NOT of Works – So No Man Can Boast

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

In the earlier parts of chapter 2, Paul was conveying to the Ephesian church the condition of their hearts and souls before they were radically regenerated. He used the metaphor “dead in trespasses and sins.” Paul is explaining to the church at Ephesus that they were spiritually dead before they were saved. And this spiritual deadness was not a product of anything they had done; it was their nature that made them spiritually dead.

The only thing spiritually dead people need is life and life comes from a God of unending mercy and unmerited favor.

This passage of Scripture gives us great insight into what it means to be a child of God – God’s grace offers us the opportunity to place our faith in the object of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

But the most prominent phrase in this verse lay in the latter section of the verse. Our salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, yet it is not of works. 

Let’s take a closer look at this verse and praise god for the mysteriousness of the gospel.

By Grace Through Faith.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul is addressing a church that had been letting the culture around them influence their beliefs about God. Therefore, the aim of the letter to the church at Ephesus was to bring right doctrine and practice, and right views of salvation about.

What is grace?

Grace is as one writer put it,

“God’s free favor toward ill-deserving people.”

Grace is something that cannot be earned. If anyone is not deserving of something, they definitely will not earn it. Therefore, as in the context of Ephesians, this grace is a gift of God.  Because God is the sole acting agent of salvation, there is no other way to salvation other than his grace.

This grace, as reformed Arminians have called it, is known as prevenient grace. Prevenient grace testifies to God as the initiator of salvation and the giver of salvation, but allows humankind the choice whether or not to accept this gift of grace.

But how is faith obtained? Can someone simply have faith by their own will? Is grace the only gift of God in salvation?

Some theologians and scholars would argue that God is the one who is places faith in the hearts of man. For this to be true, in my opinion, it would create a salvation limited to God’s choosing of who will be saved and who will not be saved – a belief that is not consistent with the reformed, classical Arminian soteriology. Robert Picirilli said it best,

“Faith is holding up empty hands to God to receive a gift offered entirely by his grace.”[1]

Not of Works.

If salvation is by God’s gracious gift and through our recognition of our need of the saving, atoning work of Christ on the cross through faith, then there is no possible way we would or could have anything to do with our salvation. Paul understood that there was nothing in and of himself (or any human for that matter) that earned his salvation.

Our salvation is not contingent upon the good deeds we’ve done. Just as your spiritual deadness is not contingent upon the “bad” deeds you’ve done but your nature, likewise your salvation not contingent upon the “good” deeds you’ve done. It salvation was something we could earn, it wouldn’t mean much to us.

I conclude with a quote from a wonderful man of God, Ben Scott. He said,

“If man could work his way to heaven, he’d brag his way to hell.”

[1] Thomas Marberry, Robert E. Picirilli, and Daryl Ellis, Galatians through Colossians, The Randall House Bible Commentary (Nashville, Tenn.: Randall House Publications, ©1988), 158.


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