hearts who head the call to have their emptiness filled will respond and receive His grace. I don't have to see Him as making everything happen in order to see Him as sovereign. Also - this view makes it much more possible to logically and consistently file the problem of evil and sin in their proper place - at the feet of sinners and the devil.

    Daniel, I appreciate your visits. I know I just rambled, but I read your comment yesterday and only now had a chance to write something real quick before the day gets into full swing.
    Have a great day!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/04/2008 10:08 AM  

  • Colin,
    Would you be amenable to saying that regeneration and faith are simultaneous?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/04/2008 10:09 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    You ask: Would you be amenable to saying that regeneration and faith are simultaneous?

    I am happier saying that regeneration automatically and immediately leads to faith which would then, strictly speaking, forbid me to say that they are simultaneous. However, the words automatically and immediately should be seen as being very strong words in this instance.

    Re: your reply to both Daniel (and by extension: myself) I do not see God doing all the choosing. If you ask me whether or not, I chose God, I would answer in the affirmative. Not that I would contend that I chose Him first or that I chose Him unaided by free grace, but rather, that I chose Him through grace when He worked in me, both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13)

    The responsibility for sin etc., must always be put at the feet of the Devil, (We all believe that) but you will still struggle with the age old problem of why a God of Love and Sovereign Power allowed circumstances whereby the great monster “Sin” should come into the world. Furthermore, you will have big problems with the Doctrine of the Cross because through the means of the Cross (where those who carried out the barbarity are indicted as having wicked hands) we have our redemption. If you reduce the Cross to God merely making use of something sinful, then you reduce the Cross to being a mere afterthought with God. If you are going to ask me where God’s Sovereignty ends and Man’s Responsibility begins, then I must disappoint you and honestly say, “I do not know” – but I contend as earnestly for one as I do for the other.

    Regards,

    P/s Happy Independence Day!

    Frae a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian – proud Sponsors o’ the American Revolution in 1776

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 7/04/2008 11:14 AM  

  • Rose ~ I am not surprised that my understanding of the text is less than convincing to you. lol.

    I honestly see Paul qualifying his use of the word grace - pointing it back to the immediate context - and I see him doing that not with words we have added in to make the translation more readable in English, but with words that are purposely there in the Greek.

    Likewise, I honestly see that the state of grace that Paul is describing here is the same state of grace that he holds in opposition to being under the law.

    I have some trouble seeing how grace can be -produced- by anything and still be grace, yet if I follow your take on this verse, and insist that the state of grace described in this text is synonymous with the act of grace as mentioned in Ephesians 2:8-10 - then I am can only conclude (given my understanding of your reasoning, and drawing the only conclusions your reasoning seems to allow) that the state of grace recorded here must be something that we generate through our non-meritorious faith;

    You must be gentle with me in this, for I confess, the notion that we generate that same grace by which faith works to save us is only reasonable when grace means something other that grace.

    Where I come from, grace stops being grace the moment it we can, by human means, cause it to happen. However we earned, merit, generate, produce, or bring it into being - if we are the originators of it, and not God, then grace is something we give to ourselves in accord with some divine recipe, and God's role in our salvation is to be the stove, the utensils and recipe by which we bake our own salvation cake. His role in our salvation becomes that of a cosmic (but utterly inert) "salvation tool" that is carefully crafted to give men the means by which they can produce their own salvation. Or if the idea of a tool is too belittling, how about a salvation machine, that a man goes in and flips all the right switches to bring about his own salvation. The principle is the same - it is a piece of machinery that is designed to produce an effect that man uses according to his own desires and will to bring about the effect for which it was designed. The machine has not interaction with the one who wields it, except to respond to the way the man uses it - if he uses the machine correctly, he gets saved, and if he botches it, he doesn't. Either way, the purpose of the machine is to facilitate man's decision to save himself. The machine may well do the actual saving part, but it is nothing more than a sophisticated tool that is being wielded according to the will and desires of the man, and has no role in the process except that impersonal, reactionary role that all tools play - we use them to bring our own designs to fruition, we cannot work without them, but their role in what we do could not be described as the role of an "Author" - rather their role is that of a "facilitator"

    So when we turn grace into something we generate - I shiver a bit because it turns God's role in our salvation into (at best) that of an impartial facilitator - or perhaps a "cheerleading" facilitator, who though able to provide whatever service is asked of him, is never the less unable to interfere in the game.

