Tuesday, October 30, 2012

1st Clement 42 - Apostlology

Apostlology is the study and theory of Apostles (yes that is my own made up word). Clement describes to us the early church's understanding and belief regarding the apostles.
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. (1 Clement 42)
The belief of the first century church was that God sent forth His Word, Jesus. Jesus then selected those whom He would call Apostles that He might teach them His message. He then sent them out into the world to teach His message to all who would believe. In so doing, the Apostles became the definitive and decisive source and authority on God's message for mankind.

The fact that God would send forth Apostles to proclaim His message was prophesied long ago. Jesus reminds us, "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles.'" (Luke 11:49) Also, Jude concurs with the idea that the God's message has once and for all been delivered to mankind."I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 3) In the first century church they understood that the delivery of this message, once and for all, was to the Apostles; they were entrusted with it and it was their responsibility to teach it to the world. In their minds, the Apostles had received the full and complete message of faith, once and for all.

When we understand this then we begin to understand some other scriptures. For example,
"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42)
It was not just teaching they were devoted to, but the teachings of the apostles. The early church would never ask if an idea or teaching was biblical or scriptural, but rather if it was apostolic; does it conform to the teaching and message of the Apostles. A church or teacher was considered apostolic if they taught and maintained the teachings and traditions of the Apostles. The Apostolic church was first a church that was orthodox as pertaining to the things the Apostles taught and commanded.

Another scripture that becomes clearer when we understand how the early church viewed the Apostles is,
"Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)
Paul maintains that, in regards to the Gospel, he "neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:12) The Apostles were not simply passing on what they had heard, they were taught the Gospel directly from Jesus. This is a distinguishing mark of an Apostle, a disciple who was personally taught the message of God in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus. This is what brought the Apostles their authority and the authority of their teachings. They could be believed because Jesus Himself had personally taught them His message.

This also brings to light the importance of what John said,
"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life —  and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us —  what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." (1 John 1:1-4)
The Apostle's teachings are not just something they heard in the past, nor the machinations of an evil mind sent to enslave us in some cleverly devised heresy, rather is is the message of God, delivered once and for all, face-to-face to the Apostles of our faith. Our faith rest confidently in them and there message that it is the true message of God for the world.

David Robison

Saturday, October 27, 2012

1st Clement 40 to 41 - Serving God in proper order

Clement reminds us that those who server God should do so in proper order.
"These things therefore being manifest to us, and since we look into the depths of the divine knowledge, it behoves us to do all things in [their proper] order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times. He has enjoined offerings [to be presented] and service to be performed [to Him], and that not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours." (1 Clement 40)
Sometimes, the "proper time" has less to do with the time of day and more to do with the time, or phase, of our lives. Men and women are often called to serve God yet the actual fulfillment of their "calling" can be several years away. Years can occur between calling and acting. There is often several years of preparation necessary to meed the needs of the "calling". Jesus spoke about that servant who, "knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will." (Luke 12:47 NKJV) There is knowing God's will and there is preparing to do His will.

Consider Moses who, when it entered his mind to check out the state of his brethren,
"And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand." (Acts 7:24-25)
Moses understood his calling and thought that his brethren would also understand it, yet he acted at the wrong time and in his own strength. The result was forty years in the desert letting God prepare his heart for the calling God had on his life.

Clement also reminds us to serve God where we are called.
"Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable unto Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not." (1 Clement 40)
God not only specifies the "where" but also the "by whom". Sometimes we need to understand the limits of what God has called us to. Sometimes we need to be willing to let things remain undone knowing that we have not been called to perform every task. If we always do everything then those whose task those are will continue to remain idle. Clement instructs us,
Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. (1 Clement 41)
Consider the case of King Saul who waited seven days for Samuel to arrive and perform the sacrifices. However, Samuel delayed and Saul became impatient. "So Saul said, 'Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.' And he offered the burnt offering." (1 Samuel 13:9) Unfortunately, it was not Saul's place to offer sacrifices. No sooner had he finished sacrificing that Samuel showed up, and the news was not good for Saul.
"Samuel said to Saul, 'You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.' " (1 Samuel 13:13-14)
Not only must we serve God at the proper time but also within the proper limits He has established for our lives; limiting ourselves to the "ministry" allotted to us by God. We must avoid overreaching our calling, timing, and place in God. To do so is to invite trouble into our lives and danger to His body.
"Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. Ye see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed." (1 Clement 41)
Let us stop trying to be someone else, or worse, everyone else, and learn to be content with who God has made us and how He has called us. Let us learn to serve God in this way and, in so doing, we will be blessed by God.

