Sunday, June 30, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Second Repentance

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.
"And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale, which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
In closing his book, Clement once again addresses the issue of second repentance. The question is, once having repented and been saved, can a person sin again and then expect reconciliation from a second repentance. The writer of Hebrews leaves this subject in question. "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." (Hebrews 6:4-6) To clarify this issue, Clement chooses to relate a story from John the Apostle.

After returning from Patmos, John journeyed to a church to settle some issues and to appoint a bishop over the church. While there he committed a youth to the charge of the presbyters and the bishop to watch over his growth in the Lord. The boy did well up until his baptism where upon,
"After this he relaxed his stricter care and guardianship, under the idea that the seal of the Lord he had set on him was a complete protection to him. But on his obtaining premature freedom, some youths of his age, idle, dissolute, and adepts in evil courses, corrupt him." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
In the company of such youth, he forsook the path of righteousness, and followed them into evil and corruption.
"And having entirely despaired of salvation in God, he no longer meditated what was insignificant, but having perpetrated some great exploit, now that he was once lost, he made up his mind to a like fate with the rest. Taking them and forming a band of robbers, he was the prompt captain of the bandits, the fiercest, the bloodiest, the cruelest." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
Some years later, John returned and demanded to see the young man he had left in the charge of the church. He as told of the young man's departure and that he was now "dead to God." John wept with sorrow and immediately set out to find the youth.
"He rode away, just as he was, straight from the church. On coming to the place, he is arrested by the robbers’ outpost; neither fleeing nor entreating, but crying, 'It was for this I came. Lead me to your captain;' who meanwhile was waiting, all armed as he was." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
Upon seeing John, the young man fled in shame. However, when he stopped, John approached him, embraced him, and wept over him. John then took and baptized him a second time and restored him to the church. John then stayed on at the church to fight for the man's full repentance and salvation.
"Then by supplicating with copious prayers, and striving along with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances of words, did not depart, as they say, till he restored him to the Church, presenting in him a great example of true repentance and a great token of regeneration, a trophy of the resurrection for which we hope; when at the end of the world, the angels, radiant with joy, hymning and opening the heavens, shall receive into the celestial abodes those who truly repent; and before all, the Saviour Himself goes to meet them, welcoming them; holding forth the shadowless, ceaseless light; conducting them, to the Father’s bosom, to eternal life, to the kingdom of heaven." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
Here is the point of the matter, salvation and destruction are the results of the choices we make. It matters not if we be rich or poor, for neither makes us fit for the kingdom or disqualifies us for the salvation to be found in it. It matters the choices we make and  the life we choose to follow.
"For he who in this world welcomes the angel of penitence will not repent at the time that he leaves the body, nor be ashamed when he sees the Saviour approaching in His glory and with His army. He fears not the fire. But if one chooses to continue and to sin perpetually in pleasures, and values indulgence here above eternal life, and turns away from the Saviour, who gives forgiveness; let him no more blame either God, or riches, or his having fallen, but his own soul, which voluntarily perishes. But to him who directs his eye to salvation and desires it, and asks with boldness and vehemence for its bestowal, the good Father who is in heaven will give the true purification and the changeless life." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 42)
This end Clements book.

David Robison

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Help me please!

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.
"Wherefore it is by all means necessary for thee, who art pompous, and powerful, and rich, to set over thyself some man of God as a trainer and governor. Reverence, though it be but one man; fear, though it be but one man. Give yourself to hearing, though it be but one speaking freely, using harshness, and at the same time healing." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41)
When the world is our oyster it is often hard to make ourselves make the decisions that are necessary to discipline our life for service in God's Kingdom. Why deny ourselves, why sacrifice our pleasure, why be concerned regarding others? These sentiments war against our soul and test our minds with the course we know our lives should take. Clement, understanding this, knew that the rich face temptations peculiar to their wealth; temptations the poor never know. Wealth, to the soul, can become like an opiate; an addicting drug.
"For it is good for the eyes not to continue always wanton, but to weep and smart sometimes, for greater health. So also nothing is more pernicious to the soul than uninterrupted pleasure. For it is blinded by melting away, if it remain unmoved by bold speech." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41)
Clement understood that, for many, if they were escape "uninterrupted pleasure" and find their way in the kingdom of God, they will need someone to help them and guide them along the path.
"Fear this man when angry; be pained at his groaning; and reverence him when making his anger to cease; and anticipate him when he is deprecating punishment. Let him pass many sleepless nights for thee, interceding for thee with God, influencing the Father with the magic of familiar litanies. For He does not hold out against His children when they beg His pity. And for you he will pray purely, held in high honour as an angel of God, and grieved not by you, but for you. This is sincere repentance." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41)
For some, the fellowship of the brethren is enough to encourage them along the way, but for others, their pride and self confidence insulates them from the gentile help and example of the brethren. Instead they need someone who can be more direct, more assertive, more bold in their relationships with them. Someone who sees them as not someone who is rich but rather someone who is poor in soul and in need of their help and aid, They need someone who make it their aim to assist them into the kingdom; to counsel, to rebuke, to encourage, and to pray.

How about you? Who is praying for you advancement in the kingdom? And for who's life are you praying.

