Not of yourselves

Pretty much every Christian is familiar with what Ephesians 2:8-9 states: 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.

Somehow, though, most Christians seem to miss what this passage is saying. Before getting into it, however, it’s important to consider a couple other passages. First, Romans 3:10-11As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

This passage tells us that nobody seeks after God on their own, which means He has to first cause us to seek after Him in order for us to do so. And after we do, we still need the faith to believe in Him, as well as to believe the Gospel. Simply building up the necessary faith to believe something one hadn’t previously believed is true is something nobody is going to naturally do on their own, because if they don’t already believe it’s true, why would they try to build up the necessary faith to believe it in the first place? And so, as Romans 12:3 tells us, we need to be given the necessary measure of faith to be able to believe: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Thus taking us back to Ephesians 2:8-9, which tells us that our faith is not of ourselves, but is rather the gift of God so that no one can boast, and the fact that Paul compared the faith being given as a gift to works means that having to choose to believe would have to be a work (not that faith itself is a work, but having to build up the necessary faith to believe would be).

Now, most Christians who read this like to insist that it’s the salvation or the grace that Paul is saying isn’t “of ourselves,” but they aren’t thinking things through particularly carefully. First of all, how could saving grace possibly be of ourselves? There isn’t any way that Paul’s readers would have thought he meant that it’s possible to give themselves saving grace, nor is there any way that they’d think the salvation could possibly be out of themselves either, so while it’s technically true that the salvation and grace aren’t out of ourselves either, it should really be clear that Paul was referring to the faith not being of ourselves in that verse.

Besides, we don’t have anything we didn’t first receive from God anyway, as Paul also told us in 1 Corinthians 4:7, so if we have the faith necessary for the sort of salvation Paul was referring to in Ephesians, we had to have first received it from God regardless. I say “the sort of salvation Paul was referring to in Ephesians,” of course, because there are many different types of salvation referred to in Scripture, and this particular type of salvation isn’t the one that saves us from death and sin, but that’s a topic for another study (although, if you want to learn more about that as well, please read this: What the Bible really says about heaven, hell, judgement, death, and salvation).