Saturday, November 30, 2013

Living for food - The Instructor on eating

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"Some men, in truth, live that they may eat, as the irrational creatures, 'whose life is their belly, and nothing else.' But the Instructor enjoins us to eat that we may live. For neither is food our business, nor is pleasure our aim; but both are on account of our life here, which the Word is training up to immortality. Wherefore also there is discrimination to be employed in reference to food. And it is to be simple, truly plain, suiting precisely simple and artless children—as ministering to life, not to luxury. And the life to which it conduces consists of two things—health and strength; to which plainness of fare is most suitable, being conducive both to digestion and lightness of body, from which come growth, and health, and right strength, not strength that is wrong or dangerous and wretched, as is that of athletes produced by compulsory feeding." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
Clement warns of a life that is centered around food. Eating is a necessity of this life and yet it should not be the focus of our lives. Food is necessary for our life here on Earth, yet we are being prepared for an eternal life in heaven, a life which does not require the consumption of food. While we must eat to live, we must not live to eat. We must view food in light of eternity, something that is required for a short period of time out of necessity, but not part of our eternal life to come. As such, our choice and use of food should be that which contributes to a life of health and strength. In fine, the eating of food that is easily digested and leads to leanness of the body.
"Antiphanes, the Delian physician, said that this variety of viands was the one cause of disease; there being people who dislike the truth, and through various absurd notions abjure moderation of diet, and put themselves to a world of trouble to procure dainties from beyond seas. For my part, I am sorry for this disease, while they are not ashamed to sing the praises of their delicacies, giving themselves great trouble to get lampreys in the Straits of Sicily, the eels of the M├Žander..." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
Antiphanes was a physician of Clement's day that believed that variation in diet was one of the causes of certain disease of the body, and yet men went to great lengths, even risking personal danger and harm, to procure rare and diverse foods from around the world. I must confess, I do enjoy eating King Crab legs from time to time, but we must ask ourselves "at what cost?" Should we expect men to risk life and limb that we might enjoy such delicacies? Should we expect people to risk personal harm just for "food?" I know it is their job and they do it for the money, but it is our appetite that actually funds their risky behavior. It is one thing to risk one's life for that which sustains life, but another for that which is merely for pleasure and tends to luxury.
"In their greed and solicitude, the gluttons seem absolutely to sweep the world with a drag-net to gratify their luxurious tastes. These gluttons, surrounded with the sound of hissing frying-pans, and wearing their whole life away at the pestle and mortar, cling to matter like fire. More than that, they emasculate plain food, namely bread, by straining off the nourishing part of the grain, so that the necessary part of food becomes matter of reproach to luxury." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
When our life's care centers around food, then our life is centered around that which is temporal and earthly and unbefitting of our call to life eternal with Christ. Clement also denounces the practice of refining foods; removing that which is nutritious for that which is tasty; preferring luxury over that which provides sustenance.
"There is no limit to epicurism among men. For it has driven them to sweetmeats, and honey-cakes, and sugar-plums; inventing a multitude of desserts, hunting after all manner of dishes. A man like this seems to me to be all jaw, and nothing else. 'Desire not,' says the Scripture, 'rich men’s dainties;' for they belong to a false and base life. They partake of luxurious dishes, which a little after go to the dunghill." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
Epicurism is the unrelenting pursuit of pleasure. When we pursue food for pleasure we are pursuing that perishes with the use. Our life is meant to be more than "all jaw" and food is meant to support that greater life we have been called to and to provide health more than pleasure.
"But we who seek the heavenly bread must rule the belly, which is beneath heaven, and much more the things which are agreeable to it, which 'God shall destroy,' says the apostle, justly execrating gluttonous desires. For 'meats are for the belly,' for on them depends this truly carnal and destructive life;" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
This is the heart at which Clement is driving at, that we should rule our stomachs rather than be ruled by them. Jesus said, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) We should seek first God's Kingdom and food only as a necessity. All other pursuits other than the pursuit of His Kingdom are vain and empty and devoid of eternal life, even the pursuit of food.