David Robison

Friday, June 28, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - The Repentant Life

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.
"Forgiveness of past sins, then, God gives; but of future, each one gives to himself. And this is to repent, to condemn the past deeds, and beg oblivion of them from the Father, who only of all is able to undo what is done, by mercy proceeding from Him, and to blot out former sins by the dew of the Spirit." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 40)
When we come to salvation in Christ, our lives are divided into two part: that part that was before and that part which is yet to be. Over our past God pronounces forgiveness of all our sins; we are forgiven for all we have done and our slate is wiped clean. This forgiveness can only come from God for it is against Him we have sinned and He therefore alone has the power to forgive us of those sins. No amount of good works on our part can overcome our evil works without the intervening power of His forgiveness. However, while our past belongs to God, our future belongs to us.
"So that even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him, since at the catastrophe of the drama he has given up his part; while it is possible for the man who formerly led a bad and dissolute life, on afterwards repenting, to overcome in the time after repentance the evil conduct of a long time." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 40)
Our pasts do not determine our futures, good or evil. We could have had an evil past yet end up with a good future, or we could have had a good past and end up in an evil way, the choice is ours; the choice is our to choose the future we wish to have, regardless of the manor of life we lived before coming to know the Father.

Clement makes it clear that, in his estimation, one can start out well by walking in the kingdom yet later throw it all away by pursuing an evil course; not as one loosing his salvation, but as one giving it away. Its not our sins that give away our salvation but our choice of paths. If we start out on a path of faith then we will do well, but if we later turn to a path of unbelief, all the gains we have made under faith are at risk of being lost, with the possibility of our greatest loss, the loss of our salvation. The key to not erring on our way is to emulate a life of repentance.
"But it needs great carefulness, just as bodies that have suffered by protracted disease need regimen and special attention. Thief, dost thou wish to get forgiveness? steal no more. Adulterer, burn no more. Fornicator, live for the future chastely. Thou who hast robbed, give back, and give back more than [thou tookest]. False witness, practice truth. Perjurer, swear no more, and extirpate the rest of the passions, wrath, lust, grief, fear; that thou mayest be found at the end to have previously in this world been reconciled to the adversary. It is then probably impossible all at once to eradicate inbred passions; but by God’s power and human intercession, and the help of brethren, and sincere repentance, and constant care, they are corrected." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 40)
There is a great difference between being forgiven of our sins and the extirpation of those sins from our lives. Most of us feel guilty when we sin and desire forgiveness that we might be released from the feelings of our guilt. However, few of us proceed further to seek to remove those sins from our lives that we might no longer need forgiveness for those self same sins. Forgiveness happens in a moment, however, repentance can take a life time to work out in our lives; to work out a repentance that is a true turning away from our sins and a turning towards God. Such a repentance is not easy and will take constant effort on our part, but we are not alone. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

God is asking us today to adopt for ourselves a life of repentance; to not only seek forgiveness of sins but to achieve in our lives an abandonment of those sins; to grow in repentance to the place where forgiveness is required less often and victories over sin become more common place. While such a life can be hard, and may be harder for some than others, its rewards are eternal.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Rejecting your Salvation

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.
"If one should escape the superfluity of riches, and the difficulty they interpose in the way of life, and be able to enjoy the eternal good things; but should happen, either from ignorance or involuntary circumstances, after the seal and redemption, to fall into sins or transgressions so as to be quite carried away; such a man is entirely rejected by God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 39)
For some, these are fighting words. There has long been a debate among Christian circles as to whether one could loose their salvation. To be sure, no one looses their salvation in the same way they loose their keys, but is is possible for one to start down the road of salvation only to find themselves rejected in the end? Is salvation like an open movie pass where, once purchased, it can be redeemed anytime we choose? Or is it more like fire insurance that must be kept in force against the day it is needed? The early church wrestled with this issue and the greater question of second repentance, but it was a clear teaching of Clement that one could, by choosing a road leading away from the Kingdom of God, choose to reject and give away their salvation.

Clement knew of nothing pertaining to a saving "decision" to accept Jesus and to asking Him into our hearts. For Clement, the Kingdom was apprehended through faith and repentance; faith in the message of Christ and repentance from our sins and sinful nature. Clement understood repentance to be more than a "decision" but a choice followed upon by action. He held a similar view to John the Baptist. Speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducee he said, " 'You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance.' " (Matthew 3:7-8) Repentance begins with a decision and continues through works of action.
"For to every one who has turned to God in truth, and with his whole heart, the doors are open, and the thrice-glad Father receives His truly repentant son. And true repentance is to be no longer bound in the same sins for which He denounced death against Himself, but to eradicate them completely from the soul." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 39)
True repentance involves much more than an "I'm sorry," it is a process by which we turn from our wicked ways and engage in a process of eradicating every last trace of sin from our lives. For example, it is not enough to be sorry for our anger, rather repentance seeks to remove every passion from our soul that would incite us to anger. It is not enough to be ashamed of our impure thoughts, but repentance demands that they be replaced with thoughts that are good and holy so that nothing of the former thoughts remain. Repentance begins with a decision but ends with a pure heart and its reward is forgiveness.
"For on their extirpation God takes up His abode again in thee. For it is said there is great and exceeding joy and festival in the heavens with the Father and the angels when one sinner turns and repents... For it is in the power of God alone to grant the forgiveness of sins, and not to impute transgressions; since also the Lord commands us each day to forgive the repenting brethren. 'And if we, being evil, know to give good gifts,' much more is it the nature of the Father of mercies, the good Father of all consolation, much pitying, very merciful, to be long-suffering, to wait for those who have turned. And to turn is really to cease from our sins, and to look no longer behind." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 39)
Repentance is perfected when we have left behind those things we have repented of and no longer look behind to long for them; when we have ceased to be like Lot's wife who, while fleeing Sodom, still longed for it. Jesus is looking for those who have turned; turned from sin to God. Have you turned? A decision is not enough, there is a demand for action. May today be your day of turning.