    Thus I understand that you disagree with my original comment, but I am concerned if you are really suggesting that the grace that works in salvation finds its genesis in a man-made faith; since that reduces God's role in salvation to that of a benevolent, but entirely passive, spiritual life preserver who will gladly allow himself to be used as the -means- by which drowning people save themselves.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 7/04/2008 2:47 PM  

  • Hi Daniel,
    It is so nice to have you commenting here. When I read that comment I had to smile a bit because it reminded me of something I read on a blog called the Schooley files. He posted "Reasons to remain a Calvinist":

    If you actually believe that accepting a freely-given gift of salvation somehow would make you your own "co-savior," then please don't abandon your Calvinism.

    Personally, I can't fathom this. I can't imagine thinking, "Yes, God became flesh and Jesus lived a sinless life and sacrificed Himself, dying a brutal, torturous death, all the while restraining Himself from calling a legion of angels to rescue him; He died and then rose, conquering death and the grave, showed Himself to His disciples and empowered them through the Holy Spirit to share this gospel and pass it down the generations; God did all this--but I get credit too, because I accepted the invitation! I'm my own co-savior!" But since this charge is thrown against Arminians as the "logical consequence" of our soteriology, I can only conclude that that is precisely how many Calvinists would view their own salvation if they adopted the Arminian view. If that's you, then please grab hold of your Calvinism and don't let go.


    This kind of sounds like what you are thinking about my ideas - that I somehow make God out to be a large wielded tool in the way that I view salvation, like He helps me save myself.

    Not so: Salvation is a gift of God - this is the figure of speech that the HS chose: a gift. People can receive a gift or scorn a gift. That is all there is to it - it is not that hard or complicated. God offers the living water to whosoever will receive it. There is no slight of hand... or unseen tricks going on... whereby the gift is really unable to be received by some and secretly deposited to others.

    Daniel, I appreciate you!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/07/2008 3:01 PM  

  • Rose, I like to keep it jovial ;^)

    I have, in my life, turned down the free offer of desert after a meal, so I believe I am perhaps qualified somewhat experientially to address your understanding of negotiating the receipt of a gift.

    I don't deny that during some negotiation process whereby I am being offered something, I for my part may (according to my own initiative) allow myself to receive the gift, or, if the fancy carries me, refuse to receive it.

    I don't think that anyone (Calvinist or otherwise) would argue that such negotiations take place every day, and that they do not always end in one receiving what is offered.

    The question before me, is whether that is an accurate parallel to the gospel offer.

    Consider another way of looking at a gift.

    You have been gifted by the Holy Spirit with some spiritual gift. Can you refuse this gift? Is there a negotiation period whereby you say to God: thanks but no thanks...?

    No, we understand that this spiritual gift is non-negotiable, and in bringing that to the table, we establish that the gifts of God, as the scriptures teach - are irrevocable. You don't get to negotiate what they are, or whether you receive them.

    If instead of using as our model the worldly picture of a gift negotiation, we instead use the spiritual model of what receiving an irrevocable gift from God actually looks like, we find that there is some room, I think, to re-examine whether your take on this is very accurate.

    Yes, we all can deny the offer of a second desert; but do we have freedom to conclude with cavalier abandon that when God gives gifts to men they are received through a mutually agreed upon negotiation?

    Let us keep our ducks lined up as we consider what is being discussed here. The question is not, and has never been, whether or not we "accept the free gift of salvation" it is whether or not we have faith to accept the free gift of salvation.

    The free gift of salvation cannot be apprehended by anyone unless they have faith. The question therefore before us, is whether or not one can refuse to have faith when God grants it to them. You see, "faith" is the gift, not salvation. Salvation is only the gift in the sense that it is what the gift produces.

    I want you to follow that carefully, for we could miss one another's points by miles if I am discussing one thing, and you another - but we are both using the same terminology.

    You see, it is only after we have come into possession of the gift of faith that the gospel offer can be apprehended. We cannot turn to Christ without having received the faith beforehand to do so. That is, faith is the gift we receive - and salvation is what happens when we exercise that faith.

    I don't think you would disagree with me on that point; but if we keep it in perspective it may help you to understand Calvinism a little better.

    Tell me, do you really hold to the idea that every time an unbeliever hears the gospel he or she is able to believe it, so that his or her faith becomes a question of choice? That is, do you believe that we choose to believe?

    I ask because the follow up questions can be quite interesting, depending upon how you answer that question.

    If you say that belief at this point is not so much an intellectual choice as it is a sudden understanding that the gospel is true - I am left to ask, what was it in yourself that produced that understanding?

