The first 300-350 years AD we had a complete agreement among the early church fathers that man has a free will, that we are not ”once saved always saved” and that we were not born with some kind of sinful nature which is holding us back to depravity and inability to seek and find God. Are we to believe those years were full of darkness before Augustine entered the scene (354 -430 AD) to finally give us light? The only ones who taught against free will were the gnostics. All of the early church up to the time of Augustine was unanimous in their belief and understanding of the nature of sin being that of choice.
”Gnostics also believed that mankind was wholly evil and some sects even renounced marriage and procreation. They also believed in two gods, one evil god and one good god. Their teachings are believed to have influenced Saint Augustine in the development of his theology of ”total depravity” of mankind and concept of God. For nine years St. Augustine adhered to Manichaeism, a Persian philosophy proclaimed in southern Babylonia (Iraq) that taught a doctrine of ”total depravity” and the claim that they were the ”elect.” He then turned to skepticism. Next, Augustine was attracted to the philosophy of Neoplatonism. He blended these beliefs with his later Gnostic Christian teachings. His teachings were in turn passed on to John Calvin in his extensive study of Augustine’s writings. It is very easy to follow the trail of John Calvin’s theology from the pagan religion of Mani in Babylonia to his writings in France and Geneva” Read more here
Unfortunately this new teaching (well, not really knew since the gnostics taught it before Augustine, and he was a former gnostic) lead to many consequences:
A. If we sin, it’s not our fault because our sin nature made us do it. We are victims – not guilty.
B. A life change is not essential for salvation. We are not perfect, just forgiven.
C. Jesus was born without sin and therefore different from us and had an unfair advantage. He couldn’t sin and we can’t help but sin. This minimizes what Jesus did for us.
It’s of course possible to take quotes out of a context and make them sound like a person has views he in fact doesn’t have, but that would be nothing but deceptive. A more honest approach would be to quote someone’s clear and general views instead of trying to find some odd quotes out of context to ascribe views to a person he doesn’t have. With or without a broader context, the old church fathers DID hold to the views the quotes clearly reveal. I have seen some attempts where reformed thinkers have listed quotes from early church fathers with the aim to show that they spoke against free will, but after having read them 1) most often the quotes don’t actually say what they claim they say, and are at best ”vague”, and 2) the context and other writings from the same person show that they have the opposing views.
”I read through most of the early Church writings and gathered the quotes personally – to be sure to understand the context and to no miss things. But it is amazing to me that I seem to find more quotes I did not have all the time. It is amazing how much the Early Church was against TULIP! —they [the reformed] refuse to acknowledge it, or must assume that the Early Church fell from the truth taught to them by the Apostles immediately after the Apostles died.” (Lyndon Conn)
Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) 160-225 AD
Apologist and a polemicist against heresy. He is perhaps most famous for being the oldest extant Latin writer to use the term Trinity. Cyprian’s teacher.
I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and power…For a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law. Nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will…Man is free, with a will either for obedience of resistance. (c. 207, Vol. 3, pp. 300-301)
No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice. (c. 207) (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 61, published by Truth in Heart)
Some people act as though God were under an obligation to bestow even on the unworthy His intended gift. They turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterwards fall out of grace? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian On Repentance chap. 6.)
The world returned to sin…and so it is destined to fire. So is the man who after baptism renews his sins. c.197
However, in the case of little children…Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins? ”…If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay.
Irenaeus of Lyons 120-202 AD
The Apostle John had a disciple named Polycarp, and Polycarp had a disciple named Irenaeus.
”But although we shall be understood, from our argument, to be only so affirming man’s unshackled power over his will, that what happens to him should be laid to his own charge, and not to God’s, yet that you may not object, even now, that he ought not to have been so constituted, since his liberty and power of will might turn out to be injurious…Therefore it was proper that (he who is) the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of him self;… At present, let God’s goodness alone occupy our attention, that which gave so large a gift to man, even the liberty of his will.” /Chapter 6
And again, who are they that have been saved, and received the inheritance? Those doubtless who do believe in God and who have continued in His love… and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.