David Robison

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - The Feminine Side of God

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.
"And then thou shalt look into the bosom of the Father, whom God the only-begotten Son alone hath declared. And God Himself is love; and out of love to us became feminine. In His ineffable essence He is Father; in His compassion to us He became Mother. The Father by loving became feminine: and the great proof of this is He whom He begot of Himself; and the fruit brought forth by love is love." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
We don't often think of God in feminine terms and, for some, such a thought is shocking. However, it is not without precedence. Paul refers to his way with the church as both masculine and feminine. "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8) It is also said of God that, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) Both man and woman were created in the image of God, showing us that God is both masculine and feminine in His nature. While God has chosen to reveal Himself to us as a Father and as a Son, this does not negate the fact that He is also feminine. One of the chief qualities born of the feminine side of God is love. Of this love Clement writes,
"For this also He came down. For this He clothed Himself with man. For this He voluntarily subjected Himself to the experiences of men, that by bringing Himself to the measure of our weakness whom He loved, He might correspondingly bring us to the measure of His own strength. And about to be offered up and giving Himself a ransom, He left for us a new Covenant-testament: My love I give unto you. And what and how great is it? For each of us He gave His life,—the equivalent for all. This He demands from us in return for one another." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
Jesus came and loved us, not only to satisfy His own desire, but also to teach us that we too should emulate the feminine side of God and learn to love one another. In the early church, their love for one another was witnessed by all and was a mark that they too had been loved by God. An how shall we love one another? By laying down our lives for our brethren.
"And if we owe our lives to the brethren, and have made such a mutual compact with the Saviour, why should we any more hoard and shut up worldly goods, which are beggarly, foreign to us and transitory? Shall we shut up from each other what after a little shall be the property of the fire? Divinely and weightily John says, 'He that loveth not his brother is a murderer,' the seed of Cain, a nursling of the devil. He has not God’s compassion. He has no hope of better things. He is sterile; he is barren; he is not a branch of the ever-living supercelestial vine. He is cut off; he waits the perpetual fire." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
There are many ways to show love one for another but, for the rich man who has the worlds goods, why should he not rather choose to use those goods in the service of those whom he loves; In meeting the needs of his brethren? Paul wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8) The same could be said for those who despise the household of God and withholds its help when it is in their power to help. Clement describes such people as being sterile, barren, and without hope for better things in their lives. How much better to give to the aid of others then to withhold to the harming of our own soul? The benefits of love are many. Clement writes,
"Love comes to completion, and grows more when that which is perfect has been bestowed. If one introduces it into his soul, although he be born in sins, and has done many forbidden things, he is able, by increasing love, and adopting a pure repentance, to retrieve his mistakes. For let not this be left to despondency and despair by you, if you learn who the rich man is that has not a place in heaven, and what way he uses his property." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 38)
Love is the path forward. It may mean that some of us will have to learn to be more feminine in our nature, but its rewards are limitless. God is love and, as His children, He is calling us to be people of love. This is our calling and our destiny.

David Robison

Monday, June 24, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Condescend to the Lowly

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.
"But contrary to what is the case with the rest of men, collect for thyself an unarmed, an unwarlike, a bloodless, a passionless, a stainless host, pious old men, orphans dear to God, widows armed with meekness, men, adorned with love. Obtain with thy money such guards, for body and for soul, for whose sake a sinking ship is made buoyant, when steered by the prayers of the saints alone; and disease at its height is subdued, put to flight by the laying on of hands; and the attack of robbers is disarmed, spoiled by pious prayers; and the might of demons is crushed, put to shame in its operations by strenuous commands." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 34)
It is a common desire of men to want to be associated with and seen along side with those who are great. We like having our picture taken with celebrities as if we know them and are their companions. We like to be in the presence of wealthy and powerful men and seen as their confidants and equals. When given a choice, we will shy away from the lowly, plain, and common to seek the company of the high, distinguished, and great. Yet Paul reminds us to, "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." (Romans 12:16 KJV) Clement also encourages us that, in selecting those who might sand as guards with us and along side of use on our way into the Kingdom of God, that we choose instead the meek and lowly; those who hold power with God rather than those who hold power in this world.
"All these warriors and guards are trusty. No one is idle, no one is useless. One can obtain your pardon from God, another comfort you when sick, another weep and groan in sympathy for you to the Lord of all, another teach some of the things useful for salvation, another admonish with confidence, another counsel with kindness. And all can love truly, without guile, without fear, without hypocrisy, without flattery, without pretence. O sweet service of loving [souls]! O blessed thoughts of confident [hearts]! O sincere faith of those who fear God alone! O truth of words with those who cannot lie! O beauty of deeds with those who have been commissioned to serve God, to persuade God, to please God, not to touch thy flesh! to speak, but to the King of eternity dwelling in thee." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 35)
This is a message we have heard before, that the rich should not trust in their riches, rather they should use their riches to make friends who will assist them and "will receive you into the eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9) The rich, encumbered as they are by the constant attention their business requires, while they may seem short of their own services towards God, can yet spend their wealth in service of the poor, the needy, and the lowly and procure for themselves those who will aid them in their journey towards the Kingdom of God. The  rich providing service to the poor and the poor returning service to the rich; this is all part of God's plan for mankind on the earth.