David Robison

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Introduction to Book 2 - 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.
"Keeping, then, to our aim, and selecting the Scriptures which bear on the usefulness of training for life, we must now compendiously describe what the man who is called a Christian ought to be during the whole of his life." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
Here, Clement states in clear terms his purpose for this entire work: to show believer how to behave and walk during their time on earth. Clement lived in a time when many were coming to Christ and the church in Alexandria was flourishing. However, most of these new believers were coming out of a culture and a heritage that was devoid of God. They lacked any basic understanding or knowledge of the scriptures. Most of them would have never read the teachings of Moses let alone heard them expounded upon in public or at home. They were steeped in a culture that served various daemon gods and, in many cases, lived lives of licentiousness and lives spent in seeking hedonistic pleasures. The issue for Clement was how to introduce these new believers to the culture of Christ and how to indoctrinate them into a Christian way of living? This was the purpose of his book, "The Instructor".
"We must accordingly begin with ourselves, and how we ought to regulate ourselves. We have therefore, preserving a due regard to the symmetry of this work, to say how each of us ought to conduct himself in respect to his body, or rather how to regulate the body itself. For whenever any one, who has been brought away by the Word from external things, and from attention to the body itself to the mind, acquires a clear view of what happens according to nature in man, he will know that he is not to be earnestly occupied about external things, but about what is proper and peculiar to man—to purge the eye of the soul, and to sanctify also his flesh. For he that is clean rid of those things which constitute him still dust, what else has he more serviceable than himself for walking in the way which leads to the comprehension of God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 1)
Having completed his introduction in Book 1, in which he presented us a children and Jesus as our loving instructor, he now turns to what he refereed to as "a system of reasonable actions." Specifically, looking at how one aught to regulate their lives and discipline their bodies for this new life that has been granted to us by God. It is a life that is to be no longer lead by our flesh or our passions and desires but a life that is to be lead by our spirit; that rational part of our soul that Clement refers to as the mind.

Some, while reading Clements "system of reasonable actions" will be offended, others will decry "legalism!" However, for both, when reading with simplistic minds, they miss the whole point of Clements teaching. This book is not for those who are content with their present lives nor is it for those looking for an excuse to continue their current lifestyle. This book is for those who are seeking and desiring a new way of living, a new lifestyle; one that is built upon eternal principals, a life style that is good, wholesome, and healthy, a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. For such people seeking something better in their lives, this book is for them.

The key to understanding Clements "system" is to view his remedies in light of his principals. For example, when he speaks against women coloring their hair he does so in encouraging them not to imitate the prostitutes that were common in those days and to not offend God by believing that He had not made the pretty enough and that they had to take matters into their own hands. The principals of not imitating the evil of our culture and not offending God by casting dispersion upon His creation are sound principals and, once understanding his principals, we can discuss the merits of his remedies or how such remedies might be adapted to our present time and culture.

Such us of intellectual reasoning should not be foreign to us and its use and value can be demonstrated in many places throughout the scriptures. For example, consider Paul's instruction to Timothy, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:12-14) Notice Paul says "I" in "I do not allow" not "God does not allow." Paul was establishing an apostolic tradition in the churches he started that women were not to teach or have authority over a man. This was the case in Paul's churches but not necessarily in all churches, for example, in those that might have been started by Peter, John, or another apostle. Regardless of what you think about Paul's injunction, it is clearly shown as a remedy built upon Paul's established principles, that women are more easily deceived than men and men are more easily tempted to sin then women. When we read Paul in such places we must understand his remedy in light of his principal and then examine how the principal and once such remedy might be applied to our present day and time. By using such reasoning we will be able to glean wisdom and counsel from Clements "system of reasonable actions" that will aid us in adopting for ourselves a better life, a superior lifestyle, and a more godly way of living. Such a goal is noble and the end of all good and right teaching.

