Commentary on Ephesians 2-:8-10

by Charles Hodge

Vs. 8, 9. These verses confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation 118 is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ‘ye are saved by grace,’ but further that salvation is by faith, i. e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4, 4. 5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed. Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4, 2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with 119 works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.

The only point in the interpretation of these verses of any doubt, relates to the second clause. What is said to be the gift of God? Is it salvation, or faith? The words καὶ τοῦτο only serve to render more proninent the matter referred to. Compare Rom. 13, 11. 1 Cor. 6, 6. Phil. 1, 28. Heb. 11, 12. They may relate to faith (τὸ πιστεύειν), or to the salvation spoken of (σεσωσμένους εἶναι). Beza, following the fathers, prefers the former reference; Calvin, with most of the modern commentators, the latter. The reasons in favour of the former interpretation are, 1. It best suits the design of the passage. The object of the apostle is to show the gratuitous nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, ‘Ye are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’ 2. The other interpretation makes the passage tautological. To say: ‘Ye are saved by faith; not of yourselves; your salvation is the gift of God; it is not of works,’ is saying the same thing over and over without any progress. Whereas to say: ‘Ye are saved through faith (and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God), not of works,’ is not repetitious; the parenthetical clause instead of being redundant does good service and greatly increases the force of the passage. 3. According to this interpretation the antithesis between faith and works, so common in Paul’s writings, is preserved. ‘Ye are saved by faith, not by works, lest any man should 120 boast.’ The middle clause of the verse is therefore parenthetical, and refers not to the main idea ye are saved, but to the subordinate one through faith, and is designed to show how entirely salvation is of grace, since even faith by which we apprehend the offered mercy, is the gift of God. 4. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this view of the passage, in so far that elsewhere faith is represented as the gift of God. 1 Cor. 1, 26-31. Eph. 1, 19. Col. 2, 12, et passim.

V. 10. That salvation is thus entirely the work of God, and that good works cannot be the ground of our acceptance with him, is proved in this verse—1st. By showing that we are God’s workmanship. He, and not ourselves, has made us what we are. And 2d. By the consideration that we are created unto good works. As the fact that men are elected unto holiness, proves that holiness is not the ground of their election; so their being created unto good works shows that good works are not the ground on which they are made the subjects of this new creation, which is itself incipient salvation.

Αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα. The position of the pronoun at the beginning of the sentence renders it emphatic. His workmanship are we. He has made us Christians. Our faith is not of ourselves. It is of God that we are in Christ Jesus. The sense in which we are the workmanship of God is explained in the following clause, created in Christ Jesus; for if any man is in Christ he is a new creature. Union with him is a source of a new life, and a life unto holiness; and therefore it is said created unto good works. Holiness 121 is the end of redemption, for Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. Titus 2, 14. Those therefore who live in sin are not the subjects of this redemption.

Οἱ̂ς προητοίμασε, is variously interpreted. The verb signifies properly to prepare beforehand. As this previous preparation may be in the mind, in the form of a purpose, the word is often used in the sense of preordaining, or appointing. Compare Gen. 24, 14. Matt. 25, 34. 1 Cor. 2, 9. Rom. 9, 23. This however is rather the idea expressed in the context than the proper signification of the word. The relative is by Bengel and others connected, agreeably to a common Hebrew idiom, with the following pronoun, οἷς οἐν αὐτοῖς, in which, and the verb taken absolutely. The sense then is,’ In which God has preordained that we should walk.’ By the great majority of commentators οἷς is taken for ἅ, by the common attraction, ‘which God had prepared beforehand, in order that we should walk in them.’ Before our new creation these works were in the purpose of God prepared to be our attendants, in the midst of which we should walk. A third interpretation supposes οἷς to be used as a proper dative, and supposes ἡμᾶς as the object of the verb. ‘To which God has predestined us, that we should walk in them.’ The second of these explanations is obviously the most natural.

Thus has the apostle in this paragraph clearly taught that the natural state of man is one of condemnation and spiritual death; that from that condition 122 believers are delivered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus; and the design of this deliverance is the manifestation, through all coming ages, of the exceeding riches of his grace.

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