Friday, May 10, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Why is it so hard?

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.

In describing the reasons for the difficulty in rich men and women being saved, it is important to understand that Clement is not talking about the initial "salvation" of the rich or of the rich being "born again." Rather he is talking about the continued salvation of the rich, about them fully obtaining the Kingdom of God. In reference to the two main causes (which we shall see in a moment), Clement remarks,
"And I affirm both of these things of the rich who have learned both the Saviour’s power and His glorious salvation. With those who are ignorant of the truth I have little concern." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 2)
It is not that Clement does not care for the unbelieving rich, rather he is simply stating that his purpose for this book is to aid those rich who have come to Christ and who desire "to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:24) Clement understood these words of Jesus to be in reference to a person's daily walk with God and not their initially being "born again." For those who have been born again and desire to enter the Kingdom of God, Clement has some guidance  For those who have yet to become believers in Jesus, Clement's words will have to wait until they first come to know Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

As for why it is so hard, Clement identifies two main reasons.
"Perhaps the reason of salvation appearing more difficult to the rich than to poor men, is not single but manifold. For some, merely hearing, and that in an off-hand way, the utterance of the Saviour, 'that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,' despair of themselves as not destined to live, surrender all to the world, cling to the present life as if it alone was left to them, and so diverge more from the way to the life to come, no longer inquiring either whom the Lord and Master calls rich, or how that which is impossible to man becomes possible to God. But others rightly and adequately comprehend this, but attaching slight importance to the works which tend to salvation, do not make the requisite preparation for attaining to the objects of their hope." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 2)
The first reason it is so hard for the rich to be saved is their despair of ever obtaining the Kingdom of God. Even the disciples were astonished at Jesus' remark as to how hard it was for the rich to be saved. They even asked Him, "Then who can be saved?" (Mark 10:26) While it is true that the salvation of the rich will be difficult, it is not impossible, as Jesus answered His disciples, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27) Sometimes, rich or not, we perceive the Kingdom as being too difficult to pursue; it seems to lie always just beyond our reach. Such a believe is not founded on truth but usually on hearing and learning the Kingdom in an "off-hand way." We hear what others say and we believe what the world intimates regarding our faith and we believe it, never actually returning to the written word to verify if such things are in fact true. Even in the church, we often convey a sense that, unless your are like us then you can never be saved. Unless you have our experiences, express our degree of emotions, or follow all our laws then your not really spiritual and your walk with God is lacking. Some hearing this, and convinced that they will never be like you, will simply despair of the Kingdom and turn to pursue what comes natural to them, leading them further and further form the life God intended for them.

The second reason is that, while we may desire to enter the Kingdom of God, we underestimate the effort and preparation necessarily to obtain our desires. It is like the seed that landed in rocky soil. "In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away." (Mark 4:16-18) We may have received the word with joy, but when difficult times come that require discipline, effort, and perseverance, we fall away either because we were not willing to pay the price or we failed to prepare ourselves for the work that was necessary in order to endure to the end. Sometimes the church can be complicit is the falling away of those among the rocks when we preach a gospel that tells people to come to Jesus and all will be well. We conveniently omit any mention of discipline, mortifying the flesh, and suffering. Hoping to "save them," we omit part of the truth, hoping they will not reject the whole truth once they are saved. However, many fall away when they learn, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21) The Gospel is the Gospel, we cannot sugar coat it, and when we come to the Lord we must accept it, all of it.

David Robison

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