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

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