Ephesians 2:8 Revisited: Calvinism vs. The Bible

A well-known Calvinist theologian asked: “what’s “that”?” regarding the word “that” in Ephesians 2:8. He then went on to make the claim that “that” is everything spoken of in the first part of the verse. He basically claims that the gift of God is an amalgamation of grace, salvation, and faith (in other words, a multi-part gift). This claim has been made by Calvinist theologians of the past, but is it biblical? Let’s look at Ephesians 2:4-9 again:

(Ephesians 2:4-9) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The Bible clearly indicates that “that” is salvation by grace. Salvation is what is by grace and not of works. That is what is not of ourselves…not of works. Salvation is the gift of God in that it is by grace alone rather than by works of righteousness / the law. Faith is not the focus of the passage. Look at the context (verses 4-7), where we find the words “Mercy”…”love”…”grace”…”kindness”. Contextually, faith is not what is being talked about. In fact, we see similar word structure in verses 5 and 8, further indicating the focus.

Where Calvinists go wrong is they believe that all faith, whether it be of man or of Christ, is all a work that demands glory. They just can’t see faith as the Bible defines faith, apparently. They basically teach that Christ should “get the glory” for saving faith, rather than a dead man doing a work of faith and wrongly getting the glory…? Wait a minute…the biblical definition of faith is clear that faith is not meritorious. Not even superficial faith is described as being a work. So, where are they getting this idea about faith from, in the Bible? I don’t find such an idea anywhere in the scriptures. Rather, i see faith and works contrasted in the Bible. There are no warnings against the work of faith, in the Bible. And yet Calvinists will have us believe that the Bible teaches that faith is a work that can only be done by Christ, who gives saving faith as a gift, and therefore, He gets all the glory for a man believing on Him, trusting in Him for salvation. The whole idea is fallacious. Faith is not a work. Christ did all the atoning work necessary, on the Cross, and it’s a finished work.

We see faith and works clearly contrasted in Romans 3:27, 28 and Romans 4:5:

(Romans 3:27, 28) Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

(Romans 4:5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

If grace, salvation, and faith are all an amalgamated gift of grace, then Ephesians 2:8 becomes nonsensical. Grace is not of grace. Grace is that grace by which we are saved. Salvation is what is by grace, not grace.

The Bible indicates that faith accesses that grace by which the gift of salvation is given:

(Romans 5:1, 2) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Notice the words “access by faith into this grace”. What grace? The grace by which the gift of salvation is given. Compare with Ephesians 2:8, 9:

(Ephesians 2:8, 9) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

In light of Romans 5:2, can faith be the gift or even part of the gift? The answer has to be no. Salvation is the gift of God that is by grace and not of works…not of ourselves (not of our efforts to fulfill the law). Faith merely accesses that grace (unmerited favor) by which the gift of salvation is given by God. The previous context beginning in verse 4, also supports salvation being the gift. Faith is not the subject of the context (verses 4-7) at all.

Conclusion:

It becomes abundantly clear that the Calvinistic interpretation of the gift of God has multiple problems, when examined in light of the context and wordage that defines what the gift of God is. The Bible clearly indicates that the gift of God is salvation.

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4 Responses to Ephesians 2:8 Revisited: Calvinism vs. The Bible

  1. maggie says:

    Our former pastor tried to convert the whole church to his calvinistic beliefs…this was one of his favourite verses he used to imply that faith was a gift.The church split because of his dogmatic beliefs. Many people were converted to calvinism by him, unfortunately, including some of our own family. Calvinism relies on many texts taken out of context. Paul was addressing fellow Jews who relied on their own adherence to the law and their former status as God’s chosen people to be saved. Romans 9, for example, is a favourite chapter that calvinists use as a proof text to teach unconditional election. They use these and other verses to condemn fellow believers who simply believe the Gospel. We have received much overt and subtle persecution as a result of not accepting Calvinism. I believe it is another gospel. It teaches that the gift of salvation is not received by faith but by irresistible grace and unconditional election.

    • Sean Budde says:

      Hi Maggie, thanks for the reply. Sorry for the delay, i was going to post a new blog post before i replied, but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. You’re absolutely right about how Calvinists ignore context. Ephesians 2:8 is a perfect example, as is John 17:9 where we see that Christ was praying for oneness of believers only, not oneness of believers with the world (unbelievers). Light and darkness cannot be one and that’s why He didn’t pray for the world. The Calvinist reads the verse and reads his or her own theology into the verse. Calvinism is, for the most part, a product of man’s intellectualism with well meaning intentions. Proverbs 14:12 says:

      (Proverbs 14:12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

      What Christian wouldn’t agree that it’s good to embrace God’s sovereignty rather than infringe upon it? But they impose their own idea of how God’s sovereignty should be expressed by Him, without considering that man’s freedom of choice to receive or reject Christ, when drawn by the gospel of Christ, is within God’s sovereign will, rather than outside of it or in conflict with it. I think if Calvinists read my blog, they’ll reevaluate how they view certain verses. When i’ve studied the Bible, i’ve tried to do so with an open mind, rather than adhere to theological dogma. If the Bible taught Calvinism, i would certainly change my conclusion, but i’ve been led out of Calvinism.

      Thanks again Maggie…i’ll reply to your other posted comment next,

      Sean

    • DOLf says:

      Faith as gift/blessing from The Most High is not a bad understanding except that “faith” may not be an appropriate translation of the Greek word pisteos. Pisteos also means a “belief” which is a “point of view” or an “understanding.” So one could say “Understanding is a blessing from The Most High(Theos)” which is a common concept. The entire Greek of Ephesians 2 vs 8-9 can be translated/interpreted as Paul saying (8) “My son, my pleasure is to only make everything better by this understanding. Not from your[understanding], from The Most High’s, this blessing[of an understanding]. 9 Not from anything done [by anyone to gain understanding], but the a certain ones glory.
      This is talking about the glory of Jesus as a sign of The Most High that gave the understanding of how to live in accordance to the law and not how it was being applied by the elders which was like a burden. Vers 10 talks about Jesus in this light. You can also forget about the word saved in verse 8 as the Greek word “sesosemenoi” is a conjunction of two Greek words with “sesos” relating to making better which also means save but I think inappropriate in context. The other part of the word, menoi, relating to the meaning only. So we can forget save by grace in this verse and think of paul making things better for his people by an understanding of how to live based on the glory of Jesus given by The Most High as a blessing.

      • Sean Budde says:

        Hi DOLf, sorry for the late reply. I don’t claim to be a Greek expert at all, but if you look at verse 5, according to the Strong’s concordance, the very same Greek words are used, that are used in verse 8:

        (Ephesians 2:5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace [5485] ye are [2075] saved [4982];)

        (Ephesians 2:8, 9) For by grace [5485] are ye [2075] saved [4982] through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

        If you interpret the Greek in verse 8 in the way you did, then the meaning of verse 5 should be the same, and align with verse 8. But i don’t see that same meaning in view, in verse 5.

        Thanks for the reply. May God bless,

        Sean

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