On Salvation by Grace

st-john-chrysostom-the-golden-mouthJohn Chrysostom (c. 347–407)

Romans 11:5-6 NIV “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (6)  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

“He again springs upon the disputatiousness of the Jews, in what has just been quoted; and on this ground bereaves them of excuse. For you cannot, he means, so much as say, that the Prophets called indeed, and God invited, and the state of things cried aloud, and the provoking to jealousy was enough to draw us to Him, but what was enjoined was grievous, and this is why we could not draw nigh, since we had a display of works demanded of us, and laborious well-doings. For you cannot even say this. For how should God have demanded this of you, when this would just throw His grace into the shade? And this he said out of a wish to show that He was most desirous that they might be saved. (Deut. 5:29.) For not only would their salvation be easily brought about, but it was also God’s greatest glory to display His love toward man. Why then are you afraid of drawing nigh, since you have no works demanded of you? Why are you bickering and quarrelsome, when grace is before you, and why keep putting me the Law forward to no purpose whatsoever? For you will not be saved by that, and will mar this gift also; since if you pertinaciously insist on being saved by it, you do away with this grace of God.

Then that they might not think this strange, having first taken those seven thousand; he said that they were saved by grace. For when he says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace;” he shows that they also were saved by grace. And not hereby only, but likewise by saying, “I have reserved unto Myself.” For this is the language of One Who shows that He Himself was the chief Contributor. And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it. Observe how throughout the point he is proving is, “Not as though the Word of God had taken none effect,” by showing that the worthy were those to whom the promise came, and that these, few though they be, may yet be the people of God; and indeed he had stated it in the beginning of the Epistle with much force, where he says, “For what if some did not believe” (Rom. 3:3), and did not even stop at this, but proceeded, “Yea, let God be true, and every man a liar.” (ib. 4.) And here again he confirms it another way, and shows the force of grace, and that always the one were being saved, the other perished. Let us then give thanks, that we belong to them that are being saved, and not having been able to save ourselves by works, were saved by the gift of God. But in giving thanks, let us not do this in words only, but in works and actions. For this is the genuine thanksgiving, when we do those things whereby God is sure to be glorified, and flee from those from which we have been set free. For if we, after insulting the King, instead of being punished have been honored, and then go and insult Him afresh, since we are detected in the utmost ingratitude, we should with justice have to suffer the utmost punishment, one greater far than the former. For the former insolence did not show us so ungrateful as that committed after honor and much attention shown us. Let us then flee those things from which we have been set free, and not give thanks with our mouths only, lest it be said of us also, “This people honoreth Me with their lips, but with their heart is far from Me.” (Is. 29:13.) For how is it else than unseemly, when the “heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1), and thou, for whom the heavens were made that glorify Him, doest such things that through thee the God that made thee is blasphemed? It is for this that not only he that blasphemeth, but thyself also, wilt be liable to punishment.

John Chrysostom. (1997). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, On the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, NPNF Vol. XI (483).

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