David Robison

Monday, October 22, 2012

1st Clement 38 to 39 - Humility and submission

Key to submission is humility. The proud man will never submit while the humble can't help but submit himself to God and His word.
"Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made,—who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Clement 38)
Regardless of our rank, function, or place in the Church, we have received it, not according to our own righteousness nor our strength or ability, but simply according to His will and His grace. Even before we were born, before any acts of worthiness were performed by us, God destined us for a place and purpose in His church; not because of what we had done but because of what He had chosen. Paul reminds us,
"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Our gifting and calling are not because we are something great, but simply due to God's selection. "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." (1 Corinthians 12:11) However, it is the conceit of the proud that does not understand this and that seeks to be first and to claim the highest place.
"Foolish and inconsiderate men, who have neither wisdom nor instruction, mock and deride us, being eager to exalt themselves in their own conceits." (1 Clement 39)
Pride destroys community within the church and promotes strife, division, and sedition. Let us rather choose humility which promotes the building up of the whole body for the common good.

David Robison

Friday, October 19, 2012

1st Clement 38 - Submit to one another

The key to living in Christian community is to learn to submit to one another. Paul told us to "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:21) I must confess that I troubled over this scripture wondering how I could "submit to one another" when each "one another" had so many differing interests and demands on my life? How could I submit to "one another" if the "one anothers" could not agree on what they wanted me to submit to? One may want me to be silent and one to speak up; what was I suppose to do? Fortunately, Clement clarifies what Paul meant and simplifies his command.
"Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him." (1 Clement 38)
We are not to be subject to every whim and impulse of our neighbor, but we are to be subject to them according to the gifts they have received from God. This is not a blind subjugation but it is a subjugation based on gifting and function.

When we think of the church we typically think of it in hierarchical terms: Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, etc, or in the Protestant church; Senior leader, Associate leader, Lay leader, etc. But Jesus thinks of His church as a body. The eye submits to the foot, not because it has a hierarchical relationship with the foot, but rather because there are things that the foot does better than the eye and for which the eye was never meant to do. You were never meant to walk on your eye nor see with your foot. Therefore, the eye submits to wherever the foot wants to take it and the foot submits to the eye to know where the path is and to be alerted to dangers around it. This submission is based on purpose and function; the eye's and the foot's purpose and function being different and uniquely assigned to them by God.

The same should be true of us in the church today. We should submit to one another functionally, based on the gifts each has received from God. Pastors should submit to teachers, knowing that they have received a greater gift from God to teach and understand God's word, and teachers should submit to pastors understanding that God has given them greater wisdom in how to lead and direct God's people. Someone with an administrative gift should submit to one with a prophetic gift, knowing that doing things does not matter if it is not done according to His will, and prophetic people should submit to those with administrative gifts, knowing that seeing what God is doing and organizing a plan to embrace and participate in what He is doing is two very different things.

However, this submission is not just spiritual but can also be very practical.
"Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence." (1 Clement 38)
The rich should not despise the poor but rather should submit themselves to their needs, understanding that God has made them to be their benefactors. Similarly, the poor should not despise the rich but should submit themselves to giving thanks to God for them, thus fulfilling, in part, the place of praise and thanksgiving in the church. And so forth, until all learn to submit one to another.

This idea of mutual submission based on gifting and function is the center counsel of this entire letter from Clement. To miss this is to miss the heart of what He wants us to learn.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1st Clement 37 - We are like soldiers

While Paul compares Christian community to a body, Clement compares it to an army.
"Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments." (1 Clement 37)
One of the key characteristics of an army is its order. Proper order and adherence to rank is essential for an army to be well disciplined and effective.
"Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals." (1 Clement 37)
When referring to "our generals," Clement is not referring to Christian leaders whom we might see as generals in the faith, but rather is speaking of the generals in the Roman army; their generals being the generals of their nation. In an army, there are varying ranks, functions, and administrations that must all be performed together for there to be an affective army. You cannot have just generals, nor can you have just foot soldiers. All ranks and functions are necessary and must contribute to each other that the mission of the whole may be accomplished.

