Ephesians 2:8-9 8For by grace you are saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
These two verses are the source of the most quoted Christian maxim, the most heralded proclamation throughout mainstream theology: ‘See, we’re saved by grace through faith, and not by our own works’; and I whole-heartily agree! That is what the text says. However, Paul didn’t write a two-sentence letter to the Ephesians. What do these verses mean in the ‘context‘ of the surrounding sentences? What was the topic of discussion that caused Paul to make this statement, and what was the conclusion of his thought process?
If we can truly be honest with ourselves, and admit that ‘context‘ is critical in the proper application of biblical hermeneutics, then we must take a look at the text surrounding these verses to get the complete picture of Paul’s discourse; isn’t all of it inspired?
The apostle Paul wrote lengthy ‘interpersonal commentaries’ to help guide and teach his congregants, he didn’t write just a sentence or two. Also, ‘Ephesians’ originally did not have verses or chapter breaks; it was a free-flowing letter.
A key point that’s rarely, ‘if ever’ considered by mainstream theology is the modern vernacular that’s used in most of the English “translations”, compared to the Greek text from almost 2,000 years ago. We will be taking an in-depth look at the original Greek to see if anything got ‘lost in translation’…
With that being said, let’s start at the beginning of Paul’s thought process.
What does the text say?
Ephesians 2:1-3 1And you being dead in the trespasses and the sins, 2in which once ye did G4043walk according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all did walk once in the desires of our flesh, doing the wishes of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath–as also the others.
Please take note, the apostle Paul stated that these ‘believers’ were dead in their sins, they walked after the desires of the flesh like the rest of the world does. They walked according to the spirit that “is now working” (Present Tense in the Greek), and that ‘spirit’, is present in the world post-resurrection. Paul specifically calls those people “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath”. So, in Paul’s mind, there are people still committing sin and disobeying God currently in the world (post-resurrection). These believers in Ephesus were among that group of people; ‘walking in the desires of the flesh’ (please click this link and read the study “Why is the Flesh Enmity with God | Romans 8:7”).
The Ephesians that Paul addressed, once G4043walked following the present ruler of this world, G4043walking in sin, just as the Present Tense ‘Sons of Disobedience’ currently do.
The English word walking in the original Greek is Strong’s G4043, περιεπατήσατε/ periepatēsate. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this word as: ‘common in Paul and John; to regulate one’s life, to conduct oneself‘.
♦♦♦ Remember this definition of “walking”, because the apostle Paul will come back to it towards the end of this study ♦♦♦
Back to verses 1-3: we should ask ourselves, ‘what are the Present-Tense Sons of Disobedience sinning against, what are they currently disobeying that God would consider them children of wrath’? Keep that question in the back of your mind for later; Paul didn’t say those words for no good reason, he’s building a case in order to make a very specific point.
Ephesians 2:4-5 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us 5even when “we” were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace are you saved.
Because of God’s abundant mercy, even when “we” were dead in our sin, He loved us. He has given us the opportunity to be reanimated from that death we were in, conjointly with the Messiah.
The English word ‘dead’ is Strong’s G3498, νεκροὺς/nekrous. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states to mean: equivalent to “as if already dead”, sure to die, destined inevitably to die; “destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God, because given up to trespasses and sins; inactive as respects doing right“.
Remember, ‘Sin leads to Death’; “the soul that sins shall die”, Romans 5:12 and Ezekiel 18:4. Please click this link to read the study, “Free from the law of Sin and Death | Romans 8:2”.
Back to Ephesians 2:5 ~
The English words ‘made us alive together with’ is actually one Greek word, Strong’s G4806, συνεζωοποίησεν/ synezōopoiēsen. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states to mean: to make one alive together with another ~ Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13; “in both of these passages new moral life is referred to”.
We were G4043walking around this earth, ‘as if already dead’, without hope in our sin. We were ‘destitute of living a life that was devoted to God because of our trespasses and sins’; conducting our lives according to ‘our own’ fleshly desires. God, in His mercy, has offered salvation to us through favor, through the faithfulness of His Anointed One (Messiah), Jesus; we were unquestionably all at His mercy.
However, God did NOT offer to “save” us from our bondage-to-sin so that we would NOT devote ourselves to serving Him.
