| || |The Berean Expositor Volume 44 - Page 48 of 247 Index | Zoom | |
There can be no doubt that the writer rested upon self-justification for his salvation,
and entry into the Kingdom of God was by his own efforts. "If we do righteousness
before God, we shall enter the Kingdom" (11:7). One cannot help wondering how it was
possible for anyone to read seriously the epistles of Paul and hold such ideas, which only
goes to show that it is one thing to read the words, but quite another to grasp the truth
lying behind them. These Fathers unwittingly turned the Gospel into another law. It was
Judaism and paganism in Christian dress. It seems impossible for them to realize that
God could justify and save a sinner apart from his works. They never learned the true
N.T. position of good works as flowing from salvation, rather than being the procuring
cause of it. They became thoroughly moralistic, drawing up codes and rules, and
represented salvation and the Christian life as doing one's best to carry these out to the
utmost. They never grasped the supreme truth that Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone that believeth (Rom. 10: 4).
Constantine and the Middle Ages.
pp. 205 - 210
In summing up the teaching of the Apostolic Fathers, what do we find? One is
surprised and even shocked to discover that none of them had a clear conception of
the gospel of grace, Divinely delivered to the Apostle Paul and ministered by him.
Rom. 11: 6 never really gripped them:
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But
if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
They never realized that grace and works, grace and human merit, can never be
blended as far as the gospel is concerned. Theirs was a legalism with a Christian veneer;
a salvation by personal righteousness with grace thrown in, as it were, as an added power
to help them keep the law. Repentance was not regarded in the N.T. sense as the work of
the Holy Spirit, but rather as an eternal principle of self-amendment before God, which
they regarded as an adequate means for securing God's forgiveness and mercy. This
does not reflect upon their characters of course, for they were brave men, willing to suffer
and to die for what they held to be truth, and they conducted a splendid fight against the
evil inherent in paganism around them. It was not that they opposed the N.T. gospel of
grace, but simply that they did not properly understand it and its implications. It seem
impossible for them to grasp that a God of grace could save a sinner, just as he is, by faith
in Christ's redemptive work alone, apart from works. For them, salvation was a life-long
struggle with sin and failure, with the result that they were driven into legalism and
Not only this, but their Christology was defective. The Person of Christ was largely
pushed into the background, and His place was taken by God in the role of Law-giver,
Judge and Creator. For them Christ's unique Mediatorial position was not grasped.