Ephesians 2:8-9 King James Version (KJV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 New English Translation (NET Bible)
8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.
Importantly, the same Greek word “of” (KJV) / “from” (NET) is used in the expressions “not of yourselves” and “not of works”. This fact is obscured by most English translations.
Definitions for the two relevant Greek words:
1st keyword: through
Part of Speech: preposition
a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act
2nd keyword: of
Part of Speech: preposition
a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence action or motion proceeds), from, out (of place, time, or cause; literal or figurative
I.e. “through” denotes the channel, “of” / “from” denotes the origin / source. Picture a river flowing down from the top of a hill. Salvation is that river.
Ephesians 2:8-9 makes these main points:
1. You are saved through (your own) faith.
2. But your salvation does not have you as its source; it did not start from some “works” you did.
I.e. while the river of salvation flows through the channel of your faith, the source of the river is God (not you).
It is crucial to note that Eph 2:8-9 speaks against mistakenly thinking of human works as the origin / source of salvation. This does not imply that human works are not part of the channel of salvation.
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to distinguish source vs channel (no thanks to inaccurate English translations, and bad preachers). They mistakenly think that human effort has no effect on salvation. But there are tons of verses saying quite precisely that human effort is required (obedience and repentance).
Hebrews 5:9 Common English Bible (CEB)
9 After [Jesus] had been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for everyone who obeys him.
Galatians 6:7-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.
1 Corinthians 15:10 New English Translation (NET Bible)
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
Gal 6:7-9 makes it crystal clear that by our human effort we sow and reap our own salvation. Though as 1 Cor 15:10 above explains, all human effort is achieved by God’s grace. God is always the source, so that no one may boast, even though the human being saved is required by God to exercise both Faith and Works. Together they comprise the channel through which salvation flows (see James 2:14- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+2%3A14-&version=CEB;NIV;NET;NRSV;YLT ).
Hence God is perfectly honoured when I say that my own faith and my own works have saved me, as long as I acknowledge that the faith and works are by God’s grace.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 New International Version (NIV)
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
You may say to yourself, “My human faith and effort have produced this salvation for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the faith and effort to produce salvation, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Philippians 2:12-13 Common English Bible (CEB)
Carry out your salvation
12 Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.
P.S. A final illustration:
Psalm 96:6-9 Common English Bible (CEB)
Greatness and grandeur are in front of him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Give to the Lord, all families of the nations—
give to the Lord glory and power!
Give to the Lord the glory due his name!
Enter his courtyards!
Bow down to the Lord in his holy splendor!
Tremble before him, all the earth!
True: God looks good by having good-looking people give their own greatness to God by bowing down to God. God is glorified when the powerful obey Him.
[ False: God looks good by being worshipped by weaklings who say silly things like “I’m weak and cannot do anything, and God does all the work.” ]
Hence when God saves a person, he makes the person strong enough to save himself, and expects the person to do so, while acknowledging that God is the source (beginning) and purpose (end) of all things.
Romans 11:36 Common English Bible (CEB)
36 All things are from him and through him and for him.
May the glory be to him forever. Amen.
from: a primary preposition denoting origin
through: a primary preposition denoting the channel
for: A primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figuratively) purpose (result, etc.);
Revelation 22:1-5 Common English Bible (CEB)
22 Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb 2 through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always.
Revelation 22:12-14 Common English Bible (CEB)
12 “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. 13 I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. 14 Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.