May we––as the Reformers before us––wholeheartedly embrace Augustine’s teaching about the way in which “sinful man depends, for his recovery to good and to God, entirely on the free grace of God.”
Lately, as I have been reading through Augustine’s Expositions of the Psalms, I have been struck afresh by how central God’s free, unmerited, saving grace in Christ is throughout his theology. Though he is not always clear about justification being a legal act on the part of God, Augustine, nevertheless, makes numerous statements about the acceptance of a sinner before the infinitely holy God––statements that sound as if they were written by Luther or Calvin. This should not surprise us, since––as B.B. Warfield once famously said––”It was Augustine who gave us the Reformation.” Warfield explained this, when he wrote,
“For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the Church. This doctrine of grace came from Augustine’s hands in its positive outline completely formulated: sinful man depends, for his recovery to good and to God, entirely on the free grace of God; this grace is therefore indispensable, prevenient, irresistible, indefectible; and being thus the free grace of God, must have lain in all the details of its conference and working in the intention of God from all eternity.”
Since the Apostle Paul cites Psalm 32 in Romans 4:6–7, we should expect to find clear statements about what one believes about justification from this Psalm. Augustine’s opening comments shed light upon the fact that he believed that justification by grace and faith alone.