FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WORKS OF EPHESIANS 2:8- #1 The Parallel Explanation For The Works.
I want to recommend to you Michael J. Shank’s Muscle and a Shovel. It’s an easy read story of a person taught by denominationism who searches for Biblical truth.
The author tells of a pastor dismissing as “being taken out of context” the passage in 1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism does also now save us.” His objection was that Ephesians 2:8-9 states that “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.” The “pastor’s” premise was that since salvation was “the gift of God”, the passage teaches that we are not saved by “any” works. “Baptism”, he says, “is a work. Therefore, we are not saved by baptism. To take 1 Peter 3:21 at face value is to take it out of context.”
1. There are two statements here. One says that salvation is not of works. The other one says that baptism saves us. If baptism is identified as one of the works then both statements cannot be true. Therefore, we have a contradiction in the Bible. However, if baptism is categorized as being different from that of these “works”, we have harmony.
2. The “works” in this passage are contrasted with “the gift of God.” They are said to be “works” that a man can boast about; these works are “from yourselves.” “And that not from (exG1537) yourselves.” That is, these works excepted are from man and not from God. On the other hand, the gift of God is literally “from” (Greek, exG1537, cf: our English “exit”) God and not from man.
3. Baptism is a work but it is a work from God. This is consistent with Ephesians 2:8. Jesus taught, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). The apostle Peter says it saves us just like Noah was saved in the ark by water. “Baptism… Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:21, ASV). It is authorized by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Note: Biblical faith is also work (1 Thessalonians 1:3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith”; 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “the work of faith with power”; John 6:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”; James 2:20, “faith without works is dead?”).
4. The Bible teacher in Shank’s book points out to him that works referred to in the Ephesians 2:8-15 context are the works of the Law of Moses that Jesus had terminated through His death. “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). It is true that the (a) Law of Moses was regarded as works that the Jew would boast in; “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God” (Romans 2:17; compare 2:23); (b) the works of that Law justifies no one: “Because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20, ASV).
It is also true that the congregation at Ephesus was made up of Gentile (non-Jews) Christians. As the writer Paul points out in verse 12, the Ephesians were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” Perhaps, as Acts 15:5 points out, Paul may have had in mind the false Jewish teaching that the Gentiles must be circumcised according to the Law before they could be saved.
But the epistle’s context does not specifically spell that out. There is another context parallel on this subject in Colossians. “Parallel” according to Dictionary.com means “having the same direction, course, nature, or tendency; corresponding; similar; analogous.” Ephesians and Colossians are admittedly parallel epistles and are thought to have been written at about the same time from Rome and delivered by the same person. Note just some of the following ways in which the two epistles are parallel:
Parallel passages are commentaries on one another. If we accept the premise that parallel passages repeat, complement, add to or explain one another, then let’s look at the parallel text to Ephesians 2:1-10 which is Colossians 1:20-23.
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Colossians 1:20-23).
In the Colossians text, the Christians have been reconciled1to God in the crucified body of Jesus. This atoning2 sacrifice (Jesus is given by God for man’s sacrifice to Him) is equivalent to Ephesian’s 2:8’s “God’s gift [Greek: doronG1435].” “...our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:11). “And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift [Greek: doronG1435] that Moses3 commanded, for a testimony unto them” (Matthew 8:4).
The “in the faith” is equivalent to the passage “by grace are ye saved through the faith.” It is obviously not a simple expression of belief either that’s meant for it conditionally says, “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled.” The faith in this passage is equated further with the words “of the gospel which ye have heard.” Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that on His return Jesus will take vengeance on them that obey not the gospel. Hence, the faith, which is the gospel, is to be obeyed, which implies “works”. The faith contains the works to be obeyed.
This leaves for us the explanation for the works that are negated in Ephesians 2:8; the works are not the works of the faith or the gospel but the wicked works of mankind.
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1 Atonement is the same as reconciliation (Strong’s).
2 AtonementG2643, Strong’s: “exchange, that is, restoration to (the divine) favor: - atonement, reconciliation.
3“Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop” (Leviticus 14:4).