Church Fathers on Sola Fide

sola_fide

 

The claim of some is that you don’t find the teaching of Justification Sola Fide (Faith Alone) in the Church until the reformation.  As before, it is not just Roman Catholics that assert this.  So to put this accusation to rest I have assembled a sample of Patristic quotes below from the same source used in my prior post.

If you want a Biblical breakdown on Justification by Faith Alone then click HERE.  Below though are Patristic quotes demonstrating an early witness to this doctrine.  Each quote is ordered by birth date, all emphasis is mine.  Discern for yourself if this teaching existed prior to the reformation.

 

“Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen.”- St. Clement of Rome (? – ~101 AD) (Letter to the Corinthians,  par. 32)

 

The above quote is my favorite.  This is the oldest non-biblical witness to Sola Fide.  St. Clement knew the apostles personally, and is even mentioned in scripture (Php 4:3).  The only better written witness to apostolic teaching than this on the topic is the New Testament itself.

 

“Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.”- St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

“While I was sick in the flesh, the Savior was sent to me in the likeness of sinful flesh, fulfilling such a dispensation, to redeem me from slavery, from corruption,  and from death. And He became to me righteousness, and sanctification, and salvation. Righteousness, by setting me free from sin through faith in Him. Sanctification, in having set me free through water and the Spirit and His word. And salvation, His blood being the ransom of the true Lamb, having given Himself on my behalf.”- St. Epiphanios (310 -403 AD) (Against Heresies 3.1,2 PG 42-477)

Confess Jesus Christ, and believe that He is risen from the dead, and you will be saved. For indeed righteousness is only to be believed; but a complete salvation must also be confessed and knowledge must be added to confidence.”- St. Gregory Nazianzus (329 – 390 AD) (On Moderation, PG 36.204)

“Indeed, this is the perfect and complete glorification of God, when one does not exult in his own righteousness, but recognizing oneself as lacking true righteousness to be justified by faith alone in Christ.”- St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) (Homily on Humility, PG 31.532; TFoTC vol. 9, p. 479)

“But we all escape the condemnation for our sins referred to above, if we believe in the grace of God through His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ‘This is my blood of the new testament,  which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.”- St. Basil the Great (330 – 379 AD) (Concerning Baptism, TfoTC vol. 9, p. 344)

“To this end has His Grace and Goodness been formed upon us in Christ Jesus, that being dead according to works, redeemed through faith and saved by grace, we might receive the gift of this great deliverance.” Ambrose (337-397 AD), Letter 76 to Irenaeus, a layman

“But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting  against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle’s meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded  by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore ·witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.”  Ambrose (337-397 AD), Letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman

“Let us see, however, whether the brigand gave evidence of effort and upright deeds and a good yield. Far from his being able to claim even this, he made his way into paradise before the apostles with a mere word, on the basis of faith alone, the intention  being for you to learn that it was not so much a case of his sound values prevailing as the Lord’s lovingkindness being completely responsible.  What, in fact, did the brigand say? What did he do? Did he fast? Did he weep? Did he tear his garments?  Did he display repentance in good time? Not at all: on the cross itself after his utterance  he won salvation. Note the rapidity: from cross to heaven, from condemnation  to salvation. What were those wonderful words, then? What great power did they have that they brought him such marvelous good things? “Remember me in your kingdom.” What sort of word is that? He asked to receive good things, he showed no concern for them in action; but the one who knew his heart paid attention not to the words but to the attitude of mind.” —John  Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD), Sermon 7 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 123-24 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.

“They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily on Galatians 3)

“But he calls it their ‘own righteousness,’ either because the Law was no longer of force, or because it was one of trouble and toil. But this he calls God’s righteousness, that from faith, because it comes entirely from the grace from above, and because men are justified in this case, not by labors, but by the gift of God.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily 17 on Romans 10:3)

“Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing  works, but looking for faith only.” Homily 7 on Romans- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD)

For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD)(Epistle to Titus, Homily 3, PG 62.651)

“But what is the ‘law of faith?’ It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.” St. John Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD)Homilies on Romans 3

“We need none of those legal observances, he says; faith suffices to obtain  for us the Spirit, and by Him righteousness, and many and great benefits.”- Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD), Homilies on Galatians 4

“And he well said, “a righteousness of mine own,” not that which I gained  by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then  he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that  it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other?  That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.” Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD) Homily on Philippians 3

 

“God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state  your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown  mercy.”- St. John  Chrysostom, (347 – 407 AD)Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

 

“Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment,  he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor’s favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift.

