Friday, June 29, 2012

1st Clement - Introduction

It was about 97 AD and the church in Corinth was in crisis. Once again they were suffering through sedition and schisms. This was not the first time the church at Corinth was plagued with schisms. Years earlier, Paul wrote to the Corinthians to warn them about the dangers of schisms and to call them back to unity.
"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
Once again, the peace and harmony in Corinthian was being shattered by the divisiveness of seditious men. A group of young men had risen up to challenge the authority and wisdom of the aged presbyters of the church. This new sedition was tearing the church apart and damaging its good name among the other christian churches. In their time of need they turned to Clement of Rome for counsel.

After the deaths of Peter and Paul, Clement served as a presbyter in the church at Rome with Linus and Cletus. Clement was a disciple of Paul's and wast attested to by Paul in his letter to the Philippians.
"Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:3)
It was natural for the Corinthians church to turn to Clement, since he was a disciple of the apostle who brought the Gospel to Corinth. Also it is very likely that Clement actually visited Corinth either with Paul or in his official capacity as an officer of the Roman government. In his response to the Corinthians, you can hear the influence of Paul on Clement's life and you can feel the love, compassion, and pastoral heart of Clement towards his brethren in Corinth.

The fist epistle of Clement was read widely by the early churches along with the apostolic writings. Eusebius writes of this letter,
"There is one acknowledged Epistle of this Clement (whom he has just identified with the friend of St. Paul), great and admirable, which he wrote in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth, sedition having then arisen in the latter Church. We are aware that this Epistle has been publicly read in very many churches both in old times, and also in our own day. "(Ecclesiastical History, iii. 16)
In fact, one of the earliest bound versions of the scriptures actually includes Clement's letter along with the other inspired writings. Over the next several posts I will be commenting on this precious little book and hope that it inspires and enlightens you.

David Robison.

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