The text for our
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone
should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in
These are the words of Paul in his
letter to Gentile Christians living and worshipping in or near the
city of Ephesus which was located in Asia Minor. Many
people who lived in the first century and today point to this verse
as the proof text of salvation by faith alone. Did Paul
mean that when he wrote this to the Ephesians or was he trying to
teach them something else? And if so, what was he trying to
tell them? In other words, what did Paul mean when he wrote
what he did in Eph 2:8-10? This lesson is going to examine
that in detail and at the conclusion of it, we will make some
applications from it to our faith as well. After all, what it
meant to Paul's readership in the first century is what it must mean
to us today.
First of all, Paul wrote we are
"saved by grace". What's grace? Grace is
often defined as God's unmerited favor toward man. The wages
of sin is death (Romans 6:23), which means eternal separation from
God. Sin caused mankind to lose fellowship with God.
The only way man can regain that fellowship is if he pays the
penalty for that sin. Man sinned, man incurred a debt.
The problem is, the payment for all sin is loss of fellowship with
God forever. It doesn't matter what that sin is, the penalty
is the same. We have lost our fellowship with God and that
cannot be restored unless we pay the penalty in full.
That poses a real big problem for
us in that even though we suffer separation from God for an
eternity, we still will not have paid the debt in full. Even
after we have suffered in hell for eternity, we still have not paid
the just penalty for disobeying God. We cannot buy back our
fellowship with God, even with an eternity of punishment.
God's absolute just and holy nature demands this penalty and it is
not possible for God to violate His own nature. All things are
possible with God, but only those things which are possible for Him
are within His reach. It is impossible for God to lie (Titus
1:2). It is impossible for God to be tempted with evil (James
1:13). It is equally impossible for God to accept sin without
just punishment of the sinner. This leaves man without hope of
reconciliation with God.
Thankfully for us, God is rich in
grace and mercy and He doesn't want to see man suffer for all
eternity. He wants man to have a chance for reconciliation so
He came up with a plan where man can have a hope of being
reconciled without having to suffer an eternity of punishment.
God was under no obligation to do so. Nothing man did
compelled God to do this. And this means of reconciliation
came at great personal expense for God. Namely the life of His
Son as a substitutionary death penalty for us. God could have
washed His hands of mankind and walked away to leave mankind to his
fate forever and God would have been perfectly within His right to
do so. He didn't owe man anything. Mankind got himself
into this predicament all by himself without any help from God.
God was absolutely blameless in all that man did. But
because God loved us so much, He graciously came up with a means
whereby man could be reconciled to Him and escape the death penalty of
sin. That's grace. Grace as a comprehensive Biblical
term represents everything God did in securing a means of redemption
For God to give man His law is
For God to let man know he sinned
For God to provide a means
of reconciliation is grace.
For God to accept the death of His
Son at the hands of man for the sins of man is grace.
For God to make this means of
reconciliation known through His word is grace.
For God to allow mankind time to
respond is grace.
All of things God did in providing
a way of redemption for mankind is Grace. Grace is God reaching down from
heaven to sinsick, doomed and fallen man with a means and method of
reconciliation. Grace is God's role in the redemption of Man.
Are we saved by grace only?
In other words, are we saved simply because God did everything He
did with no response from us on our part? Absolutely not.
If we were saved by grace only, every human that ever lived would be
saved simply by being in existence. Mankind has an obligation
to respond to God's grace before it will be of any benefit at all.
So what is that response? Let's go back to Ephesians 2:8.
By "grace ye have been saved through faith".
Faith is the response that man
must give in order to receive God's grace. "Without faith
it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We are
saved by Grace through faith. Without faith, grace is
worthless to us. We must have faith if God's grace is going to
benefit us in any way whatsoever.
What did Paul mean "through
faith"? As we mentioned earlier, Eph 2:8-10 is a verse
that advocates of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone use as a
proof-text in support of this doctrine. Did Paul mean to say
that God's grace, (in other words, everything God did on man's
behalf) is available simply on the basis of belief in Him?
That's something we can put to the test very easily. Let's
look a little further in the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians.
If Paul taught that anything whatsoever beyond faith is necessary,
then he could not have meant "belief only" in Eph 2:8-10. We
need to be very clear on this. If it can be demonstrated from
scripture that anything in addition to belief is required, then Paul
could not have meant saved by grace through faith alone.
turn with me to Ephesians 6. Starting in verse 1 we see "Children,
obey your parents in the Lord". That's a command. In
verse 2 Paul writes "Honor your father and mother," In
verse 4 we see "...fathers, do not provoke your children to
wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
5: "Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters
according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of
heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as
bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with
goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing
that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the
Lord, whether he is a slave or free."
