Commentary on Ephesians 2:8-10

by John Eadie

Verse 8

(Ephesians 2:8.) τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως—“For by grace ye have been saved, through your faith.” The particle γάρ explains why the apostle has said that the exceeding riches of God's grace are shown forth in man's salvation, and glances back to the interjectional clause at the end of Ephesians 2:5. Salvation must display grace, for it is wholly of grace. The dative χάριτι, on which from its position the emphasis lies, expresses the source of our salvation, and the genitive πίστεως with διά denotes its subjective means or instrument. Salvation is of grace by faith-the one being the efficient, the other the modal cause; the former the origin, the latter the method, of its operation. The grace of God which exists without us, takes its place as an active principle within us, being introduced into the heart and kept there by the connecting or conducting instrumentality of faith.

χάρις—“favour,” is opposed to necessity on the part of God, and to merit on the part of man. God was under no obligation to save man, for His law might have taken its natural course, and the penalty menaced and deserved might have been fully inflicted. Grace springs from His sovereign will, not from His essential nature. It is not an attribute which must always manifest itself, but a prerogative that may either be exercised or held in abeyance. Salvation is an abnormal process, and “grace is no more grace” if it is of necessary exhibition. Grace is also opposed to merit on man's part. Had he any title, salvation would be “of debt.” The two following verses are meant to state and prove that salvation is not and cannot be of human merit. In short, the human race had no plea with God, but God's justice had a high and holy claim on them. The conditions of the first economy had been violated, and the guilty transgressor had only to anticipate the infliction of the penalty which he had so wantonly incurred. The failure of the first covenant did not either naturally or necessarily lead to a new experiment. While man had no right to expect, God was under no necessity to provide salvation. It is “by grace.”

But this grace does not operate immediately and universally. Its medium is faith - διὰ τῆς πίστεως. The two nouns “grace” and “faith” have each the article, as they express ideas which are at once familiar, distinctive, and monadic in their nature; the article before χάριτι, referring us at the same time to the anarthrous term at the close of the fifth verse, and that before πίστεως, giving it a subjective reference, is best rendered, as Alford says, by a possessive. Lachmann, after B, D1, F, G, omits the second article, but the majority of MSS. are in its favour. It is the uniform doctrine of the New Testament, that no man is saved against his will; and his desire to be saved is proved by his belief of the Divine testimony. Salvation by grace is not arbitrarily attached to faith by the mere sovereign dictate of the Most High, for man's willing acceptance of salvation is essential to his possession of it, and the operation of faith is just the sinner's appreciation of the Divine mercy, and his acquiescence in the goodness and wisdom of the plan of recovery, followed by a cordial appropriation of its needed and adapted blessings, or, as Augustine tersely and quaintly phrases it-Qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te. Justification by faith alone, is simply pardon enjoyed on the one condition of taking it.

And thus “ye have been saved;” not-ye will be finally saved; not-ye are brought into a state in which salvation is possible, or put into a condition in which you might “work and win” for yourselves, but-ye are actually saved. The words denote a present state, and not merely “an established process.” Green's Gram. of New Test. 317. Thus Tyndale translates—“By grace ye are made safe thorowe faith.” The context shows the truth of this interpretation, and that the verb denotes a terminated action. If men have been spiritually dead, and if they now enjoy spiritual life, then surely they are saved. So soon as a man is out of danger, he is safe or “saved.” Salvation is a present blessing, though it may not be fully realized. The man who has escaped from the wreck, and has been taken into the lifeboat, is from that moment a saved man. Even though he scarce feel his safety or be relieved from his tremor, he is still a saved man; yea, though the angry winds may howl around him, and though hours may elapse ere he set his feet on the firm land. The apostle adds more precisely and fully-

καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν—“and that not of yourselves”- ἐκ, as it often does, referring to source or cause. Winer, § 47, b. The pronoun τοῦτο does not grammatically agree with πίστεως, the nearest preceding noun, and this discrepancy has originated various interpretations. The words καὶ τοῦτο are rendered “and indeed” by Wahl, Rückert, and Matthies. This emphatic sense belongs to the word in certain connections. Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 6:6; Philippians 1:28. The plural is also similarly used. 1 Corinthians 6:8; Hebrews 11:12; Matthiae, § 470, 6. The meaning of the idiom may here be—“Ay, and this” is not of yourselves. But what is the point of reference?