    Were you especially humble in your heart that day? Perhaps you were especially contemplative? Or maybe it wasn't some ability within yourself, but rather that the presenter of the gospel was especially clear that day - so clear in fact that those spiritual truths which the natural man cannot receive - you received? I mean, eventually you will have to admit that there was something in you that was especially smart, or humble, or virtuous, or whatever it was - it was something that you had that others who refuse the gospel didn't - and that is why you believed and they didn't. You make the "right choice" because you were wiser, more humble, smarter, more penitent, more genuine, or more moved, or more emotional, or more willing, or more -something- and whatever it was that you had more of - that is why you believed, and that is what you will be able to boast about, because there was something in you that God didn't put there, but that you yourself generated or created, or brought into being or simply possessed - something that allowed you to believe where others refused to - and that is the thing that, if it was not a gift from God, then it is something that you brought to the table - something that those who are not saved don't bring to the table, and for that reason, whatever it is in you that gave you the freedom to bring it on - that thing is something you will be able to boast in - for you did the right thing - you chose Jesus freely...

    It opens quite a Pandora's box, if you will; since if you can identify what it was that was in you that allowed you to believe - you could thereafter use that same thing to guarantee the salvation of others, (unless of course this thing changes from person to person).

    You see, I don't think that you think of God as helping you save yourself. As though you do X and God does Y and together you produce salvation.

    No, I think that you think that God does it all; but I think that you believe that God does it all in response to your initiating the process by generating your own saving faith.

    The equation that I believe you appeal to is that you produce the faith, and once you do, God responds to that by saving you.

    Where that seems to go astray from scripture is that the bible teaches that the faith that saves is itself a gift from God - so that my equation looks exactly the same as yours, except that I don't produce the faith that saves me, but that God produces it in me.

    It looks the same, feels the same, and for all intents and purposes -is- the same from my perspective at least. I mean, I hear the gospel, and suddenly I believe - I call on the name of the Lord and I am saved. The only difference is that I recognize that my ability to believe was not something that fallen man has access to. The fact that I did believe is testimony to God having produced in me that spark of life. If God hadn't produced it I would never have believed. I would have heard the gospel and used my "free will" to do exactly what my sinful nature desired me to do: reject God.

    I didn't want God when I heard the gospel. I didn't want to be a Christian - a goodie-goodie. I hated God for making a universe where I was going to die and go to hell for doing what I liked to do. I hated him for having authority over me, and for condemning me for not being his puppet. The last thing I wanted was to be a Christian, but somehow, in that moment that I was saved, suddenly I wanted to be reconciled to God. I wanted to be set free from sin.

    You see - there is the difference between God's gospel and man's gospel. Man's gospel is: God will save you from hell, so that people don't come to God to be reconciled to Him they come to God to be forgiven their sin so that they can avoid hell. God's gospel is that you can come to Him and be reconciled to Him in Christ; it is that He will save you from your sin right here and now, so that you -can- be reconciled to Him. Salvation is not about avoiding hell, it is about being reconciled to God in Christ. In the moment that I was saved, I wasn't filled with joy unspeakable because I suddenly wasn't going to go to hell anymore - I was filled with joy because I was reconciled to God Almighty.

    Sorry, it is easy to digress.

    My point is that if God doesn't produce the faith that saves, then we produce it - and that makes us the initiator (or "author" if you will) of our own salvation. Yes, God is the one who does all the work - but his work is, according to what you seem to be saying - a response to our self-produced faith.

    Thus the moment a person is able to produce saving faith in themselves, God who has obligated Himself by promise to save them, performs the promised service of salvation.

    In mapping out a process in the field of IT we sometimes draw boxes around processes that perform a function whose inner workings have nothing to do with the bigger process; that is, all we are concerned about is that when we pass a value to the process, it returns an expected solution.

    In your soteriological "drawing", if you will - and correct me if I am not understanding you, or if I am characterizing you poorly - the work of salvation is in just one box in the bigger process. Yes, God is doing all the work in that box, but outside that box there is a sinner who must put in the right "input" - God's role in the process is entirely passive, regardless of how personal or beautiful, or whatever adjective we fancy to dress it up - ultimately the only people whom God "saves" are those who by the might of their own intellect, or wisdom, or special "more-ness" (however we define whatever it is within them that is superior to others - even if it is just a superior "luck"), I say, in this (your) model, God saves only those who put the right stuff into the process.

