Saturday, August 14, 2010

Exegeting Ephesians 2:8-10

This text is one of the most critical texts for defending the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, that is, salvation by grace, through faith, alone. It reads as follows:

(Ephesians 2:8-10) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Thus, let us take this passage one piece at a time. The Orthodox Catholic doctrine of salvation is that salvation comes by grace alone, but this grace is appropriated by both lifelong faith (initiated in the mystery of Baptism), and also works done by the grace of God. Works done apart from the grace of God (often called works of the law), are absolutely worthless, and are a "filthy rag" as Isaiah the prophet says.


For by grace you have been saved


Our salvation comes by grace. Many protestant commentators focus on the faith in Ephesians 2 to demonstrate Sola Fide. St. Paul is focusing on the grace, and that is where our focus should be as well.


through faith.


What is the meaning of "through faith"? Most lay readers see the faith here as our faith, which we exercise to appropriate the saving grace of God. Actually, this is likely not the intended meaning. We must view Paul's doctrine of salvation as a client-patron relationship. In such a relationship, the patron would exercise an act of favor towards the client, and the client would be expected to respond positively. Upon positive response, the patron would exercise greater favor towards the client, and the client would again be expected to respond positively. Contingent upon this relationship was the pistis of the patron. That is, the patron must be trustworthy. Thus, St. Paul is saying that we have been saved by grace, through God's faithfulness. While faith is certainly one of the positive responses we give to God our patron, this is not what is in view here.


And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,


The client could not take or demand anything from the patron. It was given freely, out of the goodness and mercy of the patron. It was completely and totally his gift. This does not exclude works (or positive feedback in a patronal context), but necessarily includes them, for a client-patron relationship is unquestionably synergistic, to the chagrin of Calvinists everywhere.


not a result of works


How then can I say that works are a part of salvation? It is important to understand what type of works Paul is discussing here. Note the contrast:


v.8 by grace we have been saved...

v.9 not a result of works...



The works of Ephesians 2:9 are specifically contrasted with the grace of Ephesians 2:8. That is, St. Paul is teaching that works done apart from the grace of God are absolutely non-salvific. In the context of a client-patron relationship, doing works apart from grace would be akin to responding positively to the patron and saying "See? Look how positively I responded! More favor please!". A work must be done by and in view of God's grace.


so that no one may boast.


Because it is only out of the goodness and mercy of God that He responds to our works done by grace with favor, no boasting may be made, because all salvation is the work of God.


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works


Note the subtle contrast between this and v.9. Why does Paul refute works and then say "for we are..." The "for" here suggests that this is the logical conclusion. This is because we are not saved by works done apart from grace, but by good works. The good works of Ephesians 2:10 are specifically contrasted with the works done apart from grace of Ephesians 2:9. Again, the flow of the argument:


v.8 by grace we have been saved...

v.9 not a result of works...

v.10 For we are...created in Christ Jesus for good works...
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.



The patron, in providing us with grace, prepares us for a response of gratitude and good works. Thus, if we choose to walk in them, by the power of the grace provided, the Lord provides more grace.


Thus, Ephesians 2:8-10 is far from an exposition on Sola Fide. Rather, it teaches the great and transformative power of God's grace, which takes us and transforms us into His likeness throughout our lives, but only if we respond to His grace with works done by grace.

34 comments:

Ray said...

I was reading your article on propitiation vs. expiation and you stated that the word means more than just propitiation. Let me ask you this. Do the Orthodox believe that the Father was taking His wrath out on Christ at the cross?

Lvka said...

No.

Jnorm said...

I was the one who wrote "propitiation vs expiation".

And my point for saying that hilasterion meant more than just propitiation had to do with what the "Expository Dictionary of Bible words" said.

They tried to make it seem as if it only meant "propitiation".

I tried to show that the word "hilasterion" wasn't simply limited to the interpretation of "propitiation".

The word, could also mean "expiation", which is the same as what Kabane52 said in this post about "Mercy Seat".

The interpretation of "expiation" means to cleanse, to clean, to purge, to wash.......etc.



ICXC NIKA

Ray said...

How would you interpret Isaiah 53?

I'm just wondering because I'm thinking of switching to Orthodox.

Lvka said...

Matthew 8:16  When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.

Ray said...

What about the part that says Christ was punnished?

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.... 10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

Lvka said...

"For" does not mean "instead of": Christ indeed suffered and died "for" us, but not "instead of" us.

And our sinfulness is indeed the cause of His death and suffering, but not in the sense of a revenge coming from God upon Him "instead of" us.

Read Matthew 5:43-48 to see the absurdity of this idea: the whole system is based upon the notions of human justice, just revenge, and the law of the Talion: which runs contrary to how Christ Himself describes the character of His own Father, whom no-one has ever seen except for Him Who came to make Him known (John 1:18). [The purpose of the law of the Talion was that of restraining the fallen impulses of our corrupt nature (like avenging oneself), NOT encouraging them: there's a subtle difference there].

