|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-10 Sin is the death of the soul. A man dead in trespasses and sins has no desire for spiritual pleasures. When we look upon a corpse, it gives an awful feeling. A never-dying spirit is now fled, and has left nothing but the ruins of a man. But if we viewed things aright, we should be far more affected by the thought of a dead soul, a lost, fallen spirit. A state of sin is a state of conformity to this world. Wicked men are slaves to Satan. Satan is the author of that proud, carnal disposition which there is in ungodly men; he rules in the hearts of men. From Scripture it is clear, that whether men have been most prone to sensual or to spiritual wickedness, all men, being naturally children of disobedience, are also by nature children of wrath. What reason have sinners, then, to seek earnestly for that grace which will make them, of children of wrath, children of God and heirs of glory! God's eternal love or good-will toward his creatures, is the fountain whence all his mercies flow to us; and that love of God is great love, and that mercy is rich mercy. And every converted sinner is a saved sinner; delivered from sin and wrath. The grace that saves is the free, undeserved goodness and favour of God; and he saves, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus. Grace in the soul is a new life in the soul. A regenerated sinner becomes a living soul; he lives a life of holiness, being born of God: he lives, being delivered from the guilt of sin, by pardoning and justifying grace. Sinners roll themselves in the dust; sanctified souls sit in heavenly places, are raised above this world, by Christ's grace. The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners heretofore, encourages others in after-time, to hope in his grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out. All is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by his power. It was his purpose, to which he prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of his will, and his Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our good conversation, and perseverance in holiness. None can from Scripture abuse this doctrine, or accuse it of any tendency to evil. All who do so, are without excuse.
Verse 8. - For by grace have ye been saved, through faith. He repeats what he had said parenthetically (ver. 5), in order to open the subject up more fully. On the part of God, salvation is by grace; on the part of man, it is through faith. It does not come to us by an involuntary act, as light falls on our eyes, sounds on our ears, or air enters our lungs. When we are so far enlightened as to understand about it, there must be a personal reception of salvation by us, and that is by faith. Faith at once believes the good news of a free salvation through Christ, and accepts Christ as the Savior. We commit ourselves to him, trust ourselves to him for that salvation of which he is the Author. In the act of thus entrusting ourselves to him for his salvation, we receive the benefit, and are saved. It is not that faith is accepted by God in place of works, but because faith indicates that attitude of men towards Christ in which it pleases God to save them, transferring to him all their guilt, imputing to them all his merit. And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Which of the two things is meant - salvation or faith? The grammatical structure and the analogy of the passage favor the former view, "Your salvation is not of yourselves," though many able men have taken the latter. The apostle is so anxious to bring out the great distinguishing doctrine of grace that he puts it in all lights, affirms it positively, contrasts it with its opposite, and emphasizes it by repetition. It is a gift, not a purchase; a free gift, without money and without price; what would never have been yours, but for the generosity of God. It is very usual in the New Testament thus to represent salvation; cf. our Lord's words to Nicodemus (John 3:16); to the woman of Samaria (John 4:14); St. Paul's "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15); "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23); and 1 John 5:11, "God gave unto us eternal life, and the life is in his Son." This usage confirms the view that it is not merely faith, but the whole work and person of Christ which faith receives, that is meant here as the "gift of God."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For by grace are ye saved,.... This is to be understood, not of temporal salvation, nor of preservation in Christ, nor of providential salvation in order to calling, and much less of being put in a way of salvation, or only in a salvable state; but of spiritual salvation, and that actual; for salvation was not only resolved upon, contrived and secured in the covenant of grace, for the persons here spoken to, but it was actually obtained and wrought out for them by Christ, and was actually applied unto them by the Spirit; and even as to the full enjoyment of it, they had it in faith and hope; and because of the certainty of it, they are said to be already saved; and besides, were representatively possessed of it in Christ their head: those interested in this salvation, are not all mankind, but particular persons; and