By Grover Stevens
In Ephesians 2:8‑9 the inspired word of God tells us: “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.”
That salvation from sin is by God’s grace is positively affirmed and clearly stated by the inspired apostle (Eph 2:1‑3), and then to make sure that there be no misunderstanding he adds negatively that salvation is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” The word “grace” means not deserved or unmerited. The word “gift” likewise
indicates something received without compensation, unearned. It is abundantly clear that God’s grace alone is the very founding stone on which man’s salvation from sin rests.
By God’s Grace—Through Man’s Faith However, this passage also informs us that this grace saves us ”through faith.” The apostle Paul says in Titus 2:11‑12, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” If our salvation is solely by grace on God’s part and there is nothing that man can do to receive that gift of God’s grace, then all men will be saved and we would have universal salvation. But the apostle Paul tells us that we become the recipients of God’s saving grace ”through faith.” The eminent Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, says in commenting on this passage: ”Through faith: This phrase he adds in repeating what he said in verse 5 to make it plainer. ‘Grace’ is God’s part, ‘faith’ ours. And that (kai touto): Neuter, not feminine saute, and so refers not to pistis [faith] (feminine) or to charis [gift] (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part.”
“Not of Works’’
When Paul says “not of works” he does not mean that there is nothing that man can or must do, as some loudly insist. There are four classes of works revealed in the New Testament:
(1) The works of the Law of Moses, by which man cannot be justified as it demanded perfect obedience (Gal 2:16‑21; Acts 13:39).
(2) The works of man’s own righteousness, works commanded by men (Col 2:21‑23; Titus 3:5; Rom 10:1‑3; 1 John 3:12; Acts 7:41). Obviously, these are works of man’s own devising. Such teaching as “join the church of your choice” or “worship in the way of your choice” or “believe in the faith of your choice” or “live good (keep the ten commandments) and you will go to heaven” are all included in this class.
(3) The works of Satan, darkness, and the flesh (1 John 3:8; 2 Thess 2:9; Rom 13:12; John 7:7; Gal 5:19ff). Certainly we are not saved by any of these kinds of works.
Working God’s Righteousness
The fourth kind of works are the works of God, faith, and righteousness. In John 6:29 the Lord Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Clearly, faith is a work, and is a work that we must work in order to receive God’s gift of grace, salvation. Galatians 5:6 says the faith that avails is the “faith which worketh by love.” And James 2:26 tells us that “faith without works is dead.” In Acts 10:34‑35, the inspired apostle Peter says, “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 1 Thess 1:3 speaks of “your work of faith.” Philippians 3:9 says, “And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that . . . righteousness which is of God by faith. “Romans 10:1‑3 teaches that salvation is not by the establishment of our own righteousness, but by submission unto the righteousness of God. Romans 5:1‑2 teaches that it is “by faith” that we “have access into this grace wherein we stand” (are saved); and verse 21 says that “grace reigns through righteousness.”
No Cause To Boast
God’s grace provided Christ and the gospel. In the gospel God has revealed His righteousness or commandments (Ps 119:172) These commandments are faith, repentance, confession, baptism and godly living. When man has submitted to (obeyed) all of these, he still has done nothing of merit nor of which he could boast. He has done no works of his own righteousness, but has simply submitted to the righteousness of God—God’s conditions of acceptance (Acts 10:35). His salvation is merely by the grace and mercy of God (Titus 3 5).