    On the farm where I grew up we would put hay into the baler, and the machine would pack that hay into a hundred pound bale, bind it in twine and spit it out the back. The baler did all the work - but we still had to feed it the hay. It was a "tool" in the sense that it was just one piece in the process. When I say that you have made God into a "tool" I want you to understand the significance of that - I don't try and minimize the grand work that you attribute to God, no - I recognize that in your model God is the one doing all the work - I just point out, that in baling, the baling machine (the baler) does all the work too - in that sense - but unless hay is being thrown into that baler no bales are made. The people who toss in the hay are part of the process and the baler is just the machine/tool that is used to bring about the will of the one who is tossing the hay into it.

    The person who puts hay into the baler is the one who decides whether a bale is going to be made or not. The baler is just a passive participant in the whole process - even if it is a loud, whirring machine that thrashes, compresses, then binds the hay in a way that is full of energy and "work" - for our discussion, it plays the same passive role of a crowbar that is being used to jimmy open a door. The crowbar is being wielded by the one who desires to open the jammed door, and the baler is being "utilized" by the one making bales - but in both cases the machine or tool is passive - it responds in a programmed to respond correctly if it is used correctly.

    In your soteriology, I see God as little more than a divine machine who produces the bales of salvation for everyone who puts the hay of faith into the feeder.

    The formula of your soteriology therefore is:

    Input + Process = Output

    or
    Input (self generated faith) +
    Process (God fulfilling Promises) =
    output (salvation).

    You see, here you have man working upon God to produce, through God's effort, man's salvation.

    In my soteriology, it is God who produces saving faith, so that we have something like this as the formula:

    Process A = Input A,

    Input A + Process B = Output

    or Process A (God produces faith) =
    Input A (man comes to faith)

    Input A (man comes to faith) +
    Process B (God fulfills Promises) =
    output (salvation).

    I think this is the biblical model - that man is unable to come to God, unable to come to faith apart from God. That is what it means to be dead in sin and trespasses. It means that unless God puts something in the sinner that isn't there - that sinner will by no means receive the gospel - faith will never happen, because faith is a virtue, a gift, and a thing that must first be received in order for one to act on it - and not, a thing to be rejected, as though a person could choose to accept whether or not they would believe something that they already believe.

    I know my name: I cannot choose to not believe that I am named Daniel. I can ignore it, I can deny it, but I cannot believe it isn't so. I may be able to brainwash myself, but even then I suspect it will just be a grand denial of what I "know" to be true. Belief isn't a choice, it is an awareness that a thing is true. I have a choice about whether or not I believe a news report to be true - but until I -know- it is true, I am just speculating even if I think I believe it to be true. I can be convinced that it is true, but that isn't the same as believing it is true. Belief cannot be denied, cannot be argued away - it is there forever.

    Let me know if I haven't belabored the point? I know that brevity is the sign of genius - may I suggest that verbosity is the sign of too much free time?

    By Blogger Daniel, at 7/07/2008 4:59 PM  

  • Daniel said, "No, we understand that this spiritual gift is non-negotiable, and in bringing that to the table, we establish that the gifts of God, as the scriptures teach - are irrevocable. You don't get to negotiate what they are, or whether you receive them.

    If instead of using as our model the worldly picture of a gift negotiation, we instead use the spiritual model of what receiving an irrevocable gift from God actually looks like, we find that there is some room, I think, to re-examine whether your take on this is very accurate.

    Yes, we all can deny the offer of a second desert; but do we have freedom to conclude with cavalier abandon that when God gives gifts to men they are received through a mutually agreed upon negotiation?
    "

    John 1:12 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"

    Hi Rose, this scripture (one of many) shows that we can accept or reject God's offer of salvation.

    I believe that salvation is the gift and not faith. There is more that could be said about faith and the differing degrees of faith, but I do not have time to expound.

    Obviously, the Calvinist approaches everything very differently than the non-Calvinist so we will never agree.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 7/07/2008 6:03 PM  

  • Oh, and one more thing. Why some receive the gospel and some do not is the big mystery, but we do know that God warns us to teach our children the ways of the Lord and that evil communications corrupt good manners (to name a few exhortations and commandments) so that must account for something in the grand scheme of things.

