In all our debating of Ephesians 2:8-9 and what it means to be saved by “faith, not works” we might overlook what a wonderful truth it is when the text says our salvation is “not of works”. “Not of works” in this text, like the other “not works” texts of Paul, refers to attempting to be saved by law keeping. If we could do it Paul said it would entitle us to boast because we had earned our salvation and God would owe it to us as a debt (Ephesians 2:9, Romans 4:4-5). He also said those who attempt this are under a curse (Galatians 3:10) because it requires perfect conformity to law (which requires perfect knowledge and performance – a tough task for weak human beings!)
The “not works” texts refer to legalism in the sense of attempting to be saved by law keeping. The Jews could not do it with their law and we cannot as we attempt to conform to God’s law today.
That’s why Ephesians 2:8-9 is truly good news! He is telling us our hope for salvation is not dependent on our knowing everything and doing everything perfectly but it is by God’s grace and our faith.
“My hope is built on….”, what? My perfect knowledge of the law of God and ability to conform to it? We should strive for better understanding and pursue holiness. To refuse to do so would show a lack of faith! But that is not our hope for salvation.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.”