Verse 9 "And you,
masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing
that your own Master also* is in heaven, and there is no partiality
And now V10 and
following; "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in
the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you
may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do
not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,*
against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to
withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Wait a minute Paul.
Hold up a little. I don't understand. If you meant faith
only earlier in your letter, then why are you telling me now to do
all the things you just said in order to stand against the devil?
Because if I am saved by faith alone, then I all I need to do is to
believe in you in order to stand. I don't have to do anything
but believe in order to stand against the devil. Why are you
telling me to do all these things in order to stand against satan?
Let's look a little
further. What about Paul's
letter to the Romans in chapter 2 starting in verse 5?
Romans 2:5-11, "But
in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are
treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation
of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one
according to his deeds":* 7 eternal life to those who by patient
continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8
but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but
obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and
anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and
also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who
works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For
there is no partiality with God. "
Wait a minute Paul.
I though you taught the Ephesians we were saved by faith alone.
What is this you are saying to the Romans? "God, 6 who
"will render to each one according to his deeds":* 7 eternal life to
those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory,
honor, and immortality;"
Paul? Are you
teaching the Ephesians they are saved by faith alone and then
teaching the Romans they have to seek eternal life through doing
good? What about VSS 8-10??? "but to those who are
self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness —
indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of
man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but
glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good,"
That's not fair Paul. If the Ephesians are saved by faith
only, why do the Romans have to obey the truth?
What about the
Philippian Christians? Philippians 2:12-13, "Therefore, my
beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but
now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear
and trembling"... Whoah Paul.. Wait now...
What is this? You mean the Ephesians are saved by faith alone
but the Philippians have to work out their own salvation? With
fear and trembling? If I were a Christian living in the
first century and Paul taught faith only to the Ephesians and a
working faith in Rome and Philippi, I'd be checking out land prices
Truth is, if
salvation were by faith alone, Paul would not have told the Romans
and the Philippians and the Colossians and all the others to work at
it. We don't have the time to go through all of them, but if
anyone wants to see them, I'd be happy to show you a whole list of
them....Galatians 6:7-9 "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked;
for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows
to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to
the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Maybe it would be a
good idea to go back and have another look at Ephesians 2:8-10 and
maybe look at it from the perspective that he is not telling us that
we don't have to do anything but believe in order to be saved,
because that's not what he taught in other places and to other
people. And we know Paul wasn't preaching different gospels to
different cities. Everyone got the same gospel.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of
yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone
OK, so we are
saved by grace through faith. Grace is God's role. Faith
is man's role. "and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God" What's the gift? Looking back, if Grace is God's
role and faith is man's role, the the gift has to be Grace. The gift
was God's role. That makes sense. The gift cannot be
faith because that is man's role and man's role is man's to give.
Grace is God's role, therefore grace is God's gift to give.
What did Paul mean
with "and that not of
yourselves"? The gift was God's grace. He gave that
freely of His own choice. Man didn't have any choice or say in
God's decision to graciously offer man a means of reconciliation.
That makes sense. Romans 5:8, "God commendeth his love
toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
So what about V9?
"not of works, lest
anyone should boast." Can any man set back as say he
doesn't need God's gift of grace because of all the wonderful things
he has done in his life? I've been real good God, I don't need
your gift of your grace. You can keep your grace God, I don't
need it because I've been a good person.... No one can set
back and boast that his works in any way compelled or obligated God
to offer a plan of redemption for mankind.
The primary object
of discussion in Ephesians 2:8 is not salvation, nor faith.
It's grace. Grace is the gift. Grace is what can't be
worked for, or earned. Grace is God's role. Grace was
God's to give. Man
cannot work for, earn or deserve the opportunity God gave him.
Grace was God's gift to freely give and no one can in any way earn,
deserve, merit or pay for it in any way whatsoever.
Now let's go on to
Verse 10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works". workmanship means
the product or result of labor. We are the
product and result of God's
labor, created in Jesus Christ for good works. This
means there is a role that has to be fulfilled on both sides.
