Friday, October 18, 2013

When I was a 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.
"Wherefore those things which have been concealed from the wise and prudent of this present world have been revealed to babes. Truly, then, are we the children of God, who have put aside the old man, and stripped off the garment of wickedness, and put on the immortality of Christ; that we may become a new, holy people by regeneration, and may keep the man undefiled. And a babe, as God’s little one, is cleansed from fornication and wickedness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement contends that all who have fled from wickedness to righteousness, from death to immortality, from the old man to the new man in Christ, are children of God. As children, we are in need of an instructor and we have found one in Christ. However, if we are all children, then what does it mean when Paul said, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) Is our childhood in God and our need for an Instructor something that we should seek to outgrow? Is our need for an instructor to be seen as something lacking in ourselves or as a sign of immaturity? This is how Clement understands this saying by Paul.
"And the expression, 'When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spake as a child,' points out his mode of life according to the law, according to which, thinking childish things, he persecuted, and speaking childish things he blasphemed the Word, not as having yet attained to the simplicity of childhood, but as being in its folly... 'When I became a man,' again Paul says, 'I put away childish things.' It is not incomplete size of stature, nor a definite measure of time, nor additional secret teachings in things that are manly and more perfect, that the apostle, who himself professes to be a preacher of childishness, alludes to when he sends it, as it were, into banishment; but he applies the name 'children' to those who are under the law, who are terrified by fear as children are by bugbears; and 'men' to us who are obedient to the Word and masters of ourselves, who have believed, and are saved by voluntary choice, and are rationally, not irrationally, frightened by terror." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
When Paul was referring to his time as a child he was referring to his time under the law; trying to live by the law yet still blaspheming and persecuting the truth. However, when the truth of God came into his life he put away his life under the law and gave himself to more manly pursuits such as the obedience to the Word and mastery over himself.

One of the key difference between life under the law and life in Christ is the connection to terror. There is a fear that produces awe and a fear that produces terror. Those under the law live in terror of the law and the judgment that it demands upon its transgressors. However, those who live in Christ live in peace and in awe of God. The love of God has replaced the terror of the law as John said, "By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:17-18)

Thus Clement interprets this saying of Paul's as,
"Wherefore the expression, When I was a child,' may be elegantly expounded thus: that is, when I was a Jew (for he was a Hebrew by extraction) I thought as a child, when I followed the law; but after becoming a man, I no longer entertain the sentiments of a child, that is, of the law, but of a man, that is, of Christ, whom alone the Scripture calls man, as we have said before. 'I put away childish things.' But the childhood which is in Christ is maturity, as compared with the law." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
One is our childhood in relationship to our Instructor and the other of our manhood in relationship to the Law; one who has matured in Christ and no longer needs the tutelage of the Law. One having escaped sin and found righteousness in God and one having escaped the law and found freedom in Christ.

David Robison

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