(8) For it is by his grace you are saved, through trusting him; it is not your own doing. It is God's gift,
(9) not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of.
Ephesians 2:8–9, NEB
Lord our God, we know that we are your children, and in this certainty we gather in your presence as a community. Grant us your Spirit, the Spirit who works in us and frees us from the many evils that still torment us. Be with us and let the power of your great grace and mercy be in our hearts so that we may gain the victory and lead joyful lives on earth in spite of our many shortcomings, blunders, and sins. For your grace is great, much greater than all our failings. You are our God and Father, and we want to keep our consciences clear today and always through your grace. Amen.
The context of the words of Ephesians 2:8–9, NEB
Ephesians 2:1–10 clearly explains the relationship between our lack of obedience, the grace of God, and our salvation. Those who are saved by Christ do not deserve this salvation. It is only by mercy, and by grace, that God chooses to forgive. In this section, Paul will repeat the claim that human effort has no impact on salvation whatsoever. No Christian can brag about their ''goodness,'' since we are saved entirely by the grace of God, not by our own good deeds.
Paul repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is accomplished on the basis of grace, through faith. Good works, human effort, and our best intentions will never be enough to earn salvation. Every person is marked with sin, both deliberate and accidental, and for this reason we deserve to be separated from God. Only through His mercy and grace can we be saved, leaving no room for bragging. This also means that all who are saved, Jew and Gentile alike, are part of the same spiritual family. There is no cause for hostility between believers; we are all unworthy, and all saved by the same kindness of God.
Meaning of the words
"For it is by his grace you are saved, through trusting him; it is not your own doing. It is God's gift"
Paul returns again to his theme of grace in this classic verse. Salvation's source is grace; the means of salvation is faith. We believe by faith to be saved (Romans 10:9), but would never choose to believe apart from the grace of God operating in our lives. That salvation would never be available, other than as a result of the grace of God. Both parts are important in the discussion of salvation.
Immediately following this declaration, Paul repeats and clarifies it. Paul does not want anyone to think salvation is based on something they had done, or could ever do. No action is good enough to provide our own salvation. No good deeds can undo the sins we have committed. Salvation is a gift. Further, it is a gift only God can provide. No matter how much we desire to give salvation to another person, we cannot. Only God can offer the gift of eternal life. Instead, we are called to proclaim the gospel, live it, share it, pray for the salvation of others, and help people grow in the grace of God. The Lord must be the one to provide salvation and does so as He chooses.
"Not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of"
Paul ended the previous verse with the teaching that salvation is a gift of God. Here, he continues with yet another reminder that works do not and cannot save us. Good deeds are important in the lives of believers, but they do not provide salvation. It has been said we work as a result of our salvation, not to provide our salvation. Paul's Jewish upbringing had emphasized devout adherence to the law as the means to please God. He was faithful to his religion, yet did not know God. His salvation came when God revealed Himself to Paul by grace and Paul believed and was saved (Acts 9).
One reason for Paul's frequent reminder about the futility of works is noted here, as well. If salvation could be earned, those who earned it would brag about their success in obtaining it. Paul certainly had experience with those who felt that their deeds had earned them a special favor with God (Philippians 3:2–11). The truth is, only He can provide salvation, He alone is worthy of all glory and honor. We exist as His servants, completely dependent upon Him for life and salvation.