Is Faith a Gift from God According to Ephesians 2:8? A Grammatical Analysis -- By: John F. Hart
CTSJ 12:2 (Fall 2006) p. 44
Is Faith a Gift from God According to Ephesians 2:8?
A Grammatical Analysis
John F. Hart is professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, where he has taught for twenty-four years. He graduated with a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Th.D. from Grace Theological Seminary. His publications include several articles in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society and a chapter on demonology in Overcoming the World Missions Crisis, ed. Russell Penney (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001). He resides in Northwest Indiana with his wife of thirty-two years. Dr. Hart’s e-mail address is [email protected].
In this article, the grammatical pattern of Ephesians 2:8 is examined to determine if the clause “and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” has any reference to the word “faith” in the preceding clause. It is widely agreed that grammatically touto (“this”) cannot refer directly to “faith.” Yet some theologians and commentators continue to hold that the clause “and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” relates conceptually to “faith” or to the act of believing. An examination of similar Greek constructions in the rest of the New Testament leads to the conclusion that touto (“this”) has as its only antecedent the concept found in the main verb(s) of the passage. Therefore, it is totally inappropriate to apply the word “this” (touto) in Ephesians 2:8–9 to the noun “faith” or to an implied act of believing.
It is sometimes argued that people are so “dead in . . . transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) that they are incapable of responding to God. As a result, God must give them faith as a gift. Ephesians 2:8–9 is one of the primary passages claimed as evidence for such theology.1 The phrase of importance to this viewpoint is found in v. 8b: “and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (niv).2 The issue is simply this: does the phrase “and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (italics added) refer to “faith” in the previous clause? While denying that Ephesians 2:8 teaches that faith is given as a divine gift, Stott nevertheless remarks, “Theologically, this is true. We must never think of salvation as a kind of transaction between God and us in which he contributes grace and we contribute faith. ...
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