Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ephesians 2:8 and "The Gift of God"

As seen from Ancient Christian Defense:

Calvinists tend to use Eph 2:8 to prove that faith is the gift of God. I believe Faith to be a gift, I just know that one can't use this passage to prove it. I also believe that one has the ability to accept or reject gifts. For some reason some feel as if gifts can't be rejected. But anyway, the error that Eph 2:8 is talking about faith as being the gift of God first came from Augustine when he said:

"And he says that a man is justified by faith and not by works, because
faith itself is first given, from which may be obtained other things which are
specially characterized as works, in which a man may live righteously. For he
himself also says, "By grace you are saved through faith; and this not of
yourselves; but it is the gift of God," Ephesians 2:8 —that is to say, "And in
saying 'through faith,' even faith itself is not of yourselves, but is God's
gift." "Not of works," he says, "lest any man should be lifted up.""

chapter 12 of (Book I) "On the Predestination of the Saints"

I thought it was interesting that John Calvin disagreed with this interpretation when he said:

""But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any
man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as,
independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown,
unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we
must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many
persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in
other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of
God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift
of God."

From John Calvin's Commentary on the book of Ephesians.

This is what Norman Geisler had to say about Eph 2:8

"In addition, however plausible this interpretation may seem in English, it is
very clear from the Greek that Ephesians 2:8-9 is not referring to faith as a
gift from God. For the "that" (touto) is neuter in form and cannot refer to
"faith" (pistis), which is feminine. The antecedent of "it is the gift of God"
is the salvation by grace through faith (v.9). Commenting on this passage, the
great New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson noted: "Grace' is God's part,
'faith' ours. And that [it] (kai touto) is neuter, not feminine taute, and so
refers not to pistis [faith] or to charis [grace] (feminine also), but to the
act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part."

some have argued that a pronoun may agree in sense, but not in form, with its
antecedent, this view is refuted by Gregory Sapaugh, who notes that "if Paul
wanted to refer to pistis ('faith'), he could have written the feminine taute,
instead of the neuter, touto, and his meaning would have been clear." But he did
not. Rather, by the "that" (touto) Paul refers to the whole process of
"salvation by grace through faith." Sapaugh notes that "this position is further
supported by the parallelism between ouk hymon ('and this not of yourself') in
2:8 and and ouk ex ergon ('not of works') in 2:9. The latter phrase would not be
meaningful if it referred to pisteos ('faith'). Instead, it clearly means
salvation is 'not of works.'"

From the book "Chosen but free: second
edition" by Norman Geisler pages 189-190

This is what Joseph Dongell had to say about Eph 2:8

"If faith is not our doing but God's gift, then the well-known features of
calvinism fall into place. Those who "have faith" have been given faith by God,
and those who don't have not given faith by God. By this view, faith becomes a
function of divine causation operating according to the individual electing will
of God.

But the terms (faith, this, it) that seem so clearly linked in
English are not so neatly connected in Greek. The English ear depends largely on
word order for making sense of language, and so automatically presumes that this
(which "is not from yourselves") must obviously refer back to faith, since faith
immediately precedes this in the word order of the text. But Greek, being an
inflected language, actually depends on "tags" that are attached to words for
guiding the reader. If our writer had desired readers to connect faith directly
to this, these two words should have matched each other as grammatically
feminine. We find, however, that this, being neuter in gender, likely points us
back several words earlier- to the idea of salvation expressed by the verb.
Accordingly, we should read the text with a different line of connections as
follows: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this
[salvation is] not from yourself, [this salvation] is the gift of God."

Many Calvinists fear that any retreat from the conviction that God
causes faith will make salvation a human accomplishment. If faith is something
we do, then salvation rests on our deeds and no longer on God's grace. If faith
is viewed as our part in the process of salvation, then salvation must be viewed
as a cooperative affair, and we should then describe ourselves as self-saviors
in part.
But the flaw in this Calvinist fear lies in its improper
understanding of the nature of faith itself. The Bible itself does not describe
faith as a work that accomplishes a taske, or as a deed that establishes merit,
or as a lever that forces God to act. Instead, we find that genuine faith is
something quite different. As Paul's treatment of Abraham shows, the patriarch's
faith had no power over God, earned no merit before God and stood as the polar
opposite to honorific deeds. Abraham believed God, and righteousness was
"credited" to him, not paid to him. God alone justified Abraham freely on the
basis of Abraham's faith (Rom 4:1-6). Since by its very nature faith confesses
the complete lack of human merit and human power, it subtracts nothing from the
Savior's grace or glory. By its very nature, faith points away from all human
status and looks to God alone for rescue and restoration."