David Robison

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sin is irrational - 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.
"Everything that is contrary to right reason is sin. Accordingly, therefore, the philosophers think fit to define the most generic passions thus: lust, as desire disobedient to reason; fear, as weakness disobedient to reason; pleasure, as an elation of the spirit disobedient to reason." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 13)
This is a profound statement and one that we might be reticent to accept at first glance. We have been conditioned to think of sin in terms of our disobedience to God, His Word, and His ways, and justly so since sin is certainly all these things. However, to juxtapose sin and reason in such a way is not familiar to us. Is there a relationship between sin and right reason?
"If, then, disobedience in reference to reason is the generating cause of sin, how shall we escape the conclusion, that obedience to reason—the Word—which we call faith, will of necessity be the efficacious cause of duty? For virtue itself is a state of the soul rendered harmonious by reason in respect to the whole life. Nay, to crown all, philosophy itself is pronounced to be the cultivation of right reason; so that, necessarily, whatever is done through error of reason is transgression, and is rightly called, sin." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 13)
If sin is anything contrary to right reason then anything done according to right reason must be righteousness; reason being the cause that promotes our duty of right behavior before God. Can it be true that to error against reason is to error against God? That both are one and the same and are both called sin? Interestingly, God refers to sinful man in this way, "Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish." (Psalm 49:20) It is also interesting that Clement defines faith as "obedience to reason." We typically understand faith as being related to the promises of God and the things of the Kingdom that remain unseen. How is faith and reason related?

The answer to how sin, righteousness, faith, and unbelief are all related to reason is that Jesus is the Word or, as the Greeks would say, the Logos of God. Logos is a Greek term for reason. Jesus is the right reason of God! Jesus is what makes this whole world make since. He also brings to light the invisible Kingdom of God. Jesus is not only the Word, as in the message of God, but also the Logos, as the very reason and wisdom of God. To obey Jesus as being God's right reason is both faith and righteousness.
"The right operation of piety perfects duty by works; whence, according to just reasoning, duties consist in actions, not in sayings. And Christian conduct is the operation of the rational soul in accordance with a correct judgment and aspiration after the truth, which attains its destined end through the body, the soul’s consort and ally... For the life of Christians, in which we are now trained, is a system of reasonable actions—that is, of those things taught by the Word—an unfailing energy which we have called faith." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 13)
I have, at times, looked upon works with disdain, as if they were incongruous with my life of faith. However, as the soul works together with the flesh, so faith energizes and produces works. Each are in concert with the other and one cannot exist without the other. James put it this way, "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) A Christian life cannot be realized without corresponding action, in fact, it is by these actions that we recognize the Christian life in others. It is also these same actions through which we serve both God and mankind. Christianity is not intellectual in that it requires the full participation of the person; both body and soul. Therefore, when considering the instructions of our Lord it is reasonable to expect them to be taught as a "system of reasonable actions."
"The system is the commandments of the Lord, which, being divine statutes and spiritual counsels, have been written for ourselves, being adapted for ourselves and our neighbours... Whence also duties are essential for divine discipline, as being enjoined by God, and furnished for our salvation... The commandments issued with respect to natural life are published to the multitude; but those that are suited for living well, and from which eternal life springs, we have to consider, as in a sketch, as we read them out of the Scriptures." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 13)
Fortunately for us, God has already laid out His counsel and instruction for a life well lived. We find them both in the written word of the scriptures and in the person of Jesus who is the very Word of God. As Clement closes Book One and moves to Books Two and Three, he will draw from the scriptures the counsel contained there in that we might be instructed in the right way, the way of eternal life.

