Those who advocate faith is a gift of God consider faith a form of works. In other words, a means of earning God’s favor. No person can by any means do that.
Faith is the abandonment of any personal attempt to perform any work to earn God’s favor. It is simply a willingness to accept the work done by Christ on the cross as the only sufficient means of salvation. Faith accepts what has already been accomplished for us by Christ.
Faith merely holds out its hand and allows God to put in it what He has provided. Faith does nothing more than receive the gift. The merit is in the giving, not the receiving.
Even John Calvin readily acknowledged this. He wrote, “His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”
(John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 227-229).
In Ephesians 2:8 it is salvation that is the gift of God, not faith.
The key to unraveling this passage is the word “that,” as “and that not of yourselves.” It is a neuter demonstrative pronoun. At issue is does it refer to grace, faith , salvation or something else.
“That,” the pronoun, is neuter, but “grace” and “faith” are feminine nouns. Pronouns should agree with their antecedents in gender and number. That grammatical principle means “that” does not refer back to “grace” or “faith.”
Rather than “that” referring to a particular word it relates instead to a concept. That concept is found in Ephesians 2: 4-8a, especially verse 8a. The concept is salvation by grace through faith. It is salvation, not faith, that is the gift of God.