16th January 2024

'Got Questions Ministries' ask



"What is the meaning of Ephesians 2:8-9?"

This is a familiar passage dealing with God's grace in the matter of salvation:

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."

Before looking at the meaning of an individual verse (or two), it is important to get a feel for the context.
Ephesians was written by Paul to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, which had a significant population of Gentile believers.

The popular notion is that God accepts good people and rejects bad people.
Most people, whether in Christianised countries or those steeped in other religions, usually operate under the idea that God accepts or rejects people based on some level of goodness and/or religious performance.

Ephesians 2:7 says (paraphrased)
God has chosen to save sinners, not based on their goodness but on His kindness. He does this to demonstrate His grace - that is to say His undeserved favour.
By definition, grace is a blessing that is undeserved and unwarranted - grace is a gift freely given based on the kind intentions of the 'giver' to a 'recipient', who has no claim to it.

What God has done for believers in Jesus, is going to bring Him glory, and verses 8 - 9 further explains how He gets all the glory.
If we are saved by grace, this means that it is not because we are good or deserving; rather, it is because God is good and gracious.

In order to be saved, there is a necessary human response to God's grace.
The response is not trying to be "good enough" to be saved.
The response is simply trusting (having faith in) God to save on the basis of the goodness of Jesus.

The next clause in verses 8-9, is a little more difficult to understand:
"And this is not from yourselves."
The verse could be paraphrased, "You have been saved by grace through faith, and even this faith is not from within you."
Those who accept this interpretation emphasise that, without the work of God in our lives, we could not even believe the gospel in order to be saved.
Undoubtedly, this is true, but it may not be the best interpretation of this particular verse.

The best explanation is that this refers to the whole plan and process of "salvation by grace through faith," rather than any specific element of it - although, admittedly, the bottom line is hardly any different.
Salvation-by-grace-through-faith is not from ourselves but is "a gift of God, not of works."

The result of the process is "so that no one can boast."
If the plan and process of salvation were based on human works, then we would elevate ourselves over other people and even in some sense over God Himself, because our salvation was our own doing, not His.

Many people memorise verses 8-9, and it is an excellent synopsis of the gospel, but the passage does not end at verse 9.
Verse 10 is necessary to complete the thought.
Someone might wonder what place good works have in the life of a Christian.

We are not saved by doing good works, but we are saved for the purpose of doing good works:

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Good works are a vital part of the Christian life because doing good is one of the reasons God saves us - He has things for us to do.
But the sequence is all-important - good works are not the cause of salvation but the purpose of it.
God saves us so that we can go into the world, doing good works in His name, and this brings Him all the more glory.

Given the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9, it is crucial to ask oneself,
"What do I rely on for my salvation?"

Are you relying upon good things you have done,
or do you recognise that you have nothing to contribute and simply cast yourself upon the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ?

This is an edited version.
The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request

'Got Questions Ministries'
is comprised of dedicated and trained servants who have a desire to assist others in their understanding of God, Scripture, salvation, and other spiritual topics.
We are Christian, Protestant, evangelical, theologically conservative, and non-denominational.
We are a para-church ministry, coming alongside the church to help people find answers to their spiritually related questions.


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