Early Church Fathers and Justification by Faith Alone?

Stand to Reason’s blog has some great quotes from early church fathers on justification here. I like these quotes enough to post all of them.

For by grace you have been saved through faith," in this way: "All we bring to grace is our faith. But even in this faith, divine grace itself has become our enabler. For [Paul] adds, 'And this is not of yourselves but it is a gift from God; not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).' It is not of our own accord that we have believed, but we have come to belief after having been called; and even when we had come to believe, He did not require of us purity of life, but approving mere faith, God bestowed on us forgiveness of sins. - Theoloret of Cyrrhus, in his fourth-century commentary on the Epistles of Paul, speaking of Ephesians 2:8

So that you may not be elated by the magnitude of these benefits, see how Paul puts you in your place. For 'by grace you have been saved,' he says 'through faith.' Then, so as to do no injury to free will, he allots a role to us, then takes it away again, saying 'and this not of ourselves'...Even faith, he says, is not from us. For if the Lord had not come, if he had not called us, how should we have been able to believe? 'For how,' [Paul] says, 'shall they believe if they have not heard?' (Rom. 10:14). So even the act of faith is not self-initiated. It is, he says, 'the gift of God (Eph. 2:8c)." - Chrysostom, end of the fourth century, Hom. on Ephesians 2:8

Here's one from Modern Reformation quoted here:

If an example is required, I think it must suffice to mention the thief on the cross, who asked Christ to save him and was told, 'Truly, this day you will be with me in paradise' (Luke 23:43)...A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God" - Origen, commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, referencing Romans 3:28, as quoted in Thomas C. Oden, "Patristic Texts, on Justification," Modern Reformation (September/October 2007).

I would be especially interested in Lutheran and Reformed opinions on what these quotes mean. Are they teaching justification by faith alone?

1 comment:

L P Cruz said...

Bro. JK,

Here is some more from the Fathers...


Yes the fathers did teach justification by grace through faith alone.

They were also fighting other aspects like anti-nomianism so the teaching was not as pointed as it has become when the Reformers came along.

I believe if they were interviewed on the issue as it is defined today, they would say yes - we are justified through faith alone.


Search This Blog