Many refer it directly to πίστις—“And this faith is not of yourselves.” Such is the interpretation of the fathers Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Jerome. Chrysostom says- οὐδὲ ἡ πίστις ἐξ ἡμῶν, εἰ γὰρ οὐκ ἦλθεν, εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἐκάλεσε, πῶς ἠδυνάμεθα πιστεῦσαι. Jerome thus explains-Et haec ipsa fides non est ex vobis, sed ex eo qui vocavit vos. The same view is taken by Erasmus, Beza, Crocius, Cocceius, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Meier, Baumgarten-Crusius, Bisping, and Hodge. Bloomfield says that “all the Calvinistic commentators hold this view,” and yet Calvin himself was an exception. There are several objections to this, not as a point of doctrine, but of exegesis. 1. If the apostle meant to refer to faith- πίστις, why change the gender? why not write καὶ αὕτη? To say, with some, that faith is viewed in the abstract as τὸ πιστεύειν, does not, as we shall see, relieve us of the difficulty. 2. Granting that καὶ τοῦτο is an idiomatic expression, and that its gender is not to be strictly taken into account, still the question recurs, What is the precise reference of δῶρον? 3. Again, πίστις does not seem to be the immediate reference, as the following verse indicates. You may say—“And this faith is not of yourselves: it is God's gift;” but you cannot say—“And this faith is not of yourselves, but it is God's gift; not of works, lest any man should boast.” You would thus be obliged, without any cause, to change the reference in Ephesians 2:9, for you may declare that salvation is not of works, but cannot with propriety say that faith is not of works. The phrase οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων must have salvation, and not faith, as its reference. The words from καὶ τοῦτο to the end of the verse may be read parenthetically—“By grace are ye saved, through faith (and t hat not of yourselves: it is the gift of God), not of works;” that is, “By grace ye are saved, through faith,” “not of works.” Even with this understanding of the paragraph, the difficulty still remains, and the idea of such a parenthesis cannot be well entertained, for the ἐξ ὑμῶν corresponds to the ἐξ ἔργων. Baumgarten-Crusius argues that the allusion is to πίστις, because the word δῶρον proves that the reference must be to something internal-auf Innerliches. But is not salvation as internal as faith? So that we adopt the opinion of Calvin, Zachariae, Rückert, Harless, Matthies, Meyer, Scholz, de Wette, Stier, Alford, and Ellicott, who make καὶ τοῦτο refer to ἐστε σεσωσμένοι—“and this state of safety is not of yourselves.” This exegesis is presented in a modified form by Theophylact, Zanchius, Holzhausen, Chandler, and Macknight, who refer καὶ τοῦτο to the entire clause—“this salvation by faith is not of yourselves.” Theophylact says- οὐ τὴν πίστιν λέγει δῶρον θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὸ διὰ πίστεως σωθῆναι, τοῦτο δῶρον ἐστι θεοῦ. But some of the difficulties of the first method of interpretation attach to this. The καὶ τοῦτο refers to the idea contained in the verb, and presents that idea in an abstract form. At the same time, as Ellicott shrewdly remarks, “the clause καὶ τοῦτο, etc., was suggested by the mention of the subjective medium- πίστις, which might be thought to imply some independent action on the part of the subject.” This condition of safety is not of yourselves-is not of your own origination or procurement, though it be of your reception. It did not spring from you, nor did you suggest it to God; but-

θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον—“God's is the gift.” God's gift is the gift-the genitive θεοῦ being the emphatic predicate in opposition to ὑμῶν. Bernhardy, p. 315. Lachmann and Harless place this clause in a parenthesis. The only objection against the general view of the passage which we have taken is, that it is somewhat tautological. The apostle says—“By grace ye are saved,” and then—“It is the gift of God;” the same idea being virtually repeated. True so far, but the insertion of the contrasted οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν suggested the repetition. And there is really no tautology. In chap. Ephesians 3:7 occur the words- κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ … χάρις being the thing given, and δωρεάν pointing out its mode of bestowment. Men are saved by grace- τῇ χάριτι; and that salvation which has its origin in grace is not won from God, nor is it wrung from Him; “His is the gift.” Look at salvation in its origin-it is “by grace.” Look at it in its reception-it is “through faith.” Look at it in its manner of conferment-it is a “gift.” For faith, though an indispensable instrument, does not merit salvation as a reward; and grace operating only through faith, does not suit itself to congruous worth, nor single it out as its sole recipient. Salvation, in its broadest sense, is God's gift. While, then, καὶ τοῦτο seems to refer to the idea contained in the participle only, it would seem that in θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον there is allusion to the entire clause-God's is the whole gift. The complex idea of the verse is compressed into this brief ejaculation. The three clauses, as Meyer has remarked, form a species of asyndeton-that is, the connecting particles are omitted, and the style acquires greater liveliness and force. Dissen, Exc. ii. ad Pind. p. 273; Stallbaum, Plato-Crit. p. 144.

Griesbach places in a parenthesis the entire clause from καὶ τοῦτο to ἐξ ἔργων, connecting the words ἵνα μὴ τις καυχήσηται with διὰ τῆς πίστεως, but the words οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων have an immediate connection with the ἵνα-a connection which cannot be set aside. Matthies again joins οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων to the foregoing clause—“and that not of yourselves; the gift of God is not of works.” Such an arrangement is artificial and inexact. The apostle now presents the truth in a negative contrast-

Verse 9

(Ephesians 2:9.) οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων—“Not of works”-the explanation of οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν. The apostle uses διά with the article before πιστεως in the previous verse, but here ἐξ without the article before ἔργων-the former referring to the subjective instrument, or causa apprehendens; the latter to the source, and excluding works of every kind and character. ᾿εκ again refers to source or cause. Schweighaüser, Lex. Herodot. p. 192. Salvation is by grace, and therefore not of us; it is through faith, and therefore not of works; it is God's gift, and therefore not of man's origination. Such works belong not to fallen and condemned humanity. It has not, and by no possibility can it have any of them, for it has failed to render prescribed obedience; and though it should now or from this time be perfect in action, such conformity could only suffice for present acceptance. How, then, shall it atone for former delinquencies? The first duty of a sinner is faith, and what merit can there be where there is no confidence in God? “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The theory that represents God as having for Christ's sake lowered the terms of His law so as to accept of sincere endeavours for perfect obedience, is surely inconsistent in its commixture of merit and grace. For if God dispense with the claims of His law now, why not for ever-if to one point, why not altogether-if to one class of creatures, why not to all? On such a theory, the moral bonds of the universe would be dissolved. The distinction made by Thomas Aquinas between meritum ex congruo and meritum ex condigno, was too subtle to be popularly apprehended, and it did not arrest the Pelagian tendencies of the mediaeval church.

ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται—“lest any one should boast.” According to the just view of Rückert, Harless, Meyer, and Stier, the conjunction marks design, or is telic; according to others, such as Koppe, Flatt, Holzhausen, Macknight, Chandler, and Bloomfield, it indicates result—“so as that no one may boast.” So also Theophylact- τὸ, γὰρ, ἵνα, οὐκ αἰτιολογικόν ἐστι, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ τῆς ἀποβάσεως τοῦ πράγματος; that is, the ἵνα is not causal, but eventual in its meaning. Koppe suggests as an alternative to give the words an imperative sense—“Not of works: beware then of boasting.” Stier proposes that the ἵνα be viewed from a human standpoint, and as indicative of the writer's own purpose; as if the apostle had said—“Not of works, I repeat it, lest any one should boast.” This exegesis is certainly original, as its author has indeed mentioned; but it is as certainly unnatural and far-fetched. Macknight has argued that ἵνα cannot have its telic force, for it would represent God as appointing our salvation to be by faith, merely to prevent men's boasting, “which certainly is an end unworthy of God in so great an affair;” but this is not a full view of the matter, for the apostle does not characterize the prevention of boasting as God's only end, but as one of His purposes. For what would boasting imply? Would it not imply fancied merit, independence of God, and that self-deification which is the very essence of sin? A pure and perfect creature has nothing to boast of; for what has he that he has not received? “Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” When God purposes to preclude boasting, or even the possibility of it, He resolves to effect His design in this one way, by filling the mind with such emotions as shall infallibly banish it. He furnishes the re deemed spirit with humility and gratitude-such humility as ever induces man to confess his emptiness, and such gratitude as ever impels him to ascribe every blessing to the one source of Divine generosity. We see no reason, therefore, to withhold from ἵνα its natural and primary sense, especially as in the mind and theology of the apostle, event is so often viewed in unison with its source, and result is traced to its original design, in the Divine idea and motive. And truly boasting is effectually stopped. For if man be guilty, and being unable to win a pardon, simply receive it; if, being dead, he get life only as a Divine endowment; if favour, and nothing but favour, have originated his safety, and the only possible act on his part be that of reception; if what he has be but a gift to him in his weak and meritless state-then surely nothing can be further from him than boasting, for he will glorify God for all, 1 Corinthians 1:29-31. Ambrosiaster truly remarks-haec superbia omni peccato nocentior omni genere est elationis insanior. And further, salvation cannot be of ourselves or of works-

Verse 10

(Ephesians 2:10.) αὐτοῦ γὰρ ἐσμεν ποίημα—“For we are His workmanship.” The γάρ has its common meaning. It renders the reason for the statement in the two previous verses. It does not signifiy “yet,” as Macknight has it. Others carelessly overlook it altogether. Nor can we accede to the opinion of Theophylact, Photius, and Bloomfield, that this verse is introduced to prevent misconception, as if the meaning were—“Salvation is not of works,” yet do them we must, “for we are His workmanship.” This notion does not tally with the simple reasoning of the apostle, and helps itself out by an unwarranted assumption. Rückert and Meier join this verse in thought to the last clause of the preceding one—“No man who works can boast, for the man himself is God's workmanship.” But the apostle has affirmed that salvation is not of works, so that such works are not supposed to exist at all; and therefore there is no ground for boasting. Nor can we, with Harless, view the verse as connected simply with the phrase- θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον. We regard it, with Meyer, as designed to prove and illustrate the great truth of the 9th verse, that salvation is not of works. “By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves-not of works, for we are His workmanship.” Hooker, vol. 2.601; Oxford, 1841.

But the terms may be first explained. The apostle changes from the second to the first person without any other apparent reason than the varied momentary impulse one yields to in writing a letter. The noun ποίημα, as the following clause shows, plainly refers to the spiritual re-formation of believers, and it is as plainly contrary to the course of thought to give it a physical reference, as did Gregory of Nazianzus, Tertullian, Basil, Photius, and Jerome. The same opinion, modified by including also the notion of spiritual creation, is followed by Pelagius, Erasmus, Bullinger, Rückert, and Matthies. The process of workmanship is next pointed out-

