Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Decisive Meaning of Ephesians 2:8

Ephesians 2:8 has been the source of much controversy. It reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”

The main question becomes, what is the “this” referring to? The grace of God? Salvation?
Or is the “this” referring to everything that Paul is talking about in this verse? That grace, faith, and salvation are all gifts from God?

Thomas R. Schreiner gives us the answer, from his book Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. In order for Paul to be specific about what the “this” (touto in the Greek) is referring to, touto would have to match in gender with one of these words from the verse: faith, grace, or saved.

Here’s the problem: Touto is in the neuter, meaning that it is genderless (neither a feminine nor masculine word), whereas the words grace and faith are feminine, and saved is masculine. So we are left wondering what the touto refers to. And there is really only one option.

Paul specifically put touto into the neuter to reveal that faith, grace and salvation are all gifts of God. We cannot claim anything as coming from us.

“The power of God saved us by raising us from death when we were utterly unresponsive to God” (Schreiner 246).

This brings revitalized meaning to Psalm 3:8, which says, “Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessings be on your people!”

Author's note: This post relied heavily on the aforementioned book Paul: Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, page 246.

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