Ray said...

What about the part that says the PUNISHMENT that brought us peace was upon Him.

Was God punishing Christ at the cross?

Lvka said...

The Crucifixion wasn't exactly a "picnic", if that's what you mean. (What other word was he supposed to use? "Blessing"? "Reward"?)

Ray said...

No, I'm just asking if God was punishing Christ at the cross. Was God's just wrath being poured out on Christ at the cross?

"the PUNISHMENT that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.... 10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,"

Lvka said...

No.

the PUNISHMENT that brought us peace was upon him

He tasted death and torment so that we might, as a result of that, enjoy everlasting life and eternal delight.

it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer

God wanted to redeem us even if that meant sending down His own Son to suffer and die.

Ray said...

So, the PUNISHMENT wasn't from God but from man? God wasn't PUNISHING the sins of the whole world at the cross?

Lvka said...

It was from God, because He sent Him to save us no matter how great the cost. It was from Himself, because He and His Father are of one mind, and of one love. It was from us and from the evil that lurks inside us, because "normal people" don't go around killin' incarnated deities, spitting in their faces, asking them to prophecy who or what hit them, and then nailing them to the cross: in order to cure that, Christ had to suffer all that evil without feeling even a shred of hatred or letting a single thought of revenge enter his heart. It was from our fallen state and corrupted nature, because the only way to save us from death was by having a direct and final confrontation with it: there's no eternal life without the resurrection, but there can be no resurrection except through death.

Ray said...

So, the PUNISHMENT was from God. God PUNISHED the sins of the whole world by allowing evil men to have their way with Christ. This would agree with:

Acts 4:27-28

Truely in this city there were gathered together against your holy servent Jesus, whom you annointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the gentiles and the prophets of Israel to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Is that correct?

Lvka said...

It was the only way love could reveal itself in its fulness and overcome hatred and evil through goodness, kindness, and forgiveness once and for all. Life defeated death, and light triumphed over darkness. (Luke 23:34; John 15:13). Thus Christ saved us and the entire human race from hate, biterness, remembrance of evil, and thirst of revenge, filling us with grace, patience, and long-suffering (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-37; Romans 12:14).

Ray said...

Well, since it was God who was PUNISHING (through the acts of evil men) our sins that were laid on Christ then it was His just and holy wrath being poured out on Christ at the cross.

David said...

Ray:

You said earlier that you were considering becoming Orthodox; now you seem to be attacking the Orthodox perspective on the Atonement. You can't have it both ways, brother. If you want to become Orthodox (that is, coming to the Ancient Apostolic Faith) you must drop the assumptions, no matter how deeply ingrained in you they are, of Protestantism. The substitutionary view of the Atonement is an innovation of the 11th century by Anselm of Canterbury, further strengthened by John Calvin's alteration of it. It is based on flawed Western European pagan notions of justice and of God.

Nowhere does the Scripture say that the chastisement of Christ is God the Father's wrath being poured out on him; that is a completely Scripturally bankrupt idea. St. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death; again, not as a punishment from God -- the text does not say that and easily could have if that were what was intended -- but as a natural consequence of self-separation from God. Christ, having no sin, nonetheless took upon himself the consequences of sin -- separation from God (the Father) and death. Through this, he redeemed us (as Lvka pointed out).

Ray said...

I guess I can't become Orthodox then. The scriptures teach that Christ was PUNISHED. What does it mean to say Christ was PUNISHED? It says it was God's will to crush Him.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.... 10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

Ray said...

David,

Are you saying the PUNISHMENT is refering to what evil men did to Christ?

あじ said...

Ray, if God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, how does he take pleasure in the death of the innocent?

There is more than one possible meaning behind the statement, "his punishment brought us peace." It may be that some good came about in spite of the fact that injustice was done, and it may even be that God planned for this to happen in advance. (I believe this is true.) That does not mean that God is on the side of injustice. God can decide that some course of action is good (and therefore be pleased by it), even if it includes evil choices made by humans which he does not approve of.

Put another way, there are different inferences that can be drawn from the text, depending on your presuppositions and operating epistemic framework. So getting the right inference is not so easy as it may seem. What seems obvious to you was not obvious to any native Greek speakers for over 1000 years (at least, we have no extant records that would indicate this). That should make you pause for at least a few seconds.

Ray said...

I don't think God takes delight in the suffering of His innocent Son in and of itself. He's not bloodthirsty or sadistic. In one sense God was grieved at the murder of His Son. In another sense He was pleased because of what His Son's death accomplished. God was both pleased and grieved. His emotinal life is infinitely complex. He feels everything at once.

