Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category




 
 

Matt 19:16-22  

A man, apparently wealthy, addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher”, asks Him what good deed he could do to obtain eternal life. He had everything he could buy, but eternal life was beyond his buying power.   

  Jesus asks the man why he is asking Him about what is “Good” that One is Good- God by implication and then names off the commandments pertaining to man’s relationship with man including the second greatest commandment, which is “to love your neighbor as you love yourself”. At this point the rich man claims to have done all of these. Now Jesus tells him that if he would be perfect he must sell all that he has, give the money to the poor and “Come follow Me!”  

   Sadly the rich man was unable to see how worthless his many possesions and wealth were compared to the eternal offering of Christ. The rich man walked away sorrowful!   

   It turns out he really could not afford eternal life.  

   

Can you?  

  

 


 The thing is “Xystus”.

What is it?

Do not look it up -that would be “Revelation” 
Ask 1 or 2 others if they know it-if not discuss it with them and try to concieve it’s “beingness.” 

Contemplate and meditate on “IT”, describe “IT”, 

Tell me about “IT.” 

The Incomprehensibility of the Unknown 
 

  • 1. Experienced in some manner directly through the 5 senses; or 
  • 2. Indirectly, by “IT’s” effects on him. Having directly sensed some phenomena or indirectly percieved it by it’s effect on him or his environment, man will hypothesize or draw conclusions based on his observations and experience and through experimentation will develop his understanding of a “thing” or phenomena. 

    However; 

    Without some exterior stimuli man has no basis to imagine from, no reason to investigate and no foundation to develop a thesis from. 

    A color never seen is inconcievable and incomprehensible to us since our idea of color is always based on that which we have percieved by our senses, in this case our sense of sight. 

    Can a blind man know or describe “Red?” “Red” has no feel or smell or sound. “Red” is always known by sight. What does the term “Blood Red” mean to a blind man? Even after telling a blind man what “Red” is and what it looks like (What does red look like?) he can not imagine it accurately because it has not been “revealed” to him. 

    Partial “Revelation”

      

     

    In the same way, the ancient civilizations indirectly percieved the “almightiness” of “God” by the effects of the forces beyond their control on their world, effects percieved by them as both beneficial and harmful i.e. earthquake or rain. Still they could not comprehend “God” as He is. (Eternally; Just, Merciful, Generous, Kind, Moral, Good, etc) though they may have had remnants of the oral traditions of their fathers passed down from the day’s of Noah changed over time since the multiplicity of languages had occured. 
    The gods of the pagan cultures shared in unlimited measure all the worst attributes of men, (unjust, capricious, immoral, greedy, viscious, petty, vengeful, vain, etc) 

    Until God once again revealed Himself to men there was no concept of His “perfection” or His “holiness”. 

    Initially as far as we know, He limited His revelation to the line of Seth until Noah. Through Noah and his sons the “knowledge of the Lord” was known to the “nations” until the nations rejected righteousness with the result that over time all accurate memory of the Creator faded into legendary mists. Then God chose Abraham and revealed Himself to Abraham who believed God who then promised to “bless all the peoples of the earth” through Abraham’s seed, ie Jesus Christ. 

    Until that advent, the person of and nature of God, (and then only partially) was revealed only to Abraham’s descendents through successive revelations-the law giver Moses, who was initially rejected by the Hebrew captives in Egypt, and the prophets. 

    The Greatness of God

    Anselm of Canterbury theorized that ” God is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived & therefore no one who understands what God is, can conceive that God does not exist.” 
    To develop that theorem further we can say that not only is God greater than that which can be concieved and greater than all that exists (the enormensity of which is to us factually inconcievable), we can also say that God is greater than that which does not exist since the reason that that which “does not exist” DOES NOT EXIST because God wills it to not exist. From this premise it then becomes even more clear a priori that God, being greater even than That which does not exist, is too great or transcendent to be comprehended by mankind’s limited experience, knowledge or imagination until and unless God reveals Himself. 

    As demonstrated above man is incapable of comprehending or imagining that which doesn’t exist within his frame of reference and which is completely outside of his experience since that which is foreign to his experience has no basis of being percieved within his finiteness. 

