Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace

by Mike Ratliff

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. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.” 

Here is Ephesians 2:1-10 from the ESV:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Ephesians 2:8-9 are in bold. Here they are from the Greek New Testament, “τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.“ Here is my translation, “In the for grace you are being saved through faith; and this not from you, of God the gift; not from works, that not any might boast.” The first word we will look at is χάριτί the dative, singular form of χάρις or charis. My brethren, χάρις or “grace” sums up all biblical theology. However, it is also, especially in our time, grossly misunderstood and misapplied. We have all heard certain teachers or preachers or theologians say, “Yes, salvation is by grace but good works supplement it,” or “Yes, grace is necessary, but so are works.” These are contradictory statements made by people who know absolutely nothing about grace. Carefully read the following passage and ask, “if works are added to grace, what is the result?”

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:5-6 ESV)

Without Grace, what we called Christianity would be just another religion. If you look at the graceless forms of the apostate “churches” all around us that is the case. The leadership in them simply do not understand grace. Why is it that they do not? They do not because they not have a proper understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17 ESV)

Never forget this my brethren. Grace and truth are not found in religion, but in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace, therefore, is the unmerited favor of God toward man manifested primarily through the person and work of Jesus Christ, apart from any merit or works of man. Now, let us look at “faith.”

In Ephesians 2:8, the word I translated as “faith” is πίστεως· is the genitive, singular form of πίστις or pistis. This faith is a confident trust and reliance upon Christ Jesus. Notice that it is preceded in this sentence by διὰ that means “through” in this context. Paul is telling us that it is by God’s grace that all in Christ have been saved (ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι) through (διὰ) faith (πίστεως·). The rest of v8 reads, “ καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” or “and this not from you, of God the gift”. The word translated as gift here is δῶρον· or dōron. This is Paul’s nailing it down for us that our salvation is not according to anything we have earned or deserved. No, it is a gift from God. The use of the neuter pronoun to take in the whole of the complex idea is quite common in Greek. Here, Paul used it to make clear that that faith, not less than grace, is a gift of God. Salvation, therefore, in every respect, is as Paul said, “καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν” or “ and this not from you.” Our salvation is not our own doing, it is unearned, undeserved, and given out of unfathomable love by God.

The following is a quote from a sermon by C.H Spurgeon titled All of Grace:

Even the very will thus to be saved by grace is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God….I ask any saved man to look back upon his own conversion, and explain how it came about. You turned to Christ, and believed on his name:these were you own acts and deeds. But what caused you thus to turn? What sacred force was that which turned you from sin to righteousness? Do you attribute this singular renewal to the existence of a something better in you than has been yet discovered in your unconverted neighbor? No, you confess that you might have been what he now is if it had not been that there was a potent something which touched the spring of your will, enlightened your understanding, and guided you to the foot of the cross. This should, indeed, prompt us to declare soli deo gloria–to God alone be the glory.

Soli Deo Gloria



6 thoughts on “Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace

  1. Dear Mike,
    This is the beginning of humility. God had mercy on an undeserved wretch. One can only be truly thankful when you start to grasp the magnitude of the chasm that Jesus has bridged for you to His holy Father. When you begin to fathom God’s gift and grace it makes you want to share it unreservedly in loyalty to the One who bought you with His precious blood. ROCK OF AGES by Augustus Toplady
    “Not the labour of my hands, can fulfil Thy law’s demands. Could my zeal no respite know? Could my tears for ever flow? All for sin could not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone.” Yes only our precious Lord and Savior Jesus can save! Kept on by His grace, charisse


  2. I once heard Jim McClarty talk about this passage. He was saying that because Paul used the neuter demonstrative pronoun “and this” (kai touto), with the feminine noun “grace” (chariti), the feminine verb “saved” (sozo), and the masculine noun “faith” (pisteo), that Paul was not singling out any one of the three (grace, saved, faith), but applying all of the antecedents to what comes after “and this”. Therefore, he said, the passage actually means something like this:

    “By grace”–not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works.
    “are you saved”–not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works.
    “Through faith”–not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not of works.

    Is that a correct interpretation?


  3. Wonderful, wonderful, eternally wonderful! We can never tire of hearing,thinking, reading or speaking of this can we.
    : )


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