A Question I Was Asked:

What is the 'Gift' of Ephesians 2:8-9?

The Question:

I had always been taught that our 'gift' in Ephesians 2:8-9 is salvation but in your article, All About Faith - What Is It, What ISN'T It? you state that it is faith which is the free gift in Ephesians 2:8-9. Can you clarify?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Most Bible commentators take the same approach as me in seeing faith as the gift of God which is referred to in that text although, of course, salvation itself is certainly also a gift of God. But some writers, mainly Arminian in theology, explain Ephesians 2:8-9 as referring to salvation as the gift.

Okay, so let's look at Ephesians 2:8-9:

'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.'

This indeed appears to be saying that faith is a gift of God although, true, it could be stating that it is grace which is the gift. In a sense it matters not since faith is facilitated by the grace of God. However, I would agree that the verse could give the impression that salvation is a gift (of course, grace, a resultant faith, and salvation are all gifts of God).

To be frank, to argue one way or the other is surely to miss the point. Because the whole point is that God Alone calls His people! HE ALONE is elector, caller and justifier (Romans 8:28-39); that is so, however one might read the specific verses in this text. But the interesting thing is that people who challenge the more usual understanding that Paul is referring to faith as the gift here never seem to read on to verse ten! Let us now do that:

'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' (Ephesians 2:10).

So there we have it: the election of God stands. God has prepared a people for Himself at the present time. That does not mean that the rest of humanity is 'fashioned for Hell' (as Five-Point Calvinism so foolishly concluded) - it is simply that God is not calling them during this church age.

In the Antioch congregation we may read that God had "opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." (Acts 14:27). So it is God who is there 'opening a door of faith.' It was not that God was simply looking on at the preaching of the evangelists until he saw people in the congregations themselves working up enough faith or, by their own efforts, opening the door of faith, rather, God opened the door of faith to them. Or, again, consider how Luke describes the work of the preacher Apollos who went to Achaia to strengthen the Christians there:

"On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed." (Acts 18:27).

Luke does not say that he helped those who - by their own unaided free wills - had believed, but "those who by grace had believed." So whether we discuss election, grace or faith, it must come from God! Whether we think it 'unfair' or not the Bible is utterly clear that, in His supreme wisdom, God is not calling all to understand the message of the Gospel during the present age:

'The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
"Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.' (Matthew 13:10-17).

So it is true that some people believe that the gift of Ephesians 2:8-9 is a reference to our salvation, rather than to faith, however, without grace and faith there is no salvation anyway for God Himself must call us.

Of course, there is a degree to which human faith and belief can be very good (if wisely directed, of course), but saving faith is granted directly by the electing God - it leads to salvation. Election, grace, faith and justification all must come from God!

'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8: 28-39).

So there is a human faith and God is pleased to see it where it is appropriately directed but that is not the faith which leads to salvation - that faith is granted by God.

I hope that this answer helps.
Robin A. Brace. October 21st, 2010.