Question: What can the writings of early Christians tell us about how to receive salvation in Jesus Christ?

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Question: What can the writings of early Christians tell us about how to receive salvation in Jesus Christ?

Here are a few examples of what the early Church fathers taught on salvation:

Justin Martyr

Justin (110-165 A.D.) said:

“works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:249, chap 100, Dialogue with Trypho)

“by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:185, chap. 65, First Apology of Justin)

"But there is no other [way] than this,-to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins; and for the rest, to live sinless lives." (ANF 1:217, chap. 44, Dialogue with Justin)

“Christ has come to restore both the free sons and the servants amongst them, conferring the same honour on all of them who keep His commandments” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:267, chap 134, Dialogue with Trypho)


Irenaeus said:

“But He taught that they should obey the commandments which God enjoined from the beginning, and do away with their former covetousness by good works, and follow after Christ.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 4, chap. 12, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:476)

“God has always preserved freedom, and the power of self-government in man, while at the same time He issued His own exhortations, in order that those who do not obey Him should be righteously judged (condemned) because they have not obeyed Him; and that those who have obeyed and believed on Him should be honoured with immortality.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:480, Against Heresies 15)

“God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a recompense of His own good things, as our Lord says: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came to Me."[Mat. 25:34]” (Irenaeus Against Heresies, book 4, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:486)

“And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole[Christian] faith.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:331, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Chap. 21)

Clement of Alexandria

Clement said:

“Being baptized, we are illuminated. Illuminated, we become sons...This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. Washing, by which we cleanse away our sins. Grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted. Illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)

“Straightway, on our regeneration, we attained that perfection after which we aspired. For we were illuminated, which is to know God.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)


Theophilus said:

“The things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also could be a sign of men being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and bath of regeneration-as many as come to the truth and are born again” (Theophilus, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:101)