    The God-given ability to choose once God has drawn us does not mean that we are good in any sense.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 7/07/2008 6:09 PM  

  • Hi Daniel,
    I can't see how people arrive at the idea that faith is a gift in the sense that you are suggesting.
    Faith is the hand that receives the gift. The gift is eternal life. Is obedience a gift? Believeing is something you do in your heart, like loving or caring. Is loving someone a gift? I think it kind of makes nonsense out of the concept of believing to say that it is a gift. Now - in the sense that faith is a knowledge then I would say that is a gift - a confirmation that what you believe is true. I don't think we get this without considering the evidence and thus turning towards the light and subjecting ourselves to the truth, which is what we must do to be saved - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a command, not a gift.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/09/2008 8:47 AM  

  • Hi Rose!

    And Daniel!

    You said:

    You see, "faith" is the gift, not salvation. Salvation is only the gift in the sense that it is what the gift produces.
    Before proceeding along this line, you may wish to read this:
    =====================================
    What Does "This Thing" Refer To?

    The Biblical expositor needs to correctly identify the antecedent of the pronoun, that is, to identify what the pronoun refers to.

    Some might argue that "faith" is the nearest antecedent: "For by grace are ye saved through faith and this [is] not of yourselves" (Eph. 2:8). It is certainly true that "faith" is the nearest antecedent, but since there are a great number of cases in the New Testament where the nearest antecedent is not the correct one, we should be very careful before making this identification. There are other far more important considerations.


    Here is the correct rule that Greek grammar demands be followed: Pronouns agree with their antecedent in gender and number. Their case is determined by their use in their own clause. [A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by H. E. Dana and Julius Mantey, p. 125 (Section 135).]

    This rule argues forcefully against the identification of "faith" as the antecedent because "faith" does not agree with the pronoun in gender. The pronoun "this" (verse 8) is NEUTER, and the noun "faith" (verse 8) is FEMININE. If Paul wanted his readers to understand the pronoun as referring to "faith," then there is no reason why he would not have used the feminine form of the demonstrative pronoun [which would be the Greek word αυτη]. This would have settled it. The verse would read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and this feminine thing [namely faith], is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." If Paul had used the feminine pronoun then it would be very clear, obvious and indisputable that FAITH is the gift of God. However, Paul did not use the feminine pronoun.


    Why then did Paul use the neuter pronoun? What is the antecedent? If Paul had wanted to refer to the idea contained in the main verb (the idea of being SAVED), then it would have been perfectly normal and appropriate for him to use the neuter gender. It would have been very natural for Paul to say, "For by grace ARE YE SAVED through faith and this thing that I'm talking about, namely salvation, is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...." If Paul had wanted the pronoun to refer to the idea or concept contained in the verb, the neuter form would be the one to use. The pronoun "this thing" [τοØτο] commonly takes a conceptual antecedent. [Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Daniel B. Wallace, p. 335.]


    We need to carefully think through Ephesians 2:8-9 in order to correctly identify the antecedent. We must ask, "What is Paul talking about in Ephesians 2:8-9? What is his main point?" It is obvious that Paul is talking about HOW A PERSON IS SAVED. The main idea of the sentence is found in the verb "ARE YE SAVED" [or "YE ARE SAVED"]. How is a person saved? Ephesians 2:8-9 answers this key question. Salvation is by grace. Salvation is through faith. Salvation is not of yourselves. Salvation is the GIFT OF GOD. Salvation is not of works. Paul is not giving a dissertation on faith, but he is giving a brief dissertation on salvation. SALVATION is his main subject. Faith is mentioned because you cannot answer the question "HOW IS A PERSON SAVED?" without mentioning faith. A person is saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). God's gracious gift of salvation must be personally received, and it is received by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But the main thing that Paul is talking about in these two verses is salvation, not faith.

    http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/reformed/godgift.htm

    By Blogger Anton, at 7/09/2008 9:49 AM  

  • Anton,
    Thanks for visiting. I posted on Ephesians 2:8-9 once on the UoG blog here.

    It generated some interesting discussion and basically I found the same thing that you mentioned about the nueter form. What I really enjoyed, though, was making this illustration about it. Really, what you said about Paul not doing a treatise on faith, but rather on how we are saved makes sense too. Considering that these two clauses are describing the same thing:

    1. it is the gift of God
    2. not of works

    ...it wouldn't make sense to say that we have a faith that is not of works, only that we have a salvation that is not of works.

    Again,
    thanks for your pertinent comments.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/09/2008 11:14 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Yo' welcome! And you made the astute observation that "faith" is to be understood as "understanding".

    Most scholars view it in that way, ie.

    You have been saved by grace through the means of "understanding"

    rather than the oft misquoted:

    You have been saved by grace through the means of "trust" or "dependence".

