Friday, October 11, 2013

The mature child - 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.
"We have ample means of encountering those who are given to carping. For we are not termed children and infants with reference to the childish and contemptible character of our education, as those who are inflated on account of knowledge have calumniously alleged." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
There were those in Clement's day, as there are today, that ridiculed Christians as being of small mind; being simpletons, naive, and foolish; not understanding the greater issues of the day, too simplistic in their "god" approach to life, failing to understand and accept the wisdom, knowledge, and science of men. Clement rightly identifies us as children, even God's children, but that doesn't mean that we are infantile or childish in our knowledge or education, especially as it relates to things of eternal value and purpose. In these things, Christians are perfect while it is those in the world that are infantile. Often, in the writing of the apostles the term for a perfect man or woman is the same as for a mature man or woman. We are perfect children in that we are mature children.
"Straightway, on our regeneration, we attained that perfection after which we aspired. For we were illuminated, which is to know God. He is not then imperfect who knows what is perfect. And do not reprehend me when I profess to know God; for so it was deemed right to speak to the Word, and He is free." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
While we were made children of God, our transfiguration onto such children was perfect and complete. We are not half-way made Christians, we are perfectly made and formed Christians and children of God. We were made perfect and united with that which is perfect; with God. To persuade us that this is true, Clement recalls the day when Jesus was "begotten."
"For at the moment of the Lord’s baptism there sounded a voice from heaven, as a testimony to the Beloved, “Thou art My beloved Son, today have I begotten Thee.” Let us then ask the wise, Is Christ, begotten to-day, already perfect, or—what were most monstrous—imperfect?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In quoting this scripture, Clement unites two scriptures together to yield insight on what was happening. When Jesus was baptized, a voice sounded from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." (Luke 3:22) The Father was openly declaring Jesus to be the Son of His love; the one and only begotten Son of the unbegotten Father. This event, this voice, was prophesied of many years before:  "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.'" (Psalm 2:7) That day Jesus was "begotten" in that He was declared by the Father to be His Son. Clement asks, how was Jesus begotten? As imperfect or as perfect? If perfect, then how was He made perfect in that He gained nothing new from the Father's declaration over him?
"And if He was perfect, why was He, the perfect one, baptized? It was necessary, they say, to fulfil the profession that pertained to humanity. Most excellent. Well, I assert, simultaneously with His baptism by John, He becomes perfect? Manifestly. He did not then learn anything more from him? Certainly not. But He is perfected by the washing—of baptism—alone, and is sanctified by the descent of the Spirit? Such is the case." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
He was begotten to perfection through His baptism alone and, if this was the case for Jesus, then so is it for us as well. We too, though our baptism, are begotten perfect as sons and daughters of God. We too, by believing and being baptized are remade perfect as newly created eternal beings in Christ. And what is the nature of this perfection?
"The same also takes place in our case, whose exemplar Christ became. Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal... This work is variously called grace, and illumination, and perfection, and washing: washing, by which we cleanse away our sins; grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted; and illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly. Now we call that perfect which wants nothing. For what is yet wanting to him who knows God?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
This transformation to perfection accompanies the whole person, not in stages, but all at once, in one gracious act of rebirth. It involves not only the forgiveness of our sins but the washing away of sins and their stain, as Ananias said to Paul, "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16) This also involves our illumination into the knowledge of God and His holy Kingdom. Thus freeing us from human reasoning and wisdom as Paul states, "But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16) All this God has done and He has done it perfectly. What more remains? What more could He have done? All that He could do He has already done. We may be children but we are perfect children for we know Him that is perfect.

David Robison

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