Ephesians 2:8-9, 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.
Praise God for that! Hallelujah, Amen!
I could stop right there, but I won’t. 🙂 This verse is packed with implications for your theology. Soteriology is the study of salvation. How we are actually saved is an interesting thing to study. It is not the same as, what should we do once we are saved, or what must we do to be saved, but rather, the actual in depth search of what actually happens when a person truly puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and what must occur in order for that to be able to transpire.
Let’s look at this verse in detail…Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith…what does this mean? Let me use an extra-biblical analogy to try to convey the meaning in a way that may make it understandable. I could say,
To get to the fair you travel in your car using Main street.
You would know exactly what that means. Check this out:
The fair is your destination or end result, the goal, if you will.
Main street is the avenue that makes the goal reachable or attainable, it is the “way there” in a sense.
Your car is the mechanism by which you travel along the avenue or path to the goal, the fair.
So it is by car that you can make your way down Main Street to get to the fair. Reading into my analogy more we can see that the fair is representative of somewhere you are not. The fair is not a place you already are, thus, you must travel to go there. No one is at the fair except God (Romans 3:23).
The car is your tool, or mechanism, for getting there. Arriving at the fair requires that you operate the car. You must first desire to go to the fair, and then you must exercise your ability to make the car go, in order to get there.
You also need to know how to get there, in other words, you must know the right path. Thus, we have Main street. (notice there is only one way provided in my analogy) . Understand that you cannot create Main street. Main street must exist already, otherwise my car, and even knowledge of the fair, are useless to me. Main street must be provided for you to even be able to drive your car to the fair.
Let me apply this analogy to the scripture, what would that mean for our verse?
Saved, or salvation, is the destination, goal or end result like the fair.
Grace is the avenue that makes the goal reachable. Like Main Street, it’s the ONLY way to the end result, salvation.
Faith is the mechanism by which you travel to the goal, which is salvation. Faith is analogous to the car.
Just as I stated above, no one is “saved” by default, we are not “there.” Faith, like the car, is a tool that we use to meet the goal, and it must be exercised by us and we must desire to exercise it.
Grace is the right and only path. Grace is not something that we could effect ourselves, and knowledge of grace is useless without the exercise of faith. Knowing that grace is the way to salvation is not sufficient to be saved. Demons know that (James 2:19), and so do many cults and false religions that teach a grace that turns liberty into license to do whatever you desire! No, you must have faith, faith that overcomes. Faith that results in a changed life. Just as I will know you have a car when I see you drive somewhere, your faith will be known by the fruit it produces. (Mt 7:13-23)
“…and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” What is the gift of God? It seems that the gift of God must be either “salvation”, “grace” or “faith,” (faith in this verse is best described as “saving faith”). Can the gift be “grace”? Grace is the unmerited favor of God on sinners; yes, and since He is not compelled by any outside force to provide it, it is a gift in a sense, but that is not what Paul is describing here. Paul states “by grace.” Grace, as stated earlier is the path or avenue made available, not the gift itself. “Salvation” is definitely a gift, is it not? (Romans 6:23) The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. But is salvation the gift spoken of here? Let’s look at the faith you have if you are saved. According to the first 7 verses of chapter 2 of Ephesians (Eph 2:1-7), you were a slave to sin, controlled by the power of this world, a servant to your sin. Dead in trespasses and sin! Faith, the saving faith that brings a person in right standing through Christ is also a gift of God! What Paul is making clear is that saving faith is not of yourselves it is a gift from God to you. You could have no more mustered saving faith while a sinner than Lazarus could have raised himself from the dead. It required a life-giving power that we do not have!
It seems like being saved is the gift of God spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9. To read otherwise into the text, as tempting as it may be is putting something there that isn’t there, in my interpretation. But it is also clear, given the context, that the faith we exercise is also not of ourselves, that the heart regeneration that is necessary to be able to exercise saving faith (John 3:3, 6:63, 1 Cor 2:14) is also “of God.” That no man seeks God (Romans 3:10-12) and that saving faith must be a gift from God.
Notice that I did not say that your fruit IS your faith, or that you can create the faith by the fruit. Faith comes first. Just as the only way for me to see you driving the car is for you to get in and drive it, the only way for anyone to see your faith is for you to exercise it. And that brings us to the rest of the verse…Nor is it the result of a work that you could do. Our salvation is through faith, a gift from God, NOT of works, which would require payment. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord Romans 6:23.
What is faith? Faith is knowledge, belief and trust. Think about it, you cannot believe that which you do not know, and you cannot trust in that which you do not believe. James 2:19 makes it clear that there are those that “believe” but are not saved, so being born again includes implicity trusting Christ as redeemer.
Follow me along a thought process a moment…For a man to have the ability to exercise saving faith and NOT do it would be sin. And for a man to have the ability to exercise saving faith and to do so would be the opposite of sin! Well, let’s see here, if you are “not sinning,” would you not have some reason to boast? If you, unlike your neighbor who does not exercise his faith or use his ability to believe Christ, have now believed, then praise You! What a great job you’ve done turning from your sin and choosing to believe God instead of man and the devil himself! Why, when you preach, you should be making sure to tell people of how you converted yourself from an unbelieving sinner into a faithful disciple, for the ability was always there, you just finally chose it. And how much better you are than your neighbor or coworker, who, having sufficient knowledge and built-in ability to believe has rejected (not trusted) the Savior!
What I’ve done is show you that if FAITH is not a gift from God; that if men, by their nature, can believe and be saved, then saved men have reason to boast! Because the salvation they have acquired is the due result of the faith they’ve exercised of their own power. But Paul makes clear in Eph 2:9 that THERE IS NO ROOM FOR BOASTING. That if you are saved it is wholly and undeniably the work of God. Couple that with the understanding of man’s depraved state, Jeremiah 17:9, and the need to be born again (John 3:3-7), it is clear that even faith is a provision of God.
What does this mean? It means you can REST ASSURED that your faith will overcome! 1 John 5:4-5, Romans 8:28-30. You do not need to worry about whether you will “hold on” if you have been granted that faith. For it is secure and eternal and it is not a work you could do, and now that you have it, you cannot do otherwise. You can share the gospel and sleep well, for you know that it is not up to you to manipulate another person’s will to exercise saving faith for their life. You know that saving faith will be God’s gift to them, and that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom 10:17). You do not need to water down God’s message, nor do you need to spice it up or make it more interesting or exciting. Nothing you can do will “stir up” saving faith in another, EXCEPT sharing God’s truth as meekly, temperately, boldly and lovingly as you can, and trusting that He can and will bring the increase. Pray that God will change you as you do this!
Maybe you’ve read this and you are thinking, “I don’t have this saving faith. How do I get it?” You may understand well enough that it is only up to God to grant it to you. And now you are mad or frustrated by this. Maybe you resent the God that hasn’t showered you with His unmerited favor. Instead dear fellow sinner, throw yourself before the throne of grace and beg for God’s mercy, ask Him to make you love Him and trust Christ alone, the invitation is open!
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”