Ephesians 2:1-10. [This important passage deals with the glorious transformation from a state of spiritual death and bondage to sin and Satan to spiritual life (in union with the Lord Jesus Christ) and a walk in righteousness and holiness. This transformation, in its entirety, is all of grace; it is totally unearned/unmerited. But it is received by faith, based on God’s salvation plan, which is spelled out in the gospel. In this study, we are especially interested in verse 8 because of its use of the word “faith”.] “And you were dead [spiritually dead] in your trespasses and sins [Spiritual death came as a penalty for sin. All mankind (apart from born-again Christians) is in spiritual death because of Adam’s sin, but the death (the separation from God) is intensified by the sins of our forefathers and our own sins. (See note 20 on page 132 in my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin”.)], (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power [or, authority] of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (3) Among them we too [That is, “we” who are now Christians, whether we came from a Jewish or a Gentile background.] all formerly lived [to one degree or another] in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. [[Being saved from the guilt of sin is an important part of our salvation, but being saved from the state described in these three verses is even more significant. Whereas we were “sons of disobedience,” being characterized by disobedience; now we are enabled (and required) to be sons of obedience. Formerly Satan (with his demonic hosts) was the spirit working in us; now it is the very Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. And formerly, when we were living in sin, we were “children of wrath.” That is, we were headed for the wrath of God, which is destined to ultimately confront all who persist in rebellion against Him (cf., e.g., Eph. 5:5-7; Col. 3:6). It is also true that the wrath of God is manifested in a limited, preliminary sense during this present age (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:18-31.) But now we are headed for eternal blessings and glory.]] (4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our transgressions [cf. Eph. 1:3-14], made us alive together with Christ [[This partaking of the life of God in union with Christ, which starts with the new birth, is a big part of what salvation is all about. And it must be understood that this life, which flows from the indwelling Spirit of God, includes the enablement to live in righteousness and holiness. We are literally united with the Lord Jesus Christ (by the Spirit of God) from the time we appropriate His atoning death by faith. He died in our place, bearing our sins (back to Adam) with the guilt and the penalties, very much including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin. Then, having become united with Him in His death, we are also united with Him in His resurrection and ascension. We have already been resurrected in a preliminary, spiritual sense, and in the near future we will be resurrected in the full and final glorious sense.]] (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus [[Those united with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places are no longer under (but have been raised above) the authority of the sin, Satan, and spiritual death spoken of in Eph. 2:1-3. See Eph. 1:19-23. We have been saved (and we are now experiencing salvation) by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that there is no more spiritual warfare, but we need not, and should not, be defeated. Cf., e.g., Eph. 6:10-20.]], (7) in order that in the ages to come [The “ages to come” will begin at the end of this age, after the Lord Jesus returns to save and to judge (cf. Eph. 1:21).] He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) FOR BY GRACE [It is very important for us to understand that our salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace. It is totally unearned/unmerited, and therefore God receives all the glory.] YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED [[As verses 1-7 show, this salvation includes being saved from the state of spiritual death and bondage to sin and Satan, and the transformation to the state of spiritual life and righteousness and holiness in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Without minimizing the awesome significance of our present salvation, we can also say that most of the glory of our eternal salvation is reserved for “the ages to come.”]] THROUGH FAITH [[Faith (along with the closely related word believing) is undoubtedly the key word used in the New Testament to describe what is required of us in the outworking of God’s plan of salvation. We don’t earn God’s saving grace through faith, but we receive (and cooperate) with His grace through faith.]]; and that [[I prefer the more literal translation “AND THIS” (instead of “and that”), as translated by the NIV and the Amplified Bible. It is important to see that the word THIS refers back to the SALVATION spoken of earlier in the verse. This is the viewpoint of the marginal note of the NASB, of the translation in the Amplified Bible, which is quite helpful here ((“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves - of your own doing, it came not through your own striving - but it is the gift of God.” (I should point out that the Amplified Bible supplied the words “your” and “salvation” in brackets.)), and of the majority of the many commentaries on Ephesians that I have looked at.
