Tuesday, May 10

His Workmanship, Part 4

Commentary on verses 8-9 of Ephesians 2, in which we answer the question: "To whom do the bragging rights belong?"

This is the fourth post in a series of posts on the first ten verses of Ephesians 2. In verses 1-3 we find a description of the sort of people we were before God began his work upon us. Then in verses 4-5 and 6-7, we have a description of God's work within us and a statement of the overarching purpose for this work of God: To show the unfathomable depth of God's graciousness toward us. Next up, we come to verses 8 and 9, the ones we'll be looking at in this post: 
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. This verse starts off with the word for, which tells us that these verses are going to give us a little more information on the "why" of the preceding statement. These two verses, then, are supporting evidence for the statement that God has saved us in order to demonstrate of the riches of His grace. God can show the unfathomable depth of his grace toward us when he saved us because it is by grace we are saved. God's grace is what works our salvation, so it is God's grace that is being shown in all it's glory in the salvation process.

    And God's gracious work of salvation comes to us through faith. All through the preceding verses, we can see that the work is all God's. It is God who made us alive, raised us, and seated us. The sinner's faith is the means through which this grace comes--like cupped hands taking in what is given us. The disposition of the believing sinner is one of rest (or trust) in God's promise of salvation.

  • And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. This phrase is more explanation of what Paul means when he says that we have been saved by grace. There are two possibilities for what the "and this" might refer back to: faith or being saved. Grammatically, either one is a possibility, and there are good people on either side of this issue. This is another one of those places where I waffle a bit. Right now I think it is most likely that "and this" refers back to the whole of the salvation process, but if you asked me tomorrow, I might have a different answer. The preceding context supports the idea that our salvation is the result of God's action, not our own doing; and the immediately following context says that whatever this gift of God is, it is "not a result of works", which makes more sense to me if the gift referred to is the salvation process rather than just the faith through which salvation is received.

    (This doesn't mean that I don't think our faith is a gift to us. I do. I think our faith is part of the whole salvation process worked in us by God, and it--along with every other piece of our salvation--comes to us through God's grace. You'll find out why I think our faith, too, must have it's source in God if you keep on reading.)

    Our salvation, then, is something God does for us--a gift from him. It is not something we do, or something "out of" our own selves, but a gift "out of" God. As 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us, it is "by God's doing" we are in Christ Jesus.

  • Not a result of works. This is a parallel statement to "not of your own doing". The only way salvation could be "of our own doing" is if it came about because we produced the works of righteousness that merited salvation. But our situation when God intervenes to save us precludes salvation being a result of works, for the works we were doing at the time of God's intervention were works that carried "out the desires of the body  and the mind..." Rather than salvation being as a result of works, it is a gift (not merited by works) of God (not out of ourselves).

  • So that no one may boast. Since the purpose of our salvation is to "show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus", our salvation must be by a means that eliminates any other cause but God's grace for our salvation. The boasting is all to be "to the praise of his glorious grace", so it is necessary that there be absolutely no grounds for any boasting within any saved creature. To this end, none of our salvation (and I would include even the faith we have that God will save us) comes "out of us"; but rather, all of it comes to us as a gift of God.

    It is by God's "doing you are in Christ Jesus... so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NASB) The bragging rights for our salvation are God's and God's alone. When we understand how we are saved, we understand that all of the praise goes to "his glorious grace", because--from start to finish--our salvation is God's work done because of his great love with which he loved us.

    Stay tuned for more in part 5.
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