But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God HAVING BEEN MADE FREE IN HIS WILL, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. (c. 180, E/W), 1:466
This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves… (c. 180, Against Heresies 37; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 246)
”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds”…And ”Why call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?’…All such passages demonstrate the independent will of man…For it is in man’s power to disobey God and to forfeit what is good.” (c.180, Vol. 1, p. 519)
Nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon anyone unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill…. They have been created free agents and possessed of power over themselves. (c. 180, Vol. 1, p. 523)
But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it. Chapter 10
Christ will not die again on behalf of those who now commit sin because death shall no more have dominion over Him…. Therefore we should not be puffed up…. But we should beware lest somehow, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins but rather be shut out from His kingdom (Heb. 6:4-6) [p. 65].
And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God. He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment. God, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, XXVII, 2)
Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons. c.180
[Irenaeus quotes 1 Cor. 6:9-10 about inheriting the kingdom of God.] It was not to those who are outside that he said these things, but to us, lest we should be cast out of the kingdom of God by doing any such thing. He proceeds to say, ”And truly such were you, but you are washed, but you are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” [1 Cor. 6:11]. And just as [under the old covenant], those who led vicious lives and led other people astray were condemned and cast out, so also even now the offending eye is plucked out, and the foot and the hand, lest the rest of the body perish in the same way. (Against Heresies, IV:27:4)
Ignatius 35-107 AD Bishop of Antioch in Syria. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and appointed as Bishop of Antioch by the Apostle Peter.
And pray ye also without ceasing for the rest of mankind (for there is in them a hope of repentance), that they may find God. Therefore permit them to take lessons at least from your works. (Letter to the Ephesians 10:1)
Do not err, my brothers. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this in regard to the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified, by wicked doctrine? Such a person, becoming defiled, shall go away into everlasting fire and so shall everyone that listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16)
I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but all humanity is made the same, sometimes belonging to God and sometimes to the devil. If anyone is truly spiritual they are a person of God; but if they are irreligious and not spiritual then they are a person of the devil, made such not by nature, but by their own choice. Pg.61 vol. 1.
There is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life.
Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens) 150–215 AD
A theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem.
We…have believed and are saved by voluntary choice (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 217)
To obey or not is in our own power, provided we do not have the excuse of ignorance (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 353)
Each one of us who sins with his own free will, chooses punishment. So the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame. (c.195, Vol. 2, p. 226)
Neither promises nor apprehensions, rewards, no punishments are just if the soul has not the power of choosing and abstaining; if evil is involuntary. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p.319)
We have heard from the Scriptures that self-determining choice and refusal have been given by the Lord to men. Therefore, we rest in the infallible criterion of faith, manifesting a willing spirit, since we have chosen life. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 349)
The Lord clearly shows sins and transgressions to be in our own power, by prescribing modes of cure corresponding to the maladies. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 363)
Their estrangement is the result of free choice. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 426)
Believing and obeying are in our own power. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 527)
Nor will he who is saved be saved against his will, for he is not inanimate. But above all, he will speed to salvation voluntarily and of free choice. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 534)
Choice depends on the man as being free. But the gift depended on God as the Lord. And He gives to those who are willing, are exceedingly earnest, and who ask. In this manner, their salvation can become their own. For God does not compel. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 593)
Clement, 80-140 AD
The first Apostolic Father of the Church. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter. Early church lists place him as the second or third bishop of Rome after Saint Peter. In Philippians 4:3 Clement is mentioned whose name was written “in the book of life”. Although known as 2 Clement, this document is in actuality an anonymous homily of the mid-second century.
Thus although we are born neither good nor bad, we become on or the other and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them. Pg 273 vol.8
But inasmuch as inborn affection towards God the creator is sufficient for salvation to those who love Him, the enemy tries to pervert this affection in men, and to render them hostile and ungrateful to their Creator…But if mankind would turn their affection towards God, all would doubtless be saved, even if when they have some faults they would be open to correction for righteousness, but now most of mankind have been made enemies of God, their hearts the wicked one has entered, and has turned aside towards himself the affection which God the Creator had implanted in them, which He, God, desires that they might have towards Him. Pg.101 Vol.8
1 Clement 7:4 Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father, because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance.
1 Clement 7:5 Let us review all the generations in turn, and learn how from generation to generation the Master hath given a place for repentance unto them that desire to turn to Him.
