Over the last several days, we have been paying close attention to the first part of Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” We have seen that salvation comes from God on the basis of his grace. It is not something we earn in any way. Rather, we receive this salvation when we put our trust in God to save us through Christ.
The second half of verse 8 underscores this truth in different language: “and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” We might wonder what “this” refers to, exactly. What is not from ourselves? Grace? Salvation? Faith?
Once more, we need to study the grammar of verse 8. In English, the proximity of “this” to “faith” suggests that faith is not from ourselves. A few commentators read the verse this way. But the original Greek does not support this reading. Ancient Greek, like many contemporary languages, such as Spanish, French, and German, identifies nouns and pronouns according to gender (masculine, feminine, neuter). The Greek word for “faith” (pistis) is feminine. But the pronoun “this” (touto) is neuter. If Paul had wanted to say that faith, in particular, is not from ourselves, he would have used a feminine pronoun. But, there isn’t a neuter noun in the first part of verse 8 that serves as the antecedent for “this.” Therefore, it’s best to understand that “this” refers to the whole thought: “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” That which is not from ourselves is “salvation-by-grace-through-faith.” All of this comes from God.
The more we take this truth to heart, the more we will live our lives in dependence and gratitude. We will depend on God for grace each day. We will rely on God to help us trust him more and more. As we do, our hearts will be filled with gratitude for the fact that God has done and is doing what we could never do ourselves. God has saved us and is saving us from deathly lives, from lives of bondage, from lives without purpose. Vital, full, eternal, fruitful life is not from ourselves, but from God. He offers this quality of life to you today.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you depend on God each day? How do you experience and express your gratitude to God for his salvation?