Lvka said...

Ray,

the Son of God did not become incarnate to heal God the Father: He became incarnate to heal us.

You can't let the metaphorical (and therefore flexible) language of the OT (we're dealing with a prophetical book here, after all) over-write the clear and straight-forward words of Christ describing the character of His Father: it's absurd. Would you take other prophetical passages that literal? - think of Daniel, for instance; or of Revelations..

Yes, it did please the Father to put Christ through this, in the sense that it was the only way we could be saved: not that He was actually enjoying it, as some sort of an outburst of supposedly-suppressed feelings which, according to the preaching of His own Son, He did not even possess in the first place.

(And don't hurry "switching" or "converting" to anything: if Orthodoxy's the truth, it won't go anywhere, so there's no pressure here, just take your time, OK ?)

Ray said...

Lvka,

I agree that Christ died to heal us. I never disputed that. I'm not saying that Christ's death and suffering (In and of itslef) pleased the Father. What the Father was pleased in was the fact that Christ's death was going to save sinners. God's not sadistic or bloodthirsty. In one sense God was grieved at the murder of His Son. In another sense He was pleased because of what His Son's death accomplished. God was both pleased and grieved. His emotinal life is infinitely complex. He feels everything at once.

Ray said...

I think what changes us is when we place our faith in Christ and His blood purifies us from our unrighteousness. We are then covered in the righteousness of Christ. This is one of the things that pleases the Father - us being covered in the righteous robes of His Son. The Father delights in His own image more than anything. Which is first and foremost His humility and His holiness.

あじ said...

I suggest reading More on the Justice of God, as it has many things to consider. I deleted my earlier comment because I should not have had quotation marks around my remarks.

Ray said...

The mystical union with Christ is such that we are in Christ and He is in us. We are one with Lord Jesus. This is how our sins are imputed to Him. When He is punished we are punished.

あじ said...

And Ray, I think the point is not that we would have Christ's righteousness extrinsically covering us, but that we would be actually transformed. Not to be covered in the image of God, but to be in the image of God. God did not make creation so that He could always and ever only delight in himself or some projection thereof.

Ray said...

We are being transformed into His image and likeness but we are also covered in the robes of His righteousness. God is transforming us from glory to glory until we are completely glorified.

Ray said...

God obviously delights in His own image. He is transforming us into His own image. We are being transformed from glory to glory. God loves His own image which is first and foremost His humility and His holiness.

Ray said...

I can’t see and savor God as supremely beautiful and satisfying while I am full of sin and he is full of wrath. I believe the removal of this wrath and sin is what the gospel is for. The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory (beauty of His manifold perfections) and the removal of every obstacle to my seeing it and savoring it as my highest treasure. I believe that at the cross Christ removed that wrath from my vision so that I could see and savor the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. By removing God's wrath from my vision I can see and savor His beauties. By grace God is opening up my eyes more and more to see Christ in all His manifold perfections and teachings as lovely and beautiful. The more beautiful He becomes the uglier my sin becomes and the more I want to be like Him. I do fall every now and then but God does convict me and I repent and confess my sins and He draws me back to Himself as He restores to me the beauty of holiness. Because I have placed my trust in Christ I am also covered in the robes of His righteousness. When the Father looks at me what He sees is the beautiful righteousness of His Son.

Isaiah 61:10

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Romans 3:22

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.


I can now approach God with boldness. Christ has done for me what I cannot do for myself.

Lvka said...

Ray,

how is what you describe in any way different from what Jesus condemns in Matthew 23:25-28 ? And why do you regard Jesus' blood as some sort of mere paint, rather than cleansing water of life and purging hyssop? (Psalm 51:7).

Ray said...

Lvka,

It's both. God transforms the heart in the new birth but He also covers us in His righteousness. It covers us but it also cleanses and purifies us.

Ray said...

Lvka,

The New Birth happens when we come into contact with the gospel. God and His Son and His work and His will become supremely beautiful and valuable. God takes the blinders off so that His holy will looks beautiful to us. The evidences that one is born again can be boiled down to faith, hope, and love but here's a short list of a few things that show what a person looks like who has been born again. We don't become perfect but when we slip and fall we confess our failure and sin and embrace His forgiveness.

1. Those who are born of God keep His commandments out of love

2. Those who are born of God walk as Christ walked

3. Those who are born of God don't hate others but love them

4. Those who are born of God don't love the world

5. Those who are born of God confess the Son and receive (have) Him

6. Those who are born of God practice righteousness

7. Those who are born of God don't make a practice of sinning

8. Those who are born of God posses the Spirit of God

9. Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ.

Paul D. said...

What do you think Paul means by "saved" in that verse? Was he necessarily talking about justification? Or perhaps he meant the fact that we get to participate in the Kingdom of God on earth instead.

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