Brother Kevin recently posted a discussion among today's Hardshells that occurred on Facebook regarding Ephesians 2:8. In that discussion there were two points that were focused upon: 1) Is the salvation of the passage eternal or time salvation? 2) What is the faith of the passage? It seems that all agreed that the salvation was eternal salvation. So, the major discussion concerned identifying what the apostle meant by "through faith."
Historically, the old Baptists who put out the London Confessions (1644 and 1689), the Particular and Regular Baptists of the 17th through the 19th century, those who are the forefathers of today's "Primitive Baptists," all taught that the "faith" of the passage was that faith or belief that was produced by the preaching of the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17) The views held to by today's Hardshells are not the historic view of their forefathers, but is new and novel. I challenge any Hardshell today to prove me wrong on this. The fact that none will do so will show that I am right. Further, not only the London Baptists of the 17th and 18th centuries, but the Hardshells of the 19th century, also taught that the "faith" of Eph. 2:8 was that faith in Christ and the gospel that comes by hearing the word preached, per Romans 10. All one has to do is read the old periodicals of the 19th century by the forefathers of the Hardshells to see this. Will any care to do so?
So, what are the two aberrant views being advocated today by the Hardshells?
The older of the two novel views says that the "faith" or belief of the passage is that which is produced apart from gospel preaching or hearing the word of God. This "faith" is supposed to be given in regeneration, even to those regenerated in the womb or who remain heathen in faith. This faith is often equated with a simple faith in a god or gods, such as heathen possess (see Elder Sarrels on this in his "Systematic Theology"), or to a religious mind, and is often called a "seed faith," denoting a faith that is internal, hidden, and dormant. It is contrasted with what is called a "gospel" or "doctrinal" faith.
This view of faith was invented at the end of the nineteenth century at the same time that the "means" doctrine was discarded and "time salvation" was invented. It was the view of my father and most of the elders of the twentieth century. Of course, I have completely refuted this novel idea of what is "faith." There is no scripture that so defines faith as this. Modern Hardshells who retain this view often define this kind of "faith" as "ability." So, when they say God gives faith in regeneration, they mean God gives ability to have faith.
The newer apologetic defense now being offered, and one that is supplanting all previous views on the matter, is one that says that the "faith" that is instrumental in eternal salvation is the faith that God supposedly has in Christ and his work. This I have also refuted, particularly in that series on "The Faith of God," particularly the first couple chapters. (see here, and here)
What both these novel views attempt to do is to find a way of getting around those verses which clearly make faith to be necessary for being eternally saved. This is clearly an example of how cultists and heretics "resist the truth" (II Tim. 3:8), "wrest" or twist "the scriptures" (II Peter 3:16), "corrupt the word of God" (II Cor. 2:17), and "handle the word of God deceitfully" (II Cor. 4:2).
What was wrong with the view of your forefathers? I would ask my Hardshell brethren. Why did they not have any reluctance in seeing gospel faith as what was under consideration in Eph. 2:8 and other similar passages? Was it not because they did not reject gospel means as you do? Why do you think yourself wiser than they? Is it humility on your part to think that you know more than they? Are you not being arrogant and boastful in your special knowledge? Also, if they held this view, and it is a heresy, does that not invalidate your churches and baptisms, seeing you came from them? Did they not organize your churches and baptize you?
What I want to point out regarding this verse is the fact that there is in most Greek texts the definite article "the" before "faith" so that it is "through the faith." Notice what People's Commentary (see here) says on this point (emphasis mine).
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith. Lest they might forget the doctrine that he ever preached, he reminds them that works of the law never saved them; that they were saved by God's grace shown in the gospel; that this salvation was obtained through the faith. The definite article is found before faith in the Greek, showing that "the" faith, or the gospel, is meant. [It is] the gift of God. The salvation is not due to ourselves, but is God's gift. The grammatical construction of the Greek does not allow us to make "faith" the subject of the last clause. It is not "faith", but salvation through the faith, which is the gift of God.
Does Ephesians 2:8 say “through faith” or “through the faith”? Some Greek manuscripts have the definite article τῆς (the feminine singular genitive form of the word ‘the’), while some don’t. The majority of the manuscripts do include τῆς in Ephesians 2:8. It is included in the Byzantine Majority Text. For Ephesians 2:8, the Majority Text (or Textus Recepus upon which the KJV is based) reads:
“τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ τῆς πίστεως, καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον.”
This is a hard nut for those Hardshells who, unlike their forefathers, believe that the KJV is without errors in translation! The definite article is present in the Greek but the KJV translators chose not to put it into their translation! Since the text reads "by grace are you saved through the faith," what are we to understand by it?
Many times in the NT "the faith" is often a term for "the creed" of Christians, or a term used interchangeably with "the gospel" or "the word." Here are two examples:
1) "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3)
2) "shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."(I Tim. 4:1)
If this is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2:8, then he is affirming gospel means! He is saying that you are saved by grace through the gospel. Is that not what he says in several other places in the NT? (See for instance I Cor. 4: 15 and Gal. 3:8) The commentary cited above believes that this is the meaning of the apostle and this could very well be the case. The same phrase in Greek – “through the faith” (διὰ τῆς πίστεως) – is found in Colossians 2:12 and in Galatians 3:26.
However, the definite article "the" could be what is called "Anaphoric Article," which is defined as follows (emphasis mine):
An article may be used to indicate that the noun or substantive behind it was referred to in some previous text, or was at least implied in what was written or spoken previously. It is similar to a demonstrative (e.g., "that man, the one I just mentioned"). In Greek, the first mention of a noun or substantive, or its synonym, is traditionally anarthrous (i.e., it has no article in front of it). Then any subsequent references to the same entity — whether through the use of the same noun or a synonym — will normally be articular (with an article in front of it), indicating an anaphoric reference. In this way, it signals the reader to identify any previously mentioned information with the current articular noun or substantive. (SEE HERE)
If this is how Paul is using the definite article, then where is the faith he speaks of previously mentioned by him? It can only be these verses:
"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints...And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power..." (Eph. 1:15, 19)
Notice that the "faith" previously mentioned by the apostle is not God the Father's supposed "faith in the Lord Jesus," which it would have to be if the Hardshells are correct in arguing that "the faith" of Eph. 2:8 is such. Rather, he is clear in saying that "the faith" is "your faith in the Lord Jesus" and is related to "us who believe," not to God who believes!
Ephesians 2: 8 says that God eternally saves his people "through the faith," and whether "the faith" is the evangelical faith of his people, or "the faith" that is the gospel, both interpretations are true and overthrow hardshellism!