Finally, there is one other class of people that the rich should submit their lives to.
"All the faithful, then, are good and godlike, and worthy of the name by which they are encircled as with a diadem. There are, besides, some, the elect of the elect, and so much more or less distinguished by drawing themselves, like ships to the strand, out of the surge of the world and bringing themselves to safety; not wishing to seem holy, and ashamed if one call them so; hiding in the depth of their mind the ineffable mysteries, and disdaining to let their nobleness be seen in the world; whom the Word calls 'the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.' This is the seed, the image and likeness of God, and His true son and heir, sent here as it were on a sojourn, by the high administration and suitable arrangement of the Father, by whom the visible and invisible things of the world were created; some for their service, some for their discipline, some for their instruction; and all things are held together so long as the seed remains here; and when it is gathered, these things shall be very quickly dissolved." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 36)
While the meaning chapter is a bit uncertain, I believe that Clement is speaking of those gifts that God has placed within the body of Christ. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13) Those servants who have obtained such a reputation as Clement describes are worthy of our submission and provide benefit to those who will follow them. Their example can provide us with a map to guide our steps and shape our character, if we will chose to submit to them and to follow their direction and example.

David Robison

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Generous to a Fault

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.
"How then does man give these things? For I will give not only to friends, but to the friends of friends. And who is it that is the friend of God? Do not you judge who is worthy or who is unworthy. For it is possible you may be mistaken in your opinion. As in the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the undeserving for the sake of the deserving, than by guarding against those that are less good to fail to meet in with the good. For though sparing, and aiming at testing, who will receive meritoriously or not, it is possible for you to neglect some that are loved by God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 33)
It is dangerous to set ourselves as judges over who is worthy of God's grace and mercy and who is not. As judges, we often judge with wrong motives and always with imperfect understanding. How can you look upon two who are poor and distinguish which is deserving of God's help and which is not? For while their outward appearances are the same, worthiness is found in the heart, a place where our natural eyes are not permitted to see. Clement counsels us to give to all who ask, not making judgements between one and another. For it is better to help some who are not worthy of help then, by attempting to determine who is worthy, to fail to help those who are truly worthy in deed.
"But by offering to all in turn that need, you must of necessity by all means find some one of those who have power with God to save... Open thy compassion to all who are enrolled the disciples of God; not looking contemptuously to personal appearance, nor carelessly disposed to any period of life. Nor if one appears penniless, or ragged, or ugly, or feeble, do thou fret in soul at this and turn away. This form is cast around us from without, the occasion of our entrance into this world, that we may be able to enter into this common school. But within dwells the hidden Father, and His Son, who died for us and rose with us.." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 33)
Jesus Himself said, "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back." (Luke 6:30) Our obedience to Christ's command must not be conditional based upon another's outward appearance. We must not become judges with evil motives, rather we must simply obey Jesus' words and learn to become generous with our wealth; generous to all. By learning to be generous to all we will in no way fail to give help to those whom God finds worthy; to those to whom aid is due.

The truth is that true beauty and true worth is found inside a person, not in their outward appearance or their present station in life.
"This visible appearance cheats death and the devil; for the wealth within, the beauty, is unseen by them. And they rave about the carcase, which they despise as weak, being blind to the wealth within; knowing not what a 'treasure in an earthen vessel' we bear, protected as it is by the power of God the Father, and the blood of God the Son, and the dew of the Holy Spirit." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 34)
Who we are, and our worth before God, is hidden from those who look from without; even the devil fails to fully comprehend us and our value to God since he can only look upon the outward appearance of man. As those who have been enlightened by God, we must avoid this same error; the error of judging based on outward appearances, and rather value people as God does; value them for who they are on the inside. Paul said, "Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) We must no longer judge people outwardly but rather learn to love them for who they are in the inside, for who Christ seems them to be in their heart and their soul, as those who are precious to God.

