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.
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.