He most certainly did NOT raise us up “with the Messiah” so that we would continue in those trespasses and sins “with the Messiah”.
‘IF’ we are “in” Christ, reanimated “with” Jesus, we will be devoted to God; wanting to do what is right in His eyes, according to His Word, and not according to “our own fleshly desires”, like the rest of the world still does, v.2 & 3. Either He is sovereign or we are sovereign; it can’t be both at the same time.
If you’ve read these verses in the past, just skimming through them to get to verse 8 or verse 15, please remember this is ‘context’ leading up to those verses, and beyond. Paul wrote them for a reason, yes?
Ephesians 2:5-7 5by grace are you saved 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
At the end of verse 5 we have Paul stating, “by grace are you saved”. I re-iterate this in front of verse six for two very important reasons ~
- Paul has interrupted the point he was making and inserted this axiom at the end of verse 5 as though he ‘jumped tracks’ in order to direct his reader quickly to a new, but related topic.
- The Verb Parsing is critically overlooked, or ignored, or purposefully changed by the majority of the English translators.
If you read verses 1 through 6, and skip over this axiom/statement, you can see Paul’s contextual-points flow perfectly without it. Yet, he interrupted the flow of his discourse with that ‘statement’, as if in the middle of his thought process another thought popped into his head, and he couldn’t wait to get it out.
Here is the Greek text, the transliteration, the English, the Strong’s Numbers and the Parsing of that ‘statement’:
χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι
chariti este sesōsmenoi
by grace are you saved
G5485 G1510 G4982
N-DFS V-PIA-2P V-RPM/P-NMP
Ephesians 2:5b “by grace are you saved”
However, in the vast majority of modern Bibles we are forced to read an incorrect “interpretation” ~
Ephesians 2:5b “by grace you have been saved” / past-tense…?
This is a false interpretation of the text; this is NOT past tense in the original Greek. If your version states this as ‘past-tense’, you are being lied to.
The two English words “are you” is one word in the original Greek, the verb ‘este’, which is ‘Present Indicative Active’:
- Present Tense describes action taking place now
- Indicative Mood affirms the actuality of the statement; it is true reality
- Active voice indicates that the subject carries out the action, it originates from the subject.
Thus, the Parsing ‘Present Indicative Active’ shows that the action happens in present time, that the subject carries out the action, and that it is a true statement.
The definition of this Greek word, ἐστε/este, is poorly understood in this verse, as well as, in verse 8. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines ‘este’ as: ‘to be, to exist; to be of: connected to, originate from, proceeds from’.
A more accurate English interpretation is, ‘by grace exists your deliverance’ or ‘salvation originates from grace’; it is a ‘present tense statement of a truth’.
Paul inserted “by grace are you saved”, as a statement of fact, in the midst of his explaining where these Ephesians ‘were’ in their life as slaves-to-sin, and what the new life in Messiah is supposed to look like. He inserted “by grace are you saved”, to declare how escaping that old-life is made possible. He’s blurting out in mid-thought, ‘this is “The Way” that one is delivered from the old life of bondage-to-sin’.
Then in verse 6, we have the apostle Paul reiterating the first part of verse 5 ~
Ephesians 2:6 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Again, the English is not as clear as the Greek ~
The three English words “raised up with” is one word in the Greek, Strong’s G4891, συνήγειρεν/synēgeiren. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: to raise together, to cause to rise together; “to a new and blessed life devoted to God”.
Paul is explaining that we are “saved” out of our sin-and-death in order to be raised together with Christ to devote ourselves to God; to live for HIM and not ourselves. We have been raised with, made alive with Jesus, “saved” from our life of sin.
If we’ve been “delivered” from our life of sin, can we continue in that sin and still look to be ‘raised up with/made alive with Jesus’?
Now that we’ve accepted the offer of salvation, is God okay with us going back to what Paul stated in verses 1-3, ‘G4043walking in our fleshly passions’ that is ‘now at work in the sons of disobedience’ like the rest of the world?
“By no means!”
When Paul told those in Ephesus, twice within two sentences, that “by grace are you saved” he’s shouting from the mountain top, joyfully declaring ~
‘Do realize what God has offered through the favor of Christ? Do you remember your disobedient life where you were slaves-to-sin, which made you children of wrath [verses 1-3]? The Deliverer has come! “Salvation” has been offered; by grace are you saved from that old-life, through the Messiah!’