    God on the other hand, being outside of all existence, created all that did not exist . When He spoke, that which had never existed became the first of it’s kind. We cannot even fully comprehend the immensity of the material universe, whereas God not only created ex nihilo the non-existant but maintains that which He created by the force of His will through inviolable decree. 

    God and the Empericist

      

     

    The Empericist who stubbornly denies God is not interested in being convinced. In his rebellion he will insist on what only God can provide, reason will not suffice. While he cannot provide proof of evolution he will demand that God show Himself. The Cosmologist Carl Sagan and atheist theologians of the Jesus Seminar are examples of these and all I can say is that we are not required to convert every hard headed moron who refuses to engage with logic and sincerity in the search for truth. “He who hates instruction hates life.” 
    All rational men should love science, it is God’s laboratory. From this side of Eternity science is the discovery of the material universe, From the Eternal side of Time science is the tool of God in the specification and design of the material universe. 

    Quantum sub-atomic unpredictability

      

      

    The quantum theorists have found that predictability based on observation and measurement goes out the window at the sub-atomic level of the universe. To observe is to affect, to measure is to change and to predict is to be embarrassed. Nevertheless we know rationally that there must be a method to the madness or else the atomic level of matter would be so unstable the universe would dissolve into chaos. 
    God has designed the universe to operate according to His design which we call “laws”, i.e. the “law” of gravity, the “laws” of motion etc, and these laws on the atomic level being consistent and predictable are underpinned by the quantum level of sub-atomic existence in spite of “it’s” unpredictability. 

    Therefore it is not only possible, it is probable that the inexpressible number of unpredictable sub-atomic events which have occured in the past 6000 years could have and would have produced unexpected superventions of our predictable physical laws, i.e. what to us would be “super”-natural or miraculous events. 

    This reveals the fallacy of Rationalistic reasoning on “supernatural” events and means that even if the Rationalist refuses to aknowledge God, he must still acknowledge the possibility of “supernatural” events. 

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

 


 

There is an amusing misquote of this verse that goes like this;

And Jesus said unto them, “And whom do you say that I am?” They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.” …And Jesus replied “What???” anon

 While that little blurb is amusing it is also serious. First it demonstrates the real corruption that has crept into Christianity in the guise of empty philosophy and radical liberal influences over the past 200 years. Secondly, confusing who Christ is has led the modern Church into a materialism that has brought about a certain physical comfortableness that has brought us to the point of apathy in our primary mandate from the Lord. We’ve become so insulated from anything that is painful or uncomfortable that we can no longer wage spiritual warfare or bring relief to others in distress.

We might write a relatively insignificant check to others to fight the good fight for us but we will not get involved ourselves or spend too much on what we perceive to be welfare Christianity.

Jesus asked “Who do YOU say I am?”

Peter’s answer was “You are the Christ! The Son of the living God.” In other words “You are the Anointed Messiah! The Son of God.”
All Christians confess this but strangely many act as though Christ is the Saviour but their jobs and their line of credit is their source of supply for material needs.
If we believe that Christ is the anointed Son of the living God then we should know that it is He and He alone who gives us power to get wealth and if we are not using that wealth to further His Kingdom on this earth then we are denying our confession. Did you get that? If you deny your Christian confession you are denying Him.
When Jesus said that He stands at the door and knocks, He meant that if we open that door and He enters, then He possesses us. If we are His possession then all we have is His.

If Christ dwells in us then His love dwells in us. How did He manifest His love?

1.He gave His life for His friends
2.He went about doing good.
3.Healing all who believed of their sickness
4.Bringing deliverance to the afflicted and possessed and,
5.Preaching the glad tidings of the appearance of the Kingdom of God.

Paul said we should examine ourselves to see whether we are actually in the faith. Here is where we start that examination. How are we living up to Christ example of love and compassion? Is our Confession real? Does how we spend our time and our money substantiate that?


Faith in action is where God brings about His will, and because all acts of God bring God glory and gladness to those who love God the Acts of God will usually be present in the lives of His Servants. Those who serve others in Christ’s Name are the Servants of Christ.