For, if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; but if otherwise, then nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we should disobey His commandments. 2 Clement 6:7
…with what confidence shall we, if we keep not our baptism pure and undefiled, enter into the kingdom of God? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found having holy and righteous works? 2 Clement 6:9
For as concerning them that have not kept the seal, He saith, `Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be for a spectacle unto all flesh’. 2 Clement 7:6
So, brothers and sisters, if we have done the will of the Father and have kept the flesh pure and have observed the commandments of the Lord, we will receive eternal life (2 Clement 8:4)
So then He meaneth this, Keep the flesh pure and the seal unstained, to the end that we may receive life. 2 Clement 8:6
Let us, then, not only call him Lord, for that will not save us. For he says, ”Not every one that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall be saved, but he that does righteousness.” Therefore, brothers, let us confess him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but being continent, compassionate, and good. … By such works let us confess him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. It is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such wicked things, the Lord has said, “Even if you were gathered together to me, into my very bosom, yet if you were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off and say to you, ‘Depart from me … you workers of iniquity.‘” (2 Clement 4) Hermas, c. A.D. 160
It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction.
He who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice…
For no other reason does God punish the sinner either in the present or in the future world, except because He knows that the sinner was able to conquer but neglected to gain the victory.
Justin Martyr 110-165 AD
For He fore-knows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born. In the beginning He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God; for they have been born rational and contemplative Chapter 28
Let some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever occurs happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to THE MERIT OF EACH MAN’S ACTIONS. Now, if this is not so, but all things happen by fate, then neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and CHOOSING GOOD BY FREE CHOICE, they are not accountable for their actions. (c. 160, E), 1:177
But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or wrongly…The stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God, in the beginning made the race of men and angels with free will they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed, and this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both. (vice and virtue) 2 Apology ch.7 (+ The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p.354)
In the beginning, He made the human race with the power of thought AND OF CHOOSING the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God. (c. 160, E), 1:172
I have proved in what has been said that those who were foreknown to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God’s fault. Rather, each man is what he will appear to be through his own fault. (c.160, Vol. 1, p. 269)
Neither do we maintain that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer. Rather, we maintain that each man acts rightly or sins BY HIS FREE CHOICE….Since God in the beginning MADE THE RACE OF ANGELS AND MEN WITH FREE WILL, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. (c. 160, E), 1:190
He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous. And He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free will. (c. 160, Vol. 1, p. 250)
I hold further, that those of you who have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back for some reason to the legal dispensation, an have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death – you will by no means be saved . c.160
Methodius 260-312 AD Bishop of Olympus.
I say that God – purposing to honor man in this manner and to grant him an understanding of better things – has given man the power of being able to do what he wishes. He commends the use of his power for better things. However, it is not that God deprives man again of free will. Rather, He wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with man, and he receives the commandment. But God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)
I do not think that God urges man to obey His commandments, but then deprives him of the power to obey or disobey…. He does not give a command in order to take way the power that he has given. Rather, He gives it in order to bestow a better gift…in return for his rendered obedience to God. For man had power to withhold it. I say that man was made with free will. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)
God is good and wise. He does what is best. Therefore, there is no fixed destiny.” (c. 190, Vol. 6, p.343)
Now those [pagans] who decide that man is not possessed of free will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate…are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause or author of human evils. (c. 190, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins 16; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 252)
Because there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such…man was made with free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he so wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will.
If then, any are evil, they are evil in accordance with the wants and desires of their minds, and not by necessity. They perish self-destroyed, by their own fault.’For a man is not spoken of as ‘murderer’ but by committing it he receives the derived name of murderer. Evil is not a substance, but by practicing any evil it can be called evil…for a man is evil only in consequences of his actions. For he is said to be evil because he is a doer of evil. It is a persons actions that gives them the title of evil. Men produce the evil and are the authors of them. It is through actions that evil exists. Each man is evil in consequences of what they practice. It all has a beginning.
For man received power, and enslaved himself, not because he was overpowered by irresistible tendencies of his nature, nor because the capacity with which he was gifted deprived him of what was better for him…I say therefore, that God purposing thus to honor man…has given him the power of being able to do what he wishes, and commends the employment of his power for better things; not that he deprives him again of free will, but wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with him and he receives the commandment; but God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things.