David Robison

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our own self-sufficiency - 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.
"Besides, He makes preparation for a self-sufficing mode of life, for simplicity, and for girding up our loins, and for free and unimpeded readiness of our journey; in order to the attainment of an eternity of beatitude, teaching each one of us to be his own storehouse. For He says, 'Take no anxious thought for tomorrow,' meaning that the man who has devoted himself to Christ ought to be sufficient to himself, and servant to himself, and moreover lead a life which provides for each day by itself. For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained. War needs great preparation, and luxury craves profusion; but peace and love, simple and quiet sisters, require no arms nor excessive preparation. The Word is their sustenance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
God has provided all we need for our new life in Christ. He has made preparations for the life He now commands us that we might attain to it through those things which He has prepared for us. God is our instructor but He is also our provider. God also intends that we take this new life upon ourselves. This is a life we must live ourselves, others cannot live it for us, nor can we inherit its blessings through the efforts and good order of others. We must find what we need, not through others, but within ourselves, not that we must walk this life by our own means, but from the relationship we individually have within ourselves with God. Each of us is to have our own relationship with God and it is from that individual relationship with God that we are to find our self-sufficiency in the things He requires. Everything we have need of is laid out at our disposal, we need merely to appropriate it through our own individual relationship with God.
"Our superintendence in instruction and discipline is the office of the Word, from whom we learn frugality and humility, and all that pertains to love of truth, love of man, and love of excellence. And so, in a word, being assimilated to God by a participation in moral excellence, we must not retrograde into carelessness and sloth. But labour, and faint not." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Christ, the Word, is our instructor and our progress in the things He instructs is achieved through our participation and obedience in the things He teaches. It is not enough to hear the Word of God, one must fulfill the Word of God for it to have any effect in their life. This participation, this obedience, requires deliberate and continual effort on our part. One cannot drift through life and hope to inherit the beatitudes of the Kingdom. Carelessness, sloth, and fainting are our enemies and only server to draw us back into our old way of living. We must ever be moving forward, ever looking and learning from our Instructor, ever obeying and participating with the loving Word of God.
"And as there is one mode of training for philosophers, another for orators, and another for athletes; so is there a generous disposition, suitable to the choice that is set upon moral loveliness, resulting from the training of Christ. And in the case of those who have been trained according to this influence, their gait in walking, their sitting at table, their food, their sleep, their going to bed, their regimen, and the rest of their mode of life, acquire a superior dignity." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Our training in Christ is not merely for our preparation for eternal life in heaven, but also to teach us how to live happy and fruitful lives here on earth. It teaches us not only how to be citizens of heaven but also citizens here where we live. The Gospel changes the whole man and makes us fit, not only for heaven, but for the purposes of own own nations, states, and communities in which we live. The Word of God civilizes us for useful service to man and country as well as for the brethren and the Kingdom of God. God has left nothing to chance and, as we will see, Clement will show us how the Word of God can be applied to every area of our lives, even, how to walk, how to sleep, our daily habits, etc., that we might life lives with the dignity afforded to us by God.
"For such a training as is pursued by the Word is not overstrained, but is of the right tension. Thus, therefore, the Word has been called also the Saviour, seeing He has found out for men those rational medicines which produce vigour of the senses and salvation; and devotes Himself to watching for the favourable moment, reproving evil, exposing the causes of evil affections, and striking at the roots of irrational lusts, pointing out what we ought to abstain from, and supplying all the antidotes of salvation to those who are diseased. For the greatest and most regal work of God is the salvation of humanity. The sick are vexed at a physician, who gives no advice bearing on their restoration to health. But how shall we not acknowledge the highest gratitude to the divine Instructor, who is not silent, who omits not those threatenings that point towards destruction, but discloses them, and cuts off the impulses that tend to them; and who indoctrinates in those counsels which result in the true way of living? We must confess, therefore, the deepest obligations to Him." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
God is a well balanced teacher, blending instruction with rebuke, direction with correction, praise with punishment, all meant to bring about the true salvation of the soul and to prepare us for life eternal with God. Since He created us He knows best how to lead and instruct us. He knows how we were meant to live and what makes life healthy, blessed, and abundant. He alone is well qualified to be the instructor. So how should we respond to a God who is both gentle and rough, kind and sever, punishing and rewarding? We should respond with the deepest since of love and loyalty knowing that all He does is out of an abiding love for us and a deep desire to have us with Him in heaven throughout all eternity.
"For what else do we say is incumbent on the rational creature—I mean man—than the contemplation of the Divine? I say, too, that it is requisite to contemplate human nature, and to live as the truth directs, and to admire the Instructor and His injunctions, as suitable and harmonious to each other. According to which image also we ought, conforming ourselves to the Instructor, and making the word and our deeds agree, to live a real life." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Some are content to fill their lives with the contemplation of God, however, Clement knows that we must also contemplate human nature; to understand who we are and who we are called to be, to understand our weaknesses and strengths, to recognize our failings and to seize upon our successes. Having contemplated God we must then turn to look at ourselves and to consider how what we have learned about God can and must be applied to our lives; how our knowledge of God impacts our understanding of ourselves and the life we are now called to live. Our knowledge of God aught to compel us into a life long journey to be remade into His image, that we too might reflect that knowledge which we have learned in contemplation of Him who is our greatest good and our highest aim.