Some think that to be God’s servant is to be esteemed among men-well groomed and well dressed-honored-sought after—-but really-most likely we will find the Servants of God in obscurity with the poor and the lost and the outcast, serving them in the Name of God for the sake of His Eternally beloved Son.

Joe Robinson


  

“THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS” 

Christ’s Qualifications As High Priest (5:1-10) 

Mark Copeland 

INTRODUCTION 

1. A recurring theme in this epistle is that of Jesus as our High  

Priest; He has been described as: 

a. A “merciful and faithful High Priest” – He 2:17 

b. The “High Priest of our confession” – He 3:1 

c. A “great High Priest who has passed through the heavens” – He 4: 

14 

d. A High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” – He 4:15 

2. This is in keeping with the overall purpose of the epistle… 

a. Which is to show the superiority of Jesus and His new covenant 

b. We have considered Jesus’ superiority to… 

1) Prophets – He 1:1-3 

2) Angels – He 1:4-2:18 

3) Moses – He 3:1-6 

…it is only natural that a comparison to Aaron and his  

priesthood be made 

3. The actual comparison with Aaron will follow later, but first there 

is a need to… 

a. Review the qualities required in high priests 

b. Establish that Jesus does indeed qualify as a High Priest 

— Which is what we find in the text for our study today – He 5:1-10 

[For non-Jewish readers who may be unfamiliar with the role of high  

priests, this section of Scripture can be enlightening and increase our 

appreciation of Jesus as our High Priest. 

We begin by noticing…]  

I. THE QUALITIES REQUIRED IN HIGH PRIESTS (1-4) 

A. DIVINE APPOINTMENT (1,4) 

1. The work of the high priest involves “things pertaining to  

God” – cf. He 2:17 

2. He must “offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” – cf. He  

8:3 

— Thus only God can rightfully select a high priest, even as God 

called Aaron – e.g., Exo 28,29; Lev 8,9; Num 16-18 

B. HUMAN SYMPATHY (1-3) 

1. A high priest is selected “from among men” 

2. This helps to ensure a spirit of “compassion”… 

a. Toward “those who are ignorant and going astray” 

1) Note that the high priest was to make a distinction  

between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption  

(rebellion) – Num 15:22-31 

2) Sacrifices were to be offered in behalf of the former,  

but not the latter 

b. For “he himself is often beset by weakness” 

1) A high priest who knew his own weakness would be more  

likely to be understanding of his brethren 

2) It also explains why the high priest in the OT offered  

sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of 

the people – cf. Lev 16:11 

— Thus a high priest would need to be well acquainted with the  

“human condition” (i.e., the struggle against temptation) 

[The parallel between high priests in the OT and Jesus as our High  

Priest does not hold true in every minute detail (e.g., He 7:26-27).  

But certainly in the most fundamental ways Jesus has the qualities to  

be our High Priest, as we now consider…] 

II. CHRIST’S QUALIFICATIONS AS HIGH PRIEST (5-8) 

A. DIVINELY APPOINTED (5,6) 

1. Christ was Divinely called to serve as High Priest, just as  

Aaron was 

2. As evidence of His calling, two Messianic prophecies are  

offered… 

a. His position as God’s Son – cf. Ps 2:7 

b. His appointment as a priest after the order of Melchizedek  

– cf. Ps 110:4 

— As God’s Son, sitting and ruling at the right hand of God 

(cf. Ps 110:1-3), His calling as a priest is only natural 

B. SYMPATHETIC BECAUSE OF HIS OWN SUFFERINGS (7,8) 

1. While “in the days of His flesh”, Christ… 

a. “offered prayers and supplications with vehement cries and 

tears” 

b. He prayed “to Him who was able to save Him from death” 

c. He was heard “because of His godly fear” 

2. That Jesus would have “godly fear” and offer such prayers  

provides insight into the extent of His temptations and  

sufferings in the flesh – cf. also He 2:18; 4:15 

3. Even though He was God’s Son, by the things which He suffered 

“He learned obedience” – what does this mean? 

a. Certainly He knew obedience as the Son of God 

b. Perhaps it means He came to know what obedience involved as 

one “in the flesh” (i.e., the challenge of obedience in the 

midst of suffering, temptations, etc.) 