Arnobius 297-303 AD
Does He not free all alike who invites all alike? Or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the supreme, who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him. To all, He says, the fountain of like is open, and no one is kept back or hindered from drinking. If you are so fastidious as to spurn the kindly offered gift… why should he keep on inviting you, while His only duty is to make the enjoyment of His bounty depend on your own free choice. Book 2 ,64
Aristides of Athens – 134 AD (Marcianus Aristides)
And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God, and if furthermore, it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. Apology to Hadrian
Tatian the Syrian 110-172 AD
Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free have become slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, who have manifested it, are able to reject it again.” (c. 160, Vol. 2, pp. 69-70)
Each of these two orders of creatures [men and angels] was made free to act as it pleased. They did not have the nature of good, which again is with God alone. However, it is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice. In this manner, the bad man can be justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault. Likewise, the just man can be deservedly praised for his virtuous deeds, since in the exercise of his free choice, he refrained from transgressing the will of God. (c. 160, Vol. 2, p. 67)
Lactantius 260-330 AD
We should be free from vices and sin. For no one is born sinful, but if our affections are given to that direction they can become vices and sinful, but if we use our affections well they become virtues.’ Ch16 bk 4 Divine Inst.
Melito -180 AD Bishop of Sardis near Smyrna
There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner to life, because you are a free man. (c.170, Vol. 8, p. 754)
Athenagorus 133-190 AD
Just as with men who have freedom of choice as to bother virtue and vice (for you would not either honor the good or punish the bad; unless vice and virtue were in their own power, and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them and others faithless), so is it among the angels. (c. 177, Embassy for Christians; God’s Strategy in Human History, p. 247)
If, on the other hand, he would turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he would himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power of himself. (c.180, Vol. 2, p. 105)
Hyppolytus 170 – 235 AD
God, who created [the world], did not nor does not, make evil….Now, man (who was brought into existence) was a creature endowed with a capacity of self-determination, yet he did not possess a sovereign intellect….Man, from the fact of his possessing a capacity for self-determination, brings forth evil….Since man has free will, a law has been given him by God, for a good purpose. For a law will not be laid down for an animal devoid of reason. Only a bridle and whip will be given it. In contrast, man has been given a commandment to perform, coupled with a penalty.” (c. 225, Vol. 5, p.151)
The Word promulgated the divine commandments by declaring them. He thereby turned man from disobedience. He summoned man to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity – not by bringing him into servitude by force of necessity. (c. 225, Vol. 5, p. 152)
Man is able to both will and not to will. He is endowed with power to do both. (c. 225, Vol. 5, p. 152)
Origen (Adamantius) 184/185 – 253/254 AD
The soul does not incline to either part out of necessity, for then neither vice nor virtue could be ascribed to it; nor would its choice of virtue deserve reward; nor its declination to vice punishment.” Again, “How could God require that of man which he [man] had not power to offer Him?” (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 62, published by Truth in Heart)
This is also clearly defined in the teaching of the church, that every rational soul has free will and volition….we are not forced by any necessity to act either rightly or wrongly. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 240)
It seems a plausible thing that rational natures, from whom the faculty of free will is never taken away, may be again subjected to movements of some kind. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 272)
Since those rational creatures themselves… were endowed with the power of free will, this freedom of the will incited each one to either progress (by imitation of God), or else it reduced a person to failure through negligence. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 292)
In the preaching of the church, there is included the doctrine concerning a just judgment of God. When this teaching is believed to be true, it incites those who hear it to live virtuously and to shun sin by all means. For they clearly acknowledge that things worthy of praise and blame are within our own power. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 302)
Certain ones of those [Gnostic’s] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.
Novatian 200–258 AD
When he had given man all things for his service, he willed that man alone should be free. And lest an unbounded freedom would lead man into peril, He had laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree. Rather, he was forewarned that evil would arise if man were to exercise his free will in contempt of the law that had been given him….As a result, he could receive either worthy rewards or a just punishment. For he had in his own power that which he might choose to do. (c. 235, Vol. 5, p. 612)
Eusebius 263 – 233 AD Bishop of Caesarea
A Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon. Considered the father of “Church History” for his extensive writings in ecclesiastical history.
The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again, making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God is has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature!
The devil in his oracles hangs all things upon fate, and taking away that which is in our power, and arises from self-motion of free will… brings this also into bondage to necessity.
