Are We Saved By Faith Alone?
Most Evangelical Christians believe that the notion that our own works affect our salvation is a Roman Catholic interpolation which is unbiblical and not the doctrine of the early church. But the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers clearly demonstrate that it was a universally held belief that our works and obedience play a very major role in our salvation. This challenges a long held viewpoint which evangelicals have inherited from the Reformers. Let us look and see what the Ante-Nicene Fathers had to say exactly. Clement of Rome, a companion of the Apostle Paul and Bishop of the congregation at Rome, wrote," It is necessary, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of good works. For He forewarns us, 'Behold, the Lord comes and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work." Justin Martyr wrote,"And so we have received this teaching, that if men by their works show themselves worthy of His design, they are deemed worthy of reigning in company with Him, being delivered from corruption and suffering." And further, Clement of Alexandria writes," Whoever obtains the truth and distinguishes himself in good works shall gain the prize of everlasting life." We can see just from the few quotes here that this was not something which the early church took lightly. Those who wish to play down our role, via good works, in our salvation should heed Clement of Alexandria when he writes,"...but attatching slight importance to the works that lead to salvation, they fail to make necessary preparation for attaining the objects of their hope." This statement could easily apply to the majority of the evangelical world today. It is obvious that the Reformers, though well meaning they were, went so far to distinguish themselves from the empty works which the Roman Catholic Church was well known for at that time, that they threw the proverbial" baby out with the bath water". These quotes are not the only one's available on this subject. Origen stated," The soul...will be rewarded according to what it deserves, being destined to obtain either an inheritance of eternal life and blessedness, if it's actions shall have procured this for it..." Hippolytus, another Bishop of the early church writes,"The Gentiles, by faith in Christ, prepare for themselves eternal life through good works." He writes further that," Jesus, in administering the righteous judgement of the Father to all, assigns to each what is righteous according to his works..." Now, I know what some of my readers are saying. 'Then you are saying we earn our salvation!' But, this is far from the truth. We, as the Ante-Nicene Fathers, emphasize and affirm the fact that faith is essential for salvation. Without the grace of Alimighty Yahweh, given in love, no person can be saved. Clement of Rome also wrote," We are not justified by ourselves. Nor by our own wisdom, understanding, godliness, or works done in holiness of heart. But by that faith which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning." Polycarp writes," Many desire to enter into this joy, knowing that 'by grace you are saved, not of works', but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. (Eph.2:8) We accept the clear witness of Sacred Scripture and the Ante-Nicene Fathers, that a gift is no less a gift just because it it conditioned on obedience. Salvation is a gift of God which He bestowes upon those who love, obey and serve Him. This obedience we speak of is not solely in and of our own power, but is dependent on our own efforts and the gift of God's power. And it is the same with our salvation. Salvation is offered to us as a matter of grace. We do not have to be righteous before hand in order to receive it. Nor do we have to atone for the sins of the past,nor earn the New Birth. Christ is our only atonement! But our works and efforts do play a part in our salvation! We must repent, believe, and obey. But, as stated earlier, our obedience is dependent on our efforts AND the power of God, which He imparts to us as a matter of grace. So, it is clear to see that our salvation begins and ends with grace. And we are able to say with the Apostle Paul,that, we are saved by grace, not by works. But at the same time we are able to understand and apply the words of James when he states that we are saved by works, and not by faith alone. Our works are the outter manifestation of our inner faith, our New Birth and our salvation in Christ Our Lord.
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