November 20, 2011

Merry-Go-Round Theology

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:8

The verse all Protestants walk in lockstep with. It means more than most realize. Not only does it tell us how. It tells us when and for how long. Let’s look closely at this passage, shall we? I will briefly examine this famous verse including the Greek in its surrounding context.

Saved by grace through faith. How so…?


In Greek the perfect passive participle gives you, "By grace were you completely saved in past time by Someone/Something else, with the result that you are in a state of salvation at the present time" (Andy translation). 

A Greek participle is a hybrid word: As its name implies the participle shares, “takes part" or "participates" in the nature of both a verb and an adjective. The best example I have ever heard is “living water”.

Perfect refers to a state resulting from a completed action.

Passive is something being done to the subject…you(s).

If we first try to view this as purely past time as it is often incorrectly viewed (without the perfect tense) we can see the following in Ephesians 2:8. In other words: If the participle had been aorist (past tense completed), the translation would read, "By grace you were saved." That would simply state the fact that the person was saved in past time with no additional details. But when a Greek specifies a tense other than the aorist like it does here with perfect, it is going out of the way to mention timebound details by the use of another/other tense. This is what we see in the passage here.

To further reinforce this we will see by backing up to Ephesians 2:5 that this is not a "one off" by Paul taken out of context either. What does (v.5) tell us also? It says: "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Saved here is σεσῳσμένοι/sesosmenoi/

The believer is referred to as having been saved at a past point in time and is a state that is completed and done from that point forward by Someone else. We see something similar when Jesus announces that “it is finished” from the cross in John 19:30. As it is in John so we see here, a completed action that was perfect and needed nothing more to make it complete and continuous from the point of salvation. This can only mean that a person’s salvation is given, completely at the point where they are saved or coverted.

It is at the point of conversion that sanctification begins. If we are in a state now after conversion of sanctification we then can say that we accepted in faith perfect salvation at a time in the past. Can’t we? It is a perfect salvation right now in the present. This is an assurance to the believer that at any point of time after his or her conversion that they are still in a perfect state of salvation…even now…even if they are backslidden. It also means that salvation is solely dependent on acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and his rise from the grave based on a past acceptance of this stated fact. What is more is that the salvation is not in and of the believer themselves but as Paul states: θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον/ a gift of God (i.e.: or a passive action to the subject: you).

To bludgeon this point home even harder I will note one additional thing written in the letter of Ephesians by Paul. He writes ἐστε/este which is the present tense plural of “you are” or “yous guys” linked to the perfect passive participle σεσῳσμένοι and has the effect of amplifying the participle "ones having been saved".

The perfect tense speaks of the existence of finished results in present time. The term ἐστε/este adds “staying power” to the state or condition of the perfect salvation. We see this back in Ephesians 2:5.

All this speaks to a durability, endurance, perseverance and persistence of finished results of salvation right now in the present.

"By grace you were completely saved in past time [at point of your conversion], with the continuing result that you are in a state of salvation which persists through present time."

There is no confusion over what Paul is stating here. None. Please note also that I have not even brought Jesus' own statement into this from John 18:9 which strengthens this argument to a concrete type consistency. ;) you now feel more confident and comfortable about you salvation? Good! Now go out and help save others since you have less to worry about! You've been commanded to do so. You can now stop retracing the same ground and running in circles like a carousel horse. 

Blessings to you all.

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