Ek, Dia, En, and Kata

The Reformed Faith maintains that the grace of God is the cause of man’s salvation (WCF 9:4, 10:2), that faith is its alone instrument (WCF 11:2), and that works are the fruit and evidences of a true and lively faith (WCF 16:2).
With this in mind, it is important to note that there is a different meaning applied to the “by” of “salvation by grace” and the “by” of “salvation by faith.” It is somewhat unfortunate that the same preposition is used in both cases when in the former it is in reference to the cause and in the latter it is in reference to the instrument. To more clearly indicate the distinction I often like to say that salvation is “by grace through faith.” These, in fact, are the prepositions used in the English translations of Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith.”
But what of the original Greek prepositions? What can be learned from an analysis of the Greek?
I looked up all of the places in the Pauline Epistles in the King James Version relevant to the topic of salvation that have been translated either “by grace,” “through grace,” “according to grace,” “by faith,” “through faith,” “according to faith,” “by works,” “through works,” or “according to works.” (I intentionally have avoided the Epistle of James as its use of these terms is substantially different from Paul)

VerseGreek PrepositionTranslation
Romans 1:17ek

(The just shall live) by faith.

Romans 2:6kata(He will render to each one) according to his works
Romans 3:20ekby the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified
Romans 3:22

dia

(the righteousness of God which is) by faith

Romans 3:24

dia

(being justified) freely by His grace

Romans 3:25

dia

(to be a propitiation) through faith

Romans 3:28

[no preposition]

(one is justified) by faith apart from works of the law.

Romans 3:30

ek

(shall justify the circumcision) by faith.

Romans 3:30

dia

(and the uncircumcision) through faith.

Romans 4:2

ek

(For if Abraham were justified) by works …

Romans 4:16

ek

(Therefore it is) of faith

Romans 4:16

kata

(that it might be) by grace.

Romans 5:1

ek

(being justified) by faith

Romans 5:15

en

(and the gift) by grace

Romans 9:32

ek

(because they sought it not) by faith

Romans 9:32

ek

(but as it were) by the works of the law

Romans 11:6

ek

(it is no more) of works

1 Cor. 10:30

[no preposition]

(for if I) by grace am a partaker

Galatians 3:11

en

(no man is justified) by the law

Galatians 3:11

ek

(The just shall live) by faith

Galatians 3:24

ek

(that we might be justified) by faith

Ephesians 2:5

[no preposition]

by grace ye are saved

Ephesians 2:8

[no preposition]

(for) by grace ye are saved

Ephesians 2:8

dia

through faith

2 Thess. 2:16

en

(giving us consolation) through grace

Hebrews 10:38

ek

(Now the just shall live) by faith.

Titus 3:5

ek

(not) by works of righteousness which we have done

All of this can be summarized in the following table:

Grace

Faith

Works / Deeds of the Law

Ek (by / out of)

Yes

Yes

No

Dia (through)

Yes

Yes

En (in)

Yes

No

Kata (according to)

Yes

Yes

There are positive statements that salvation is ek/dia/en/kata grace and ek/dia faith. Then there are statements that salvation is not ek/en works.
What then does Paul mean when he says that God will render to each kata works, according to works? With the numerous statements that salvation is not ek/en works, kata works cannot mean that works contribute to salvation.
When preaching on Romans 2:5-11, I was not entirely satisfied with the explanations of “He will render to each according to works” in the commentaries (Calvin, Hendricksen, Lenski, Murray, Bruce) I read. Most commentaries seem to avoid the question entirely and focus on the overall meaning of the passage that God shows no partiality.
Nevertheless, my conclusion was that “rendering according to works” means not that works are the ground of salvation, nor even an instrument, but that as the fruit of our justification the works match up with—or accord with—the salvation we have in Christ. That is, God sees the good works of Christians and God sees the evil works of non-Christians. And that while our works are not the basis of our salvation, those who are saved do good works.
Unless, do some theologians want to say that we are saved by God’s grace, but that we get other rewards in heaven based on our works? This doesn’t seem applicable in the context of Romans 2 since it is about “the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.”
I admit to not knowing the answer. And perhaps some things wrong I’ve said in this post could be pointed out to me by more learned theologians. Maybe here I’m banking on one of the rules of the internet: if you want an answer don’t ask a question, provide a wrong answer and then many answers will be forthcoming.

2 thoughts on “Ek, Dia, En, and Kata”

  1. Doug,
    Gill says on Rom. 2:6 “God will be the judge, who is righteous, holy, just, and true; every man in particular will be judged; as the judgement will be general to all, it will be special to every one, and will proceed according to their works; for God will render to wicked men according to the demerit of their sins, the just recompense of reward, eternal damnation; and to good men eternal life, not according to merit of their good works, which have none in them, but according to the nature of them; such who believe in Christ, and perform good works from a principle of grace, shall receive the reward of inheritance, which is a reward of grace, and not of debt.”
    As to your question on rewards, I appreciate your honesty in admitting not to know. I think many of us are in the same boat. Since this is a place for thoughts, the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) may indicate that their are rewards as some are given five talents and some two. the parable of the laborers in Matt. 20:1-16, however, seems to indicate all receive the same equally. Matthew 10:41 seems to indicate a difference in a prophet’s reward and a righteous person’s reward. Revelation 21 seems to indicate there will at least be monuments even if no rewards.

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