Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Good Statements by the Church Fathers
on Sin and Grace


Clement of Rome (fl. c.90-100), I Clement, translated by J. B. Lightfoot:

[1] "Let us therefore approach Him in holiness of soul, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, with love towards our gentle and compassionate Father who made us an elect portion unto Himself" (29:1).

[2] "This declaration of blessedness was pronounced upon them that have been elected by God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen" (50:6).

[3] "For as God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit, who are the faith and the hope of the elect, so surely shall he, who with lowliness of mind and instant in gentleness hath without regretfulness performed the ordinances and commandments that are given by God, be enrolled and have a name among the number of them that are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is the glory unto Him for ever and ever. Amen" (58:2).

[4] "And we will ask, with instancy of prayer and supplication, that the Creator of the universe may guard intact unto the end the number that hath been numbered of His elect throughout the whole world, through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom He called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of His Name" (59:2).

Epistle of Barnabas (c.70–c.131): "We are elected to hope, committed by God unto faith, appointed to salvation."

Epistle of Barnabas (c.70–c.131):  "Learn: before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak."

Ignatius (d.98-117): "They that are carnal cannot do the things that are spiritual … Nor can the unbelievers do the things of belief."

Ignatius (d.98-117): "To the predestined ones before all ages, that is, before the world began, united and elect in a true passion, by the eternal will of the Father …"

Justin Martyr (c.100-165):

[1] "Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners … No good thing dwells in us … For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit … Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God … He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life … Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold … Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly."

[2] "In all these discourses I have brought all my proofs out of your own holy and prophetic writings, hoping that some of you may be found of the elect number which through the grace that comes from the Lord of Sabaoth, is left or reserved [i.e., set apart] for everlasting salvation."

Clement of Alexandria (c.155-c.220), Stromata:

[1] "He has dispensed His beneficence both to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect" (7:2).

[2] "And if sacred (το ἱερόν) has a twofold application, designating both God Himself and the structure raised to His honour, how shall we not with propriety call the Church holy, through knowledge, made for the honour of God, sacred (ἱερόν) to God, of great value, and not constructed by mechanical art, nor embellished by the hand of an impostor, but by the will of God fashioned into a temple? For it is not now the place, but the assemblage of the elect, that I call the Church" (7:5).

[3] "Wherefore also the apostle designates as the express image (χαρακτῆρα) of the glory of the Father [Heb. 1:3] the Son, who taught the truth respecting God, and expressed the fact that the Almighty is the one and only God and Father, whom no man knows but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him [Matt. 11:27]. That God is one is intimated by those who seek the face of the God of Jacob; whom being the only God, our Saviour and God characterizes as the Good Father. And the generation of those that seek Him is the elect race, devoted to inquiry after knowledge" (7:10).

Irenaeus (fl. c.175-c.195): "God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life … Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever."

Origen (c.185-c.254): "Our free will … or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner."

Cyprian (d.258): "This is therefore the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach."

Eusebius (c.265-c.339): "The liberty of our will in choosing things that are good is destroyed."

Ambrose (c.339-397): "In predestination the Church of God has always existed."

Augustine (354-430):

[1] "Here certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world because God foreknew that we would be good, not that He Himself would make us good. This is not the language of Him who said, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16)."

[2] "If, therefore, they are servants of sin (II Cor. 3:17), why do they boast of free will? … O, man! Learn from the precept what you ought to do; learn from correction, that it is your own fault you have not the power … Let human effort, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ … What God promises, we ourselves do not through free will of human nature, but He Himself does by grace within us … Men labour to find in our own will something that is our own, and not God’s; how can they find it, I know not."

These quotations are not designed to imply that all these men in the early church never make erroneous statements on this subject or that all their writings are always entirely consistent with themselves on this point.