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Does Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach
that Faith is a Gift?

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"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

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This passage is frequently used to teach that faith is a gift from God. It is said that "and that not of yourselves" refers to the faith, and, therefore, that means that God must give us the faith. The thinking behind this interpretation is that the demonstrative pronoun "that" (touto) has to be a reference to the previous noun, "faith" (pisteos). But there is a huge problem with this analysis of which the reader who doesn't read Greek is unaware. While English only has masculine and feminine genders, Greek has masculine, feminine, and neuter. The demonstrative pronoun here is neutral gender, while "faith" is feminine. It is rare in the Greek that a demonstrative pronoun disagrees with its antecedent in terms of gender. Even in these cases there is a reason.

So then the question becomes, is there any other antecedent for the demonstrative pronoun "that"? Although there is no single word in the neuter that can serve as an antecedent, the fact is that the neuter gender often refers to an abstract concept, and touto in particular is "routinely used to refer to a phrase or clause"1 (see Rom. 6:6; Heb. 9:27). So it would be quite natural for the demonstrative pronoun here to refer to the abstract concept "salvation by grace through faith." Then it is the salvation that is "not of yourselves." In other words: Salvation is free, we cannot earn it!

In the Bible it is said that the Holy Spirit is a gift (Acts 10:45), that righteousness is a gift (Rom. 5:17), and that eternal life is a gift (Rom. 6:23). But never is it said that faith is a gift. Rom. 12:3 says, "...as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." This cannot be faith for salvation or some would have more salvation than others.

In our passage in Ephesians, if faith were the gift of God, the phrase "not by works" would have to refer to faith also. In the epistles of Paul works and faith are each contrasted with righteousness (for example, Rom. 4:4 ; Gal. 2:16). But it is never said about faith that it is not by works; faith is the opposite of works. Faith, by its very nature, is focused on another, or looks to another for deliverance.

CONCLUSION:

The statement of 2 Tim. 1:9 agrees with this interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9:

          2 Tim 1:9: "...who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works...."

          Eph. 2:8-9: "You have been saved by grace through faith, and it is a gift from God,
                    you did not accomplish it yourselves. It did not happen by works; otherwise someone would boast."

These are parallel affirmations. This passage provides no support for a view that faith for salvation must be given by God.


1 Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 333.

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