For an in-depth study of “Salvation”, please select this link, ‘Salvation vs. Eternal Life | Romans 2:7’.
Ephesians 2:8-9 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Paul is proclaiming twice, practically in the same breath ~
‘Are you aware of this wonderful opportunity before you? Compared to where you were in that dead-end, self-sovereign, flesh-controlled, spirit-of-disobedience, life-of-sin in which you G4043walked [v.1-3], you now can have life-with-Messiah; by the grace of Messiah there is deliverance from that life-of-sin!’
Paul told the same thing to those in Rome that he told this assembly in Ephesus; ‘you are saved out of your slavery-to-sin IF you are “in“ Christ’.
What does the text say?
Romans 6:1-6 1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For IF we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
IF we are “made alive with/raised up with” and “united with” Christ, our old walk/life, our “old self” is dead. WHY? So that, we would no longer continue to be enslaved to/walk in sin! As God-in-the-flesh, Jesus can have no part of sin, therefore, IF we are “united with” Him we can have no part in it either.
What does the text say?
1 John 3:6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
Can we honestly believe He will let us be “united with Him” if we continue in sin???
That is not what we were made for…
Almost every single preacher, teacher and Bible reader stops at verse 9, BUT Paul didn’t. He continued his discourse, and told us WHY we are “made alive with” Jesus, the purpose of ‘a new life in Messiah’.
The apostle Paul said everything we just read in verses 1 through 9 in order to get to verse 10.
What does the text say?
Ephesians 2:10 “For“ we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should G4043walk in them.
This sentence is the culmination of everything the apostle Paul stated from verses 1 through 9; ‘in Christ Jesus we are created to G4043walk in the good works God prepared beforehand’.
The English word ‘For’ in the Greek is Strong’s G1063, γάρ/gar. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states: γάρ, a conjunction, is properly a particle of affirmation and conclusion; or some previous declaration is explained; denoting ‘truly therefore‘.
Since verse 10 starts with “γάρ/Truly therefore”, it’s our duty to ask, ‘what is verse 10 there for?’
The English word ‘workmanship’ in the Greek is Strong’s G4161, ποίημα/ poiēma. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: that which has been made, a work; of the works of God as creator; (A. V. his workmanship), Ephesians 2:10.
The English word ‘created’ in the Greek is Strong’s G2936, κτισθέντες/ ktisthentes. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: completely to change, to transform; in intimate fellowship with Christ constituted to do good works, Ephesians 2:10.
The English word ‘for’, after “in Christ Jesus”, in verse 10 is poorly understood. In the Greek this word is Strong’s G1909, ἐπὶ/epi, and not ‘gar’. ‘Epi’ is a preposition – properly, on (upon), implying what “fits” given the “apt contact,” building on the verbal idea; The precise nuance of G1909 (epí) is only determined by the context, and by the grammatical case following it – i.e. genitive, dative, or accusative case.
In this sentence, the grammatical case of word following ‘epi’ is dative; the noun ‘work/ergos’.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states the definition of ‘epi’ in this noun-dative-case is: upon the ground of; of that upon which anything is “sustained“ or “upheld“; for, on account of; of the purpose and end.
Lastly in verse 10, we have the English words, “good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”.
The English words ‘we should walk’, is one word in the Greek. It is Strong’s G4043, περιπατήσωμεν/ peripatēsōmen, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: Hebraistically, to live; common in Paul and John, i. e. to regulate one’s life, to conduct oneself.
Alright, that was a lot to cover, so let’s do a quick recap:
What did the apostle Paul declare in verses 1-9?
- We were dead in our sin as we G4043walked, following the ruling spirit of this world, which is now at work in the world, like the rest of the ‘sons of disobedience’; v.1-3
- Because of God’s great love and mercy, even while we were dead in our sin, reanimation with Christ is available; by favor/grace exists salvation/deliverance; v.4-5
- In new life we are raised together with the Messiah, so that in the coming ages the favor of God in kindness towards us might be made known; v.6-7
- By grace are you saved through faith, not of yourself, it is of God’s offering/gift, that no one should boast; v.8-9 (again, please read ‘Salvation vs. Eternal Life’ at this link)
The apostle Paul said all that in order to get to verse 10!