David Robison

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Make friends with money

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.
"Then to appoint such a reward for liberality,—an everlasting habitation! O excellent trading! O divine merchandise! One purchases immortality for money; and, by giving the perishing things of the world, receives in exchange for these an eternal mansion in the heavens! Sail to this mart, if you are wise, O rich man! If need be, sail round the whole world. Spare not perils and toils, that you may purchase here the heavenly kingdom. Why do transparent stones and emeralds delight thee so much, and a house that is fuel for fire, or a plaything of time, or the sport of the earthquake, or an occasion for a tyrant’s outrage? Aspire to dwell in the heavens, and to reign with God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
Clement is referring to the promise of our savior, "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9) There are so many things we could spend our money on, but so few that will return us eternal rewards. If we really understood the power of money why would we spend it on perishable things that are here today and gone tomorrow; things that are destine to chance, depreciation, and ruin? Would we not rather, with all zealousness, spend it on things that hold eternal value? Clement's earnest exhortation is to pursue these things with our money and, specifically, to make friends with our money that these friendships might welcome us into eternal habitations.
"This kingdom a man imitating God will give thee. By receiving a little here, there through all ages He will make thee a dweller with Him. Ask that you may receive; haste; strive; fear lest He disgrace thee. For He is not commanded to receive, but thou to give." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
This is a bold understanding of the words of Jesus and Clement believes them literally. When we make fiends with unrighteous money we purchase for ourselves eternal life. However, Clement understands that Jesus is speaking of something more than simply giving alms.
"The Lord did not say, Give, or bring, or do good, or help, but make a friend. But a friend proves himself such not by one gift, but by long intimacy. For it is neither the faith, nor the love, nor the hope, nor the endurance of one day, but 'he that endureth to the end shall be saved.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 32)
We are really good at giving an offering at Thanksgiving and Christmas but not so good at providing long term care for those in need. However, giving a donation in an offering plate or buying a gift at Christmas, as good as this might be, does not make friends. God's call to the rich is to find those who are conically poor and to become their benefactor and friend. To build a relationship of love with them and to care for them as one of our own family. In this way, the rich and the poor build a relationship together, not only with each other, but also with the Lord. Both of them, in need of what the other has, form a symbiotic relationship which is honoring and pleasing to God. Such a relationship is beautifully described in the Pastor of Hermas,
"The rich man has much wealth, but is poor in matters relating to the Lord, because he is distracted about his riches; and he offers very few confessions and intercessions to the Lord, and those which he does offer are small and weak, and have no power above. But when the rich man refreshes the poor, and assists him in his necessities, believing that what he does to the poor man will be able to find its reward with God—because the poor man is rich in intercession and confession, and his intercession has great power with God—then the rich man helps the poor in all things without hesitation; and the poor man, being helped by the rich, intercedes for him, giving thanks to God for him who bestows gifts upon him... So also poor men interceding with the Lord on behalf of the rich, increase their riches; and the rich, again, aiding the poor in their necessities, satisfy their souls. Both, therefore, are partners in the righteous work." (The Pastor of Hermas, Book Third, Similitude Second)
David Robison

Friday, June 14, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Love Jesus by loving others

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.
"He then is first who loves Christ; and second, he who loves and cares for those who have believed on Him. For whatever is done to a disciple, the Lord accepts as done to Himself, and reckons the whole as His." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 30)
We are called to first love God and secondly love Jesus, but how do we love one who is unseen and how can we bless and benefit one who has need of nothing? One Christmas, one of my children asked me, "If it is Jesus' birthday then why don't we give Him a present?" I answered them that the best way to give Jesus a present is to give one to someone in need. For when we give to the "least of these" we give to Him. Jesus Himself told us, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) The best way to love Jesus is to love those who are His, even the least of them.
"Such He names children, and sons, and little children, and friends, and little ones here, in reference to their future greatness above. 'Despise not,' He says, 'one of these little ones; for their angels always behold the face of My Father in heaven.' And in another place, 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom of heaven.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 31)
We are to love others, not based on their present station in life, but based on who they are in God's eyes and who they are to be in the life to come. Even a little child is destined to be great in God and in the Kingdom and is thus worth of being loved.

Clement goes on to observe that giving to the "least of these" has the power to work a righteous and saving act in our lives.
"And again, 'Make to you friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations;' showing that by nature all property which a man possesses in his own power is not his own. And from this unrighteousness it is permitted to work a righteous and saving thing, to refresh some one of those who have an everlasting habitation with the Father." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 31)
There is power in giving when we give out of an expression of Loving Jesus. Such power should motivate us to be proactive in our giving, not waiting to be asked, but actively seeking those who are in need.
"See then, first, that He has not commanded you to be solicited or to wait to be importuned, but yourself to seek those who are to be benefited and are worthy disciples of the Saviour. Excellent, accordingly, also is the apostle’s saying, 'For the Lord loveth a cheerful giver;' who delights in giving, and spares not, sowing so that he may also thus reap, without murmuring, and disputing, and regret, and communicating, which is pure beneficence. But better than this is the saying spoken by the Lord in another place, 'Give to every one that asketh thee.' For truly such is God’s delight in giving. And this saying is above all divinity,—not to wait to be asked, but to inquire oneself who deserves to receive kindness." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 31)
God wants us to have heart of a cheerful giver; one who gives with liberality and without regret; one for whom giving is a delight and a joy. But beyond this, God wants us to be an active giver; one who does not simply wait for someone to ask for help, but one who actively looks for those they can help with the wealth God has given them. Such a giver understands that their wealth is not their own, rather they are merely stewards of God's own wealth, and, as stewards of God, they actively looks for those in need whom they can help out of God's wealth that they steward. These are the givers God is seeking. Are you such a giver?

David Robison

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Jesus is our neighbor

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.
"The Master accordingly, when asked, 'Which is the greatest of the commandments?' says, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength;' that no commandment is greater than this (He says), and with exceeding good reason; for it gives command respecting the First and the Greatest, God Himself, our Father, by whom all things were brought into being, and exist, and to whom what is saved returns again." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 27)
Salvation for the rich man, and for the poor man, centers around how we stand in relationship to the commandments of God. Therefore, it is essential that we understand those commandments in their proper order. Jesus clearly states that the greatest of all commandments is this, that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. For it is from Him that we have received our very existence and He alone is our creator and the giver of all life. It is only right, then, that we should owe Him our love, thanks, and gratitude. It is also He who gives us the promise of eternal life, a life whose entrance is found in the love of God.
"and gaining immortality by the very exercise of loving the Father to the extent of one's might and power. For the more one loves God, the more he enters within God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 27)
After this first command, the second, in order, is to love our neighbor.
"The second in order, and not any less than this, He says, is, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' consequently God above thyself. And on His interlocutor inquiring, 'Who is my neighbour?' He did not, in the same way with the Jews, specify the blood-relation, or the fellow-citizen, or the proselyte, or him that had been similarly circumcised, or the man who uses one and the same law." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 28)
When we think of our neighbor, we think of those living close to us, but Jesus was about to redefine that word to those who heard Him and to those whom He taught. Jesus answered in a parable of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead, yet he was,
"pitied by the vilified and excommunicated Samaritan; who did not, like those, pass casually, but came provided with such things as the man in danger required, such as oil, bandages, a beast of burden, money for the inn-keeper, part given now, and part promised." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 28)
Jesus then asked His hearers, "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" (Luke 10:36) Obviously it was the Samaritan and Jesus bids His hearers to go and do likewise.

