St Augustine on Salvation By Faith Alone

The passage below is from St. Augustine’s writing on Free Will and Grace.

Chapter 20.—The Question Answered. Justification is Grace Simply and Entirely, Eternal Life is Reward and Grace.This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: “Without me ye can do nothing.”3059 And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;”3060 [St. Paul] saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men’s boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”3061 What is the purport of his saying, “Not of works, lest any man should boast,” while commending the grace of God? And then why does he afterwards, when giving a reason for using such words, say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”? Why, therefore, does it run, “Not of works, lest any man should boast”? Now, hear and understand. “Not of works” is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Now he does not here speak of that creation which made us human beings, but of that in reference to which one said who was already in full manhood, “Create in me a clean heart, O God;”3062 concerning which also the apostle says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.”3063 We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, “in the good works which” we have not ourselves prepared, but “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;—grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.”3064

The link is here

His words seem to me very consistent with the Catholic belief that we’re saved by a faith that works. :slight_smile:

Saved by Grace
Through Faith
Working in Love.

These are not words of being saved by “faith alone”.


I’ve never read this passage before, but it is very much in line with Catholic teaching on the subject.

This fits entirely into the Lutheran understanding of justification by Grace Alone through Faith Alone.

Faith Alone does not mean that works don’t matter; it means that works are an outpouring of the faith that we have. They are prepared by the Spirit for us to do; we could not do them on our own.

To paraphrase Luther, one cannot separate faith and works any more than one could separate heat and light from a flame. But it is faith, alone, that saves.

If you’re looking for a “gotcha” passage against Faith Alone in Augustine, you won’t find it. Luther was an Augustinian monk and knew him backwards and forwards.

I have tried many times to understand the Faith Alone view. The underlined above is why it seems to be contradictory. If they can’t be separated, than faith can’t be “alone” to save.



If it is Light alone, there is no Flame.

Well, Lutherans make a distinction between Justification and Sanctification. We are justified (judged righteous) by faith alone (Paul couldn’t be more clear about this).

We are further sanctified (made holy) by performing the works the Spirit sets out for us (James 2:18 helps us understand this). Of course, this process continues on through to our death.

In a backward sense, it’s akin to acknowledging that the defenestrated man wasn’t killed by the fall, but by the sudden stop at the bottom (alone). :smiley:

I have a collection of these Saints writings that allegedly teach justification by faith alone.

The point to keep in mind though, is they all use “faith” as in “fidelity”, believing with faithfulness.

Elsewhere in all of their writings they all discuss the necessity of charity/works in one form or another too.

By faith alone, they do not mean what many modern faith ALONE adherents mean.

This is an important distinction.

These fathers of the Church all assume (just like St. Paul assumes in his letter to the Romans, but many modern day sola fide followers seem to ignore) that this “faith” he is discussing, is an “obedient” faith (see Romans 1:6 and Romans 16:26).

God bless.


If you have true faith it follows that you will do the works. If through your faith you know God’s will, wouldn’t you want to do it out of love for Him? If your faith is strong and true could you sit by and do nothing about the evil and suffering you see in the world everyday. Just believing there is a God is not faith, its just logic.

Is it possible to be Justified but not Sanctified?
If a person is not sanctified (made holy), can they go to heaven?

In a backward sense, it’s akin to acknowledging that the defenestrated man wasn’t killed by the fall, but by the sudden stop at the bottom (alone). :smiley:

Then why would the person who threw him out the window be charged with murder, after all, he didn’t kill him, the sudden stop at the bottom did.

The two can’t be separated. Without the one, you don’t have the other.

“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:30

That’s silly. Intent is what matters. “It wasn’t me, it was the gun/knife/stop at the bottom.” doesn’t connect to this metaphor.

Generally agreed.

Augustine was making the point that its all from grace, and yet we must respond nonetheless, first with faith and then also with works, both proceeding from grace. And then that those works, works of love, done in cooperation with grace, *** merit eternal life.***

Yes, and Luther recognized and admitted that he disagreed with Augustine.

See this letter of Philip Melanchthon to Johannes Brenz, with a postscript added by Luther expressing agreement with Melanchthon. (For further discussion, follow the link in my post to Dave Armstrong’s site.)


I’m familiar with ol’ Schwartzerdt’s comments. I had always understood him to be saying that while Augustine isn’t as clear about justification and sanctification as either the Lutherans or the post-Tridentine Catholics would like, he is able to be read either way. Melancthon wouldn’t (couldn’t!) have cited Augustine in the Apology if the latter was clearly opposed to Lutheran thought.

I find Luther to both have a good appreciation for refuting “a practice and a false understanding of becoming justified before the Father” and a complicated mixing the usages of the term “faith”.

Scripture (and Paul in particular) uses faith in different contexts. In one instance he would distinguish faith from hope and Charity, while in another he would apply faith as encompassing both.

James and Peter use faith as distinguished from the necessary virtues (and deeds) that faith will lead to (or is completed by). Take this passage, for example:

2 Peter 1
For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,*and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,*and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.*For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. *For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

The gotcha passage isn’t in Augustine’s written ‘works’ (ironic term), it’s in his lived works - he was the Bishop after all. Performed Sacraments, prayed Liturgy, prayed for the dead, etc. works for the salvation of his flock.

That is precisely what faith alone teaches:thumbsup:

Which part Starwars?

Hopefully Lutherans do this too. Or we’re toast.

Is faith without good works sufficient for salvation?

Actually, in that very letter Melanchthon explains this–that he cites Augustine for public consumption because of Augustine’s authority. And to be sure, he thinks Augustine is more on his side than on that of the “Papists.” But I think it’s a euphemism to say that the difference is bout Augustine being “clear.” Augustine, as Melanchthon recognizes in that latter, has a coherent understanding of how salvation works that is substantially different from the Lutheran view.

I am unable to see how that particular part of Augustine’s theology is different from the Tridentine view.

The main points where the Protestants could claim Augustine was on

  1. Concupiscence being sin even in the baptized, but not imputed (Augustine had no doctrine of “positive imputation”), and
  2. Free will, though that one is more complicated.

Regarding St. Augustine, Luther wrote:

Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers…But when the door was opened for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine. (Luther’s Works 54, 49)

It was Augustine's view that the law...if the Holy Spirit assists, the works of the law do justify...I reply by saying "No". (Luther's Works 54, 10) 

If Augustine believed in faith alone, why would Luther say Augustine erred by not teaching sola fide? Luther seems to say once he understood Paul, he was done with Augustine. Why be done with Augustine, unless Augustine’s views were different than his?