    Blessings.

    By Blogger Anton, at 7/09/2008 12:36 PM  

  • Anton,
    Where did I make the astute observation that "faith" is to be understood as "understanding"?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/09/2008 12:44 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Here:
    Now - in the sense that faith is a knowledge then I would say that is a gift - a confirmation that what you believe is true. I don't think we get this without considering the evidence and thus turning towards the light and subjecting ourselves to the truth, which is what we must do to be saved - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a command, not a gift.

    7/09/2008 8:47 AM

    By Blogger Anton, at 7/09/2008 1:29 PM  

  • Yes, I think understanding plays a key role in faith.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/14/2008 10:27 AM  

  • Hey Rose,

    (off topic) Any idea what happened to the Liver and Onions blog?

    By Blogger Pizza Man, at 7/16/2008 7:55 PM  

  • Bro. Anton said, "Now - in the sense that faith is a knowledge then I would say that is a gift - a confirmation that what you believe is true. I don't think we get this without considering the evidence and thus turning towards the light and subjecting ourselves to the truth, which is what we must do to be saved - believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a command, not a gift."
    I wonder if we will necessarily remember how we went through the steps of subjecting ourselves to the truth & then believing it, or may it just be a process in some folks until one day, viola!! I believe! Just curious.

    I also have been wondering as the Pizza Man, what happened to bro. TJ's blog.

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at 7/16/2008 10:34 PM  

  • Actually, brother David, I said that and brother Anton was quoting me. :~) I totllay agree with you that we can't always remember this process - when and how it clicked or why. :~)
    That would be the case for me.


    Pizza man,
    I eamiled TJ the day after he closed L&O and lamented its dissapearance. He said that he was so very busy that he didn't have time to post much and also he was less-than-thrilled with blogger - not notifying him of comments people would make.

    Still, its a shame that he didn't leave it up as a good non-Calvinistic resource for the world ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/17/2008 10:32 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Just passing by while on holiday (vacation)

    So...L&O has gone out from among us :o)

    There is no shortage of anti Calvinist blogs out there. Whether they can stop the onward march is another thing...

    See you around!

    Regards,

    P/s First he came for Calvin, then he came for Blogger...

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 7/22/2008 9:19 AM  

  • Hi, Rose -- on the free gift concept I like an illustration Roger Olson uses -- endorsing a check given to you as a gift. You didn't earn the money, write the check, provide the funds (make the sacriface, provide the means...) -- you merely sign your name to it (accept it). Do you get to thank yourself or say "yay, me, look how I helped get myself this money!"? All such illustrations are imperfect but I do think this is a fairly good one.

    What constitutes faith is another question, and a very interesting one! Rose, perhaps you'll have a thought-provoking post on it sometime!

    As for the grammar of this verse, the Slavic languages (my specialty) work the same way that Anton quoted for Greek, and that is precisely the interpretation you would get there too -- clausal rather than the immediately preceding noun "faith" -- so that has been a very convincing argument to me ever since I first read the grammatical breakdown there.

    But, you know, there is no getting around that there are verses that seem to "obviously" support either Calvinism or Arminianism -- and even verses that we both think "obviously" support our position. I am SO THANKFUL that my salvation does not depend on my perfect theological understanding. Otherwise the streets of gold would be pretty empty, I'm sure. Who among us would be arrogant enough to claim we have God perfectly figured out? I seek to understand as much as I can, and I look forward to the day when I hear the Master teaching in person.

    By OpenID pointnine, at 8/03/2008 1:03 PM  

  • Also -- I for one have to say I have no interest in "anti-Calvinist blogs." I read very few Christian blogs at all because they so frequently devolve into "anti-something." I have to say also that I've come across far more "anti-Arminian" than "anti-Calvinist" blogs. It took a while before I found any "Arminian" or otherwise non-Calvinist blogs at all, and it's true that one of the early ones I found was saying how Calvinism was clearly bogus because of the Servetas thing. How ridiculous! A reason to not put Calvin on a pedestal, yes, a reason to reject a theology with which he is associated clearly not. I can't stand the vitriol and misrepresentation of beliefs that is so prevalent in the Christian blogosphere -- talk about destroying the body rather than building it up! It's why I love Rose's blog so much. It's not hard to figure out where people stand here, but Rose sets a great tone and everyone's generally quite friendly about it.

    By OpenID pointnine, at 8/03/2008 1:16 PM  

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