(Eph. 2:8) Is “faith” the gift of God or is “grace” the gift of God?

CLAIM: Some Calvinists teach that this passage supports the doctrine of irresistible grace. They argue that “faith” is the “gift of God.” Instead of exercising faith of our own freewill, God gives us the faith to believe in him, as a gift. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: It is certainly true that no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:11). Instead, God supernaturally draws all people through his Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8-10) and his Son (Jn. 12:32). Because God is drawing all people to himself, it is possible for people to exercise faith in him and come into a relationship with him by use of their freewill. Why would God call on us to have faith, if it was impossible for us to have it? Calvinists often argue that accepting Christ’s forgiveness is a work. However, faith and works are often seen as mutually exclusive in Scripture (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16). Moreover, can we really consider receiving Christ a work? Imagine if someone was rescued by a helicopter from a burning building. Surely, it is their decision to get on the helicopter or not, but could we really claim that the person “saved themselves,” simply because they chose to be saved? Of course not.

In this passage, we see that the gift of salvation is not faith; instead, the gift of salvation is grace. In the Greek, the gender of the nouns is different. Paul writes, “For by grace [feminine] you have been saved through faith [feminine]; and that [neuter] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).[1] While the term grace is also feminine, this grammatical argument demonstrates that Paul isn’t explicitly referring to faith in this passage. Instead, he is probably referring to the entire package of salvation. Surely, without God’s drawing and mercy, none of us would come to faith in Christ.

[1] Stott writes, “Nevertheless, Paul is not directly affirming this here because ‘this’ (touto) is neuter, whereas ‘faith’ is a feminine noun.” Stott, John R. W.: God’s New Society : The Message of Ephesians. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1979, 1980. 83.