such who were by nature children of wrath, and sinners of the Gentiles; and it is a salvation from sin, Satan, the law, its curse and condemnation, and from eternal death, and wrath to come; and includes all the blessings of grace and glory; and is entirely owing to free grace: for by grace is not meant the Gospel, nor gifts of grace, nor grace infused; but the free favour of God, to which salvation in all its branches is ascribed; as election, redemption, justification, pardon, adoption, regeneration, and eternal glory: the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, "by his grace", and so some copies; and it may refer to the grace of all the three Persons; for men are saved by the grace of the Father, who drew the plan of salvation, appointed men to it, made a covenant with his Son, in which it is provided and secured, and sent him into the world to obtain it; and by the grace of the Son, who engaged as a surety to effect it, assumed human nature, obeyed and suffered in it for that purpose, and has procured it; and by the grace of the Spirit, who makes men sensible of their need of it, brings it near, sets it before them, and applies it to them, and gives them faith and hope in it: hence it follows,
through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; salvation is through faith, not as a cause or condition of salvation, or as what adds anything to the blessing itself; but it is the way, or means, or instrument, which God has appointed, for the receiving and enjoying it, that so it might appear to be all of grace; and this faith is not the produce of man's free will and power, but it is the free gift of God; and therefore salvation through it is consistent with salvation by grace; since that itself is of grace, lies entirely in receiving grace and gives all the glory to the grace of God: the sense of this last clause may be, that salvation is not of ourselves; it is not of our desiring nor of our deserving, nor of our performing, but is of the free grace of God: though faith is elsewhere represented as the gift of God, John 6:65 and it is called the special gift of faith, in the Apocrypha:
"And blessed is the eunuch, which with his hands hath wrought no iniquity, nor imagined wicked things against God: for unto him shall be given the "special gift of faith", and an inheritance in the temple of the Lord more acceptable to his mind.'' (Wisdom 3:14)
----- (I asked the following question from a Greek and Hebrew professor:
"In this verse, to what does the word "that" refer to? Adam Clarke, Wesley & company say that it is neuter plural and "Faith" is feminine hence it cannot refer to faith, (Such an admission would destroy their theological system.) However "Grace" is also feminine as is "Salvation".''
His reply was:
"Here you ask a wonderful theological/exegetical question to which I can only give an opinion, and not a definitive answer. The problem is that there is NO precise referent. Grace is feminine. Faith is feminine. And even Salvation (as a noun) is feminine. Yet it must be one of these three at least, and maybe more than one, or all three in conjunction. Since all three come from God and not from man, the latter might seem the more likely. However, it is a tautology to say salvation and grace are "nor of yourselves," and in that case it certainly looks more like the passage is really pointing out that man cannot even take credit for his own act of faith, but that faith was itself created by God and implanted in us that we might believe (i.e. the normal Calvinistic position). In which regard the whole theological issue of "regeneration preceding faith" comes into play. So, that is basically my opinion, though others obviously disagree strenuously, but from an exegetical standpoint, the other positions have to explain away the matter of the tautology.''
Whether you accept the reply or not, it is sufficient to show that the Greek is not as definitive in this verse as some scholars would have you believe. Editor)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. For—illustrating "the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness." Translate as in Eph 2:5, "Ye are in a saved state."
through faith—the effect of the power of Christ's resurrection (Eph 1:19, 20; Php 3:10) whereby we are "raised together" with Him (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "through your (literally, 'the') faith." The instrument or mean of salvation on the part of the person saved; Christ alone is the meritorious agent.
and that—namely, the act of believing, or "faith." "Of yourselves" stands in opposition to, "it is the gift of God" (Php 1:29). "That which I have said, 'through faith,' I do not wish to be understood so as if I excepted faith itself from grace" [Estius]. "God justifies the believing man, not for the worthiness of his belief, but for the worthiness of Him in whom he believes" [Hooker]. The initiation, as well as the increase, of faith, is from the Spirit of God, not only by an external proposal of the word, but by internal illumination in the soul [Pearson]. Yet "faith" cometh by the means which man must avail himself of, namely, "hearing the word of God" (Ro 10:17), and prayer (Lu 11:13), though the blessing is wholly of God (1Co 3:6, 7).
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