The same is true in the Christian church; not all are leaders, not all are teachers, not all are healers, not all evangelists. We all have a different part to play in the army of Christ and we all have our own unique rank and function that we must perform. Only when we commit ourselves to the role and rank assigned to us, and contribute as a member of the larger whole, will the army of God be affective in advancing His kingdom. All are needed, not just the great and powerful, but all are essential.
"The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body." (1 Clement 37)
Our goal in Christian community should not be to advance our own interests nor to try and climb the ecclesiastical "ladder". Our goal is not to become great, to make it to the "head of the class," but rather to become ourselves and to perform the function and duty assigned to us by God. Our motivation should not be our own selfish interests, but rather the interests of the whole; that by playing our part, the whole might be benefited.
"But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rulefor the preservation of the whole body." (1 Clement 37)
David Robison

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1st Clement 36 - Remember Jesus

Paul writes to his son Timothy reminding him to,
"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned." (2 Timothy 2:8-9)
Sometimes, in the midst of a busy life, and even in the midst of a religious live, it is easy to forget Jesus. This is why Clement also encourages us,
"This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Saviour, even Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity. By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvellous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge, 'who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.' ” (1 Clement 36)
We can easily forget the very source and center of our life. Jesus is more than just our savior, He is our very life.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Christ is our all-in-all; our hope, our provision, our strength, and our future; He is everything to us, and it is good to be reminded often of that truth lest we should forget. I find all too often that I can be thankful for the things I have received while forgetting from whom I have received them; I can be thankful for my life but forget the source of that life. Take time today to remember Jesus.

David Robison

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1st Clement 34 to 35 - Pursuing the good things of God

Clement understood that the pursuit of the good things of God was not only a solitary pursuit but also a corporate pursuit.
"And let us therefore, conscientiously gathering together in harmony, cry to Him earnestly, as with one mouth, that we may be made partakers of His great and glorious promises. For [the Scripture] saith, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which He hath prepared for them that wait for Him.' " (1 Clement 34)
It is not enough to be personally committed to the pursuit of God, we must also be corporately committed to the pursuit and individually committed to that corporate pursuit. The early Christian church was very much a communal church and individualism was something quite foreign to their understanding. Not that people were not individually members of the church but rather that people were not individuals as islands unto themselves. To be a Christian was inseparable from being part of the church.

Clement quotes his friend Paul regarding the many good things that God has for His children and his church, many of which were previously hidden from our understanding. He continues in the revelation that, many of those things that had been previously unknown our know known to us, as Paul said, "to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10)
"How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, self-control in holiness! And all these fall under the cognizance of our understandings [now]; what then shall those things be which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their beauty." (1 Clement 35)
Clement, with all the early Christian writers, understood that, while many of the gifts of God have been made know to us by His Spirit, there still remains much that we have yet to see and to even to imagine. Knowing this, Clement asks, "How shall we then find these things that remain hidden?"
"Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done?" (1 Clement 35)
Fortunately, he answers his own question.
"If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition. For they that do such things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those that take pleasure in them that do them." (1 Clement 35)
The pursuit of the many blessings and gifts of God is found in our pursuit of the character, nature, and ways of God. The good things of God are not found by pursuing them directly, but are the rewards and by products of our pursuit Him and of our being conformed into His image. When we pursue God and His holiness and righteousness, then we too receive His blessings and gifts. It is as our Lord Himself said,
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
 David Robison

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1st Clement 34 - Preparing to face our Lord

