Ephesians 2:8,9: A Simple Interpretation

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Nelson, Jun 13, 2002.

  1. Nelson

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    I have read a view posts arguing on the basis of the Greek wording and meaning in defense of the Reformed position of Eph. 2:8, however, as important as word study may be, I think a correct understanding of this verse will be missed if we do not take verse 9 - “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” - into consideration.

    The phrase “that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” is understood better in relation to verse 9, which would mean that which is not due to any works in relation to Law or as obtaining merit. Therefore, if this is a fair assessment of verse 8 and 9 taken together (and I believe it is), the phrase does not refer to “faith.”

    It seems that the apostle is here arguing for a contrast primarily between “by grace” and “of works.” The antithesis Paul makes is always between “grace” and “works” or “faith and works,” but never between “grace” and “faith” (cf. Gal. 3:1-5; Romans 3:27,28; 11:6). Grace and faith are mutually complimentary NT ideas in opposition to works as that which obtains the divine favor.

    The phrase “that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” does not seem to refer to “grace” because it already contemplates that which is given unearned and freely. It’s redundant, like saying, “For by the gift of God you are saved through faith, and that gift of God is not earned by you as a result of good works; it is the gift of God”

    This phrase also does not seem to refer to “faith” because the fact that salvation is “through faith” on our part necessarily makes it “by grace” on God’s part, and verse 9 seems to make a contrast, which cannot have any reference to faith (as noted above) but only to grace (Romans 3:27). Faith assumes grace as, conversely, grace assumes faith.

    The above considerations lead me to conclude that within the phrase “that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” the words “that” and “it” specifically refer to salvation itself: “ye have been saved.” Salvation is God’s gift because it is obtained “through faith” in God’s grace and not by works (verse 9); and, therefore, grace is the ultimate ground of our salvation as affirmed by the apostle Paul: "For by grace you have been saved."
     
  2. KenH

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    Absolutely, Nelson. You are quite correct that salvation is God's gift. And as a perfect gift, He provides all that we need for the gift to be effective in the lives of His people - faith, repentance, sanctification, etc. To use a common phrase in human gifts - "batteries included". [​IMG]

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  3. tyndale1946

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    Nelson unless I'm mistaken it still sounds to me like you are using your faith to obtain that grace?... What faith are you using in reference to grace?... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  4. Nelson

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    Salvation is the obtaining of God's favor, i.e. grace; and it is obtained by faith. Yes, it is by faith.

    I must, on the surface, agree with Ken that God does provide us with all that is necessary to obtain salvation but not in the manner taught under the Reformed tradition.
     
  5. Nelson

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    Note the context: "when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ."

    The emphasis is on the contrast between works (by the Law or that which is shown to be law in our conscience) and grace as the basis of salvation. If one thinks that his works are the basis of God's favor on him, that works effects merit, he should remember that God "made us alive" while we were "dead in our transgressions," i.e. God loved us while we were sinners and, as a result of that love, saved us. That is grace (cf. verse 4).

    Faith, though not mentioned in the immediate context, is assumed. Remember, what I stated in my initial presentation, that the idea of grace assumes faith; it is the fact that it is "through (as a condition) faith" that makes salvation by grace. In verse 8, the apostle makes his intention clear.

    Please note that in the verses discussed it is not God's grace "sovereignly extended," which is contemplated but rather such grace is pictured as mercifully and lovingly extended to sinners (verse 4).

    If God's sovereignty is implied, it is seen is verse 6 where he has "raised us up" and "seated us" with Christ, yet, again, it is not His sovereignty that is central to the apostle's argument but the basis, nature, and goal by which He raised and seated us: "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (verse 7). Nothing is said of demonstrating His sovereignty.

    As mentioned earlier in other posts, the fundamental problem I see with Calvinism is that the the divine sovereignty takes center stage coloring their doctrines when God's love demonstrated on the Cross - the foolishness and weakness of the message of God - is what is central and permeates the whole of the Gospel.

    From my perspective, no matter how you look at it, it is "very clear" that God's grace is that which is central to the apostle's understanding and instruction.

    It is not God's sovereignty that demonstrates salvation is not of ourselves but God's grace.

    [ June 15, 2002, 10:27 AM: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  6. tyndale1946

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    I will agree in this line of thinking but only from this context. Man who is dead can do nothing! Grace is bestowed upon us because of the Faith Of Jesus Christ. No Faith Of Jesus Christ... No grace. The only reason we have Faith in Jesus Christ is because of the Faith Of Jesus Christ. Grace is never extended to a dead man and my understanding of scripture it is never an offer! There are operations of grace but no free offers. When we talk of Irresistible Grace what we mean is no one is able to resist Gods grace. Its all of God and none of man and the simple interpretation is God will save all his blood bought children and not lose a one! Is it our Faith or His Faith?... His Grace by His Faith and all else is futile!... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  7. Nelson

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    If by man "can do nothing" you mean he cannot have faith in God, I disagree. It is not that man cannot do anything good but he cannot do anything good that would obtain God's favor.

    I don't see where the Bible shows us that God drops faith in us. It is always shown as something that we do. That takes away no glory from God; He made us with the ability to fulfill his commands to repent and believe; he influences and intervenes in our lives to draw us to Himself but he does not do for us what He commands us to do.

    But the Bible says otherwise: "while we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive..." (cf. Rom. 5:6-10)

    All is needed is one to show you are wrong. Isa. 55:1 (also related is Matt. 10:8; Mark 1:45)

    On my part, I agree the message of the Gospel is a "simple interpretation;" I gently disagree that your interpretion is the correct interpretation.
     
