(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
By the sovereign will and pleasure of God, we who belong to Christ have been saved. Before we were born, or even before the earth was created, God determined that we would be saved. However, the Lord did not set his love upon us and predestine us because of anything good that he foresaw in us. Nor did he choose us from eternity because he foreknew that we would accept his Son as our Saviour.
Predestination is not based on God’s foreknowledge of events but on his sovereign will and pleasure, and it is exercised solely in accordance with his grace. He deems to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. In any event, no one can accept Christ as their Saviour while they remain spiritually dead. They are spiritually incapable of doing so. God must renew their souls by his Holy Spirit before they can repent and believe. Therefore, it is by God’s grace that we have been saved.
Yet, although God saves us purely by his grace, he calls upon us individually to believe the promises of the gospel. Clearly, this is impossible until the Holy Spirit calls us to Christ. However, having called us effectually to the Lord Jesus and renewed us spiritually, God then calls upon us to believe on his Son. This is our response to God’s free gift. We accept Christ through faith—our own personal faith in the Son of God, which we exercise freely and willingly. Yet, we owe the ability to exercise this faith to God’s grace and calling alone.
What, then, is the basis of our faith in Christ? It certainly does not stem from our desire, willingness, or ability to accept Christ apart from—or prior to—the grace of God in our lives, acting through his Holy Spirit. In other words, as Paul declares in verses 8b and 9, it did not originate from ourselves. It was not of our will, desire, or effort—but purely by the grace of God.
Our salvation—including the ability to repent and believe—was a gift of God’s grace. Under no circumstances did our works, deeds, desires or exercises of our will, contribute toward the salvation that God has given us in Christ. We could not have believed on Christ or accepted him, had the Spirit of God not first prepared our heart, mind, and understanding, and had he not first regenerated our souls. Thus, salvation is of the Lord. It is not by our works, actions, or mental exercises of any kind. Thus, no one is able to boast of his or her supposed spiritual standing or achievements in the presence of God or man.
We are saved by grace – through faith – and faith is the gift of God (v.8).