From the
book "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry L. Walls & Joseph R. Dongell pages
77 & 78

Adam Clark said:

"Verse 8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith] As ye are now brought into a
state of salvation, your sins being all blotted out, and you made partakers of
the Holy Spirit; and, having a hope full of immortality, you must not attribute
this to any works or merit of yours; for when this Gospel reached you, you were
all found dead in trespasses and dead in sins; therefore it was God's free mercy
to you, manifested through Christ, in whom ye were commanded to believe; and,
having believed by the power of the Holy Spirit, ye received, and were sealed
by, the Holy Spirit of promise; so that this salvation is in no sense of
yourselves, but is the free gift of God; and not of any kind of works; so that
no man can boast as having wrought out his own salvation, or even contributed
any thing towards it. By grace arc ye saved, through faith in Christ. This is a
true doctrine, and continues to be essential to the salvation of man to the end
of the world.

But whether are we to understand, faith or salvation as
being the gift of God? This question is answered by the Greek text: th gar
cariti este seswsmenoi dia thv pistewv? kai touto ouk ex umwn? qeou to dwron,
ouk ex ergwn? ina mh tiv kauchshtai
? "By this grace ye are saved through faith;
and THIS (touto, this salvation) not of you; it is the gift of God, not of
works: so that no one can boast."The relative touto, this, which is in the
neuter gender, cannot stand for pistiv, faith, which is the feminine; but it has
the whole sentence that goes before for its antecedent." But it may be asked: Is
not faith the gift of God? Yes, as to the grace by which it is produced; but the
grace or power to believe, and the act of believing, are two different things.
Without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with
that power the act of faith is a man's own. God never believes for any man, no
more than he repents for him: the penitent, through this grace enabling him,
believes for himself: nor does he believe necessarily, or impulsively when he
has that power; the power to believe may be present long before it is exercised,
else, why the solemn warnings with which we meet every where in the word of God,
and threatenings against those who do not believe? Is not this a proof that such
persons have the power but do not use it? They believe not, and therefore are
not established. This, therefore, is the true state of the case: God gives the
power, man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God: without the power
no man can believe; with it, any man may."

Adam Clark's Commentary to
the Ephesians

This is what Saint John Chrysostom had to say about Eph chapter 2

"Again Christ is introduced, and it is a matter well worthy of our belief,
because if the firstfruits live, so do we also. He has quickened both Him and
us. Do you see that all this is said of Christ incarnate?......Those who were
dead, those who were children of wrath, those He has quickened. Do you behold
'the hope of his calling? ....Do you behold the glory of his inheritance?.....As
yet not one is actually raised, excepting that inasmuch as the Head has risen,
we also are raised....Truly there is need of the Spirit and of revelation, in
order to understand the depth of these mysteries. And then so you may have no
distrust about the matter, observe what he adds further....was faith then, you
will say, enough to save us? No, but God he says, has required this, lest He
should save us, barren and without work at all. His expression is that faith
saves, but it is because God so wills it that faith saves....'We are His
workmanship.' He here alludes to the regeneration which is in reality a second
creation. We have been brought from non-existence into being. As to what we were
before, that is, the old man, we are dead."

From the Eastern
Orthodox Lectionary & Commentary called "The Bible and the Holy Fathers"
compiled and Edited by Johanna Manley & Foreword by Bishop Kallistos Ware,
pages 489-490

It should be clear that the gift spoken of in Eph 2:8 is mainly talking about the word "Salvation". It is talking about "yee are saved". It is talking about being a New Creation or Regeneration itself. In some scholarly circles they claim that the gift is talking about everything in the preceding clause.








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Christian Gifts



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