— Through His suffering, Jesus certainly understands the “human  

condition” which qualifies Him to serve as High Priest 

[Qualified by virtue of His calling and His compassion to be a High  

Priest, what kind of High Priest is Jesus? The next two verses  

introduce two themes that will be developed much further later on…] 

III. CHRIST’S CALLING AS OUR HIGH PRIEST (9,10) 

A. “THE AUTHOR OF ETERNAL SALVATION” (9) 

1. “Perfected” by virtue of His sufferings “in the flesh”, He has 

become the “author” of eternal salvation 

a. The word “author” comes from aitio, meaning literally,  

“cause” 

b. Later, we will see how Christ is the “cause” of our  

salvation – cf. He 7:24-27 

2. But for now, note that He is the cause of salvation for “all  

those who obey Him” 

a. Is obedience necessary for salvation? Consider these  

verses: 

1) Jesus will bring vengeance on those who have not obeyed 

the gospel – 2 Th 1:7-9; cf. 1 Pe 4:17-18 

2) Paul sought to bring about the “obedience to the faith” 

among all the nations – Ro 1:5; 16:25-26 

a) But not all had obeyed the gospel – Ro 10:16 

b) Yet he was grateful for those who had – Ro 6:17,18 

3) Those who have obeyed the truth have purified their  

souls – 1 Pe 1:22 

b. If obedience is necessary for salvation, are we then saved 

by works? 

1) Not if by “works” you mean “meritorious works” (works by 

which we EARN salvation) 

2) But if you mean by “works” the “works of God” (works by 

which we RECEIVE God’s unmerited gift of salvation)  

which God has ordained, then yes! 

a) E.g., believing in Christ is a “work of God” – Jn 6: 

28-29 

b) Since repentance and baptism are likewise enjoined by 

God, they too would be “works of God” that we must  

obey in order to receive salvation – e.g., Ac 2:38; 

10:48 

— Thus salvation “by grace through faith” does not preclude  

the necessity of obedience to Christ and His gospel! 

B. “ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK” (10) 

1. Here we begin to learn the distinct nature of Christ’s  

priesthood 

2. As prophesied in Psa 110:4, the Messiah would be “a priest 

forever according to the order of Melchizedek” 

3. Thus His priesthood would be different from the Aaronic or  

Levitical priesthood 

a. Different, but would it be superior? 

b. Would the difference be enough to persuade them not to  

forsake Christ? 

— The difference between the two priesthoods and the  

superiority of Christ’s over Aaron’s is taken up later in 

this epistle (cf. He 7:1-28) 

CONCLUSION 

1. The spiritual immaturity of the Hebrew readers will necessitate a  

temporary digression (cf. He 5:11-6:20) 

2. But for the moment, the author has established “Christ’s  

Qualifications As High Priest”… 

a. He was Divinely appointed 

b. He is sympathetic because of His own sufferings 

3. This makes Jesus suitable as the “author of eternal salvation” 

a. But don’t forget that He is the author of salvation “to all who 

obey Him” 

b. Have you rendered obedience to the gospel of Christ? – cf. Mk 16: 

15-16; Ac 2:36-39 

  

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2004 


 
Joe Robinson

 
 
 
The Conditional “If” in Scripture
 
The parts of speech used to express the conditions of something in Koine Greek are primary particles which either stand alone or in conjunction with other particles of speech to denote the conditionality and type of conditionality of the subject. There are several which I am addressing in this article.  
 
ei is a primary particle of conditionality which is determined by whether it stands alone or in a composite form with other particles such as de and ge.  ei is usually translated in English as “if”

Listed below are definitions of the various composite forms;
 
1.) ei  A primary particle of conditionality.

2.)  ge is a primary particle denoting emphasis or qualification

3.) de  A primary particle denoting a condition of continuation

4.) ean  A primary particle denoting uncertainty (Whoever) ean usually stands alone.

