Friday, August 5, 2011

Patristic Witnesses to the Reformed Doctrine of Imputation and Justification

1. 1 Clement, chap. XLIX: “For the love which he had unto us, he gave his blood for us, according to his purpose, and his flesh for our flesh, and his life for our lives.” Note that we have a testimony taken from the very prime of undoubted antiquity, where we are told: 1. The cause of Christ’s death, viz., His love to us. 2. Its object — us, or believers. 3. The manner how he redeemed us: by substitution.

2. Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter IX: “He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

3. Gregory of Nyssa, Oration 2 on Canticles: “He has transferred unto Himself the filth of my sins, and communicated unto me His purity, and made me partaker of His beauty.”

4. Augustine, Enchiridion, 41: “He, then being made sin, just as we are made righteousness (our righteousness being not our own, but God’s, not in ourselves, but in Him); He being made sin, not His own, but ours, not in Himself, but in us …”

5 Chrysostom, Homily XI on 2 Cor. On verse 21: “What words, what thought shall be adequate to realize these things? ‘For the righteous,’ saith he, ‘He made a sinner; that He might make the sinners righteous.’ Yea rather, he said not even so, but what was greater far; for the word he employed is not the habit, but the quality itself. For he said not ‘made’ [Him] a sinner, but ’sin;’ not, ‘Him that had not sinned’ only, but ‘that had not even known sin; that we’ also ‘might become,’ he did not say ‘righteous,’ but, ‘righteousness,’ and, ‘the righteousness of God.’ For this is [the righteousness] ‘of God’ when we are justified not by works, (in which case it were necessary that not a spot even should be found,) but by grace, in which case all sin is done away. And this at the same time that it suffers us not to be lifted up, (seeing the whole is the free gift of God,) teaches us also the greatness of that which is given. For that which was before was a righteousness of the Law and of works, but this is ‘the righteousness of God.’”

6. Bernard, Epistle 190: “It was man who owed the debt, it was man who paid it. For if one, says S. Paul, died for all, then were all dead (2 Cor. v. 14), so that, as One bore the sins of all, the satisfaction of One is imputed to all. It is not that one forfeited, another satisfied; the Head and body is one, viz., Christ.”

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