When Protestants quote 1 Clement 32 to demonstrate “Sola Fide” in the early church, the Roman Catholic apologist answers back with 1 Clement 30.
But see the context!
When he says in I Clement 30, “being justified by works and not by words”, he is not teaching justification by the merit of good works as the Roman Catholic apologist claims, for that would also contradict what he wrote in paragraph 31, and 32 and 10, quoting Genesis 15:6
, that Abraham was justified by faith, and not good works. Rather, he is teaching the same thing that James taught in James chapter 2, verses 14-26, that good works are the result and vindicate and prove that someone has true faith. Just words are not enough that real faith is there. Real faith is living and active and results in good works. Here, Clement uses the meaning of “justify” as in Matthew 11:19
and Luke 7:35
– in the sense of “prove” or “vindicate” or “show to be true”. The context makes it clear. At the beginning of I Clement 30, he writes, “Seeing then that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all the things that pertain to holiness, forsaking slander, disgusting and impure embraces, drunkenness and rioting, and detestable lusts, abominable adultery, detestable pride.” We are the portion of the Holy One, we have the reality; God’s grace has first changed us, by grace alone, through faith alone; therefore, we can now do good works. This is similar to Colossians 3:12
, “Since, as those who have been chosen, holy, beloved, put on a heart of compassion, patience, humility, . . . “ This is fully compatible with good protestant teaching, that calls for holiness from those who have made a profession of faith and claim to be believers.
Clement also has an early statement on justification by faith apart from good works wrought by us within us.
“All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
I Clement 32