  8. KenH

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    Hmmm...Hebrews 12:2 states that Jesus is the author and perfector(completer, finisher) of our faith. Not exactly the terminology of dropping it in us, but clearly shows that our faith does not originate with us and that we do not complete it.

    Thankful to God for the faith He gave me,

    Ken

    [ June 14, 2002, 05:42 PM: Message edited by: Ken Hamilton ]
     
  9. tyndale1946

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    Nelson said:
    Jeremiah 31: 31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

    32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

    33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

    Looks to me like Jeremiah tells us exactly how its done in verses 33 and 34 and what will be the result of that operation. The God who creates the heart has the power to do just that and does. You need to visit the potters house if you disagree as the potter says nothing less.

    Romans 9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

    20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

    21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

    22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

    23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

    24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

    26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

    Now who resisted his will?... Brother Glen :confused:
     
  10. tyndale1946

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    Ken thank you for that I forgot that scripture and scripture will complement scripture and we must rightly divide the word of truth as the bible teaches... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  11. russell55

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    Nelson,

    I'm confused.

    and

    Are you saying in the second quote that faith doesn't obtain God's favor? How does that square with the first statement?
     
  12. Nelson

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    The Bible affirms that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” therefore, I assert one obtains God’s favor by faith; it is the only thing that pleases God.

    In the second quote, I meant to disagree with the interpretation that man being "dead in sin" means that he is incapable of believing. The verse has reference not to faith but to the works of the Law.

    Faith may be described as a work (Jn. 6:29: Jesus argues his point using their terminology but in a different context) but it is a work in relation to grace; it is not of Law or that which earns God’s favor. “Man is not saved by works of the Law but by the work of believing” (The Gospel of John, pg. 141, by Robert E. Tourville).

    Faith is conditional and instrumental to receiving salvation; it is not the basis for it. “…God does not require that we pile up merits to obtain a heavenly credit. He requires that we trust Him. The ‘work of God’ means that which God requires of us” (The Gospel According to John, Revised, pg. 319, by Leon Morris).

    I hope that clears things up.
     
  13. KenH

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    I would rather believe that the Bible is totally consistent within itself and that what the apostle Paul states about man being "dead in sin" in Ephesians 2 agrees with what Jesus said about man's total inability in John 6.

    (John 6:44 NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    (John 6:65 NKJV) And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

    I believe that coming to Christ involves repentance and faith in Christ. So unless Jesus and the apostle Paul are disagreeing with each other, they are saying the same thing. Which means that both are referring to man's spiritual inability to be saved unless enabled by the Father. And those whom the Father draws, come. And those that come will be raised up. Pretty straight forward and simple, eh? [​IMG]

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  14. Nelson

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    Ken, I agree the Bible is consistent within itself but it seems to me that your interpretation of what Paul and Jesus mean is not consistent with the text.

    In these verses, Jesus' words here are not saying that man does not have the physical or moral ability to come to Christ as something impossible for him to do; he is merely saying that unless God initiates the search and directs him to the truth, man will not seek for Him or accept Him as truth.

    Please note that what Jesus meant by "No man is able" can be derived from his words recorded later on in verses 64 and 65: "But there are some of you that believe not...Therefore, said I unto you that no man can come to me..."

    What Jesus meant was that they cannot come to him because they refuse to believe. A person is unable to be drawn to Christ not because they are "passed over" and, as a result, have some form of inability that makes it impossible for them to believe, as the Reformed tradition teaches, but because they freely and willingly refuse to believe in Christ.

    [ June 19, 2002, 11:49 AM: Message edited by: Nelson ]
     
  15. KenH

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    Nelson,

    Somehow my Bible doesn't read, "No one can come to Me unless he believes first". My Bible talks about God's action in drawing sinners to Christ. I guess I don't understand how you take a verse that talks about man's inability and turn it around to actually be talking about man's ability. Amazing!

    One who praises the Father for drawing him to Christ,

    Ken

    [ June 15, 2002, 05:22 PM: Message edited by: Ken Hamilton ]
     
  16. ScottEmerson

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    Nelson's didn't either. You're making another straw man. He said specifically that Christ had to draw him first.
     
  17. KenH

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    (John 6:44 NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Those whom the Father draws come to Christ.
    Those who come to Christ will be raised up.
    Those whom the Father draws will be raise up.

    Now unless the English language has changed I see the word him twice in this John 6:44 and I somehow can't get a sliver of very thin paper between the two hims being talked about.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  18. ScottEmerson

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    (John 6:44 NKJV) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

    Those whom the Father draws come to Christ.
    Those who come to Christ will be raised up.
    Those whom the Father draws will be raise up.

    Now unless the English language has changed I see the word him twice in this John 6:44 and I somehow can't get a sliver of very thin paper between the two hims being talked about.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
    </font>[/QUOTE]Well, since everybody is drawn, it looks like I'm soon to become a universalist then.
     
  19. Nelson

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    You cannot intepret the verse 44 in isolation from the context (at least that is what many Calvinists advise). Therefore, my assertion that the objects of the Father's drawing are believers is taken from verses 29,35,36,40,47,64; the whole chapter explicates symbolically that faith required of those whom God draws.
     
  20. KenH

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    I will agree with you, Nelson, to the extent that, yes, those that are drawn by the Father, believe. And, yes, those drawn by the Father must believe. Repentance and faith are necessary components of conversion.

    The issue is are repentance and faith items that man has the natural ability to do or must God enable him to perform them. I believe it is God that enables him and God cannot fail.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken

    [ June 15, 2002, 10:14 PM: Message edited by: Ken Hamilton ]
     

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