I was recently asked whether the gift mentioned in Ephesians 2:8-9 referred to grace or faith. It was an excellent question, so I decided to post my answer.
Grace is God’s unending mercy and favor abounding in love toward us, that He would send His Son to die for us and take away our sins. This is the plan of redemption established in Christ before the foundation of the world. His grace is universal and is made available to all because Christ died for all. However, not all will inherit this gift of grace because it is contingent upon our choice of faith. God made his promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus available to all, but it is conditional upon whether we choose to believe in Jesus.
God set this up in a manner, not according to works, but according to faith. And it is thru faith that we can access this grace. Think of faith as a portal or the avenue in which we can apprehend God’s abundance of grace. For it is by grace that we are saved, through or “out from” the avenue of faith.
How do we get faith? Is faith a free gift like grace? Let us look at Ephesians 2:8-9 to answer this question.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
This passage tells us “the gift” is of God. It is not of ourselves, but of God. So what is the gift? Is it grace or faith or both?
To answer this question, it is helpful to read this in the original Greek language.
Ephesians 2:8–9-8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως, καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν· Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.
A literal translation of this would be:
For by grace you (plural) are being saved (passively) through faith, and this, the gift, not out from us, of God. Not out from works, so that no one might boast.
The word τοῦτο is a demonstrative pronoun in the nominative case and its gender is neutral. Pronouns must match in case, number and gender the subject in which they are referring. The only nominative, singular, neutral noun is the word τὸ δῶρον, gift. This is a predicate nominative of the word τοῦτο, this. Therefore, in our literal translation above I have written “the gift” immediately following “this” because it is speaking of the predicate nominative τὸ δῶρον. But this still does not answer exactly what the gift is. It just tells us that the gift is not out from us, but of God. But I would conjecture that the gift is not the faith because faith is the avenue to the gift, not the gift itself. It is that which we are being saved by, namely grace that is the gift. In addition, the word grace, χάρις, in its lemma form means gracious favor or gift. Therefore, the gift is referring to God’s grace and not the faith. It is true that man is apportioned a measure of faith, Rom 12:3, but this is not the same as “the gift” referred to here in Eph 2. We also know that faith comes by hearing and understanding the Word, Rom 10:17. Therefore, faith is apportioned to those who hear and understand the Word of God. It is then through faith that we can apprehend the free gift of grace that comes, not out of us, nor out of works, but of God.
Thus, this explains Rom 4:16, For it is out from faith that it might be by grace. Because if the avenue to our salvation was through works then it could not be by grace, because grace is a free gift not something owed based on works. It must be through faith so that it might be by grace.
Faith requires a choice, to believe or not. Consider John 1:12, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
Faith requires a free will decision to choose Him. Those who receive Jesus and choose to believe in Him will become children of God and inherit eternal salvation by grace. However, if one believes that faith is a free gift of God like grace, then one might think that there is no choice in faith and only those who were given faith will have access to His grace. This line of thinking contradicts John 1:12, therefore we must be careful to understand the function of faith. Faith is the avenue to apprehend the free gift of grace. It is not the free gift itself. However, I have one more thing to add because I do not want to give the impression that we are saving ourselves by our own power. Instead, we are using faith to access God’s grace, and I would conjecture that it isn’t even our faith we are using, but the faith of God rising up inside of us by hearing and understanding His Word. Eph 2:8 says that the gift is not out from us, ἐξ ὑμῶν, nor is it out from works, ἐξ ἔργων, but of God. This is an interesting concept that the Greek is portraying. Eph 2 is alluding to the fact that the gift is out from something, and more precisely out from God. Therefore, our salvation must come out from God. There is no way we can save ourselves, but at the same time God has devised this process to include us because we must be the ones making the free will decision to receive His grace.
Consider the following verses and pay close attention to the words ἐκ πίστεως, meaning out from faith. For it is not out from ourselves, nor is it out from works, but rather it is out from faith which is of God in which we choose to take hold of so that we are able to apprehend the free gift of grace unto eternal salvation in Christ.
The typical translation of the phrase ἐκ πίστεως is usually "by faith" or "in faith", but the literal meaning of the word ἐκ πίστεως is out from faith. This has a slightly different meaning than just saying "by faith" or "in faith". We learn from this word that the avenue in which we apprehend the gift of grace is "out from faith"
The italicized word is the typical English translation, the words in red and in parenthesis is showing the literal translation, namely out from faith.
Romans 1:17 “The just shall live by (out from faith).”
Romans 1:17 Ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται.
Romans 3:26-…that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (is out from the faith) of Jesus
Romans 3:26- εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ.
Romans 4:16- Therefore it is of (out from faith) that it might be according to grace,
Romans 4:16- διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, ἵνα κατὰ χάριν,
Romans 5:1- Therefore, having been justified by (out from faith),
Romans 5:1- Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως,
Romans 9:30- …even the righteousness of (out from faith);
Romans 9:30- … δικαιοσύνην δὲ τὴν ἐκ πίστεως·
Romans 10:6- But the righteousness of (out from faith)
Romans 10:6- ἡ δὲ ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοσύνη
Galatians 2:16- …that we might be justified by faith in Christ (out from the faith of Christ) and not by the works of the law;
Galatians 2:16- …ἵνα δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου·
Galatians 3:9- So then those who are of (out from faith) are blessed with believing Abraham.
Galatians 3:9- ὥστε οἱ ἐκ πίστεως εὐλογοῦνται σὺν τῷ πιστῷ Ἀβραάμ.
Therefore, faith is not the gift, but rather the avenue unto which we are saved by the gift of Grace. For without faith, we would have no way to access the gift of Grace.
Now therefore, it is by the gift of Grace that we are being saved through the avenue of faith and out from the faith of God which comes from hearing and understanding His Word, out from which faith we are able to apprehend this free gift of Grace unto eternal salvation in Christ.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen
Ἡ χάρις τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μετὰ πάντων υμῶν. ἀμην.