Charles Hodge on “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”.

Comment: I filed this under “Deep Thinkers”. We will not be digging this deep tomorrow night, but for those interested … well this is interesting!

Here is the operative question:

The only point in the interpretation of these verses of any doubt, relates to the second clause. What is said to be the gift of God? Is it salvation, or faith?

Who was Charles Hodge? Wikipedia: Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge (1797 – 1878) was the principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878. He was one of the greatest exponents and defenders of historical Calvinism in America during the 19th century.

From his commentary on Ephesians:

Vs. 8, 9. These verses confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ‘ye are saved by grace,’ but further that salvation is by faith, i. e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4, 4. 5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed. Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4, 2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.

The only point in the interpretation of these verses of any doubt, relates to the second clause. What is said to be the gift of God? Is it salvation, or faith? The words καὶ τοῦτο only serve to render more proninent the matter referred to. Compare Rom. 13, 11. 1 Cor. 6, 6. Phil. 1, 28. Heb. 11, 12. They may relate to faith (τὸ πιστεύειν), or to the salvation spoken of (σεσωσμένους εἶναι). Beza, following the fathers, prefers the former reference; Calvin, with most of the modern commentators, the latter. The reasons in favour of the former interpretation are, 1. It best suits the design of the passage. The object of the apostle is to show the gratuitous nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, ‘Ye are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’ 2. The other interpretation makes the passage tautological. To say: ‘Ye are saved by faith; not of yourselves; your salvation is the gift of God; it is not of works,’ is saying the same thing over and over without any progress. Whereas to say: ‘Ye are saved through faith (and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God), not of works,’ is not repetitious; the parenthetical clause instead of being redundant does good service and greatly increases the force of the passage. 3. According to this interpretation the antithesis between faith and works, so common in Paul’s writings, is preserved. ‘Ye are saved by faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.’ The middle clause of the verse is therefore parenthetical, and refers not to the main idea ye are saved, but to the subordinate one through faith, and is designed to show how entirely salvation is of grace, since even faith by which we apprehend the offered mercy, is the gift of God. 4. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this view of the passage, in so far that elsewhere faith is represented as the gift of God. 1 Cor. 1, 26-31. Eph. 1, 19. Col. 2, 12, et passim.

I asked the question, “what is the gift of God”, on SharperIron. If interested view the responses here.

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