The composite forms of usage are as follows:

1.)  When ei is used alone it is unmodified and stands alone as the condition of the statement.

2.)  When ei is used with ge (eige) since ge is a primary particle of qualification and emphasis then it is a condition with emphasis (!) and  means if indeed!,  unless or seeing that…
 
3.) When ei is used with de (eide) The condition is modified to mean But if  or Now if.
For example 1 Cor.15:12; “But if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead …”

4.) For example of ean see E  in next section.
 
Throughout the New Testament writings there are conditions put on our salvation. Jesus said “If you continue in my word (teachings) you are my disciples.”
 
Examples of “If” in Paul’s writing
 
A.) 1 Cor. 15:2   “…by which you are Being saved “IF” (ei) you hold fast…”
The conditional “if” here is not modified and so stands as a condition of the statement. in other words it means what it says.
 
B.) 2 Cor. 13:5   “Examine yourselves “if” (ei) you are in the faith”
 
C.) Col 1:23 eige  ” …to present you holy and blameless and above all reproach if indeed (eige) you continue in the faith…”
 
D.)  Romans 8:13a    ” If (ei) you live according to the flesh you will die but if (eide) by God’s Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh you will live.” The unmodified ei is definite but modified with de in the second clause of the statement. So the first clause is definite unless the second clause is done. It cannot be translated more clearly than it is. 

E.) Romans 11:22  ean  “Behold therefore the kindness and goodness of God…..kindness to you if (ean) you continue in His goodness.  Since ean denotes uncertainty the meaning in this case is that whoever continues in God’s goodness will continue to experience God’s kindness…otherwise you too will be cut off.”
 

To further clarify;

The “conditional if” in this article should be interpreted in light of the teachings of Christ. “You shall know them by their fruit…no good tree brings forth evil fruit…ect.”

Also, until the day we see Him, at which point we become “like” Him all believers will have their moments of failure in their Christian walk. We are all at some stage of sanctification and none have been perfected. It is a process and sometimes the process is messy! Still, there is a clear and obvious distinction between evil fruit and good fruit even when the good fruit is less than perfect.

Other verses indicating both qualification and disqualification 
 
1.Rom 1:18-31
2.1 Cor 6:9-11
3.Gal 5:19-21
4.Eph 5:3-9
5.2 Tim 3:1-9
 
 
Signs of those who will inherit the Kingdom of God
 
1.Matt 24:13  
John 8:31    
Rom 2: 5-11
Rom 8:13
Col 1:23
1 Tim 4:1
2: Tim 3:8
Titus 1:16


  

Ambrose on Justification:
A Study in the Catholicity of Lutheran Theology
  

DAVID JAY WEBBER  

The Lutherans of the sixteenth century consistently maintained that their cultus and confession were truly catholic: “…nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic”;1 “…No novelty has been introduced which did not exist in the church from ancient times…”;2 “…our churches dissent from the church catholic in no article of faith but only omit some few abuses which are new and have been adopted by the fault of the times…”3 According to the Lutherans it was Rome, and not Wittenberg, that had departed from the authentic catholic faith of the apostles and Fathers of the Church.  

One of the most significant assertions of the Lutheran reformers was that sinners are justified before God by grace through faith alone, and not by human works or merits of any kind. In regard to the Lutheran doctrine of justification, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession makes the following statement:  

We know that what we have said agrees with the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, with the holy Fathers Ambrose, Augustine, and many others, and with the whole church of Christ, which certainly confesses that Christ is the propitiator and the justifier.4  

Was this claim valid? Was the Lutheran doctrine of justification truly catholic, or was it (as the Pope and his followers claimed) a sectarian innovation? Since the Lutherans appealed explicitly to the ancient Father St. Ambrose (among others) as one who taught what they were teaching, it will be helpful to examine Ambrose?s writings on justification to determine if the Lutherans really understood his position and if his teaching did in fact confirm theirs.  