The fact that Paul chose to use a word in the neuter gender for the Greek word I would translate “this,” when the masculine and feminine genders were also available, helps confirm that he did not intend for the word “this” to refer back to the word for faith. The word for faith is of feminine gender in Greek, and if Paul had intended for the word “this” to refer back to the word translated “faith,” he would typically have chosen the feminine gender for the word translated “this.” I should mention, however, that the gender of the word I would translate “this” is only a small part of the reason why I believe the word does not refer back to the word faith. See the discussion that follows, including the comments at the end of this discussion of Eph. 2:1-10. It is quite significant that the words faith and believe (as these words are typically used in the Bible) are used of something we do in response to God’s saving grace, not something God gives us, as I demonstrate throughout this paper.]] NOT OF YOURSELVES [The idea is that the SALVATION does not come from (out of the source of) man; it comes, in its entirety, from (out of the source of) God (as a gift).], IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD [The Greek would more literally be translated “from (out of the source of) God is the gift.”]; (9) NOT AS A RESULT OF WORKS [[The Greek here is exactly the same as the Greek behind “not of (from/out of the source of) yourselves,” but here the word for “works” replaces the word for “yourselves.” We do not (cannot) earn salvation by our works. Rather, as the apostle just stated, salvation comes from (out of the source of) God as a gift. By definition, anything that is earned does not come as a gift/by grace.]], THAT NO ONE SHOULD BOAST. [To the extent that we earned salvation by our works, we could boast in ourselves instead of God. But since we are saved totally by the grace of God through faith, He must receive all the glory forever.] (10) FOR WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP [[Whenever I consider these words, I have the same thought: As God’s workmanship, we certainly ought to live in a way that glorifies Him, in righteousness, holiness, humility, and truth. But to the extent we are living in the flesh (in the old man), we certainly are not manifesting God’s workmanship, and He is being robbed of glory. These words in Eph. 2:10, like Eph. 2:1-7, emphasize the fact that a big part of what salvation is all about is the transformation to righteous and holy living by grace through faith. We are called to walk by the Spirit of God on a continuous basis by faith, in accordance with the covenant God has made with us (cf. Gal. 5:16).]], CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS [[We are new creations (cf. Eph. 2:15; 4:24; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15) through what God has done for us in the incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, resurrection, and the exaltation of Christ Jesus, who, for one thing, poured out the promised new-covenant gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:33). But then, we really are not new creations to the extent the old man is still manifesting itself in fleshiness, worldliness, and sin/to the extent that we are not walking by the Spirit of God on a continuous basis, in accordance with the Word of God.]] FOR GOOD WORKS [[As new creations we are to live in the will of God, doing the good (righteous) works that He requires of us, not sinful works. As Paul stated in Eph. 2:9, we have not been saved “as a result of [our] works”; however, it is also true that Christians are required to do good works (that is, they are required to live right, doing works of righteousness). These good works are not the works of man in the flesh but the works of God, since we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, and since they are produced by the indwelling Spirit of God (by the grace of God). The following words of 2:10 also show that our good works are truly part of God’s new creation. The New Testament makes it equally clear that God’s will won’t be accomplished in our lives to the extent that we don’t do our part. Our part is pretty well covered by the word faith (repentance and faith).]], WHICH GOD PREPARED BEFOREHAND, THAT WE WOULD WALK IN THEM.” [This walk is not automatic for Christians; it is not optional either.]
A few more comments on the interpretation of Eph. 2:8, 9. I believe the following understanding of these verses is clearly wrong: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this [faith] is not of yourselves, from God is the gift [of faith]; [faith is] not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” The apostle is speaking about the source of salvation (salvation is the primary topic of Eph. 2:1-10), not the source of faith. It isn’t necessary (or reasonable) to say that faith is not a result of works, but it is important to say that salvation is not of works. We receive salvation by faith, in response to God’s grace.
