Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith ..."

The word "saved" is a perfect verb, passive, participle, plural, nominative, and masculine. The question is regarding faith. Was this faith a one time action at salvation, or a continuous action that began at salvation and continued to the present?

  • You probably also want to check out this question.
    – Dan
    Jul 19, 2013 at 19:15

5 Answers 5


This is more of a theological question since the text itself doesn't really make this explicit. The English translation you've given is a good rendering of this passage into English. The text is clear that "you have [already] been saved," as it is perfect (completed action), but whether faith was a one-time event or ongoing necessity is not immediately clear from this verse. However, it doesn't seem to be our concern based on the remainder of this passage:

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In other words, whether this is based on past faith or a continuation of it, it seems to be a gift from God that is not a result of our own effort.

In the Greek, "faith" is essentially just the noun form of the verb translated into English as "to believe." Thus it is not as abstract as we sometimes make it. The verb could also be translated to illustrate this as "faithing," but this is invalid English. The other issue is that Greek authors frequently consider "belief" to be synonymous with "obedience," which are concepts we tend to separate in our minds. However, at least from my study of Greek, I don't believe the aspect (aktionsart) of the verb πιστεύω is consistently telic or atelic throughout scripture, but I believe focusing on who performs/accomplishes/possesses soteriological faith can shed the most light on this, in addition to looking at aspect (keeping in mind that we must study both the verb and the noun forms within their respective contexts).

Soteriological faith is not solely an issue of aspect, but also whose faith it is

If you were interested in this, you would need to look at how the word πίστις (faith) is used elsewhere in scripture and to whom soteriological faith is ascribed. There is a contemporary scholarly controversy about this very question known as the πίστις Χρίστου (pistis Christou) debate. To briefly summarize the debate, there is conflict over how the phrase πίστις Χρίστου should be translated in scripture, specifically whether Χρίστου is objective or subjective genitive. Consider Galatians 2:16; in the objective genitive it reads (ESV):

...we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ....

But in the subjective genitive this same passage reads (NET):

...we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ....

The NET translators explain this in their notes on the verse:

A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pisti" Cristou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in v. 20; Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

This is a big difference: is Christ the object or subject of faith, and what does this mean for our understanding of salvation (soteriology)? I recommend this book or any of the myriad of academic papers written on the topic for a more in depth understanding. This along with a thorough study of the aspect of the verb πιστεύω in its various contexts would help you answer this question. Unfortunately, this is more the topic of academic papers and published books than Stack Exchange answers, as to do this justice would require exhaustive study - and no doubt good books and papers are being written on both sides of the fence. I know this doesn't answer the question, per se, but I hope I have given you a sufficient introduction to the depth of the problem and where you can find resources to learn more.


The problem with Eph. 2:8 is that while it uses a perfect participle, it is preceded by a present verb "you are" which controls it. Other similar constructions occur in the New Testament that are translated as simple present tense: "there is nothing concealed" in Matthew 10:26 and "even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing" in 2 Cor. 4:3. The perfect participle is dependent on the present verb and not the other way around. In Eph. 2:8, the phrase is probably best translated "you are saved" or "you are being saved." To have "you have been saved" is translating it as a perfect verb, which it is not. Unfortunately, the text is not crystal clear about when one is saved.

  • Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. We are glad you are here! Please take a moment to take the site tour. While we value everyone's participation, we do have certain guidelines for participants.. If you are able to reference any commentaries that support this answer, please edit your to "show your work" when you have a moment. Mar 24, 2017 at 3:09

Ephesians 2 states that we are saved by grace through faith.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8

Jesus Christ's sacrifice was the complete and final sacrifice for all sin. We are no longer under the law, but now live in the age of grace. Romans 3 expounds upon this, explaining that it is the "faith of Jesus Christ" that has made our salvation possible and available for all who claim it during this age of grace.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; Romans 3:21-25

Biblically, grace is understood as "God's unmerited divine favor." Unmerited means we didn't do anything to deserve or earn it, and favor is kindness beyond what is due or usual. This age of grace will conclude at the second coming of Christ when we (all who have claimed their salvation during the age of grace) will meet Jesus Christ in the air.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Thessalonians 4:16-17


In addition it may help to understand this and related texts when we keep in mind that gr. pisteuein literally means trusting. So pisteôs can be rendered as having trusted. Trust as faith is therefore not something one could attain for himself, but is instilled by the trustworthy, God.


Being a perfect and a participle in grammar, the said faith in Ephesians 2:8 is a faith that was exercized by a believer in some point in the past that has its effect up to the present, that is, the faith is done and is still efficacious. This points to the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" or specifically, eternal security or the preservation of the saints.

This monergistic soteriology found in Ephesians 2:8-9 is in sync with Romans 1:17 ( From faith to faith) and Hebrews 12:2( Jesus the author and finisher of our faith).

  • 2
    Good analysis of tense, poor unsupported doctrinal conclusion from it.
    – user1985
    Jul 23, 2013 at 15:15
  • Welcome to BH.SE! Do keep in mind that while time is involved with a participle, it is relative/dependent. Time with participles depends on the time of the main verb, which in this case is ἐστε ("you are"). The participle is not directly connected to the time, therefore we cannot be quick to draw these kinds of conclusions from the text from a perfect participle. Had σῴζω been the main verb and not a participle, then some of these conclusions would certainly be warranted (but perhaps not as far as you've taken them, at least not from this text alone).
    – Dan
    Jul 23, 2013 at 15:31
  • ἐστε is present indicative, thus the emphasis is on the present reality of being saved, which is a state that you have come to be in, through faith. Also, a perfect verb does not necessarily carry future implications, this is a misnomer. It certainly carries present implications from the perspective of the speaker/writer, but does not necessarily carry future implications. Check out p. 497 of Wallace's grammar or any other modern Greek grammar text for more on this.
    – Dan
    Jul 23, 2013 at 15:38

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