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9. Not of works. Instead of what he had said, that their salvation is of grace, he now affirms, that “it is the gift of God.” 124124 “Καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν. It has been not a little debated, among both ancient and modern commentators, to what noun τοῦτο should be referred. Some say, to πίστωες; others, to χάριτι; though on the sense of πίστις they differ in their views. The reference seems, however, to be neither to the one nor to the other, but to the subject of the foregoing clause, salvation by grace, through faith in Christ and his gospel; a view, I find, adopted by Dr. Chandler, Dean Tucker, Dr. Macknight, and Dr. A. Clarke. And to show that this interpretation is not a mere novelty, I need only refer the reader to Theophylact, who thus explains: Οὐ τὴν πίστιν λέγει δῶρον Θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὸ διὰ πίστεως σωθὴναι τοῦτο δῶρόν ἐστι Θεοῦ. ‘He does not say that faith is the gift of God; but to be saved by faith, this is the gift of God.’ Such also is the view adopted by Chrysostom and Theodoret.” — Bloomfield. Instead of what he had said, “Not of yourselves,” he now says, “Not of works.” Hence we see, that the apostle leaves nothing to men in procuring salvation. In these three phrases, — not of yourselves, — it is the gift of God, — not of works, — he embraces the substance of his long argument in the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, that righteousness comes to us from the mercy of God alone, — is offered to us in Christ by the gospel, — and is received by faith alone, without the merit of works.
This passage affords an easy refutation of the idle cavil by which Papists attempt to evade the argument, that we are justified without works. Paul, they tell us, is speaking about ceremonies. But the present question is not confined to one class of works. Nothing can be more clear than this. The whole righteousness of man, which consists in works, — nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and man, — between grace and works. Why should God be contrasted with man, if the controversy related to nothing more than ceremonies?
Papists themselves are compelled to own that Paul ascribes to the grace of God the whole glory of our salvation, but endeavor to do away with this admission by another contrivance. This mode of expression, they tell us, is employed, because God bestows the first grace. It is really foolish to imagine that they can succeed in this way, since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability, — not only from the commencement, but throughout, — from the whole work of obtaining salvation.
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.