κτισθέντες ἐν χριστῷ ᾿ιησοῦ—“created in Christ Jesus.” This added phrase explains and bounds the meaning of ποίημα. The reference here is to the καινὴ κτίσις (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), and the form of expression carries us back to many portions of the Hebrew prophets, and to the use of בָּרָא, H1343, in Psalms 51:10, and in Psalms 102:18 (Schoettgen, Horae Hebraicae, i. p. 328). See also Ephesians 2:15 of this chapter. Chrysostom adds, with peculiar and appropriate emphasis- ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος, εἰς τὸ εἶναι παρήχθημεν. Again is it ἐν χριστῷ ᾿ιησοῦ, for Christ Jesus is ever the sphere of creation, or, through their vital union with Him, men are formed anew, and the spiritual change that passes over them has its best emblem and most expressive name in the physical creation, when out of chaos sprang light, harmony, beauty, and life. The object of this spiritual creation in Christ is declared to be-

ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς—“in order to,” or “for good works.” This meaning of ἐπί may be seen in Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:7. Winer, § 48, c; Kühner, § 612, 3, c; Phrynichus, ed. Lobeck, p. 474. Palairet, in his Observat. Sac. in loc., has given several good examples of ἐπί with such a sense. Our entire renovation, while it is of God in its origin, and in Christ as its medium, has good works for its object.

Now, as already intimated, we understand this verse as a proof that salvation is not of works. For, 1. The statement that salvation is of works involves an anachronism. Works, in order to procure salvation, must precede it, but the good works described by the apostle come after it, for they only appear after a man is in Christ, believes and lives. 2. The statement that salvation is of works involves the fallacy of mistaking the effect for the cause. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are only the result of it. Salvation causes them; they do not cause it. This workmanship of God-this creation in Christ Jesus-is their true source, implying a previous salvation. Thus runs the well-known confessional formula-Bona opera non praecedunt justificandum, sed sequuntur justificatum. The law says—“Do this and live;” but the gospel says—“Live and do this.” 3. And even such good works can have in them no saving merit, for we are His workmanship. Talia non nos efficimus, says Bugenhagen, sed Spiritus Dei in nobis; or, as Augustine puts it-ipso in nobis et per nos operante, merita tua nusquam jactes, quia et ipsa tua merita Dei dona sunt. Comment. in Psalms 144. The power and the desire to perform good works are alike from God, for they are only fruits and manifestations of Divine grace in man; and as they are not self-produced, they cannot entitle us to reward. Such, we apprehend, is the apostle's argument. Salvation is not ἐξ ἔργων; yet it is ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς—“in order to good works”-the fruits of salvation and acceptance with God, proofs of holy obedience, tokens of the possession of Christ's image, elements of the imitation of Christ's example, and the indices of that holiness which adorns the new creation, and “without which no man can see the Lord.” Peter Lombard says well-Sola bona opera dicenda sunt , quae fiunt per dilectionem Dei. But there can be no productive love of God where there is no faith in His Son, and where that faith does exist, salvation is already possessed. The disputes on this point at the period of the Reformation were truly lamentable; Solifidians and Synergists battled with mischievous fury: Major arguing that salvation was dependent on good works, and Amsdorf reprobating them as prejudicial to it; while Agricola maintained the Antinomian absurdity, that the law itself was abolished, and no longer claimed obedience from believers. And these “good” works are no novelty nor accident-

οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν—“which God before prepared that we should walk in them.” The interpretation of this sentence depends upon the opinion formed as to the regimen of the pronoun οἷς.

1. Some, taking the word as a dative, render—“To which God hath afore ordained us, in order that we should walk in them.” Such is the view of Luther, Semler, Zachariae, Morus, Flatt, Meier, Bretschneider, and virtually of Fritzsche, Alt, and Wahl. But the omission of the pronoun ἡμᾶς is fatal to this opinion. The idea, too, which in such a connection is here expressed by a dative, is usually expressed by the accusative with εἰς. Romans 9:23; 2 Timothy 2:21; Revelation 9:7.

2. Valla, Erasmus, Er. Schmidt, and Rückert give οἷς a personal reference, as if it stood for ὅσοις ἡμῶν—“among whom God before prepared us.”-But the antecedent ἡμεῖς is too remote, and the οἷς appears to agree in gender with ἐν αὐτοῖς.

