Saturday, October 30, 2010

Does the Apostle mean salvation or faith is the gift?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Eph. 2:8 (NKJV).

Much has been said about this verse regarding the words "that" and "it" in this text and to what exactly do these words refer. The reason for trying to discern the meaning of these words is to find an exact meaning to the issue of salvation in Christ Jesus being all of God and not of us. For if it is as some say, "Grace is God's part, faith ours," then salvation is partially of works and thus man can boast.

"That" which appears in the Eph. 2:8-9 text is a neuter pronoun. In Greek, as in most languages, to discover to what this word refers, it has to have "gender agreement." Since it is neuter, it would have to refer to another neuter word. Some think "that" has to be referring to the word "grace" or "faith" in the text. But, "grace" and "faith" are both feminine nouns and therefore there can be no gender agreement between "that," "faith," and "grace."

The neuter 'that," therefore, has to be referring to the clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith…"

The next phrase, "it is the gift of God," also finds itself looking back to the clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith." The word "it" is also neuter. Therefore, it cannot be referring to "grace" or "faith," but rather to the entire clause, "For by grace are you saved through faith…"

So, the Apostle is referring to both salvation and to the instrument through which we receive saving grace, faith, as the gift.

Many have problems with this. But to say that "Grace is God's part and faith is ours" can lead to errors such as "Semipelagianism" in which God is seen to "cooperate" with man in the salvation process.

Scripture teaches it is those who have been "appointed" unto eternal life who believe (Acts 13:48). If anyone comes to believing faith in Christ, it is because it has been "granted" to him or her on behalf of Christ to believe (Phil. 1:29). It would not be possible to respond in faith and repentance without God granting "repentance to life" (Acts 11:18). Faith comes through Christ (Acts 3:16).