Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The illumination of knowledge - 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, inexperience comes to an end by experience, and perplexity by finding a clear outlet, so by illumination must darkness disappear. The darkness is ignorance, through which we fall into sins, purblind as to the truth. Knowledge, then, is the illumination we receive, which makes ignorance disappear, and endows us with clear vision. Further, the abandonment of what is bad is the adopting of what is better. For what ignorance has bound ill, is by knowledge loosed well; those bonds are with all speed slackened by human faith and divine grace, our transgressions being taken away by one Poeonian medicine, the baptism of the Word. We are washed from all our sins, and are no longer entangled in evil." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Paul, writing of our past sins says, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent." (Acts 17:30) Clement describes the darkness that is in us, a darkness that is due to ignorance; ignorance as to who God is, ignorance of His love for us, ignorance of His will and plan for our lives. It is in this ignorance of the truth that we stumble along in sin, transgressing the good way of God, and straying on a path of our own making. As our sin flows out of our ignorance, the remedy of sin is not to try and repress sin but rather to correct our ignorance with truth. There is one remedy for this ignorance and it is the baptism of the Word. Here Clement is not referring to water baptism or the baptism by which we join the church, but a baptism into God's Word and that Word is Jesus Christ.
"This is the one grace of illumination, that our characters are not the same as before our washing. And since knowledge springs up with illumination, shedding its beams around the mind, the moment we hear, we who were untaught become disciples... For that faith is the one universal salvation of humanity, and that there is the same equality before the righteous and loving God, and the same fellowship between Him and all." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
There is one faith that leads to salvation, one illumination of the soul that cleanses it from darkness, and one regeneration that changes us from the inside out. It is this transformation that unites us all as believers. It is our common participation in faith, illumination, and regeneration that makes us one. 
"Then he subjoined the utterance, clear of all partiality: 'For ye are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.' There are not, then, in the same Word some 'illuminated (gnostics); and some animal (or natural) men;' but all who have abandoned the desires of the flesh are equal and spiritual before the Lord. And again he writes in another place: 'For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and we have all drunk of one cup.'"  (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In Clement's day there were several who attempted to make distinctions between those who thought themselves spiritual. For example, the Marcionites believed themselves to be of a higher enlightenment than others; they had obtained a higher knowledge and understanding that made themselves spiritual while all other men were animal. There were also the Montanist who claimed to be filled with and submitted to the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit). They believed themselves to be the truly spiritual believers while all other believers were "Psychics" or carnal Christians. In our day, during the Charismatic renewal, I saw the same distinctions being drawn. There were those who were "filled with the Spirit" and there was everyone else. The truth is, however, for all who have been illuminated by the Word of God, they have become spiritual. No longer living by the light of human wisdom and understanding, but living by a divine Word and revelation. It is the receiving of this Light that makes us spiritual and makes us one as believers.
"therefore, we also, repenting of our sins, renouncing our iniquities, purified by baptism, speed back to the eternal light, children to the Father. Jesus therefore, rejoicing in the spirit, said: 'I thank Thee, O Father, God of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes;' the Master and Teacher applying the name babes to us, who are readier to embrace salvation than the wise in the world, who, thinking themselves wise, are inflated with pride." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Those who seek to make distinctions among believers often see themselves as being superior in some way; by some special knowledge, some extraordinary experience, or some powerful endowment. Such people would often cringe at the thought of being referred to as "babes" by the scriptures. However, what makes us special to God is not the degree of our knowledge, the depth of our experience, or the rarity of our endowments, but our eagerness and readiness to return to our Father and to embrace His salvation over our lives; it is our child-like faith that drawing us back to Him, reaching up to Him for His light, love, and salvation.

David Robison

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