God has a role, which we understand to be grace. And His role
involved the creation of us for good works. Paul goes on to
say "which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
The NASB more accurately translates the Greek as "which God
prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." The
NKJV translation makes it look like walking in these good works is
just a good idea. Translators have been trying to water down
the gospel for centuries now. This passage literally
translated says: "which God did before prepare, that in them we
may walk." The word "may" in this context indicates a
result or a purpose. It is used this way only in clauses
introduced by "that" or "so that". For example:
'he preaches so that
the average listener may understand'.
The word 'may' in this sentence means that the purpose or result of
the manner of preaching was easily understood... that he may understand. Let's go back and look at Paul's phrase
again: "which God did before prepare, that in them
we may walk". Again... "which God did before
prepare, that [introductory word], in them we may
[purpose or result] walk".
God did not create us
to good works and leave it up to us whether or not we walked in
them. He created us to good works for the purpose or result of
us to walk in them. The reason he created us to
good works was for us to walk in them, to do them. The
Christian Faith, faithfully lived, is a walk. The Christian
walk is a chosen conviction resulting in a life of commitment.
A walk is a chosen path down which one must travel. By faith
For by grace (God's
role) you have been saved through faith (man's role), and that not
of yourselves (you can't do it by yourself); it (grace) is the gift
of God, 9 not of works (nothing you can do can merit what God did),
lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship (the result
of His labor), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand that we may (for the purpose of) walk in them.
There's two kinds of
works mentioned in this passage. There are the works one could
boast about, which are worthless. And then there are good
works, which God prepared for the purpose of us walking in them.
Paul did not write
that we are saved by grace through faith only. He wrote that
we are saved by grace through faith and when we understand that it
is God's grace, (God's role), that was the gift which could not be
earned or merited by works which men could boast about and that the faith
that saves is the faith that walks in good works prepared by God.
Faith saves when faith becomes a walk or when it becomes a chosen
conviction resulting in a life of commitment. One could just
say that faith saves when faith obeys.
Turn with me
to James 2:14-26
"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he
has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and
destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in
peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things
which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not
have works, is dead.
18 But someone
will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith
works, and I will show you my
faith by my*
works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do
well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man,
that faith without works is dead?*
Was not Abraham our father
justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working
together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which
says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for
And he was called the friend of
You see then that a man is
justified by works, and not by faith only.
was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received
the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the
body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
Abraham's faith saved
when it obeyed God and offered Isaac on the alter. Rahab's
faith saved when she sent the messengers out another way.
Their faith saved when their faith obeyed. Abraham's a Rahab's
faith worked together with their obedience and thus made their faith
perfect. The original language means "complete" their
works made their faith complete. Their works made their faith
alive. Their faith saved them when it became complete and
alive with obedience.
Ephesians 2:8-10 is a
difficult passage when it is lifted out of its context and used in a
manner contrary to the overall teachings of Paul and the rest of the
inspired NT writers. But when we look at it in harmony with
the rest of the NT, we see that in reality it teaches the exact
opposite of what many people out in the world think it does.
This is important for us to know because it is our job to teach
others and help guide others to the truth.
By Grace (God's role)
are we saved by faith (man's role). All that God did in making
salvation possible is a gift that cannot be earned, merited or
received as a result of man's works. What God did for man was
God and God's alone and man had nothing to do with the planning of
it or the implementation of it. Man did not deserve it, could
not earn it, and can never repay it. But we are God's
workmanship (the result of His labor) Created In Christ Jesus unto
good works, works of obedience, works of righteousness, for the
purpose of our walking in them, a chosen conviction which results in
a lifetime of commitment. Our faith saves
when it obeys. The wondrous, unmeritable, unearnable, totally
undeserved gift of God's grace becomes available when we become
obedient to the faith.
Now all we need is a
verse of scripture which says that and the lesson is complete.
Everyone living under the gospel age receives God's grace in the
exact same way. Even the Apostles had to be obedient of they
wanted to benefit from God's grace. Turn with me to Romans 1:5
and let's close this lesson with one final verse of scripture.
This is Paul writing to the Christians living in Rome. In his
greeting to them, he told them exactly how he and all the others
received God's grace. This is the same Paul that wrote
Through Him [Christ] we have received
apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations
[everyone everywhere] for His name,
Paul, and all the other Christians
among all nations, received grace (God's role) for obedience to the
faith (man's role). That is exactly how we receive grace
today. It's not earned. God does not owe us anything
because we obeyed. We have not earned a spot in heaven because
of it. We simply obeyed the will of God, trusting Him,
believing Him, Submitting to Him and serving Him in obedience to His
will, faithful unto death.
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