Monday, September 30, 2013

Intrinsically lovely - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"The Lord ministers all good and all help, both as man and as God: as God, forgiving our sins; and as man, training us not to sin. Man is therefore justly dear to God, since he is His workmanship. The other works of creation He made by the word of command alone, but man He framed by Himself, by His own hand, and breathed into him what was peculiar to Himself." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 3)
Clement reiterates that man is the special creation of God. Man is special because he alone was created by the very hands of God. He is the height if His creation and the center of His care. For the writer of Hebrews says, "For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham." (Hebrews 2:16) Whose descendants we are even as Paul wrote, "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:29) Mankind is not just another animal, not just another accident of evolution, but was created by God to be loved by God.
"and what hidden power in willing God possessed, He carried fully out by the forth-putting of His might externally in the act of creating, receiving from man what He made man; and whom He had He saw, and what He wished that came to pass; and there is nothing which God cannot do. Man, then, whom God made, is desirable for himself, and that which is desirable on his account is allied to him to whom it is desirable on his account; and this, too, is acceptable and liked." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 3)
God created us because He found us desirable on our own account. He did not create us for some adjunct purpose, rather we ourselves were the purpose for His creation of us and, since it was His will and His wish to create us, we are joined to him as creator and creation, as the one desiring and the one desired, as the wisher and the one wished for.
"But what is loveable, and is not also loved by Him? And man has been proved to be loveable; consequently man is loved by God. For how shall he not be loved for whose sake the only-begotten Son is sent from the Father’s bosom, the Word of faith, the faith which is superabundant... What, then, the Master desires and declares, and how He is disposed in deed and word, how He commands what is to be done, and forbids the opposite, has already been shown." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 3)
Because God desired us and created us He is right to command and forbid us, of the former to command us to good and of the latter to forbid us those things that are evil. This is the right and acceptable providence of God as the lover and creator of us all. This all having been said, what shall our response be to all of this?
"Now, it is incumbent on us to return His love, who lovingly guides us to that life which is best; and to live in accordance with the injunctions of His will, not only fulfilling what is commanded, or guarding against what is forbidden, but turning away from some examples, and imitating others as much as we can, and thus to perform the works of the Master according to His similitude, and so fulfil what Scripture says as to our being made in His image and likeness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 3)
Our response should be to love Him back; to return to Him the love He has shown to us. But how are we to love such a God and one who is also unseen? We love Him by willingly submitting to His injunctions and commands; in fleeing all evil and following godly examples that He has set before us. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) But how are we to know what God desires? How are we to conform our ways to His?
"For, wandering in life as in deep darkness, we need a guide that cannot stumble or stray; and our guide is the best, not blind... But the Word is keen-sighted, and scans the recesses of the heart. As, then, that is not light which enlightens not, nor motion that moves not, nor loving which loves not, so neither is that good which profits not, nor guides to salvation. Let us then aim at the fulfilment of the commandments by the works of the Lord; for the Word Himself also, having openly become flesh, exhibited the same virtue, both practical and contemplative. Wherefore let us regard the Word as law, and His commands and counsels as the short and straight paths to immortality; for His precepts are full of persuasion, not of fear." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 3)
We need an instructor who will lead us into the life that is best. Fortunately, we have such an Instructor, the very Word of God who became flesh on our behalf. He is our instructor and He is also our example, in tat He too lead a life in this flesh that was both practical and contemplative; practical in piety and contemplative in reasoning. Therefore, let us willing commit ourselves to obeying His commands, and following His examples that we might become like Him and thus fulfill His desire for our lives.

David Robison

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