St. Ambrose (c.338-397), Bishop of Milan, has always been remembered as a courageous churchman, an able teacher, and a faithful shepherd. Christendom has also counted him as one of the eight “Doctors of the Church,” and an examination of his writings readily confirms the appropriateness of this honor.  
  

Ambrose?s theology is first and foremost a Christ-centered theology. According to Ambrose, “where Christ is, there are all things, there is his teaching, there forgiveness of sins, there grace, there the separation of the dead and the living.”5 Ambrose accordingly focuses on the saving work of Christ as the only hope for sinners: “He gave himself to be offered for our sins, that by his blood he might cleanse the world, whose sin could not be abolished in any other way.”6 ”The Lord?s death is my redemption, for we are redeemed by his precious blood.”7 Ambrose?s doctrine of the atonement actually includes two facets. The significance of Christ?s suffering and death as an expiatory sacrifice to God is explained in the following words:  

Jesus took on himself even death, that the sentence of condemnation might be carried out, that he might satisfy the judgment that sinful flesh should be cursed even unto death. Nothing therefore was done contrary to the sentence of God, since the condition of God?s sentence was fulfilled.8  

The significance of Christ?s suffering and death as a ransom to the devil is explained thus:  

If we were redeemed not with perishable things ? with silver and gold ? but with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, surely the one who sold us had a right to our service in the coin of a now sinful race. And, undoubtedly, to release from slavery those whom he held bound he demanded a price. The price of our freedom was the blood of our Lord Jesus, and it had to be paid necessarily to the one to whom we had been sold by our sins.9  

As might be expected, the grace of God has a central place in Ambrose?s theology. He asks,  

What can we do worthy of heavenly rewards? By what labours, by what sufferings, can we wash away our sins? Not according to our merits, but according to the mercy of God, the heavenly decrees concerning men are issued.10  

According to Ambrose, “the grace of the Lord is given not as a reward which has been earned, but simply according to the will of the giver.”11 Ambrose also writes: “Let no one arrogate aught to himself, let no one boast of his merits or his power, but let us all hope to find mercy through the Lord Jesus.”12 It is indeed God?s gracious call that alone sets the sinner free, and Ambrose therefore prays to his Lord:  

Call forth thy servant. Although I am bound with the chains of my sins, being now buried in dead thoughts and works, yet at thy call I shall go forth free and be found one of those sitting at thy feast.13  

And how, exactly, is God?s gracious salvation actually received by each individual Christian? According to Ambrose, “God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest any should glory in his deeds and should thereby incur sin.”14 The evangelical character of Ambrose?s theology is also evident in what he writes in regard to John 3:36:  

Let us consider another similar passage: “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” That which abideth has certainly had a commencement, and that from some offense, viz., that first he not believe. When, then, anyone believes, the wrath of God departs and life comes. To believe, then, in Christ is to gain life, for “he that believeth in him is not judged” [John 3:18].15  

The following comparison that Ambrose makes between the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48) and the Christian clearly demonstrates that he understands “faith” to be much more than a mere mental acceptance of certain doctrines and facts:  

The woman was immediately healed, because she drew to him in faith. And do you with faith touch but the hem of his garment. The torrential flow of worldly passions will be dried up by the warmth of the saving Word, if you but draw near to him with faith, if with like devotion you grasp at least the hem of his garment. O faith richer than all treasures! A faith stronger than all the powers of the body, more health-giving than all the physicians!16  

In examining Ambrose?s use of the terms “justification” and “justified,” it becomes clear that he connects justification with forgiveness. Ambrose states that “he is justified from sin to whom all sins are remitted through baptism.”17 According to Ambrose, good works cannot be a cause of forgiveness and justification because in our sinful condition we are simply incapable of producing works that are truly good. He writes that “we are not justified by works but by faith, because the infirmity of our flesh is an impediment to works; but the brightness of faith overshadows the error of works and merits forgiveness of our faults.”18 Again, “Not of works, but of faith, each is justified by the Lord.”19  

Sanctification and good works naturally follow justification and are necessary as the fruits of a true justifying faith. However, Ambrose makes it clear that these fruits must not be relied on as in any way earning God?s favor:  

