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a Bible passage
2. Made Alive in Christ
1And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; 3among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:-- 4but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not of works, that no man should glory. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them. 11Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; 12that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, 15having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; 16and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17and he came and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh: 18for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. 19So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; 21in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
8. For by grace are ye saved. This is an inference from the former statements. Having treated of election and of effectual calling, he arrives at this general conclusion, that they had obtained salvation by faith alone. First, he asserts, that the salvation of the Ephesians was entirely the work, the gracious work of God. But then they had obtained this grace by faith. On one side, we must look at God; and, on the other, at man. God declares, that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace. The next question is, in what way do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all commendation, it follows that salvation does not come from us.
Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished. When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ. And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation.
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.