Both of these commandments center around love, love distinguished and in order; the first part of love God assigns to Himself and the second part to our neighbor, but who is our neighbor? Clement gives an unexpected answer.
"Who else can it be but the Saviour Himself? or who more than He has pitied us, who by the rulers of darkness were all but put to death with many wounds, fears, lusts, passions, pains, deceits, pleasures? Of these wounds the only physician is Jesus, who cuts out the passions thoroughly by the root,—not as the law does the bare effects, the fruits of evil plants, but applies His axe to the roots of wickedness. He it is that poured wine on our wounded souls (the blood of David’s vine), that brought the oil which flows from the compassions of the Father, and bestowed it copiously. He it is that produced the ligatures of health and of salvation that cannot be undone,—Love, Faith, Hope. He it is that subjected angels, and principalities, and powers, for a great reward to serve us." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 29)
We are the ones who have fallen in with robbers in the way; we are the ones beaten and bleeding along the side of the road, we are the ones in need of help, and Jesus is our neighbor who comes to our aid. Jesus is a neighbor to all who are hurting, broken, and in need of a savior. Jesus has come to seek and save those who are lost. Jesus is a neighbor worth of being loved.
"We are therefore to love Him equally with God. And he loves Christ Jesus who does His will and keeps His commandments." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 29)
Let us fulfill the commands of God by loving God our Father and Jesus our Neighbor.

David Robison

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - God is not Mean

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.
"But I think that our proposition has been demonstrated in no way inferior to what we promised, that the Saviour by no means has excluded the rich on account of wealth itself, and the possession of property, nor fenced off salvation against them; if they are able and willing to submit their life to God’s commandments, and prefer them to transitory objects, and if they would look to the Lord with steady eye, as those who look for the nod of a good helmsman, what he wishes, what he orders, what he indicates, what signal he gives his mariners, where and whence he directs the ship’s course." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 26)
Clement is at the halfway point in his dissertation on the rich and summarizes what he has taught to this point, that the Rich are not excluded from salvation and that riches themselves are not our enemy. All who are willing and able to submit themselves to God, willing to prefer eternal things to the temporal, and who are willing to stand in obedience before their maker are welcomed by God and God will freely crown them with His salvation. All are welcome, rich and poor, great and small, intelligent and simple, all are welcome. Otherwise, if God were to bar the rich from salvation because of their riches alone, then God is to be impugned as the one who gave them their riches, abilities, and talents.
"For what harm does one do, who, previous to faith, by applying his mind and by saving has collected a competency? Or what is much less reprehensible than this, if at once by God, who gave him his life, he has had his home given him in the house of such men, among wealthy people, powerful in substance, and pre-eminent in opulence? For if, in consequence of his involuntary birth in wealth, a man is banished from life, rather is he wronged by God, who created him, in having vouchsafed to him temporary enjoyment, and in being deprived of eternal life. And why should wealth have ever sprung from the earth at all, if it is the author and patron of death?" (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 26)
Why would God have created wealth if He knew it to be the cause of spiritual death, or why would God will that some be born into wealth if such wealth would be the cause of their demise? God is not unjust as to give and then judge; to make rich and then condemn. While the rich may face their own particular challenges in this world, they are nonetheless not restricted from obtaining heavenly enjoyments in Christ. Jesus' message to the rich, as Clement sees it, to this point in the story, is,
"Well, first let the point of the parable, which is evident, and the reason why it is spoken, be presented. Let it teach the prosperous that they are not to neglect their own salvation, as if they had been already fore-doomed, nor, on the other hand, to cast wealth into the sea, or condemn it as a traitor and an enemy to life, but learn in what way and how to use wealth and obtain life." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 27)
From here, Clement moves on to aide the rich in understanding how to use their wealth in a godly manor, but that will have to wait till later.

David Robison

Monday, June 10, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Riches with Persecution

