According to Paul, the saved cannot boast about their salvation. But why? Two very different answers have been proposed:
1. The saved cannot boast about their salvation because their salvation did not result from anything that they did.
2. The saved cannot boast about their salvation because their salvation resulted from their faith and not their works.
Those who hold to the first view claim the word “that” encompasses faith. Thus the fact that faith is a gift is the basis for the assertion that no one can boast, for if faith were not a gift, then men could boast in exercising it.
Those who hold to the second view claim the word “that” references salvation. The fact that salvation is a gift is the basis for the assertion that no one can boast, for if salvation were not a gift, then men could boast in earning it.
I think there is an easy way to discover the truth. Let’s simply look at Romans 3:27-4:5 and ask the same question: Why cannot the saved boast about their salvation?
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law....What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. – Romans 3:27-4:5Pretty simple, right? In this passage, there is none of the ambiguity that exists in Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul is obviously arguing that the saved cannot boast about their salvation because their salvation resulted from their faith and not their works.
When asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul did not reply, “Nothing.” He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). Note that Paul states explicitly in Romans 4:5 that faith is not a work. Thus in exercising faith, we do not contribute one bit to the work of our salvation. Those who say otherwise blur the distinction between faith and works.