Lesson 8: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Ephesians)
by John Lowe
More on Grace
Grace occurs when God gives somebody something they don’t deserve; something unmerited. So what is it that you receive that is unmerited? According to our basic definition of grace, you receive unmerited “favor.” Favor is something good being given to you or an act of kindness, like someone helping you. To be favored by someone means that someone likes you or helps you. The word “favorite” comes from the word “favored” and it means “the one you favor the most.” To favor someone means to like or help him or her. Grace then is getting something nice that you have not earned or deserve. When you receive grace you are given something better than what you deserve.
So what is it that you receive that is unmerited? According to our basic definition of grace, you receive unmerited “favor.” Favor is something good being given to you or an act of kindness, like someone helping you. To be favored by someone means that someone likes you or helps you. The word “favorite” comes from the word “favored” and it means “the one you favor the most.” To favor someone means to like or help him or her. Grace then is getting something nice that you have not earned or deserve. When you receive grace you are given something better than what you deserve.
So how does God show grace to us? God shows grace to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. When He was on the cross, Jesus took all the punishment that we deserved and placed it on Himself. On the cross, Jesus gave us the gift of a relationship with God, something that we cannot earn by ourselves nor do we deserve it. God loves His children so much that He shows them grace by Christ taking away all of the punishment that we get for disobeying God and giving us good gifts instead.
“through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”
It will help us to understand this clause if we break it into three pieces:
1. “Through faith”―Grace bestowed through faith, or in connection with believing.“Faith,” as understood by St. Paul, is not merely head-belief, a purely intellectual process such as that of which St. James spoke when he said “the devils also believe and tremble”; neither is it merely “trust,” a passive dependence upon an Unseen Power; but it is a further stage of feeling developed out of these, a current of emotion setting strongly in the direction of its object, an ardent and vital apprehension of that object, and a firm and loyal attachment to it. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; also see Romans 4:16). In the Book of Hebrews Paul wrote: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
2. “And that not of yourselves”―That is, salvation does not proceed from yourselves. The word rendered “that” is in the neuter gender, and the word “faith” is in the feminine. The word “that,” therefore, does not refer particularly to faith, as being the gift of God, but to "the salvation by grace" of which he had been speaking. This is the interpretation of the passage which is the most obvious, and which is now generally conceded to be the true one. Many critics, however, maintain that the word "that" refers to “faith” and that such a use is common in the New Testament. As a matter of grammar this opinion is certainly doubtful, if not invalid; but as a matter of theology
it is a question of very little importance.
3. “It is the gift of God”―Whether this passage proves it or not, it is certainly true that faith “is the gift of God.” It exists in the mind only when the Holy Spirit produces it there. Salvation is through faith, but faith is not a cause or condition of salvation, nor does it add anything to the blessing itself; but it is the way, or means, or instrument, which God has appointed, for receiving and enjoying it, so that it might appear to be all of grace; and this faith is not the product of man’s free will and power, but it is the free gift of God; and therefore salvation through faith is consistent with salvation by grace; since that itself is of grace, lies entirely in receiving grace and gives all the glory to the grace of God. The sense of this last clause may be, that salvation is not of ourselves; it is not of our desiring nor of our deserving, nor of our performing, but is of the free grace of God: though faith is elsewhere represented as the gift of God―“He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:5).
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
“Not of works”
“Are you saved?” So many reply to my question with, “I try to do the right things; I think I am a good person; I give to my church; etc.” These are all “works,” things you do; but the Holy Spirit says through the Apostle Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works”―“Not of works” of any kind, moral or ceremonial, before or after conversion, done without faith or in it, none of these in any sense. Works are neither the motivating causes, nor the acquiring causes, nor the helping causes, or conditions of salvation. The best works that are done by men are not done of themselves, but by the grace of God, and therefore, they can never merit His favor; and salvation stands firmly upon such a footing. We are saved unto “good works;” that is, we do good works, because we are saved, not because of some ulterior motive, such as drawing attention and praise to ourselves.
“lest any man should boast”
God has denied works any place in justification and salvation, in order to exclude all boasting by men; and has declared in His word that salvation is all of God and He freely gives it by way of grace to those He has chosen and called; poor sinful worthless creatures, so that whoever glories, may glory in the Lord. God who knows the heart of all men, knows that they are highly likely to glory in their own works or worth, as men are apt to do when they think they have anything of their own which contributes to their salvation (see Romans *3:27; 4:2). Can you imagine boasting to God of anything good you have done; and especially boasting that you should be saved because of those good deeds.
The suppression of boasting was a purpose of God in His scheme of salvation; not the chief or final purpose, any more than the manifestation of His grace in coming ages was His chief or final purpose in showing mercy to the Ephesians, but it was inseparable from the nature of His plan. The spirit of glorying is essentially unsuited to the relations between the creature and the Creator, between the Redeemer and the redeemed.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
“For we are his workmanship”
We are His “making,” that is, we are “created or formed” by Him, not only in the general sense in which all things are made by Him, but in that special sense which is referred to as “the new creation”―“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). There is a new creation in the soul of that man. His understanding is enlightened, his judgment corrected, and he has new ideas and perceptions of things. His conscience is informed, awakened, and purged from guilt by the blood of Jesus (*Hebrews 9:14). His will is subjected to the will of God, his affections drawn from earth to heaven, and his dispositions, words, and actions, his cares, labors, and pursuits, are all changed. Whatever of peace, or hope, or purity we have has been produced by Him acting upon the soul? There cannot be conceived to be a stronger expression to denote the handiwork of God in the conversion of people, or the fact that salvation is entirely of grace.