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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21 [IX.]—Eternal Life is “Grace for Grace.”

Perhaps you ask whether we ever read in the Sacred Scriptures of “grace for grace.” Well you possess the Gospel according to John, which is perfectly clear in its very great light. Here John the Baptist says of Christ: “Of His fulness have we all received, even grace for grace.” 3065 So that out of His fulness we have received, according to our humble measure, our particles of ability as it were for leading good lives—“according as God hath dealt to every man his measure of faith;” 3066 because “every man hath his proper gift of God; one after this manner, and another after that.” 3067 And this is grace. But, over and above this, we shall also receive “grace for grace,” when we shall have awarded to us eternal life, of which the apostle said: “The grace of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” 3068 having just said that “the wages of sin is death.” Deservedly did he call it “wages,” because everlasting death is awarded as its proper due to diabolical service. Now, when it was in his power to say, and rightly to say: “But the wages of righteousness is eternal life,” he yet preferred to say: “The grace of God is eternal life;” in order that we may hence understand that God does not, for any merits of our own, but from His own divine compassion, prolong our existence to everlasting life. Even as the Psalmist says to his soul, “Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion.” 3069 Well, now, is not a crown given as the reward of good deeds? It is, however, only because He works good works in good men, of whom it is said, “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” 3070 that the Psalm has it, as just now quoted: “He crowneth thee with mercy and compassion,” since it is through His mercy that we perform the good deeds to which the crown is awarded. It is not, however, to be for a moment supposed, because he said, “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure,” that free will is taken away. If this, indeed, had been his meaning, he would not have said just before, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” 3071 For when the command is given “to work,” their free will is addressed; and when it is added, “with fear and trembling,” they are warned against boasting of their good deeds as if they were their own, by attributing to themselves the performance of anything good. It is pretty much as if the apostle had this question put to him: “Why did you use the phrase, ‘with fear and trembling’?” And as if he answered the inquiry of his examiners by telling them, “For it is God which worketh in you.” Because if you fear and tremble, you do not boast of your good works—as if they were your own, since it is God who works within you.



John i. 16.


Rom. xii. 3.


1 Cor. vii. 7.


Rom. vi. 23.


Ps. ciii. 4.


Phil. ii. 13.


Phil. ii. 12.

Next: Chapter 22