By Randy Dillon
8. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9. Not of works, lest any man should boast. ******
It is a common notion among most Evangelical Christians that salvation (freedom from the consequences of sin and the gift of eternal life through the blood of Jesus) is of God and that it comes to the undeserving sinner as an act of grace (the unmerited favor of God). Most would also agree that a salvation of “works” (behavior which earns grace and salvation) is not Biblical. However, altogether too many do not see that faith stands in the same regard as salvation and grace. That is, it is a gift of God. In particular, American Christianity has become so infused with individualism and the so-called Puritan work ethic that in the salvation experience they feel compelled to hold on to something that they bring to the table to exchange with God. It is usually “faith” that they cling to as their contribution to salvation.
Yet, a close examination of verse 8 yields a surprise to many holding the above view. As John MacArthur points out, all three elements mentioned in verse 8 are gifts of God: salvation, grace AND faith. Once the soul is regenerated (born again) through the action of the Holy Spirit, God also gives one the faith to believe and indeed act upon that belief in the risen Christ through the faith bestowed upon him or her in the regeneration process. No serious Christian, that I know of, would confess that they just woke up one morning, stretched, got out of bed and claimed “I think I will become a Christian today.” Something akin to choosing what clothing to wear. There may be an intervening time between regeneration and confession in faith of belief in Christ, but it is not a work of the person that brings about public acknowledgement. Rather it is the outworking of faith that causes a person to make a public profession of the salvation through faith that God has already granted by grace.
The prominent Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest (Teacher Emeritus in Greek at the Moody Bible Institute) in his book The New Testament: An Expanded Translation gives a more precise grammatical rendering of this passage. I have often referred to this as the “Yoda” translation since it is foreign to our modern speech patterns. He translates the passage thus: “For by the grace you have been saved in time past completely, through faith, with the result that your salvation persists through present time; and this (salvation) is not from you as a source; of God it is the gift, not from a source of works, in order that no one might boast.” While somewhat challenging to our ears, the translation is more accurately aligned to the Greek in declaring that salvation (in all of its aspects) is not from a source within a person, but, in its entirety, from God.
Thus, we are regenerated by grace, and through faith, which God provides, we come to God as the vile and wretched creatures that we know we are, with nothing to offer but our sins. We have nothing to assuage God’s anger and judgement but the body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ. When we come in that manner we exercise the faith that God has granted to us to believe in Jesus.