What does the text say?
Ephesians 2:10 Therefore we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should G4043walk in them.
Verse 10 is the ‘conclusive declaration’ that God ‘made us/His workmanship, transforming us together intimately with Messiah, to sustain and uphold the good works that He prepared/decreed beforehand, in order that we should conduct our lives according to them.
Earlier, after reading verses 1 & 2, I ask you to remember the definition of walking: to regulate one’s life, to conduct oneself. Paul just ‘Book-ended’ the point he was driving home to these Ephesians. In verse 1 you walked in that way, now in verse 10 you are to walk in this way; verse 1, walking in sin and verse 10, walking in “good works that God decreed/prepared beforehand”.
Scripturally, what is the only “good works God Almighty decreed beforehand”?
What “Decrees prepared by God beforehand” exist in the ‘Word of God’ that could be conducted by us if we are united with Messiah?
Since context is key, let’s look at some from the first chapter of ‘Ephesians’…
What does the text say?
Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Paul is referencing Deuteronomy 28:9 here in Ephesians 1:4, as well as in Ephesians 2:10. We are set-apart or “Holy” by walking in His ways, His Instructions, His good works.
What does the text say?
Deuteronomy 28:9 The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.
Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Numbers 15:40 So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.
Paul told Titus the same thing that he told the Ephesians; what does the text say?
Titus 2:11-14 11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to ‘renounce ungodliness and worldly passions’, and to live self-controlled, righteous, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
This passage in ‘Titus’ is an exact reiteration of Ephesians 2:1-10!
Our Savior ‘redeemed’ or ‘bought us’ out of our bondage-to-lawlessness (sin), so that we would now be self-controlled, righteous, godly and zealous for good works.
♦♦♦ Jesus did not save us from our bondage to lawlessness so that we could continue in lawlessness; He saved us so that we would do His good works! ♦♦♦
Here are some more verses that define walking in the good works prepared by God beforehand: Leviticus 11:43-47; Deuteronomy 30:16; Joshua 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 8:58; 1 Kings 11:38; 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 34:31.
The advice Paul gave Timothy confirms what he meant by “good works prepared by God beforehand”.
What does the text say?
2 Timothy 3:14-17 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every “good work“.
What mainstream theology fails to comprehend (and teach), is that Paul is NOT referring to his own letters when he says “All Scripture” or “the sacred writings” or “the Word of God”. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying Paul was not inspired by the Spirit of God when he wrote his letters, but think logically not emotionally; think like a 1st Century Berean. When the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the ‘New Testament’ didn’t even exist yet! Paul was referring to the “Old Testament”, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, when he said “All Scriptures” or “the Word of God”. Since “the Law” is part of “All“, the apostle Paul himself, proclaimed that “the Law” is ‘profitable for teaching and training in righteousness’; he didn’t say it was abolished. The apostle Paul just said the opposite of ‘abolished’, he said that “All” the Law is profitable! Please click this link to read ‘The Law: Fulfilled or Abolished?‘.
Again, at the time of Paul’s writing of ‘2 Timothy’, what was the Word of God? It was the Law, the Prophets and the Writings! The ‘Gospels’, the disciple’s and Paul’s individual ‘letters’, were not available as we know it; there was NO ‘New Testament’ when Paul wrote his letters!
Those ‘good works prepared beforehand by God’ are His Instructions, Commandments, Statutes and Right Rulings listed in “the Scriptures”; the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
So, to paraphrase Ephesians 2:10, according to the word definitions of the Lexicon, Paul is saying, ‘the conclusive reason that we are reanimated, transformed in Christ Jesus is to regulate and conduct our lives, to G4043walk, ‘upholding’ and ‘sustaining’ the good works that God prepared beforehand…
Final thought: Yes, salvation is by grace through faith, but…
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law | Romans 3:31
The apostle Paul walked in all the ways of the LORD God all his days; he conducted his entire life observing and upholding the Law.
What does the text say?
Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself (Paul) also live in observance of the law | Acts 21:24
Please click this link and read, ‘You Yourself Also Live in Observance of the Law’ for a complete study of Acts 21:24.
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, see the ‘Links’ at the top of this page or blog posts at the bottom. Be like the Bereans, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”. Please ‘share’ this study. Thank you for your time!