Ephesians 2:8 & 9 – What Does the Text Show Regarding Faith as the Gift?

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
8 τη γαρ χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι δια της   πιστεως και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων θεου το δωρον
             n;DAT;Sg,F   vpPerfPasNomPlm  GenSgF nGenSgF      NomSgn                                     nNomSgn

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
9 ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται

Calvinism claims that saving faith is “gifted faith” – that God causes each person whom He elected and foreknew to receive faith from God in order to be saved. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 are the proof-texted verses used to support this idea. They say that the verse says that you are saved through the faith that is the gift of God, not of yourself so that no one can boast.

Paul states that “this” – τουτο – is “… not of you; the gift of God …” What is the gift to which Paul refers?

Unlike English, Greek assigns gender and case to nouns and their modifiers. Every noun has a gender, and every pronoun or adjective associated with that noun must have the same gender. In other words, a feminine pronoun may only be used to refer to a feminine noun, and any words used to describe them must likewise be feminine. A masculine or neuter pronoun cannot refer to a feminine noun, nor can a plural pronoun refer to a singular noun.

Additionally, the role of the noun in a sentence determines its case – the cases in Greek are: nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. Correct grammar never includes an unassigned pronoun; “it” must always refer back to a previously-identified entity or quantity, as in the following examples:

The ball rolled under the car. It is too far in for Bill to reach.          In this instance, “it” refers back to “ball”.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God.                                 Here, “it” refers to the concept “pleasing God”. The sentence could be re-written: Without faith, pleasing God is impossible.

In the verse under discussion, Paul’s words literally translate to: “For to the grace you are [saved ones] through the faith, and this not out of you the gift of God not out of deeds that no anyone should boast.” More easily understood, the passage in English would read, “For to the grace you are saved through faith, and this gift of God [is] not out of you, not out of deeds, that no one should boast.”

Some believe that the gift in this sentence is the faith Paul refers to in the first clause, with the word “this” referring back to “faith”, but Greek grammar prohibits this being correct.

The pronoun “this” in English is translated from the Greek demonstrative pronoun “touto”, which is singular, and either the masculine or neuter form of a pronoun correctly translated as “himself” or “itself”. The root possesses singular and plural, as well as feminine, masculine, and neuter genders. In this passage, the pronoun must refer to a singular masculine or neuter noun, or to an already-expressed concept (concepts do not possess gender) because modifiers must always agree with the words being modified. The gender and voice of the pronoun “this”τουτο is nominative singular neuter, in agreement with the number and voice of “gift of God”. Nominative voice is used exclusively for a subject, never an object. The noun “faith” – πιστεως – in the first clause is genitive and feminine; genitive because it follows a preposition as an indirect object in the prepositional phrase “through faith” describing how “you” were saved. Touto cannot refer to “faith”, because “faith” is feminine, and touto is neuter, and because “faith” is the indirect object of a prepositional phrase, while touto is the subject in the clause where it’s found. “This” cannot refer back either of the feminine nouns “faith” or “grace”, nor to the gerund (present participle acting as noun) sesosmenoi, meaning “saved ones”, which is masculine and plural. (1)

Because of its gender and voice, touto is properly recognized as a modifier of “gift of God”, also nominative, singular, and neuter, giving the reading: “For to the grace you are saved through faith, and this gift of God [is] not out of you, not out of deeds, that no one should boast.” With the word “this” properly assigned, what are the options concerning the identity of “this gift of God”? “This gift” must refer to an element in the preceding clause. It could refer to “grace” alone, to being “saved ones through faith”, or to being saved by God’s grace through faith.

The New Testament refers to the “gift of God” in several places, variously referring to the “gift of the Holy Spirit” given to believers (2), the gifts from the Holy Spirit (3), the gift of grace (4), the gift of righteousness (5), and the free gift from God, by grace, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, which is everlasting life.(6) Nowhere does the Bible refer to faith as a gift from God, nor is there any suggestion that God gives faith as a gift. But there are passages calling God’s grace a gift – which is reasonable since grace is always a gift, and calling everlasting life (being saved) a gift. Based on these biblical facts, and the structure of Paul’s sentence, we conclude that “this gift of God” refers to being “saved through faith”, which does not come from ourselves nor from works, but from God’s grace, which is the source of every gift. That which is not “out of deeds” nor “out of you”, but by God’s grace, is salvation, received through faith in Christ, and His death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead to free us from the grave. Praise God for His heavenly gift!



(1) Note carefully: the English word “saved” does not represent a verb in the Greek, but a nominative case participle standing as a subjective noun. Sesosmenoi is not represented by the singular “touto”, because sesosmenoi – saved ones – is plural

 (2) John 4:10; Acts 2:38, 8:20, 10:45, 11:45

(3) 1 Corinthians 7:7, 13; cf 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6

(4) Ephesians 3:7

 (5) Romans 5:17

(6) Romans 5:15 – 21; Rom 6:23