Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Let's listen to it again

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book on the Salvation of the Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with Clement or his book, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.
May the Saviour then grant to us that, having begun the subject from this point, we may contribute to the brethren what is true, and suitable, and saving, first touching the hope itself, and, second, touching the access to the hope. (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 4)
Clement establishes the goal of his little book, that it would be true, suitable, and saving; not saving in the sense of leading people to become born again but saving in the broader sense, to be made secure, complete, perfect, whole, and well. Clement's goal was not to simply express his own thought or opinions, nor to contend for his "side" in some theological and moral debate, but his goal was to teach that which would help others and equip them to enter in and fully obtain the Kingdom of God. In this world there is a lot of "noise." Are we speaking and communicating is a way that only contributes to the "noise" or in a way that is actually benefiting others? Are we speaking and communicating in a way to serve our own self interest by making our own thoughts and ideas known or are we speaking and communicating in a way that shows we are interested in the needs and cares of others; in a way that benefits others and not ourselves?
"He indeed grants to those who beg, and teaches those who ask, and dissipates ignorance and dispels despair, by introducing again the same words about the rich, which become their own interpreters and infallible expounders. For there is nothing like listening again to the very same statements, which till now in the Gospels were distressing you, hearing them as you did without examination, and erroneously through puerility." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 4)
Clement had a confidence that those who truly want to know the truth and are willing to pursue the truth will find the truth. God gives to those who ask, and for those who seek, He lets them find. Clement challenges us to once again look at the words Jesus spoke, but to look at them with fresh examination, letting His words be their own interrupter, and to discard all puerility in our search for the truth. Puerility refers to that period of childhood between being being a toddler and adolescence  To understand the truth of God's word we need to grow up spiritually and set aside childish things, to use effort and study consistent with young men and women of God that we may gain insight, knowledge, and understanding.

Here are the words of Jesus as quoted by Clement.
"And going forth into the way, one approached and kneeled, saying, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may inherit everlasting life? And Jesus saith, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments. Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he answering saith to Him, All these have I observed. And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and said, One thing thou lackest. If thou wouldest be perfect, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he was rich, having great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith to His disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! More easily shall a camel enter through the eye of a needle than a rich man into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, and said, Who then can be saved? And He, looking upon them, said, What is impossible with men is possible with God. For with God all things are possible. Peter began to say to Him, Lo, we have left all and followed Thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and brethren, and possessions, for My sake and the Gospel’s, shall receive an hundred-fold now in this world, lands, and possessions, and house, and brethren, with persecutions; and in the world to come is life everlasting. But many that are first shall be last, and the last first." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 4)
These words will be the basis of his discussion over the next several chapters.

David Robison

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