This is what happened  in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. “All have sinned,” says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins.

All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King’s loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.” Chrysostom on Justification, (347 – 407 AD) Discourses Against Judaizing Christians. Discourse 1:6-II:l:

 

 

“What is meant by mercy? and what by sacrifice? By mercy then is signified, Justification and grace in Christ, even that which is by faith. For we have been justified, not by the works of the law that we have done, but by His great mercy. And sacrifice means the law of Moses.” – St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD), Commentary on Luke, Homily 23

“Be not troubled when thou meditatest  upon the greatness of thy former sins; but rather know, that still greater is the grace that justifieth the sinner and absolveth the wicked. Faith then in Christ is found to be the pledge to us of these great blessings; for it is the way that leadeth unto life, that bids us go to the mansions that are above, that raises us to the inheritance of the saints, that makes us members of the kingdom of Christ.” — St. Cyril of Alexandria (378 – 444 AD) , Homily 40 on St. Luke.

Gain for yourself the pardon coming from faith, since he is his own worst enemy who does not believe that he is given what the very generous Bestower of mercy promises in all kindness.” St. Peter Chrysologus (406 – 450 AD)- Sermon  58 (On the Creed), par. 13 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 224)

“Give yourself, 0 man, pardon by believing, since you fell into all the sins by despairing.” St. Peter Chrysologus (406 – 450 AD)- Sermon  62 (On the Creed), par. 16 (TFOTC, Vol. 109, p. 245)

 

The point is this, Sola Fide can be demonstrated very easily in the writings of the early Church.  The truth of the Reformation is not a truth added to Christianity but the very Gospel itself restored.  Don’t let anyone tell you that Sola Fide is a new doctrine.

 

 

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About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
This entry was posted in Armchair Lounge, Heresy & Heterodoxy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Church Fathers on Sola Fide

  1. Dear brother in the Lord, I was happy to find your blog and to learn you are a member of a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod fellowship. My husband’s daughter and her own husband are Wisconsin Synod Lutherans. As a former Roman Catholic, I have opportunities to talk about various issues with Catholics and this post clearly addresses one of them – “Where were the Solas before the Reformation?” Thank you!
    I’m sure you know that for many Catholics we Protestant heretics are all called Lutherans, so we share your “bad name.” Glad to share it,
    Maria

    Liked by 1 person

    • ACTheologian says:

      Very true! Essentially they anathematized the gospel for political and social reasons. That’s my analysis anyways.

      Recently Rome has made some progress is neutering Trent canon IX with prevenient grace. So their teachings are getting closer to Orthodox Methodists.

      Interesting development, we will see how that pans out eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right, we’ll see! I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know about Canon IX – have read the Canons of Trent selectively. Thank you for mentioning it! I was a young teen during Vatican II and all the many changes are astonishing. But Rome changes, yes, for “political and social reasons.” Psalms 46 helps me – helps all of us!

        Liked by 1 person

      • ACTheologian says:

        Ah I don’t blame you, it’s a short and simple read.

        I have a blog post on it here with my own analysis…

        https://actheologian.com/2016/05/13/council-of-trent-canon-ix/

        You will probably notice the same things as I. What I found out after writing this is that in a recent work out out by the Vatican they walked canon IX back and have reinterpreted it in such a fashion that permits Sola Fide.

        I will probably blog on it later after I have read some more critical analysis to make sure I’m not missing something. But basically some are saying that prevenient grace is what makes one “prepared and disposed” to recieve Justification.

        I don’t agree with that at all. I’m not an advocate of prevenient grace. I think it’s a convenient trick for side stepping original sin. But…. I wouldn’t anathematize someone that does believe in prevenient grace. It’s one of those non-essentials.

        Liked by 1 person

      • wigglyhashashin7777 says:

        So then why did the orthodox church reject the idea of Sola Fide?

        Like

      • ACTheologian says:

        I never claimed the church father’s were consistent or even always correct. They we’re human beings like you and me.

        Like

  2. Brother, you need to check your link to your prior post in paragraph 1. Somebody is angry with you, angry enough to destroy your testimony.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Go read! Armchair Theologian | Pilgrim’s Progress revisited - Christiana on the narrow way

  4. Pingback: Answering The Catholic Thinker on Faith Alone (Sola Fide) and works | Pilgrim’s Progress revisited - Christiana on the narrow way

  5. wigglyhashashin7777 says:

    This is an unfortunate case of people ripping things out of context.

    Like

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