David Robison

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The here and now - 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.
"Having now accomplished those things, it were a fitting sequel that our instructor Jesus should draw for us the model of the true life, and train humanity in Christ. Nor is the cast and character of the life He enjoins very formidable; nor is it made altogether easy by reason of His benignity. He enjoins His commands, and at the same time gives them such a character that they may be accomplished." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Jesus, having obtained our salvation through His own death and sacrifice on the cross, not only bids us to come and receive His salvation, but also to allow Him to lead us into a life that is befitting of our newly obtained salvation. Jesus not only came to save us from an eternity of Hell and eternal separation from God, but also to teach us how to live here and now; to teach us how to live as children of God even as we live in this dead and dying world. His instruction, combined with His commands, are designed to teach us how to live right lives, yet those teachings and commands are not burdensome or inaccessible to us, but He has made all provision that we might keep His commands and obtain to His instruction. Jesus Himself said, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:30) and Augustine of Hippo put it this way, "Lord command what you will and grant what you command!"
"The view I take is, that He Himself formed man of the dust, and regenerated him by water; and made him grow by his Spirit; and trained him by His word to adoption and salvation, directing him by sacred precepts; in order that, transforming earth-born man into a holy and heavenly being by His advent, He might fulfil to the utmost that divine utterance, 'Let Us make man in Our own image and likeness.' And, in truth, Christ became the perfect realization of what God spake; and the rest of humanity is conceived as being created merely in His image." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
Our hope in this life is not that we might merely escape the eternal fires of Hell, nor that we might one day inherit eternity in Heaven, but that we might live here and now bearing the full image and nature of God. Such an image we once bore but it was lost through sin. Jesus came and re-displayed the image that, as humans created by God, we were meant to carry and now, through the help of our loving instructor, Jesus wants to again teach us how to bear His image and reflect His nature; a goal that is not beyond any one of us.
"But let us, O children of the good Father—nurslings of the good Instructor—fulfil the Father’s will, listen to the Word, and take on the impress of the truly saving life of our Saviour; and meditating on the heavenly mode of life according to which we have been deified, let us anoint ourselves with the perennial immortal bloom of gladness—that ointment of sweet fragrance—having a clear example of immortality in the walk and conversation of the Lord; and following the footsteps of God, to whom alone it belongs to consider, and whose care it is to see to, the way and manner in which the life of men may be made more healthy." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 12)
The life of God is not only meant to be marveled at and admired, but it means to leave its mark on our life. We must not only claim the life of Christ but we must allow it to leave its mark on our lives; we must allow it to change us and conform us to its image. The write of Hebrews says of Jesus that, "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature." (Hebrews 1:3) The Greek word for "exact representation" is our word for "Character" and represents both the engraving tool and the mark that is left by the tool; its not only that which impresses but also the impression that is left. Jesus showed forth the character of God and we are to, in turn, show forth the character of Jesus. Christianity is as much about the here-and-now as it is about the sweet-by-and-by. God is desiring to show us a new way to live, a way that is worthy of our new calling and position in Christ, a way that is right and fitting, a way that is "more healthy." In seeking such a life it is right that we should turn to Christ, for He alone is able to instruct us in the right way. Many may desire to be our instructors, but only Jesus knows the way of eternal life.