Having exhorted us to be diligent in Good works, Clement reminds us that,
"The good servant receives the bread of his labour with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face." (1 Clement 34)
Here the the, "servant" can also refer commonly to a "laborer". We are all called to good works, yet each of us will answer that call to varying degrees. We all will, at varying times in our lives, fall short of a whole hearted pursuit of good works as an expression of our election by God and our love for Him. When, on the final day, we meet our Lord, we will all fall somewhere between "confidence" and "regret", There is an old Hymn by Grace Reese Adkins that foretells of the time when a servant of God would one day meet their Lord and savior.
By and by when I look on His face,
Beautiful face, thorn shadowed face;
By and by when I look on His face,
I'll wish I had given Him more.
More, so much more,
More of my life than I e'er gave before
By and by when I look on His face,
I'll wish I had given Him more.
In that day there will be, for most of us a mixture of joy and sadness; joy for standing in the presence of God and sadness when we realize how much more we could have given for Him and for all the times we had failed to serve Him when opportunities presented themselves. In those days we will understand the prophesy, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4) Jesus will wipe away every tear in our eyes leaving only our happiness in Him.

However, knowing this, how much better to prepare ourselves now for a joyous and "confident" meeting later. How much better to give ourselves to good works now than to have those tears of missed opportunity wiped away later. Clement says of the servant of the Lord,
"It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things. And thus He forewarns us: 'Behold, the Lord [cometh], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work.' He exhorts us, therefore, with our whole heart to attend to this, that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work." (1 Clement 34)
Clement further encourages to imitate the angels of God who are ever ready to minister to His will.
"Let us consider the whole multitude of His angels, how they stand ever ready to minister to His will. For the Scripture saith, 'Ten thousand times ten thousand stood around Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him, and cried, Holy, holy, holy, [is] the Lord of Sabaoth; the whole creation is full of His glory.' " (1 Clement 34)
All of creation stands ready to do His will so let us also stand with readiness and promptness to fulfill the good works which God has created us for. Let us not be lazy or slothful, but with our whole hearts do those things which are good and pleasing in His sight.

David Robison

Monday, October 08, 2012

1st Clement 33 - Shall we be slothful?

Understanding that our election was not based on anything we had done, Clement rhetorically asks a question that some might be asking themselves.
"What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love?" (1 Clement 33)
This is similar to the question his friend Paul asked earlier, "Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" (Romans 6:15) and Paul's answer, "May it never be!" is the same answer that Clement gives us,
"God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work." (1 Clement 33)
Seeing that our election was based on God's grace and not on our own righteousness or good works, how much more should we be dedicated to good works that, through our good works, we might "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. (Titus 2:10)? Our motivation towards good works should no longer be to obtain God's love and acceptance but rather to show forth the love and acceptance we have freely received from God and to give that love and acceptance to others through good works done in His name. Our free election in God should cause us to delight in freely doing good to others. Clement reminds us,
"But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works." (1 Clement 33)
When he says that God delights in His works, he is not referring here to God delighting in the finished product of His works alone, but also in the process of doing the work itself.
For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immoveable foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He commanded by His own word into existence. So likewise, when He had formed the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. (1 Clement 33)
Clement also reminds us that we too are the result of God's work, the highest of His handiwork.

"Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him— the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God: 'Let us make man in Our image, and after Our likeness. So God made man; male and female He created them.' " (1 Clement 33)
We are His workmanship, created and formed by His holy and undefined hands, created in perfection and in His image and likeness. We were not created as an after thought, nor created by some unclean or unholy process, rather we were created to express and carry His very image and likeness. Since we have been made in His image and likeness, so should we be in our work; not given over to slothfulness, but performing it with all readiness and willingness.
"We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength." (1 Clement 33)
Paul tells us that we have been "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. " (Ephesians 2:10) Therefore, let us not be slothful in doing good to others even as God is not slothful in doing good to us.

