We mentioned that if there was any sort of "patristic consensus," the Fathers agreed on the core evangelical doctrines of sola Scriptura and sola fide. Tuesday we looked at sola Scriptura, and today we look to their testimony regarding sola fide: the doctrine that we are justified by faith alone, and receive absolutely no merit for our works as regards our justification.
And remember, the Fathers' writings do not establish sola fide, or any other doctrine. We don't look to them as our authority, but -- as even they themselves have counseled us -- to Scripture alone. Nevertheless, their writings do indeed affirm sola fide, and there is a great deal of encouragement that we can receive from that.
Clement of Rome (c. 30-100): “And we [Christians], too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Epistle to the Corinthians).
Polycarp (c. 69–160): “I know that through grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God, through Jesus Christ” (The Epistle of Philippians).
Justin Martyr (d. 165) in his Dialogue with Trypho: “No longer by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of a heifer . . . are sins purged, but by faith, through the blood of Christ and his death, who died on this very account.”
Athanasius (c. 296–373): “For naturally, since the Logos of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled by death all that was required.” (On the Incarnation of the Logos, 6-7, 9.)
Didymus the Blind (c. 313-398): “. . . a person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.” (From his Commentary on James, 2:26b.)
Ambrose (c. 339-97): “Therefore let no one boast of his works, because no one can be justified by his works; but he who is just receives it as a gift, because he is justified by the washing of regeneration. It is faith, therefore, which delivers us by the blood of Christ, because blessed is he whose sins are forgiven, and to whom pardon is granted.” (Cited in Finch, A Sketch of the Romish Controversy, 220.)
Jerome (347-420) on Romans 10:3: “God justifies by faith alone.” (Deus ex sola fide justificat). (In Epistolam Ad Romanos, Caput X, v. 3, PL 30:692D.)
Jerome (347-420): “He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever.” (Cited in Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, 61.)
Chrysostom (349-407): For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent. (Homily on Ephesians 4.2.9.)
Augustine (354-430): If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? . . . Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (
Augustine (354-430): “When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.” (Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31.)
Ambrosiaster (4th century), on Rom. 3:24: “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”
Ambrosiaster (4th century), on Rom. 3:27: “Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith.”
Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (c. 467-532) commenting on Eph. 2:8: “The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity. (On the Incarnation, 1.)
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 -
By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight;
... But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.
... For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
- Romans 3:20, 21, 28 -
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is credited as righteousness.
... For this reason it is by faith,
in order that it may be in accordance with grace.
- Romans 4:4-5, 16 -
...knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law
but through faith in Christ Jesus,
even we have believed in Christ Jesus,
so that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by the works of the Law;
since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
- Galatians 2:16 -