By grace, through faith

A common thorn in the side of most Calvinists is Ephesians 2:8 which reads

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

To keep with the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace (ie. men being robots) they prefer to make the case that faith is included in the gift given from God.

The problem with your interpretation is that if faith is included in what is gifted to us then it makes the through (διὰ) superfluous and unnecessary given the context.

Rather, πίστεως (faith) is the conduit διὰ (through) which χάριτί (grace) is actualized.

Word for word it is: τῇ The γὰρ for/reason χάριτί grace ἐστέ you σεσῳσμένοι are saved διὰ through πίστεως faith καὶ and τοῦτο this οὐκ not ἐξ out of ὑμῶν of yours θεοῦ God τὸ the δῶρον gift/sacrifice/offering.

Further, Robertson’s Word Pictures puts it this way:

Neuter, not feminine ταυτη, and so refers not to πιστις (feminine) or to χαρις (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (εξ υμων, out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον) and not the result of our work. (emphasis mine)

For more context, this verse is almost the same as verse 5 before it but with the addition of “through faith”. Verse 5 reads:

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

If faith is part of the gift and is indeed necessary for salvation, why was it omitted in verse 5?

It seems that only by making the illogical leap to thinking of faith as a work12 can a person sustain the notion that faith along with grace is not of ourselves.

  1. Which should be rejected anyway since such a view of faith as a work would make verse 9 incoherent. []
  2. Galatians 3:6 among other verses point to the fact that faith is not a work under the law. []
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20 responses to “By grace, through faith

  1. How does the demonstrative pronoun not have a grammatical antecedent? The participle for "you have been saved" is masculine, not neuter. It seems to leave no grammatical antecedent for "τοῦτο". "This" has to refer to something grammatically. I don't doubt Robertson's ability in Greek, but I'd like to see how it works.

    Robertson's grammatical analysis is far from undisputed. I would dispute it if I had more fluency in Greek, but I indeed question it. The glaring problem of not actually offering a antecedent or even a postcedent that can grammatically fit with the demonstrative pronoun causes me to seek for further explanation. Until I can find it I am forced to stick with my current analysis, which is not without precedent.

    A Westmisnter California NT scholar offers this analysis: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/archives/97-03/0394

    To understand the pronoun, more properly rendered "this", as referring to the entire preceding clause is not an uncommon understanding of the use of pronouns. It is usage common even in the English language. (e. g. "I fell asleep while driving down the highway, drove off the road and plummeted down a wooded hill; that was quite a wild ride.") I presume that one of the reasons that so many translators render the pronoun as "that" rather than "this" is due to the English idiom where the pronoun "that" is understood to refer to an entire preceding clause, more so than "this".

    I also wonder why you call it a "thorn in the side" of Calvinists, but I certainly appreciate your modifier "most".

    I don't quite understand what you are saying here:
    "It seems that only by making the illogical leap to thinking of faith as a work can a person sustain the notion that faith along with grace is not of ourselves."

  2. An analysis that finds our faith is a gift from God seems quite far from impossible. It's certainly a possible interpretation and isn't in any danger of harming the rest of NT teaching on faith anyhow.

    "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…" Hebrews 12:2
    author=ἀρχηγὸς

    "Little Liddell" entry for ἀρχηγὸς:

    …Beginning, originating II. as Subst. like ἀρχηγέτης, a leader, founder, Lat. auctor; a first father. 2. a prince, cheif

    for ἀρχηγέτης:
    …a leader: the founder of a city or family. II. a first leader, prince, cheif.

    Cassell's Latin Dictionary entry for Auctor:
    auctor -oris, m. (augeo), one that give increase. So (I) an originator, causer, doer. …. Etc.

    "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…" Philippians 1:29

    "But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” "

    John 6:64, 65

    As well it is our responsibility:

    "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
    Acts 16:13
    " [God] now commandeth all men every where to repent:"
    Acts 17:30

    and we are guilty of sin if we don't:

    "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
    Revelation 21:8

    I like the comic BTW.

  3. Oh, and thanks for the free advertisement!

  4. The idea of irresistable grace isn't well reflected in an picture of men being robots.

    The 1689 LBC (a document representing a generic reformed view of irresistible grace) represents the situation thus: "they come most freely, being made willing by his grace." In this statement, the writers were careful to remember that man is made in God's image, and as such is a personal being. Thus, though God's work be perfect and effectual, the man's actions and will are not absent, but instrumental. The confession later states that concerning the efectual the creature is "wholly passive therein", but not in the sense that he does not truly act, for later in the sentence comes this, "being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead." Then the creature's actions and will (personality) are essential to this event though they do not begin it.

