Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Bible scholars and commentators have been arguing for centuries over whether "that" which is "not of yourselves" refers to faith specifically or to the entire phrase concerning being saved by grace through faith. The trouble with this particular argument is that many other Greek scholars think it refers to faith. As with other such arguments, the solution cannot be found by some geeky Greek gobbledygook. For instance, the Greek word for Spirit is neuter. However, in some places (such as John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), masculine pronouns are used with this neuter noun; while in other places (such as Romans 8:16, 26), neuter pronouns are used. Evidently, God is not as stuck on this grammatical rule as the scholars are.
The passage has a level of no specificity to it both in the Greek and in the English. That is, the gift of God that is not of ourselves could be salvation by grace through faith or the faith itself. Both the preceding word ("faith") and the entire preceding phrase ("by grace are ye saved through faith") could be the antecedent of "that" and stay within proper grammar. One solution is to say that it refers to both. Certainly, the offer of salvation by grace is a "free gift" (Romans 5:15, 16, 18; 6:23). I would certainly not fault anyone for looking at this verse as teaching that our salvation is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God. Nothing could be truer than that. Just for your information, I will mention that even John Calvin taught that the gift referred to salvation in this passage.
However, because of my understanding of another scriptural doctrine, I do not fear the concept that the faith by which we are saved is the gift of God. I do not believe this in the Calvinistic sense of irresistible grace or in the sense that the faith to believe is placed only in those chosen to believe. No, I use it in the sense of the faith of Jesus Christ that completes our faulty but freely given faith. There are several scriptures that teach this, but a key to what I am saying is in Galatians.
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Though we are justified by the faith of Christ, we still must believe in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ. Our faith (not the faith of God) initiates salvation, but the faith of Christ (that is, His faith superimposed on our faith) completes our eternal salvation. In this way, salvation is both according to our free will (by our initiated faith) and it is absolute perfect and certain (being completed by the faith of Christ). Compare these verses as well:
Romans 3:22 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:
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
In each of these passages, the assurance of salvation comes from the faith of Christ. Notice also that in Romans 3:22, this faith comes on all them that believe. We believe to the best of our ability. Then, the faith of Christ completes and secures our eternal salvation. This should be a great blessing.
As you can then see, I have no problem with the faith of salvation being the gift of God, for it is the faith of Jesus Christ by which my salvation is secured. However, I also admit that Ephesians 2:8 can also be referring to the entire preceding phrase. This is a grammatically acceptable solution. That would mean that the gift of salvation by grace through faith would be the gift of God. That is also true and it agrees with the teaching of other Bible verses. Personally, I believe that the gift refers to the entire phrase and to all of its individual parts. Salvation is the gift of God. The grace by which salvation comes is the gift of God. Even the faith of Jesus Christ by which our salvation is completed is the gift of God. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.