Thursday, September 20, 2012

1st Clement 21 to 22 - Admonitions for godly living

Having encouraged us to a lifestyle of humility, peace, and continuance with God, Clement continues to admonish us towards a life of godly living.
"Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us; let us esteem those who have the rule over us; let us honour the aged among us; let us train up the young men in the fear of God; let us direct our wives to that which is good." (1 Clement 21)
Godly living begins with a godly attitude and perspective, such as reverence, esteem, and honor. Our behavior often flows from our attitudes and perspectives. For example, if we appreciate our wives we will tend to me more loving and caring towards them. However, if we are embittered towards them then our behavior will reflect that. Living a godly lifestyle to our wives involves more than just changing our behavior towards them but often requires us to change our attitudes and perspective as well. A godly lifestyle is not just what is seen on the outside but also encompasses the disposition of the mind, heart, and soul.

Clement also encourages this lifestyle is not only for ourselves but we aught to be teach it one to one another, especially to our wives and children. Speaking of our wives, he says,
"Let them exhibit the lovely habit of purity [in all their conduct]; let them show forth the sincere disposition of meekness; let them make manifest the command which they have of their tongue, by their manner of speaking; let them display their love, not by preferring one to another, but by showing equal affection to all that piously fear God." (1 Clement 21)
What I find most interesting about Clement's instruction to women is its equity and simplicity. There is nothing taught here that would not be taught to men. There is nothing restrictive or confining here just an exhortation to godliness. Sometimes we take the view that women in the early church were repressed and considered inferior or second-class. However, this is not supported by the early Christian writings. Many of the early Christian writers spoke of the equality of women both in marriage and in the church. The force of the scriptures in commanding us towards godliness is just as strong for the male believer as it is for the female believer. As an independent moral agent, the woman is just as responsible as the man in her walk with God and her behavior towards others. Clement commands that those things that would be taught to a man should also be taught to a woman.

Clement continues in regards to our children, saying,
"Let your children be partakers of true Christian training; let them learn of how great avail humility is with God—how much the spirit of pure affection can prevail with Him—how excellent and great His fear is, and how it saves all those who walk in it with a pure mind." (1 Clement 21)
It is important that we include our children in our walk with the Lord. We must strive to integrate them in our fellowship, worship, and community life. Unfortunately, in many churches, the different generations are separated into their own groups. We have youth groups, college age groups, young married groups, and mature adult groups. The problem is that when we separate the young from the more mature they loose the opportunity to learn from those who have walked with the Lord longer and who have greater wisdom due to age and experience. By integrating the many generations together, each one has the ability and opportunity to learn from and to teach each other.

It is also interesting to see what should be the focus of learning for our children. We must train our children in a lifestyle that is pleasing to God and one that disposes God favorable towards them and their needs. We often don't think of availing God in this matter but Peter concurs when he says, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) Pride sets us at odds with God while humility and peace releases His "greater grace." (James 4:6) What is important in regards to our children is not that we teach them knowledge, although this is very useful indeed, but that we train them in godly living, since this has great strength with God.

Finally, Clement affirms that these admonitions are not his own but are in keeping with our Christian faith.
"Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these [admonitions]. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost..." (1 Clement 22)
Paul, in speaking of the sins of some, concludes by saying, "and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel." (1 Tim 1:10-11) Godly living is not just a good idea, it is part and parcel with our faith and with the glorious gospel we have received. Knowledge of our faith is not enough, believing is not enough, we must live our faith for it to become effectual. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26)

David Robison

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