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Salvation By Grace

J. Louis Guthrie, Baptist and Commoner, 3-7-1937

Salvation by grace is a doctrine found in the writings of the men who knew the apostles. This teaching is so clearly put in the letters of these men, that they are a great help in proving the apostles did teach this grace of God. Everywhere in their writings is the teaching found, with no wording to the contrary. The writings of Herman (the brother of Pius, who was pastor of the Church at Rome and wrote the Visions and Similitude’s) have been so manipulated by the various Latin versions of these writings that they cannot be relied upon as the true writings of Herman.

It is thought that Herman knew Paul. Yet he wrote about the close of the first century of the Christian era. He must have been a very young man when Paul was in Rome. In the writings of Herman we find some other teachings for salvation than that grace of

God so strongly taught by the pupils of the apostles. That, however, could be due to corruptions of the manuscript of the Herman' writings for they were written in Latin and always kept in the records of the Roman Church.

Herman was clerk of the Church of Rome during the pastorate of his brother Pius. He gives some verses, or rather the manuscript that we have received this late gives some verses of teaching of works and obedience to the church for final salvation. At Rome sometime during the existence of this manuscript these verses must have crept into this writing. There is mention also made of the Mariology and Mariolatry of the Virgin worship of Mary. This proves that the manuscript received interpolations from Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholics consider many of the writings outside of the Bible as a part of that book of books. They claim they gave the Bible to the world and they have the right to change it as they will. They consider the Roman Catholic church infallible, and then every writing of the inspired men of the church is of the Bible. Thus the Pope is infallible, when speaking "Ex Cathedra." Yet none of the writers who knew the apostles made any such claim nor did they consider that other writings besides those closing with the book of Revelation, should be the word of God. These writers were very careful to speak of the writings of the Old and New Testament as the word of God.

I Clement 4:8-9: "Howbeit, they repenting of their sins, appeased God with (by) their prayers: and were saved, though they were strangers to the Covenant of God (this is concerning the Ninevites). Hence, we find how all the ministers of the grace of God have spoken by the Holy Spirit of repentance. And even the Lord himself declared with an oath concerning it." The grace of God is here a term for all God has prepared for sinners, but for them to come under grace, they must repent and pray. Grace was not alone for the sinner, but for those already saved, as I Clement 2,4:4 states, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all that are anywhere called by God through Him.” We find that these men delineated the fullness and superabundance of grace unto the saved just as clearly as it is stated in the New Testament. They had been hearing the apostles preach and listening to their messages of grace. Surely these men were of the same faith and order as we Missionary Baptists.

In the letter of Barnabas, chapter 8, verses 13-14, the doctrine of the free grace of God is just as clearly put as we can put it. "And because the cross was that by which we were to find grace; therefore, He adds 300, the note of which is T (the figure of his cross), Where-fore by the two letters I, H, he signified Jesus, and by the third his cross." (He is speaking of the circumcision of the 318 in the household of Abraham). "He who has put the engrafted gift of His doctrine within us, knows that I never taught to any one a more certain truth; but I trust that ye are worthy of it." Barnabas certainly affirms to the doctrine of grace of God. He was so sure of it that he called every saved man to witness to his truth. Barnabas should have known what he was talking about. He was for a time an associate of Paul. He was sure of his ground in this great Baptist doctrine of salvation by free grace and as a gift. We can certainly accuse Barnabas of believing the doctrine of grace just as the Missionary Baptists believe it, without shading into the doctrines of men.

Ignatius has the same teaching large in his works. In his letter to the Ephesians (1:1) ". . . being united and chosen through his true suffering according to the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ our God; all happiness, by Jesus Christ and His undefiled grace." These ancient writers all believed that the immediate person of the grace of God is the Son of God, Christ Jesus. They say that God revealed his grace to mankind through and in the person of Jesus. Ignatius also declares that the grace of God and the Lord Jesus is extended to men by the prayers of others. So he expected to be favored of the Lord by the prayers of the saints. In his letter to the Ephesians (4:15), "But if Jesus Christ shall give me His grace through your prayers . . ." He was really asking that they pray that he might he favored of the Lord for a special task to write them a letter. In his letter to the Philadelphians, he says (2:18), "For I trust in the grace of Jesus Christ, that He will free you from every bond."

Polycarp's letter to the Philippians declares (1:5), "Into which many desire to enter; knowing that by the grace of God ye are saved, not by works but by the will of God through Jesus Christ." He was speaking that many desired to enter eternal joy, knowing, etc. Not until we come to Hermas, do we find anything else excepting grace. Not one of these writers say anywhere that baptism has anything to do with repentance, but they every one precede baptism with repentance and belief and salvation. These passages declare the most of the direct places in the writings of the men who knew the apostles concerning grace in salvation.

Recently there fell into my hands a book called the Didache of the Apostles, which is a very valuable little book in the Greek. The book has 360 lines of Greek text. This is a very ancient work. It is not exactly what it purports to be, but only extracts of what the apostles taught, written down by some early Christians and then reduced to manuscript form about the second century of Christianity. The most valuable piece of work in this manuscript is a statement concerning baptism short though it is a valuable statement of Baptist teaching on baptism so early in the history of the church. Lines 158 to 1564, "Concerning the baptism, thus baptize, having stated all these things, submerge into the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in living water. If you do not have living water, into other water submerge, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm." Here is the surest of the statements of the ancients concerning this much-disputed point. These men should have known the preference at their time as to the method, which was employed, for baptism.

Later to this there was added about 600 A. D. a little instruction as to what to do about baptism when water was insufficient, "But if thou hast neither (i.e., cold or hot), then pour out upon the head water three times into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. There is, however, no doubt that even these late pourers considered plenty of water was necessary even in the pouring, as this is shown from the very makeup of that word "pour" out. Even when those early effusionists varied from the submerging idea of baptism, they considered plenty of water was necessary. With this later addition to the Didache, there were also some directions to the person to be baptized and the one baptizing him to fast beforehand. Others were also advised to fast with them. Soon I shall write an article about this Didache, for I have the original text, and will discuss it from the standpoint of the writers who were acquainted with the apostles, for in some places it resembles their writings, especially those of Barnabas.