I will glory not because I am righteous but because I am redeemed; I will glory not because I am free from sins but because my sins are forgiven me. I will glory not because I have done good nor because someone has done good to me but because Christ is my advocate with the Father and because the blood of Christ has been shed for me.20  

The Pauline emphasis on justification as the imputation of Christ?s righteousness to the sinner is reflected in the following statement by Ambrose:  

In Adam I fell, in Adam I was cast out of Paradise, in Adam I died. How shall God call me back, except he find me in the Second Adam ? justified in Christ, even as in the first Adam I was made subject to guilt and destined to death?21  

Ambrose?s most thorough treatment of the doctrine of justification is found in a letter to a layman named Irenaeus,22 which is quoted at length in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession.23 This letter, in which Ambrose also outlines the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, deserves to be quoted at length here as well:  

Sin abounded by the Law because through the Law came knowledge of sin and it became harmful for me to know what through my weakness I could not avoid. It is good to know beforehand what one is to avoid, but, if I cannot avoid something, it is harmful to have known about it. Thus was the Law changed to its opposite, yet it became useful to me by the very increase of sin, for I was humbled. And David therefore says: “It is good for me that I have been humbled” [Psalm 119:71]. By humbling myself I have broken the bonds of that ancient transgression by which Adam and Eve had bound the whole line of their succession. Hence, too, the Lord came as an obedient man to loose the knot of man?s disobedience and deception. And as through disobedience sin entered, so through obedience sin was remitted. Therefore, the Apostle says: “For just as by the disobedience of one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many will be constituted just” [Romans 5:19]. Here is one reason that the Law was unnecessary and became necessary, unnecessary in that it would not have been needed if we had been able to keep the natural law; but, as we did not keep it, the Law of Moses became needful to teach me obedience and loosen that bond of Adam?s deception which had ensnared his whole posterity. Yes, guilt grew by the Law, but pride, the source of guilt, was loosed, and this was an advantage to me. Pride discovered the guilt and the guilt brought grace. Consider another reason. The Law of Moses was not needful; hence, it entered secretly. Its entrance seems not of an ordinary kind, but like something clandestine because it entered secretly into the place of the natural law. Thus, if she had but kept her place, this written law would never have entered it, but, since deception had banished that law and nearly blotted it out of the human breast, pride reigned and disobedience was rampant. Therefore, that other took its place so that by its written expression it might challenge us and shut our mouth, in order to make the whole world subject to God. The world,24 however, became subject to him through the Law, because all are brought to trial by the prescript of the Law, and no one is justified by the works of the Law; in other words, because the knowledge of sin comes from the Law, but guilt is not remitted, the Law, therefore, which has made all men sinners, seems to have caused harm. But, when the Lord Jesus came he forgave all men the sin they could not escape, and canceled the decree against us by shedding his blood [Colossians 2:14]. This is what he says: “By the Law sin abounded, but grace abounded by Jesus” [Romans 5:20], since after the whole world became subject he took away the sins of the whole world, as John bears witness, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29] Let no one glory, then, in his own works, since no one is justified by his deeds, but one who is just has received a gift, being justified by Baptism. It is faith, therefore, which sets us free by the blood of Christ, for he is blessed whose sin is forgiven and to whom pardon is granted [Psalm 32:1].25  

It seems fair to conclude that the sixteenth-century Lutheran doctrine of justification was fully congruent with the teaching of St. Ambrose on this subject, and that the Lutherans? Appeals to him were both legitimate and accurate. In those writings in which Ambrose dealt with this matter deliberately and carefully, he taught on the basis of Holy Scripture that sinners are justified before God by grace through faith alone, and not by human works or merits of any kind. On this central article of the Christian faith, the Lutherans were thoroughly “Ambrosian,” and if Ambrose?s views are a reflection of the authentic catholic position, the Lutherans were also thoroughly “catholic.”26  

ENDNOTES:  

1. Augsburg Confession, epilogue to XXVIII, 5 (Latin), in The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert (Fortress Press, 1959), p. 95.  

