Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Church Fathers on Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast.--Ephesians 2:8-9 RSVThe Fathers of the Church overwhelmingly teach that Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that works do not save from sin, but it is faith that saves, faith is not strictly from us, but from God (therefore an unmerited gift); that salvation by faith is a gift of God; that we are not saved by our freewill (though we do have a freewill and it must comply with the divine will), but by the Will of God. This does not deny the Church's teaching on justification by works, since Ephesians 2 is about being saved, justification by works only occurs AFTER salvation has taken place, so therefore works are irrelevant to Ephesians 2:8-9 which is why they are only mentioned in verse 10. Nor was it ever seen as denying baptism saves, since it was taught by the fathers, and was never seen as a "work" that we do, but also from God.St John Chrysostom (4th century Greek Patriarch of Constantinople):
Ver. 8. "For by grace," says he "have you been saved." 

In order then that the greatness of the benefits bestowed may not raise you too high, observe how he brings you down: "by grace you have been saved," says he, 
"Through faith;" 
Then, that, on the other hand, our free-will be not impaired, he adds also our part in the work, and yet again cancels it, and adds, 
"And that not of ourselves." 
Neither is faith, he means, "of ourselves." Because had He not come, had He not called us, how had we been able to believe? For "how," says he, "shall they believe, unless they hear?" Romans 10:14 So that the work of faith itself is not our own. 
"It is the gift," said he, "of God," it is "not of works." 
Was faith then, you will say, enough to save us? No; but God, says he, has required this, lest He should save us, barren and without work at all. His expression is, that faith saves, but it is because God so wills, that faith saves. Since, how, tell me, does faith save, without works? This itself is the gift of God. 
Ver. 9. "That no man should glory." 
That he may excite in us proper feeling touching this gift of grace. "What then?" says a man, "Hath He Himself hindered our being justified by works?" By no means. But no one, he says, is justified by works, in order that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be shown. He did not reject us as having works, but as abandoned of works He has saved us by grace; so that no man henceforth may have whereof to boast. And then, lest when you hear that the whole work is accomplished not of works but by faith, you should become idle, observe how he continues....--St John Chysostom, Homily 4 on Ephesians
We see that St John Chrysostom says we do no merit salvation by our deeds, or by our will. Not that those to have no role, but they are not what saves us, God's grace does, He wills that we be saved by faith. St John comments on 1 Corinthians 1:1,
"Called to be Saints." For even this, to be saved by faith, is not says he, of yourselves; for you did not first draw near, but were called; so that not even this small matter is yours altogether. However, though you had drawn near, accountable as you are for innumerable wickednesses, not even so would the grace be yours, but God's. Hence also, writing to the Ephesians, he said, [Ephesians 2:8] "By grace have you been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves;" not even the faith is yours altogether; for you were not first with your belief, but obeyed a call. --St John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on 1 Corinthians
 Pope Leo the Great (5th century Pope of Rome):
And when they pretend to disapprove of and give up all their definitions to facilitate evasion through their complete art of deception, unless their meaning is detected, they make exception of the dogma that the grace of God is given according to the merits of the recipient. And yet surely, unless it is given freely, it is not a gift , but a price and compensation for merits: for the blessed Apostle says, "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves but it is the gift of God; not of works lest any should perchance be exalted. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them [Ephesians 2:8-10] ." Thus every bestowal of good works is of God's preparing: because a man is justified by grace rather than by his own excellence: for grace is to every one the source of righteousness, the source of good and the fountain of merit. But these heretics say it is anticipated by men's natural goodness for this reason, that that nature which (in their view) is before grace conspicuous for good desires of its own, may not seem marred by any stain of original sin, and that what the Truth says may be falsified: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. "--Pope Leo the Great, Letter 1, to the Bishop of Aquileia
St Leo says Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches "grace" is the "source of righteousness."St Polycarp (2nd century Greek bishop of Smyrna in Asian minor):
I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days Philippians 1:5 long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] "whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave." "In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;" 1 Peter 1:8 into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that "by grace you are saved, not of works," [Ephesians 2:8-9] but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.--St Polycarp, Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, Chapter 1
 St Augustine of Hippo (4th/5th century Latin bishop of Hippo in North Africa):
His last clause runs thus: "I have kept the faith." But he who says this is the same who declares in another passage, "I have obtained mercy that I might be faithful." [1 Corinthians 7:25] He does not say, "I obtained mercy because I was faithful," but "in order that I might be faithful," thus showing that even faith itself cannot be had without God's mercy, and that it is the gift of God. This he very expressly teaches us when he says, "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." [Ephesians 2:8] They might possibly say, "We received grace because we believed;" as if they would attribute the faith to themselves, and the grace to God. Therefore, the apostle having said, "You are saved through faith," added, And that not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God. And again, lest they should say they deserved so great a gift by their works, he immediately added, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." [Ephesians 2:9] Not that he denied good works, or emptied them of their value, when he says that God renders to every man according to his works; [Romans 2:6] but because works proceed from faith, and not faith from works. Therefore it is from Him that we have works of righteousness, from whom comes also faith itself, concerning which it is written, "The just shall live by faith." [Habakkuk 2:4]--St Augustine, On Grace and Freewill, Chapter 17, AD 426/427 
Council of Orange II (AD 529, local council of bishop in what is modern day southern France):
Canon 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers. 
Conclusion. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. We therefore believe that the glorious faith which was given to Abel the righteous, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the Apostle Paul commends in extolling them (Heb. 11), was not given through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, but was bestowed by the grace of God. And we know and also believe that even after the coming of our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). And again, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). And as the Apostle says of himself, "I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "because I was faithful," but "to be faithful." And again, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7). And again, "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can be quoted to prove the case for grace, but they have been omitted for the sake of brevity, because further examples will not really be of use where few are deemed sufficient. --Council of Orange II, AD 529 

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