The key to understanding any text, be it the Bible or any other document, is to consider the context. One thing that must be determined is how the original recipients would have understood a particular text.
Ephesians 2 represents a perfect case for this method of interpretation, especially verses 8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Tragically, many have failed to investigate the preaching done in Ephesus that created these disciples. In Acts 18 we find a brief summary of Paul’s first journey to Ephesus. At the end of the chapter we see Aquila and Priscilla correcting Apollos on his teaching about baptism. Paul returns to Ephesus at the beginning of chapter 19 and, finding some of Apollos’ former converts, teaches them about baptism in the name of Jesus. Baptism in the name of Jesus brought salvation to those receiving it (Mark 16:16) and made one a disciple of Jesus (Matt 28:19).
Now, it should be noted that nowhere in any gospel account does Jesus ever utter a single syllable about being saved by grace. Not one. Yet we do find Jesus speak of receiving salvation upon belief in the gospel and baptism (Mark 16:15-16). But this is not to say Jesus knew nothing of salvation by grace. It is to say that Jesus knew perfectly when a person would be saved by grace.
So, when we read Ephesians 2:8-9 in view of what Jesus said about the point of salvation, and when we read what Paul preached in Ephesus in Acts 19:1-6, how would the Ephesians understand Paul’s statement to them in Ephesians 2:8-9?
Without question, these brethren would have immediately associated Paul’s statement of salvation by grace with their own baptism for the remission of sins.
Jesus did not have to speak directly to the connection between grace and baptism because it was obvious to those who were baptized in obedience to the gospel that such could never merit the blessings associated therewith.
According to the inspired record, Peter did not mention grace in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2). Philip did not mention it in Samaria or to the Eunuch (Acts 8). Peter didn’t preach it to Cornelius (Acts 10) nor Paul to Lydia or the jailer (Acts 16). But all were saved by grace when they obeyed the gospel in baptism.