3. Bengel, Koppe, Rosenmüller, and Baumgarten-Crusius take the phrase as a kind of Hebraism, or as a special idiom, in which, along with the relative pronoun, there is also repeated the personal pronoun and the preposition- אֲשֶׁרבָּם - ἐν οἷς ἵνα περιπατήσωμεν ἐν αὐτοῖς, προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός. But this exegesis is about as intricate as the original clause.

4. The large body of interpreters take the οἷς for ἅ by attraction. Winer, § 24, 1. This opinion is simple, the change of case by attraction is common, and a similar use of ἵνα is found in John 5:36. So the Vulgate-Quae praeparavit.

5. Acting upon a hint of Bengel's, Stier suggests that the verb may be taken in a neuter or intransitive sense, as the simple verb thus occurs in 2 Chronicles 1:4, and in Luke 9:52. Could this exegesis be fully justified, we should be inclined to adopt it—“For which God has made previous preparation, that we should walk in them.” The fourth opinion supposes the preparation to belong to the works also, but in a more direct form-the works being prepared for our performance of them. In this last view, the preparation refers more to the persons-preparation to enable them to walk in the works. The fourth interpretation is the best grammatically, and the meaning of the phrase, “which God has before prepared,” seems to be—“in order that we should walk in those works,” they have been prescribed, defined, and adapted to us.

It is wrong to ignore the προ in προητοίμασεν, as is done by Flatt and Baumgarten-Crusius. Wisdom of Solomon 9:8; Philo, De Opif. § 25. Nor can we, with Augustine, de Wette, and Harless, give the verb the same meaning as προορίζειν, or assign it, with Koppe and Rosenmüller, the sense of velle, or jubere; Harless saying that it is used of things as the verb last referred to is used of persons, but without sufficient proof; and Olshausen supposing that the two verbs differ thus-that προετοιμάζειν refers to a working of the Divine eternal will which is occupied more with details. Perhaps the difference is more accurately brought out in this way:- προορίζειν marks appointment or destination, in which the end is primarily kept in view, while in προετοιμάζειν the means by which the end is secured are specially regarded as of Divine arrangement, the προ referring to a period anterior to that implied in κτισθέντες. We could not walk in these works unless they had been prepared for us. And, therefore, by prearranging the works in their sphere, character, and suitability, and also by preordaining the law which commands, the inducement or appliances which impel, and the creation in Christ which qualifies and empowers us, God hath shown it to be His purpose that “we should walk in them.” Tersely does Bengel say, ambularemus, non salvaremur aut viveremus. These good works, though they do not secure salvation, are by God's eternal purpose essentially connected with it, and are not a mere offshoot accidentally united to it. Nor are they only joined to it correctionally, as if to counteract the abuses of the doctrine that it is not of works. The figure in the verb περιπατήσωμεν is a Hebraism occurring also in Ephesians 2:2. See under it. Titus 2:14; Titus 3:8. Though in such works there be no merit, yet faith shows it s genuineness by them. In direct antagonism to the Pauline theology is the strange remark of Whitby—“that these works of righteousness God hath prepared us to walk in, are conditions requisite to make faith saving.” The same view in substance has been elaborately maintained by Bishop Bull in his Harmonia Apostolica. Works, vol. iii. ed. Oxford, 1827. Nor is the expression less unphilosophical. Works cannot impart any element to faith, as they are not of the same nature with it. The saving power of faith consists in its acceptance and continued possession of God's salvation. Works only prove that the faith we have is a saving faith. And while Christians are to abound in works, such works are merely demonstrative, not in any sense supplemental in their nature. καὶ ἐκτίσθης οὐκ ἵνα ἀργῇς, ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα ἐργαζῃ (Theophylact). But the Council of Trent-Sess. vi. cap. 16-declares “that the Lord's goodness to all men is so great that He will have the things which are His own gifts to be their merits”-ut eorum velit esse merita quae sunt ipsius dona. See Hare, Mission of the Comforter, 1.359.

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