2. Augsburg Confession XXIV:40 (German), Tappert pp. 60-61.  

3. Augsburg Confession, prologue to XXII, 1 (Latin), Tappert p. 48.  

4. Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV:389, Tappert p. 166.  

5. Epistle 4, The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 26 (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1954), p. 104.  

6. In ps. 47 enarr. 17; quoted in F. Holmes Dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), Vol. II, p. 606.  

7. De fide III:36; quoted in Dudden II, p. 607.  

8. De Fuga 44; quoted in Dudden II, pp. 608-09.  

9. Epistle 72, The Fathers of the Church 26, pp. 93-93.  

10. Expos. ps. 118, 20:42; quoted in Dudden II, p. 631.  

11. Exhort. Virginitatis 43; quoted in Dudden II, p. 632.  

12. Expos. ps. 118, 20:42; quoted in Dudden II, p. 631.  

13. De Poenitentia II:72; quoted in Dudden II, p. 626.  

14. In ps. 43 enarr. 14; quoted in Dudden II, p. 627.  

15. De Poenitentia I:53, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans reprint, 1983), p. 338.  

16. De Virginitate 100; quoted in Dudden II, p. 628.  

17. Quoted by Augustine in Contra Julianum II:8:23; quoted in turn in Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, Part I (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971), p. 475.  

18. Liber de Jacob et Vita Beata, ch. 2; quoted in Chemnitz, Examination I, p. 508.  

19. Exhort. Virginitatis 43; quoted in Dudden II, p. 627.  

20. Liber de Jacob et Vita Beata, ch. 6; quoted in Chemnitz, Examination I, p. 507.  

21. De Excessu Sat. 11:6; quoted in Dudden II, p. 610.  

22. Not to be confused with the second-century church Father St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons.  

23. Apology IV:103, Tappert pp. 121-22. In the text of the Apology, immediately after the appearance of this quotation, we read: “These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly support our position; he denies justification to works and ascribes it to faith, which liberates us through the blood of Christ. If you pile up all the commentators on the Sentences with all their magnificent titles ? for some are called ?angelic? [Thomas Aquinas], others ?subtle? [John Duns Scotus], and others ?irrefutable? [Alexander of Hales] ? read them and reread them, they contribute less to an understanding of Paul than this one sentence from Ambrose.” (Apology IV:104-05, Tappert p. 122.)  

24. It is at this point that the Apology begins its quotations from this letter.  

25. Epistle 73, in The Fathers of the Church 26, pp. 466-68. In the translation of Epistle 73 that is found in that source, Ambrose?s Latin phrase “quia ex praescripto legis omnes conveniuntur et ex operibus legis nemo iustificatur” is rendered inaccurately as “because all are brought to trial by the prescript of the Law, and no one is justified without the works of the Law.” This is corrected in the quotation that appears in this essay.  

26. In his “Treatise on the Reading of the Fathers or Doctors of the Church,” Martin Chemnitz offers these very interesting comments about the writings of St. Ambrose in general: “He wrote many things, but best are the commentaries which he wrote on all the epistles of Paul, which can be of great help to the reader. There also is extant his commentary on Luke. He wrote on Isaiah, a work which antiquity held in the highest authority of all his writings. But it no longer is extant. In his Pauline commentaries he speaks most accurately about justification. There are also some other writings by him which are definitely doctrinal. Yet he has some statements which are not so satisfactory, particularly on free will and original sin. These were seized upon by the Pelagians as being his firm opinion. But Augustine, in his Contra Julianum, Bk. 1, shows clearly how these statements are to be understood. Ambrose was held in great authority even among the easterners, who criticized Jerome because in speaking of him he gave him too little honor.” (Chemnitz, Loci Theologici (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), Vol. I, p. 32.) We now know that the Pauline commentaries to which Chemnitz refers were not actually written by Ambrose. Chemnitz?s positive analysis of Ambrose?s teaching on justification would also apply, however, to many of Ambrose?s genuine writings (such as the ones from which the quotations in this essay are taken), where he does indeed speak “most accurately about justification.”  

This essay was published in Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3 (September 1988), pp. 71-80. The printed version differs slightly from the online version that appears here.