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.
"And to this effect similarly is what follows. 'Now at this present time not to have lands, and money, and houses, and brethren, with persecutions.' For it is neither penniless, nor homeless, nor brotherless people that the Lord calls to life, since He has also called rich people; but, as we have said above, also brothers, as Peter with Andrew, and James with John the sons of Zebedee, but of one mind with each other and Christ." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 25)
In response to Peter's confession that he and his fellow disciples had left all to follow Jesus, Jesus acknowledges their sacrifices and declares that all who sacrifice in this life to follow Him will receive recompense in this life and in the life to come. "He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:30) However, the conjoining of persecution with recompense in this present life has always seemed a bit odd to me; it seemed to be out of place with what Jesus was saying, yet Clement finds it quite appropriate in its context.
"And the expression 'with persecutions' rejects the possessing of each of those things. There is a persecution which arises from without, from men assailing the faithful, either out of hatred, or envy, or avarice, or through diabolic agency. But the most painful is internal persecution, which proceeds from each man’s own soul being vexed by impious lusts, and diverse pleasures, and base hopes, and destructive dreams; when, always grasping at more, and maddened by brutish loves, and inflamed by the passions which beset it like goads and stings, it is covered with blood, (to drive it on) to insane pursuits, and to despair of life, and to contempt of God." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 25)
While for many in the first centuries of the church, martyrdom was the customary end of a believer's life, few of us today in the western world have experienced true persecution from without. For sure, there are places around the world where believers are persecuted and continue to be martyred for their faith in Christ, but here in the United States, and in most western cultures, such persecution is mild at best and martyrdom is something we only read about in history books. However, while we may be free from external persecution, we are never free from the struggle within, the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit, the struggle between loving God and loving things. Often times, external persecution is easier to resist and to stand up under while  the persecution from within often occurs where no one can see it and few know the true depths of its turmoil and pain.
"More grievous and painful is this persecution, which arises from within, which is ever with a man, and which the persecuted cannot escape; for he carries the enemy about everywhere in himself. Thus also burning which attacks from without works trial, but that from within produces death. War also made on one is easily put an end to, but that which is in the soul continues till death." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 25)
To quell the persecutions from within, we must rid ourselves of the object of their attack; we must cut the cords of love for our things and replace them with love for their maker. For some, this may require them to actually "sell all they possess" to be free from their entanglements, much like cutting off the hand that offends. However, for all, it requires a change in loves, a change in pursuits, and a change in masters.
"With such persecution, if you have worldly wealth, if you have brothers allied by blood and other pledges, abandon the whole wealth of these which leads to evil; procure peace for yourself, free yourself from protracted persecutions; turn from them to the Gospel; choose before all the Saviour and Advocate and Paraclete of your soul, the Prince of life. 'For the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal.' And in the present time are things evanescent and insecure, but in that to come is eternal life." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 25)
We must all look into our souls to search for the cause of our internal persecution; to find those attachments that bind us to our persecution and keep us distant from God. We must at all cost rid ourselves of these attachments. We must learn to become poor in spirit that we might become rich in God. We must find our wealth not in worldly possessions or relationships but in our relationship with God. Only them will we bring to silence the persecution of our soul.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Love your enemy and hate your family

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.
" 'And Jesus answering said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall leave what is his own, parents, and children, and wealth, for My sake and the Gospel’s, shall receive an hundredfold.' But let neither this trouble you, nor the still harder saying delivered in another place in the words, 'Whoso hateth not father, and mother, and children, and his own life besides, cannot be My disciple.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 22)
Clement highlights what, to the casual reader, map appear to be a contradiction in Jesus' words. First, we are told to, "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28) and then we are told to, "hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters." (Luke 14:26) How can this be? How can this make any since? Even logic would tell us that, if we are to live our enemies, we then we should love those dearest to us even more. Does God really want us to love our enemies and hate our families? How can the God of love exhort us to both love and hate? Especially to love those who don't deserve it and to hate those who don't deserve it? However, It is possible to love some and hate others if we properly understand what Jesus meant.
"For from the same feeling and disposition, and on the ground of the same rule, one loving his enemy may hate his father, inasmuch as he neither takes vengeance on an enemy, nor reverences a father more than Christ. For by the one word he extirpates hatred and injury, and by the other shamefacedness towards one’s relations, if it is detrimental to salvation. If then one’s father, or son, or brother, be godless, and become a hindrance to faith and an impediment to the higher life, let him not be friends or agree with him, but on account of the spiritual enmity, let him dissolve the fleshly relationship." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 22)
In loving our enemy, Jesus is exhorting us to rid our souls of any enmity, evil desires, and lust for revenge towards our enemy. In hating our family, Jesus is exhorting us to reject any attachments, reverence, and devotion towards them that would exalt itself about our attachment, reverence, and devotion towards God. Love and hare are found in the disposition of the soul; in its preference for one over the other. Clement makes this clear by way of a hypothetical trial.
"Suppose the matter to be a law-suit. Let your father be imagined to present himself to you and say, 'I begot and reared thee. Follow me, and join with me in wickedness, and obey not the law of Christ;' and whatever a man who is a blasphemer and dead by nature would say. But on the other side hear the Saviour: 'I regenerated thee, who wert ill born by the world to death. I emancipated, healed, ransomed thee. I will show thee the face of the good Father God. Call no man thy father on earth. Let the dead bury the dead; but follow thou Me. For I will bring thee to a rest of ineffable and unutterable blessings, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of men; into which angels desire to look, and see what good things God hath prepared for the saints and the children who love Him.' I am He who feeds thee, giving Myself as bread, of which he who has tasted experiences death no more, and supplying day by day the drink of immortality. I am teacher of supercelestial lessons. For thee I contended with Death, and paid thy death, which thou owedst for thy former sins and thy unbelief towards God.” (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 23)
Such a comparison makes it obvious what Jesus meant by hating our father, mother, wife, children, etc. We should hate them in that we do not love them more than we love Christ and His Father. We are called to love, but we are called to love God first; to love Him above all else.