Commodianus 250 AD
Being a believing man, if you seek to live as the gentiles do, the joys of the world remove you from the grace of Christ c.240
Cyprian 200-258 AD Bishop of Carthage
It is written, ‘He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved’ [Matt. 10:22]. So whatever precedes the end is only a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation. It is not the final point wherein we have already gained the full result of the ascent. (Cyprian Unity of the Church sec. 21)
The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice. In Deuteronomy, it says, ‘Look! I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live. (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 547)
Shepherd of Hermas
The Muratorian canon, a list of canonical books from about the 3d century, says Hermas was written by the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, about 140-154. Author still remains unknown. The document was composed over a longer period of time. Visions I-IV were composeed during a threatened persecution, probably under Trajan (the Clement of 8:3 could be Clement of Rome). Vision V – Similitude VIII and Similitude X were written perhaps by the same author to describe reprentance to Christians who were wavering. Similitude IX was written to unify the entire work and to threaten those who had been disloyal. This last phase must have occurred before Irenaeus (ca. 175). A preferred date would be 140. On the basis of this internal analysis multiple authorship seems necessary (Giet 1963), though the work could have been composed by one person over a long period of time (Joly 1958).
He that does not know God,” [the angel of repentance] answered, ”and practices evil, receives a certain chastisement for his wickedness, but he that has known God ought not to do evil anymore but to do good. If, accordingly, when he ought to do good, he does evil, does he not appear to do greater evil than the one who does not know God? For this reason, those who have not known God and do evil are condemned to death, but those who have known God and have seen his mighty works and still continue in evil shall be chastised doubly and shall die forever. This is the way the Church of God will be purified.” (Shepherd of Hermas III:9:8)
If you do not guard yourself against anger you and your house will lose all hope of salvation. Hermas c.150
The Epistle of the Apostles 2nd century
A work from the New Testament apocrypha. The work was lost to the West until a complete version in Ethiopic translation was discovered and published in the early twentieth century. The text was used regularly by the relatively isolated Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and was evidently not considered heretical by that church. A fragmentary Coptic manuscript of the fifth or fourth century, believed to be translated directly from the original Greek, and one leaf of a Latin palimpsest, dating to the fifth century, were then identified as deriving from the same text. The text is commonly dated to the 2nd century, perhaps towards the middle of it.
27 ”For to that end went I down unto the place of Lazarus, and preached unto the righteous and the prophets, that they might come out of the rest which is below and come up into that which is above; and I poured out upon them with my right hand the water (?) (baptism, Eth.) of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and unto them that believe on me. But if any man believe on me and do not my commandments, although he have confessed my name, he hath no profit therefrom but runneth a vain race: for such will find themselves in perdition and destruction, because they have despised my commandments.”28 …Then said he unto us: Verily I say unto you, all that have believed on me and that believe in him that sent me will I take up into the heaven, unto the place which my Father hath prepared for the elect, and I will give you the kingdom, the chosen kingdom, in rest, and everlasting life. 29 But all they that have offended against my commandments and have taught other doctrine, (perverting) the Scripture and adding thereto, striving after their own glory, and that teach with other words them that believe on me in uprightness, if they make them fall thereby, shall receive everlasting punishment. We said unto him: Lord, shall there then be teaching by others, diverse from that which thou hast spoken unto us ? He said unto us: It must needs be, that the evil and the good may be made manifest; and the judgment shall be manifest upon them that do these things, and according to their works shall they be judged and shall be delivered unto death. And we said unto him: Lord, will they that believe be treated like the unbelievers, and wilt thou punish them that have escaped from the pestilence? And he said unto us: If they that believe in my name deal like the sinners, then have they done as though they had not believed. And we said again to him: Lord, have they on whom this lot hath fallen no life? He answered and said unto us: Whoso hath accomplished the praise of my Father, he shall abide in the resting-place of my Father.
Epistle of Barnabas 70-100AD
A Greek text preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament. It is traditionally ascribed to Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. A form of the Epistle 850 lines long is noted in the Latin list of canonical works in the 6th century Codex Claromontanus. It is not to be confused with the Gospel of Barnabas.
The Lord will judge the world without respect… of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when ye reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
We take earnest heed in these last days, for the whole time of your faith will profit you nothing unless now, in this wicked time, we also withstand coming sources of danger, as befits the sons of God. (Letter of Barnabas 4)