Having examined the Purpose and Plan of grace, we look finally at the Proof of grace in Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
After seeing the etymology of the English word grace, not to mention the transformation of the Greek word charis, one would think that this would be enough to clearly show that salvation cannot be earned. But Paul, through the Holy Spirit’s control, realized that man’s ignorance demands that God be even clearer. Not only does he tell us what grace IS, he goes into more detail to tell us what grace IS NOT. This truly is the pivotal principle. So, with three thoughts Paul proves that grace is unmerited and unearned.
First, with the words that not of yourselves, Paul declares that salvation has nothing to do with us. Theologian John Murray states the case very well when he comments on this verse: “When [Paul] says “and that not of yourselves,” he is reminding us of the true nature of grace, that its whole urge and explanation reside in God. It may be easy to give formal assent to this text. Every evangelical Christian will do so. But how ready we are to shy away from its implications! In reality we deny the truth here asserted when we introduce at any point in the whole span and process of salvation a decisive autonomy on the part of man. If salvation at any point is contingent upon some contribution which man himself makes, then at that point it is of ourselves, and to that extent it is not of grace. Paul’s definition “and that not of yourselves” is thereby effaced and the true nature of grace is denied.” Indeed, Murray cuts to the heart of the matter. Grace that is not ALL grace is NO grace. Grace means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.
Second, salvation is a gift. Here is a beautiful thought. The Greek for gift is dōron. The idea behind it, and the related word dōrea, is “a complimentary gift.” It is used, for example, in Luke 21:1 where money is being cast into the treasury for the support of the temple and the poor (cf. Matt. 15:5). A synonym, didōmi, is used in that often quoted verse John 3:16, and means “to give of one’s own accord and with good will.”
A gift is such a nice thing to receive, is it not? The whole idea behind a gift is that it is unearned; it is given out of love. In contrast, think about the money you receive each week from your employer. Is that money a gift? Certainly not; it is that which you earned. But our salvation is a gift; it is unearned, undeserved, and given out of unfathomable love.
The story is told of a man who came eagerly but very late to a tent revival, where he found the workmen already tearing down the tent. Frantic at missing the meeting, he asked one of the workers what he could do to be saved. The workman, who was a Christian, replied, “You can’t do anything. It’s too late.” Horrified, the man said, “What do you mean? How can it be too late?” The workman rightly answered, “The work has already been accomplished. There is nothing you need to do but believe it.” All the work has been done. Salvation is a gift. This should, indeed, prompt us to declare soli deo gloria—to God alone be the glory. This leads to Paul’s final thought, which we’ll examine next time.