January 19, 2018

Long Before Luther

I really enjoyed this interesting and informative book. The best way to describe it would be: a reformed thinker (the author), defending and sharing the doctrine, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. And that this doctrine has been taught throughout the generations. Also that this teaching is biblical and found throughout the entire bible.

And that this is the heart of the Gospel.

The author says here of the sixteenth-century reformers:

"The sole authoritative basis for their teachings was the Word of God (the idea captured by the phrase 'Scripture alone')."  *(see note at end of post)

And the author quotes R.C. Sproul here:

"The sixteenth-century Reformers were not interested in creating a new religion. They were interested, not in innovation, but in renovation. They were reformers, not revolutionaries."

These are the chapter headings:

Part 1: The Reformers and Justification
 1. An Invention or a Recovery?
 2. Regaining Biblical Clarity
 3. Clothed in Christ's Righteousness

Part 2: The Church before Augustine
 4. Saved by Grace
 5. Justification: A Divine Declaration
 6. The Great Exchange

Part 3: Augustine and Justification
 7. A Forerunner to the Reformers?
 8. The Doctor of Grace

Part 4: The Church after Augustine
 9. Pardoned from Sin
10. Reckoned as Righteous
11. Coming Full Circle

Throughout the book the author states his case for this belief throughout history, from Christ to the Reformers. He quotes and shares from many Church fathers to prove this, men such as:

Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-202)
Origen (ca. 182-254) 
Ambrose (337-397)
Augustine (354-430)
Fulgentius of Ruspe (462-533)
Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-657)
Julian of Toledo (642-690)
Bede (673-735)
Symeon the new theologian (949-1022)
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

At the end of the book there is an appendix called ' Voices from History' which includes many quotes from Christian men during these 1500 years, between Christ and the Reformation.

The author says here of it:

"What follows are 100 selected quotes from church history highlighting salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified solely through faith in Christ, apart from works."

 I thought I'd share a few quotes by a few of these Church fathers:

Polycarp (ca. 69-160):

"Though you have not seen him, you believe in him with an inexpressible and glorious joy (which many desire to experience), knowing that by grace you have been saved, not because of works, but the will of God through Jesus Christ." 

Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329-379):

"This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ. And Paul boasts that he despises his own righteousness, seeking that righteousness that is on account of Christ, which is the righteousness of God by faith." 

Ildefonsus of Toledo (ca. 607-667):

"Behold, he (Paul) preached the beginning of faith which, when it is in Christ, is justification for the believer." God, who makes the unclean clean and removes sins, justifies the sinner apart from works." 

Bede (673-735):

"The apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works."

Bernard of Clairvaux (2090-1153):

"Nobody will be justified in His sight by works of the law"..."Grace freely justifies me and sets me free from slavery to sin."

This is why the reformers protested. The doctrine of grace was at stack and their love for God and for others was what drove them to stand up. They saw first hand how wrong teachings can distort the Word of God, and so they risked their own lives to proclaim:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Eph. 2:8-9

I've always believed we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by our works. What an amazing gift! What joy it brings! For me, this book was not only reaffirming, but encouraged me in my faith. I highly recommend it!

*Side Note: The Bible is not the only authoritative basis for the Catholic Church, traditions of the church, as well as the openness to new revelations through the Pope are authoritative to Catholics, equal to Scripture.

This is also why the reformers protested. They believed that the Bible was the only authoritative Word of God. This is what most protestants believe as well today.

Buy it HERE on Amazon


  1. One only needs to go back in time to see what a rich heritage we as Christians have, to see all those who have gone before us. This books sounds like a good one. Thanks for sharing. Blessings to you! I'm your neighbor at #FaithOnFire.

  2. That's important to note, that justification by faith alone wasn't "new" with the Reformation - it was just newly discovered and emphasized. It would be interesting to trace this history!

    1. It was very interesting to learn about. I enjoyed the read very much!

  3. One of my goals this year is to read some words by some of the Church Fathers. This book sounds like a great resource, and I love the notion that there's nothing really "new" when it comes to theology. I guess chronological arrogance is nothing new! :-)

    1. I would like to read more by and about the church fathers as well. And I agree there isn't anything new under the sun! God's Word is the same today as it was yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. : )

  4. So much wisdom and information here! It's great to learn about Christian history! Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Wow! This book looks awesome!! It echoes the thoughts I've always had about reformed theology and how it isn't something new, but what the Bible clearly states.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. This books sounds very interesting. As a Lutheran, I will definitely have to check it out. Blessed to be your neighbor over at Coffee for your Heart today!

    1. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for stopping by Tara. : )

  7. Thanks for sharing - this looks like something I would like to read. I love Christian heritage and history!

    1. Hope you get a chance to read it. It was very good! Glad you stopped by Jennifer. : )

  8. This sounds like a very interesting book. I just finished reading Metaxas' biography of Luther. I was struck by the fact that he didn't want to destroy the Roman Catholic Church, he was really calling them back to biblical Christianity. Pinning to my "books to read" board.

    1. I've got that book on my list of wanting to read. I think my library has it!

  9. This sounds really good. My girls and I have been enjoying learning about church history this year in our home school! Thanks for sharing this on Booknificent Thursday at Mommynificent.com!

    1. I think you'd like it. Thanks for stopping by Tina. : )


Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )

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