David Robison

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Why the fear

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.
"The wealthy and legally correct man, not understanding these things figuratively, nor how the same man can be both poor and rich, and have wealth and not have it, and use he world and not use it, went away sad and downcast, leaving the state of life, which he was able merely to desire but not to attain, making for himself the difficult impossible. For it was difficult for the soul not to be seduced and ruined by the luxuries and flowery enchantments that beset remarkable wealth; but it was not impossible..." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 20)
The rich young ruler, not understanding Jesus' words fully and, not wanting to understand Jesus' words fully, leaves sad and surrenders his opportunity to acquire what he sought; eternal life. He failed to understand what it means to be truly rich, even when poor, and what it means to be truly poor, yet possession all things "pertaining to life and godliness." (2 Peter 1:3) He did not understand how becoming rich had made him poor and how choosing to become poor again could make him rich. In all this he chose, instead, to continue in the allurements, seductions, and entrapments of worldly riches. The poor man might desire riches, but the rich man has already tasted of their fineness and luxury. This makes it doubly hard for the rich to leave them behind and break all attachments with them that he might pursue God.

Seeing the rich young man leave, and hearing Jesus' words, the disciples were astonished and asked, "Then who can be saved?" (Mark 10:26) Their response shows not only their concern for the rich but also themselves. They had already left all they had to follow Jesus, yet Jesus' words still rattled their soul. They understood that Jesus' words were directed towards all people, all who were rich in the evil passions of the soul, not just those rich in the worlds possessions.
"But when they became conscious of not having yet wholly renounced the passions (for they were neophytes and recently selected by the Saviour), they were excessively astonished, and despaired of themselves no less than that rich man who clung so terribly to the wealth which he preferred to eternal life. It was therefore a fit subject for all fear on the disciples’ part; if both he that possesses wealth and he that is teeming with passions were the rich, and these alike shall be expelled from the heavens. For salvation is the privilege of pure and passionless souls." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 20)
But Jesus allays their fears reminding them that, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27) We cannot make this journey to eternal life on our own or by our own will or effort. We need the help and agency of the Lord to achieve success in our journey. None of us are fit for eternal life, but none of us are beyond help from the Lord.
"For a man by himself working and toiling at freedom from passion achieves nothing. But if he plainly shows himself very desirous and earnest about this, he attains it by the addition of the power of God. For God conspires with willing souls. But if they abandon their eagerness, the spirit which is bestowed by God is also restrained. For to save the unwilling is the part of one exercising compulsion; but to save the willing, that of one showing grace." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 21)
Upon hearing all this, Peter responds, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." (Mark 10:28) Yet it was more than just their worldly possession that they had left, meager as they were, but they had also left behind the world system with its lusts and enticements to follow Jesus. For these are the things that truly hinder us from eternal life.
"But if, casting away what we were now speaking of, the old mental possessions and soul diseases, they follow in the Master’s footsteps, this now joins them to those who are to be enrolled in the heavens. For it is thus that one truly follows the Saviour, by aiming at sinlessness and at His perfection, and adorning and composing the soul before it as a mirror, and arranging everything in all respects similarly." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 21)
David Robison

Monday, June 03, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - Salvation from within

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.
"So that (the expression) rich men that shall with difficulty enter into the kingdom, is to be apprehended in a scholarly way, not awkwardly, or rustically, or carnally. For if the expression is used thus, salvation does not depend on external things, whether they be many or few, small or great, or illustrious or obscure, or esteemed or disesteemed; but on the virtue of the soul, on faith, and hope, and love, and brotherliness, and knowledge, and meekness, and humility, and truth, the reward of which is salvation." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 18)
Clement summarizes what he has been saying up until this point, mainly that, we must not understand Jesus' words simplistically or carnally, as if Jesus wants us all to be poor and to give away all of our wealth, for salvation does not come from without, through the agency of external things, but from within, by the effects of the Spirit and Word upon our souls. Redemption begins inside and, like yeast, will permeate every aspect of our lives; from the inside outward. However, when we try to effect salvation through external means, our efforts will never penetrate deep into our hearts to cleanse us and make us pure before God. Outward efforts can never achieve inward salvation. If we want to be saved and to obtain eternal life, then we must first look to our soul.
"If then it is the soul which, first and especially, is that which is to live, and if virtue springing up around it saves, and vice kills; then it is clearly manifest that by being poor in those things, by riches of which one destroys it, it is saved, and by being rich in those things, riches of which ruin it, it is killed. And let us no longer seek the cause of the issue elsewhere than in the state and disposition of the soul in respect of obedience to God and purity, and in respect of transgression of the commandments and accumulation of wickedness." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 18)
This being true, then he who is truly rich is rich in God and he who is truly poor is poor in spirit, and to each there is a counterfeit; he who is rich only in worldly possessions and he who is materially poor yet still rich in passions that lead to death.
"He then is truly and rightly rich who is rich in virtue, and is capable of making a holy and faithful use of any fortune; while he is spuriously rich who is rich, according to the flesh, and turns life into outward possession, which is transitory and perishing, and now belongs to one, now to another, and in the end to nobody at all. Again, in the same way there is a genuine poor man, and another counterfeit and falsely so called. He that is poor in spirit, and that is the right thing, and he that is poor in a worldly sense, which is a different thing. To him who is poor in worldly goods, but rich in vices, who is not poor in spirit and rich toward God, it is said, Abandon the alien possessions that are in thy soul, that, becoming pure in heart, thou mayest see God; which is another way of saying, Enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 19)
It is only when we properly understand what it means to be genuinely rich and genuinely poor that we can continue on to understand Jesus' words to the rich young ruler. So which are you? Are you one who is truly rich and truly poor or one who leads a life that seeks to counterfeit the ways of the Kingdom? Are you rich in worldly things yet poor in virtue? Or are you poor in worldly wealth yet rich in evil passions? Either way, Jesus has the cure for you.

David Robison