Question: I grew up in a church where I was taught that God gives you the faith to believe with for salvation. Is that the meaning of Ephesians 2:8,9?
Answer: We will quote the verse you ask about,
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (8) Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If this teaching were true, then God would be obligated to give everyone the faith to believe with. This would result in every human being trusting Christ as his Savior and inheriting eternal life. But, such is not the case. Therefore, if God gave only some the faith to believe with and not others, He would be an unjust God. Christ said that, “God so loved the world,” or every person (John 3:16), and Peter states in 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord is “…not willing that any should perish.” Paul, in writing to Timothy, states the Lord’s will in 1 Timothy 2:4,
“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
The teaching that God gives you the faith to believe with is a damnable, Satanic teaching which very cleverly brings in the false doctrine of predestination for salvation. Those who teach this; actually accuse the Lord of being guilty of the following:
(1.) Lying. When Peter, in 2 Peter 3:9 stated that God’s will was that He was “not willing any should perish,” then God lied; since He didn’t give everyone the faith to believe with when He could have; but He didn’t. The truth is, the false teacher lied—not God.
“...Let God be true but every man a liar...” (Romans 3:4).
(2.) Prejudice. On what basis would God only give a few the faith to believe and let the rest spend eternity in Hell? Since Romans 3:23 tells us that,
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”(i.e., His absolute perfection.)
Therefore, since all humanity is guilty of sin, God would be prejudiced if he gave the faith to believe with to only some, and let all the rest perish.
(3.) Being A Respecter of Persons. In Acts 10:34 we are told,
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”
Yet, if God gave the faith to believe with to some, and not others; one could only conclude that God is a respecter of persons. This false teaching is diametrically opposed to God’s Word in Acts 10:34. This false teaching also attacks the Holiness, Righteousness, and all the other Attributes of the character of God.
God does not “program” human beings to be robots. God has provided salvation for every person through the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in payment for our sins. Every person has his own free will with which to accept Christ; or reject Him, for their salvation.
Now, back to Ephesians 2:8,9.
(1.) “For by grace are ye saved.” Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. That is, Christ paying for our sins, the “just for the unjust.” Mercy, on the other hand, is God withholding what we do deserve. We are only saved ( i.e., from Hell), because of God’s grace in giving us what we do not deserve; by sending His Son to the cross in payment for our sins.
(2.) “…through faith.” It does not say “Through the faith God gives us.” Every false teaching has to add their philosophy to God’s Word. In Proverbs 30:6, God rebukes these false teachers for just that.
“Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
(3.) "And that not of ourselves." This is in reference to anything we, ourselves, do in order to merit eternal life. It may be joining a prominent church, attending every Sunday, teaching Sunday School, being baptized and confirmed; or, changing our habits and leading an honest, moral life. But, none of these things we do ourselves, with our bodies, will ever merit eternal salvation. Titus 3:5b tells us that,
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..."
Isaiah 64:6 makes it perfectly clear that,
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
In other words, we place our faith in the merits of the cross, not in the merits of our own self-righteousness, which are nothing but filthy rags!
(4.). "It is the gift of God." Faith is not the gift of God; but, rather salvation is the gift of God to all that believe. Romans 6:23 tells us,
"For the wages of sin is death; but THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord."
NOT the gift of faith!
(5.) "Not of works." In Verse 9 we have the same thing as "not of ourselves" in Verse 8.
(6.) "Lest any man should boast." Since God is not willing any should perish; but that ALL should come to repentance (i.e. a change of mind), the invitation is that "whosoever will" may come. No! God does not give the faith to believe to some; and then go against His own will, and let the rest perish! When I, of my own volition, choose to put my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I receive the gift of eternal life—free! Therefore, I have nothing of myself to boast about.
The last invitation in God’s Word is found in Revelation 22:17, and is all-inclusive.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And WHOSOEVER WILL, let him take of the water of life freely.”
Remember—how could God justify Himself by letting any person go to Hell; when, He could have given him the faith to believe with, but didn’t; and then say “I was not willing he should perish”? This is one of the results you end up with when you promote the false doctrine of predestination for salvation. How deceiving and misleading these false teachers are, who try to get you to believe that God gives you the "faith" to believe with!
"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." (Psalm 118:8).