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

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