Acts 15:1-11. “And some men came down [to Antioch] from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ [This clearly was an important issue. The early Christian church had to determine God’s will on this matter.] (2) And when Paul and Barnabus had great dissension and debate with them [The apostle Paul, who can be called the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-9), had already received revelation from God that answered this question (Gal. 1:6-12; 5:1-4). It took some time, however, for some Jewish Christians to be convinced that God did not require the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, etc., in order to be fully accepted into the Body of Christ.], the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabus and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. [The date of this council at Jerusalem is typically taken to be AD 49.] (3) Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. (4) And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. (5) But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and direct them to observe the Law of Moses.’ (6) And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. (7) And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and BELIEVE. [See Acts 10:1-11:18. It is true, of course, that no Gentiles could have been saved if it weren’t part of God’s salvation plan, and if He hadn’t called them by the gospel, but believing the gospel was something that they did (as the responded to, and cooperated with, the saving grace of God in Christ).] (8) And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them [I believe we can say that He bore witness to the fact that they, from the heart, truly repented and submitted to the gospel in faith, and that He accepted them into His family through Jesus Christ.], giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us [[God’s giving them the Holy Spirit bore witness to the fact that they were accepted by Him. Acts 10:46 shows that they spoke with tongues, and we don’t want to minimize the charismatic gifts; however, it is important to understand that the Spirit was given to them (and all true Christians) to do a more basic, much greater work. That is, He was given to impart spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead, and to make them righteous and holy. See on 15:9. Other terminology can be used in place of “giving...the Holy Spirit.” Acts 10:44 says, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.” Acts 10:45 says, “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.” Acts 10:47 speaks of those “who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did....” Acts 11:15-17 says, “...the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning [referring back to Pentecost. The next verse (Acts 11:16), along with six other verses, speaks of being baptized/immersed "in the Holy Spirit." And note that 11:16 says that God gave these Gentiles “the same gift” he had given to the Jewish believers, starting on the Day of Pentecost.] (Acts 11:16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with [in] water, but you shall be baptized with [in] the Holy Spirit.’ (17) If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after BELIEVING in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way [by not accepting these Gentile believers into the Body of Christ]?” See under Titus 3:3-8, pages 125-138 (including the notes), in my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin” for a discussion of what the Bible means by the new covenant gift of the Spirit. The main point that I make there is that the gift of the Spirit (first poured out on the Day of Pentecost) includes the impartation of spiritual life and the transformation to a state of holiness, and is not to be limited to the charismatic dimension. At the end of this discussion of Acts 15:1-11, we’ll discuss the meaning of the words “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” (That discussion is not included in these excerpts.)]]; (Acts 15:9) and He made no distinction between us [referring to those Jews, including Peter, who had already received the Spirit, starting at Pentecost] and them, CLEANSING [OR PURIFYING] THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. [[These last words are very important, but often not adequately understood. For one thing, they include the common new-covenant theme that we are saved by faith/grace, not works. (Verses 10, 11 confirm that Peter makes this point here.) This theme is very relevant because it shows that the Gentile Christians were not required (by God) to submit to ceremonial works of the Mosaic Law, like circumcision, which was the point of contention (Acts 15:1-6). It is important to see that the cleansing/purifying spoken of here is the cleansing/purifying that comes to the hearts and lives of those who submit to the gospel in faith.
This cleansing/purifying work comes based on the atoning death of the Lamb of God (cf., e.g., Rom. 6:1-4; 8:1-4; 1 Peter 1:18-20; 2:24) and it comes in/by the Holy Spirit who comes to indwell believers. The giving of the Holy Spirit (mentioned in verse 8) includes the regenerating (life-giving) and sanctifying transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit. This work of the Spirit yields the cleansing/purifying of the heart mentioned in verse 9. A study of the Greek verb “katharizo,” which is the verb translated cleansing/purifying here, helps confirm that it is correct to see a sanctifying, transforming type of cleansing/purifying here. This same Greek verb is also used of this type of cleansing in 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; Heb. 9:14; James 4:8; and 1 John 1:7, 9. Each of these important verses, with one exception, is discussed in my book, “Holiness and Victory Over Sin.” (See the listing of “Passages of Scripture” at the front of the book. See the listings in bold print.) The one verse not discussed there is James 4:8, a verse that is part of a powerful call to repentance, and a verse that is easy to understand: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse [“katharizo”] your hands, you sinners [In other words, Stop sinning! It’s clear in this context that James wasn’t just exhorting them to receive a cleansing that included only forgiveness.]; and purify [using a different Greek verb] your hearts, you double-minded.”]] (Acts 15:10) Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? [The yoke refers to an attempt to be saved through trying to fully keep the Law, including the ceremonial parts of the Law.] (11) But we [Peter is speaking here of Jewish Christians.] believe that we are saved [I would translate “WE BELIEVE [the gospel] IN ORDER TO BE SAVED.”] through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are. [All new covenant believers (Jews and Gentiles) are saved by grace through faith, not works/Law/merit. I recommend the following commentaries on these verses: “Book of Acts” (Eerdmans, 1988) by F. F. Bruce; “Acts” (Eerdmans, 1980) by I. H. Marshall.]
That concludes these excerpts from my “A Paper on Faith.” May God be glorified through this paper and His people be edified!