    Man, being created in God's image, is analogous to God. Thus his actions, though true actions, are not ultimately determinative, but are derivatively important. Man's actions are analogous (i. e. imaging God in his acting) rather than original, it is only in this way that his actions can be truly significant. The doctrine of God's ultimate sovereignty isn't one of God's immediate control over every action of men, but one in which He does exercise His authority by use of means and intermediary causes, also where by him all things consist. (Col. 1:17) In Him we live and move and have our being. To try to collapse all of these actions and events into one cause (and an impersonal one at that) is not a faithful representation of the generic reformed position for it removes the personal nature of God and the derivatively personal nature of man from the picture.

  5. Whoah, I appear to have hit a nerve there.

    True, RWP's grammatical analysis may be disputed, as are almost all of the analysis done by Calvinists (many times by other Calvinists). That is why I believe the strongest argument lies not with one's ability to parse nouns and verbs (not that that isn't useful) but in one's ability to bring to bear contextual Biblical evidence to strengthen their case. In this instance we have Paul repeating himself and his main ideas, as he is prone to do, and in a few verses prior to verse 8 we read the exact same sentiment sans the "through faith" bit.

    As for faith being a gift. I'll address that in a future post. Suffice to say here, however, that faith can only be a gift in the Calvinistic sense if we do great violence to the words used.

    In that case, what you are calling faith is not, by definition, faith.

  6. Now I am confused. You are affirming that my grammatical analysis is correct, but that is what your blog post set out to contest was the grammar. As you wrote:

    "The problem with your interpretation is that if faith is included in what is gifted to us then it makes the through (διὰ) superfluous and unnecessary given the context."

    You then offer a differing grammatical analysis from A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures.

    You further offer as reason to think that a grammatical analysis understanding the entire preceding clause as the antecedent, and thus including the idea of faith in the gift of God, is untenable due to verse five's first containing the phrase "by grace are you saved", asking:

    "If faith is part of the gift and is indeed necessary for salvation, why was it omitted in verse 5?"

    When what I offered in the original blog post didn't go beyond grammatical analysis, why begin to insert into the discussion other matters such as the nature of faith? I didn't offer any explanation of the definition of faith, but rather assumed that most Christians already know what it is.

    Once again your caricature of Calvinism is a bit off, and even if it isn't you are talking to someone who doesn't believe the things you say they do anyhow. As you describe irresistible grace, the doctrine you have ignored to create your reductio could fill volumes on the doctrine of nature of man and the nature of God.

    As I have already said:

    "The notion of faith supplied by such an understanding as I currently hold (concerning the grammatical analysis of "τοῦτο" in 2:8) doesn't make any claim that faith doesn't come from us in the sense that it is us who have it. It is to say that it doesn't originate in our own hearts, but has an author in the grace of God. Of necessity we do act in believing, being created in God's image, but our actions are derivative of the God in whose image we are made."

    As I have also said in the past:

    "The idea of irresistable grace isn't well reflected in an picture of men being robots.

    The 1689 LBC (a document representing a generic reformed view of irresistible grace) represents the situation thus: "they come most freely, being made willing by his grace." In this statement, the writers were careful to remember that man is made in God's image, and as such is a personal being. Thus, though God's work be perfect and effectual, the man's actions and will are not absent, but instrumental. The confession later states that concerning the efectual the creature is "wholly passive therein", but not in the sense that he does not truly act, for later in the sentence comes this, "being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead." Then the creature's actions and will (personality) are essential to this event though they do not begin it.

    Man, being created in God's image, is analogous to God. Thus his actions, though true actions, are not ultimately determinative, but are derivatively important. Man's actions are analogous (i. e. imaging God in his acting) rather than original, it is only in this way that his actions can be truly significant. The doctrine of God's ultimate sovereignty isn't one of God's immediate control over every action of men, but one in which He does exercise His authority by use of means and intermediary causes, also where by him all things consist. (Col. 1:17) In Him we live and move and have our being. To try to collapse all of these actions and events into one cause (and an impersonal one at that) is not a faithful representation of the generic reformed position for it removes the personal nature of God and the derivatively personal nature of man from the picture."

    I would ask that you please interact with reality here. I haven't redefined any words here yet. If I have your bare assertion is a long way away from showing it. If you really think Calvinists believe those things, then you have a different thing to address in me.

  7. Great post Wes. The cartoon was helpful in explaining. Without libertarian free will we are left to casual determinism.

  8. Why is 'gar' translated 'reason', and 'touto' translated 'you'?

  9. I think the link below benefits the post. It's by R.C. Sproul from his book, "The Mystery of the Holy Spirit." It's worth a read. It's not very long, but it relates to this discussion.
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/on

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