FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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            Lesson #2 Gift of God: the Antecedent






EPHESIANS 2:8- #2 The Channel of Grace.


"For by grace (charis) are ye saved through faith [‘Greek: the faith’, της   πιστεως]; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).


GIFT OF GOD AND ITS ANTECEDENT

We have studied about the word “works” of Ephesians 2:9; now, let’s look at the word “gift” in verse 8. Verse 8 has been used to argue that grace is the “free” gift of God. Actually, the verse was used originally by the Protestant Reformers to show that man is a creature depraved with such a fallen nature that it is impossible for him to believe and be saved. This verse is supposed to show that man cannot do it (otherwise, if he were able, it was said that he "could boast"). In other words, God miraculously gives man the gift of grace to believe so that he might be saved. Over the years, this theology has been revised to match the popular teachings of the day.  But, is this truthfully what the verse says?

When people affirm that “grace” in Ephesians 2:8 is "the gift of God"' as taught in their denominational theology, they are actually connecting the word “grace” which is at the first of the verse with the word “gift” in the last part of that verse. In summary, there are disagreements as to whether the gift is referring to the words, "grace", "salvation", "faith", or all three.

Gift And Its Nearest Antecedent.
In order for the “gift” to be “grace”, “grace” would have to be the antecedent of “gift.”   The Scriptures do not leave us in the dark on this matter if we respect the rules of language grammar, for “gift” is identified as “that” and/or “it” in the passage. These two words are called pronouns. There are strict rules for finding out what pronouns refer to. The references are called antecedents in grammar: “antecedent” is “a substantive word, phrase, or clause whose denotation is referred to by a pronoun” (Merriam-Webster online).

"And that… it is the gift of God."
In order for “the gift” to be “grace”, “grace” would have to be therefore the antecedent of the pronouns “that” or “it.” The gift of God in the verse is identified by the pronouns “that” and “it” (the word "it" is not really in the original; so "that" is the only pronoun in the Greek; you can know this without the Greek text because "it" is italicized in the KJV).   Nevertheless, the rule states that a pronoun’s antecedent is the previous and nearest noun in the sentence or context. For example, the “12 apostles” (i.e., “Matthias… with the eleven apostles”, Acts 1:26) is the antecedent of the pronoun “they” in Acts 2:1.

In this passage, Ephesians 2:8, "faith" is the nearest noun preceding the pronoun “that” and/or “it”. It is more reasonable then to say that “faith” is the gift than it is to say that “grace” is the gift since the word “grace” is interrupted by the noun “faith” before “that” is mentioned.

“THE FAITH” IS A BODY OF TEACHING.
"The faith"
i expression is misunderstood in this passage if it is interpreted as being an act of “believing.”

If it were "believing", it would be a verbal action.ii The word is “the faith” and it is not a verb. “Faith” in English can refer to “believing” if the context is speaking of the action of (a) a personal mental acceptance (Heb. 11:1, 6), (b) a conduct surrendering to that acceptance (Romans 1:15; 15:18; 16:26), or (c) a trusting (Matthew 24:45). Although “faith” can be equivalent to “believing”, it is not always so, especially if it has the definite article.   Fundamentally, Strong’s Dictionary says pistis means “persuasion, ...by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself” (my highlight).

Firstly, in Ephesians 2:8, “faith” is not man’s act of “believing.” Rather, it is the system or content of what is believed or persuaded. "Faith" in this passage is not "a faith within man" or “from man.” It is something given “from God.” Not “from man.” iii It is therefore not a man’s "believing" action.

Secondly, “faith” here has the definite article “the" in the original Greek.   The People's New Testament comments, "The definite article is found before faith in the Greek, showing that the faith, or the gospel, is meant."

THE DEFINITE ARTICLE “THE”
This word "faith" (the Greek word is "πιστεως" [pistis]") is a common word in the New Testament.iv   Thirty (30) times pistis (faith) is preceded by the definite article "the [της].” Examples are in Jude 3 and in our verse Ephesians 2:8. The translators translate the definite article in Jude 3 but oddly they ignore it in Ephesians 2:8 (in the KJV as well as other versions).

