Monday, October 14, 2013

Now and then - 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.
"As, then, those who have shaken off sleep forthwith become all awake within; or rather, as those who try to remove a film that is over the eyes, do not supply to them from without the light which they do not possess, but removing the obstacle from the eyes, leave the pupil free; thus also we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins which obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eye of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above. This is the eternal adjustment of the vision, which is able to see the eternal light, since like loves like" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement understands that the power of water baptism is not in forgiveness of sins, but in washing them away. Paul had received the Lord and had been converted while on his way to Damascus to persecute the church. However, that encounter had left him blind. He journeyed till he met a believer named Ananias. After praying for Paul's healing he said to Paul, "The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:14-16) Ananias implored Paul to baptism, not for his forgiveness, but for the washing away of the sins of his past; that being baptized he might rise to "walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

Beyond his understanding of baptism, Clement is counseling us that, should we find ourselves in darkness, rather than trying to grasp the light that lies beyond our sight, we should rather seek to remove the impediments to sight so that the true light might freely flow into our previously darkened eyes. Our job is not to try and grasp or pull in light, for God is more than willing to shine His light upon us, rather our job is to offer clean and clear eyes to God for His illumination of our souls. What is needed is not more effort in receiving light but rather an adjustment to light's receptors. There are many types of veils that cover our eyes and prevent us from see light. One is sin, which Clement identifies here. Another is religion that equally veils our eyes. "[we] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." (2 Corinthians 3:13-16) To be illuminated with divine light we must remove all the veils that darken our sight.
"But he has not yet received, say they, the perfect gift. I also assent to this; but he is in the light, and the darkness comprehendeth him not. There is nothing intermediate between light and darkness. But the end is reserved till the resurrection of those who believe; and it is not the reception of some other thing, but the obtaining of the promise previously made. For we do not say that both take place together at the same time—both the arrival at the end, and the anticipation of that arrival. For eternity and time are not the same, neither is the attempt and the final result; but both have reference to the same thing, and one and the same person is concerned in both." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In returning to those who sought to criticize Christians as not being as mature as they were, Clement answers their question. The questions was that, having stated that our salvation was perfect, how is it that we have yet to receive that perfection and all the things associated with it? While agreeing with this augment, Clement reminds us that, in our resurrection we will not be receiving something new, some new facet of salvation, but simply receiving what is already ours. We shall receive that which we have already obtained in our perfect salvation; that which is reserved and waiting for us in heaven. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again... to an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. " (1 Peter 1:3-4) Here is where faith comes in.
"Faith, so to speak, is the attempt generated in time; the final result is the attainment of the promise, secured for eternity. Now the Lord Himself has most clearly revealed the equality of salvation, when He said: 'For this is the will of my Father, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up in the last day.' As far as possible in this world, which is what he means by the last day, and which is preserved till the time that it shall end, we believe that we are made perfect. Wherefore He says, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.' If, then, those who have believed have life, what remains beyond the possession of eternal life?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Faith is our tether to the things that are ours but that remain for us to receive in our resurrection. However, just because something is yet to be possessed in our resurrection does not mean that something is lacking in our salvation. As soon as we are saved we are given an inheritance. Faith convinces us of its reality, that it is already ours, and that one day we shall obtain that which which has already been granted and promised. All that remains is our possession of it. Our salvation is perfect, and in this, we can find confidence and rest.
"Nothing is wanting to faith, as it is perfect and complete in itself. If aught is wanting to it, it is not wholly perfect. But faith is not lame in any respect; nor after our departure from this world does it make us who have believed, and received without distinction the earnest of future good, wait; but having in anticipation grasped by faith that which is future, after the resurrection we receive it as present, in order that that may be fulfilled which was spoken, 'Be it according to thy faith.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Some see our faith as weakness and others as a crutch for those of week minds and wills, but for us faith is our strength and our promise of future good. Faith is not wishful thinking, it is more than hoping for a better future, and it is not a self-delusion that things are as they are not. The writer of Hebrews says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is our assurance, our evidence, and that which unites us with that which is ours being held in reserve for us in our resurrection. Faith sustains us through life, delivers us to our inheritance, and grants us rest in our possessing the things which are promised.
"And where faith is, there is the promise; and the consummation of the promise is rest. So that in illumination what we receive is knowledge, and the end of knowledge is rest—the last thing conceived as the object of aspiration." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
David Robison

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