For a Biblical breakdown on the doctrine of Grace please click HERE. This post is to answer the question as to whether or not the doctrine of Sola Gratia was taught in ancient Church history. For those who do not know, Sola Gratia means salvation only by God’s unmerited favor and not as a credit earned on our part in any fashion.
For my source on the below citations please click HERE. As I have said in prior posts, some assert that these reformation doctrines were new. The truth is that these “Solas” have always existed in the Church. See below for yourself on the matter of “Sola Gratia”.
“To be pleasing in the judgment of human beings derives from superior human virtue and achievement; in the sight of God, who examines hearts, to be righteous does not derive from human achievement, but from a divine gift.”– St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 89, par. 5
“Why then are you afraid of drawing nigh, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you, and why keep putting me the Law forward to no purpose whatsoever? For you will not be saved by that, and will mar this gift also; since if you pertinaciously insist on being saved by it, you do away with this grace of God.” – St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18 on Romans 10,11
“After speaking of the wages of sin, in the case of blessings, he has not kept to the same order: for he does not say, the wages of your good deeds, but the gift of God: to show, that it was not of themselves that they were freed, nor was it a due they received, neither yet a return, nor a recompense of labors, but by grace all these things came about. And so there was superiority for this cause also, in that He did not free them only, or change their condition for the better, but that He did it without any labor or trouble upon their part: and that He not only freed them, but also gave them more than before, and that through His Son.”- St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to the Romans, Homily 12, Rom 6:23)
I want to make the juxtaposition that St. John Chrysostom presents very clear. This is key to bring out the teaching of “alone” with regards to grace.
Notice when he speaks of things other than grace with regards to salvation he excludes them with words like the following:
“nor was it”
Then when he highlights Grace as efficacious for salvation he uses the words:
“but by grace”
The clear juxtaposition here may have just as easily been written by Paul or Luther. It sounds just like those two, and that is because Apostolic teachings like “Sola Gratia” go back to the very beginning. This is not a new doctrine.
“And if any were to cast in prison a person who owed ten mites, and not the man himself only, but wife and children and servants for his sake; and another were to come and not to pay down the ten mites only, but to give also ten thousand talents of gold, and to lead the prisoner into the kings courts, and to the throne of the highest power, and were to make him partaker of the highest honour and every kind of magnificence, the creditor would not be able to remember the ten mites; so hath our case been. For Christ hath paid down far more than we owe, yea as much more as the illimitable ocean is than a little drop.”- St. John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, Homily X, Rom 5:17
“Is it possible, Scripture says, for one to repent and be saved? It is absolutely and most certainly the case. What, though, if I have wasted my life in sins and then repent: will I be saved? Yes, indeed! What source indicates this? The philanthropy of your Master. Can I take courage from your repentance? Could it be that your repentance has the power to wipe clean so many evils? If it were only up to repentance, then assuredly be afraid. However, since repentance is mixed together with the philanthropy of God, take courage. For God’s philanthropy is immeasurable, nor can any word provide the measure of his goodness. Your wickedness is measurable, but the medicine is immeasurable. Your wickedness, whatever it may be, is human wickedness; but God’s philanthropy is ineffable. Have courage because it surpasses your wickedness. Just think of one spark that fell into the sea; could it stand or be seen? What one spark is in comparison to the sea, so wickedness is before the philanthropy of God; not even this much, but much more so. For the sea, even though it is vast, has limits; but God’s philanthropy is unlimited.”- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church FOTC: vol 96, p. 112,113
“Well done, 0 Christ, 0 Wisdom and Power and Word of God, and God almighty! What should we resourceless people give Thee in return for all things? For all things are Thine and Thou askest nothing of us but that we be saved. Even this Thou hast given us, and by Thy ineffable goodness Thou art grateful to those who accept it. Thanks be to Thee who hast given being and grace of well-being and who by Thy ineffable condescension hast brought back to this state those who fell from it!”- St. John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith, Book 4, Chapter 4
“And so the power is conquered in the name of him who assumed human nature and whose life was without sin, so that in him, who was both priest and sacrifice, remission of sins might be effected, that is, through the ‘mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’, through whom we are purified from our sins and reconciled to God. For it is only sins that separate men from God; and in this life purification from sins is not effected by our merit, but by the compassion of God, through his indulgence, not through our power; for even that poor little virtue which we call ours has itself been granted to us by his bounty.”- St. Augustine, City of God, X, Chapter 22
As I have qualified before, this doesn’t prove that other teachings do not exist in the writings of the Church fathers. It doesn’t prove they were even individually consistent with themselves. But it does prove that the basic tenets of Sola Gratia existed throughout Church history, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.