David Robison

Friday, October 05, 2012

1st Clement 32 - Our election in Christ

Clement calls us to consider the gifts of God, not just our gifts, but the gifts given to the world. Specifically, he calls us to consider God's gifts that are connected with His redemptive purpose for all of mankind.
"Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah." (1 Clement 32)
 God's redemptive history passes through Israel. It was to them that He gave the law, the prophets, the priests, and the protection for over two thousand years. However, the choice of Israel was not because they were better than any other nation, nor were they bigger, nor more righteous, but simply was because God willed it.
"All these, therefore, were highly honoured, 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." (1 Clement 32)
 Israel's election was simply according to God's choice. Presently, the elect of God has shifted from the nation of Israel to us, those who have believed in His Son Jesus and, again, our election is not according to us; our strength, righteousness, or even our good looks. God chose us so that His election would be according to His will and choice and not according to anything that we might make boast of in our lives.
"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." (Clement 32)
 From the beginning God has chosen and justified those who would receive Him by faith. Even during the dispensation of the Law, there were still those who knew God, not based on the Law but by faith. Consider King David who would sit and worship before the Arc of the Covenant, something which the Law forbade, but something that God found acceptable through his faith, and though he did what was contrary to the law he was justified through faith.

Today, God's election is still going forth calling those who would come and receive His by faith to become citizens and participants in the Kingdom of God.
"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name," (John 1:11-13)
David Robison

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

1st Clement 31 - How to obtain the blessings of God

Most of us want the blessings of God but we often fail to consider how those blessings are obtained.
"Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac, with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen, cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice. Jacob, through reason of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel." (1 Clement 31)
While Clement understood the blessings of God he also understood that, in many ways, those blessings are not automatic and not possessed by all. Sometimes, we limit the blessings of God either by our ignorance or our unsanctified lifestyle. Our failure to be blessed is often the result of our unwillingness to do the things that lead to blessing. We want to be happy, but we are unwilling to pay the price to be happy. Clement identifies the means that the forerunners of our faith used to obtain the blessings of God.

Abraham combined his faith with his works, uniting belief with activity, knowing that "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26). In so doing we see that his "faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected." (James 2:22)

Isaac, knowing the goodness of God, submitted himself to the will of God for his life, wherever and to what ever that might lead him, even to the point of yielding himself as a sacrifice. The prospect of death was no obstacle between him and obtaining the blessings of God. He had the same heart as Mary when she said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

Jacob chose exile over conflict with his brother. He chose servitude over rulership. He chose to serve in obscurity knowing that, one day, in God's time, his turn would come to pass and those things that were rightly his would be granted to him. He understood what Jesus meant when He said, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble." (Luke 1:52)

Humility, obedience, and piety: these are the means of possessing the blessings of God.

David Robison

Monday, October 01, 2012

1st Clement 29 to 30 - Live like we belong to God

Clement reminds us that we are the Lord's own possession.
"Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect. For thus it is written,  'When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered the sons of Adam, He fixed the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the lot of His inheritance.' " (1 Clement 29)
God has chosen us for His own possession. Just as he previously chose the nation of Israel, so now He has chosen us to be His own special people. Peter confirms this saying, " you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:10) God has chosen us and taken us for Himself. Therefore, we ought to draw near to God in holiness and purity of spirit.
"Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change,all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. 'For God,' saith [the Scripture], 'resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.' " (1 Clement 30)
 Some translators render "seeking after change" as "youthful lusts" which seems to be more consistent with the rest of this chapter. Clement encourages us to do those things that pertain to holiness. This is not a theoretical holiness but a practical holiness; a holiness that is demonstrated by a behavior that is pure and holy. It is not enough to say we are holy, we must also live a life that demonstrates that holiness. This life of holiness is not before God alone but also before our fellow man; we should live a holy life before God and mankind.

We must also be careful with who we fellowship. A holy life is encouraged by the fellowship with holy saints. As we are to be holy, so we should associate with other holy ones. Clement writes,
"Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words." (1 Clement 30)
In writing of those who have been given grace, he is referring to those who have received a grater grace from God due to their humility. Clement encourages us to fellowship with those who are humble and devoid of gossip, sedition, and evil speaking. While we cannot, nor should, completely shun the world, our lives should be bound with the humble and with those who demonstrate a holiness of life that is consistent with the Gospel. We can interact with the world around us, but our brothers and sisters are the saints of God.

Finally, Clement commands us to be humble in spirit ourselves.
"Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him." (1 Clement 30)
Humility, meekness, and moderation are the property of the godly. All boldness, arrogance, and audacity must be cleansed from our lives. As we are to cleave to the humble so must we be humble ourselves. These should be the characteristics that mark our lives.

David Robison