“The faith” is the same expression used in both passages. Jude 3 is “...contend earnestly for the faith [pistis] which was once for all delivered unto the saints.” “In referring to the faith, [the book of] Jude is not speaking of a nebulous body of religious doctrines. Rather, the faith constitutes the Christian faith, the faith of the gospel, God’s objective truth (i.e., everything pertaining to our common salvation). It is what Luke wrote about in Acts 2:42, noting that the early believers “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1–4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6).v

‘The Lord through Jude does not admonish us to contend for "a faith" or "the faith of your choice". The definite article "the" is used which means a specific faith and persuasion is being discussed. What is it? “Jude uses the term; ‘the faith’ [which] is God's truth; the gospel; His word. The book of Acts tells us that ‘the word of God kept spreading’ and ‘a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith’ (Acts 6:7). So ‘the faith’ is something ‘obeyed’ as well as contended for. It is identified here [in Acts] as ‘the word of God’ (cf. Romans 1:5).”’vi

What is said about Jude 3 applies equally to Ephesians 2:8. "The faith" is the body of persuasion. It is the "Word of God" and "must be obeyed."

THE CHANNEL FOR GOD’S GRACE.
“Believing” is therefore not the channel of this grace. Rather, "the faith" is the channel of the grace.   It is a pipeline as it were from God's favor to our souls.   So there should not be a controversy over an action being a gift to start with. The faith is referring to the body or substance of the gospel (Hebrews 11:1) which is to be believed.

              channel
Having established that “the faith” is the channel of “grace” and since “grace” is not the nearest antecedent for “that” or “the gift”, we would expect “the faith” to be equivalent to the “gift.” But this is not true either. The word “faith” cannot be the antecedent to the “gift” because of another basic antecedent rule in grammar in both English and Greek. It is easier to see in the Greek.

Selected excerpts from: Grace, a Free Ride to Heaven? “GRACE IS A GIFT” Chapter 9.


Related questions:

Question:   How can we "grow" in God's "unmerited favor"?   Sweeter as the Years Go By  (slide show lesson)
Question:   Can we look for and find grace in God's sight?   Amazing Grace  
Question:   Didn't Jesus say that "believing" was a work?   Jesus: Believing is a Work 
Question:   What is the true definition of "grace"?   Meaning of Grace  
Question:   What difference does a "correct" definition of grace make? Consequences of false definitions"
Question:   What do we know about God's grace?   Facts of Bible 'Grace' 
Question:    Does Ephesians 2:8-10 prove that our salvation is totally a gift from God and we cannot do anything ourselves to be saved? On Gift of God



i “There is no single ‘established’ terminology for different models of faith. A brief initial characterisation of the principal models of faith and their nomenclature as they feature in this discussion may nevertheless be helpful—they are:
the ‘purely affective’ model: faith as a feeling of existential confidence
the ‘special knowledge’ model: faith as knowledge of specific truths, revealed by God
the ‘belief’ model: faith as belief that God exists
the ‘trust’ model: faith as believingin (in the sense of trusting in) God” http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/faith/.

ii “Believing” as a verb is pistosG4103. “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). “allaG235 pistosG4103” “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34)

iii www. biblefood.com/biblepage5.html. . “

iv The noun "pistis" (faith) is used 244 times in the New Testament and means "THE THINGS BELIEVED". Internet: www. biblefood.com/biblepage5.html

v http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ013112/how-to-contend-for-the-faith

vi http://www.bible.ca/ef/expository-jude-3.htm

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Related questions:

Question:   How can we "grow" in God's "unmerited favor"?   Sweeter as the Years Go By  (slide show lesson)
Question:   Can we look for and find grace in God's sight?   Amazing Grace  
Question:   Didn't Jesus say that "believing" was a work?   Jesus: Believing is a Work 
Question:   What is the true definition of "grace"?   Meaning of Grace  
Question:   What difference does a "correct" definition of grace make? Consequences of false definitions"
Question:   What do we know about God's grace?   Facts of Bible 'Grace' 
Question:    Does Ephesians 2:8-10 prove that our salvation is totally a gift from God and we cannot do anything ourselves to be saved? On Gift of God