David Robison

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

God is like mustard - 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 mode of His love and His instruction we have shown as we could. Wherefore He Himself, declaring Himself very beautifully, likened Himself to a grain of mustard-seed; and pointed out the spirituality of the word that is sown, and the productiveness of its nature, and the magnificence and conspicuousness of the power of the word; and besides, intimated that the pungency and the purifying virtue of punishment are profitable on account of its sharpness. By the little grain, as it is figuratively called, He bestows salvation on all humanity abundantly." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Clement saw God everywhere, even in the small and insignificant mustard seed. Mustard has a unique pungent quality that is hard to describe as being anything other than "mustard." Clement likens this pungency to God's discipline and punishment in that, though they contain sharpness, they are also purifying. It is the pungent, or sharpness, of God's punishment that serves to purify our souls of sin and wickedness.
"Honey, being very sweet, generates bile, as goodness begets contempt, which is the cause of sinning. But mustard lessens bile, that is, anger, and stops inflammation, that is, pride. From which Word springs the true health of the soul, and its eternal happy temperament." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Honey stands in contrast to mustard in that it is sweet and contains no sharpness in its taste. Sometimes, the sweetness of God can cause us to take God for granted; We take for granted His goodness, forgiveness, and forbearance. Sometimes, in taking God for granted, we can become contemptuous of His commands and instruction in our lives and to cease fearing sin as we aught. At times like these we need the sharpness of God to awaken our souls and to restore us to what we know to be true; to return once again to God and to His ways.
"Accordingly, of old He instructed by Moses, and then by the prophets. Moses, too, was a prophet. For the law is the training of refractory children... And when, having senselessly filled themselves, they senselessly played; on that account the law was given them, and terror ensued for the prevention of transgressions and for the promotion of right actions, securing attention, and so winning to obedience to the true Instructor, being one and the same Word, and reducing to conformity with the urgent demands of the law." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Clement takes a much more moderate view of the Old Testament law then may today. The people had found favor and deliverance with God. However, in their new found freedom, they through off all restraint and the fear of God and behaved as they pleased. In response, God gave His Law to arrest their impulses and to restore the fear of God in their lives that they might learn to live good and godly lives. The law as as mustard to their licentiousness.
"For Paul says that it was given to be a 'schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.' So that from this it is clear, that one alone, true, good, just, in the image and likeness of the Father, His Son Jesus, the Word of God, is our Instructor; to whom God hath entrusted us, as an affectionate father commits his children to a worthy tutor, expressly charging us, 'This is my beloved Son: hear Him.' The divine Instructor is trustworthy, adorned as He is with three of the fairest ornament—knowledge, benevolence, and authority of utterance;—with knowledge, for He is the paternal wisdom... with authority of utterance, for He is God and Creator:.. and with benevolence, for He alone gave Himself a sacrifice for us... Now, benevolence is nothing but wishing to do good to one’s neighbour for his sake." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 11)
The law became our tutor to lead us to Christ. By showing us how we aught to live, and by realizing that we are incapable of being good by ourselves, it leads us to Christ who alone is good and who alone can help us to live a good and holy life. Now, having come to Christ, He Himself has become our instructor, leading us in the right way, and it is right that we should choose Him to instruct our lives because He possesses knowledge, authority, and benevolence. There are many who claim to be enlightened and many who would seek to be our instructors, but no other has the knowledge and wisdom of God, no other has the authority of being God, and no other has shown the love and desire for good in our lives like Jesus who came and died for us that we might live eternally with Him. He is our loving instructor,

David Robison

Monday, November 18, 2013

Praising the not so perfect - The Instuctor

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.
"Again, showing the opposite scale of the balance of justice, He says, 'But not so the ungodly—not so; but as the dust which the wind sweeps away from the face of the earth.' By showing the punishment of sinners, and their easy dispersion, and carrying off by the wind, the Instructor dissuades from crime by means of punishment; and by holding up the merited penalty, shows the benignity of His beneficence in the most skilful way, in order that we may possess and enjoy its blessings... Do you see the goodness of justice, in that it counsels to repentance?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
The goodness and the severity of God go hand-in-hand. Both are necessary and both are salutary. The truth is that God loves both the righteous and the wicked, the sinner and the saint, and wishes both the blessings of eternal life. All His instruction and discipline in our lives is that we might obtain to that hope and promise.
"We might have adduced, as supporters on this question, the philosophers who say that only the perfect man is worthy of praise, and the bad man of blame. But since some slander beatitude, as neither itself taking any trouble, nor giving any to any one else, thus not understanding its love to man; on their account, and on account of those who do not associate justice with goodness, the following remarks are added. For it were a legitimate inference to say, that rebuke and censure are suitable to men, since they say that all men are bad; but God alone is wise, from whom cometh wisdom, and alone perfect, and therefore alone worthy of praise." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
Clement challenges the pervading philosophical thought of his day that saw perfection, especially moral and behavioral perfection, in absolute terms. One was either good or evil; the one engendering praise and the other rightly receiving punishment. For them, rewards and punishments were the earned fruit of behavior and one could only earn one or the other but not both and certainly not a mixture of both. However, if this were true then only God would be blessed, since He alone is good, and mankind would always be under punishment, since he is ever showing himself bad. Clement, however, does not see reward and punishment this way.
"But I do not employ such language. I say, then, that praise or blame, or whatever resembles praise or blame, are medicines most essential of all to men. Some are ill to cure, and, like iron, are wrought into shape with fire, and hammer, and anvil, that is, with threatening, and reproof, and chastisement; while others, cleaving to faith itself, as selftaught, and as acting of their own free-will, grow by praise:— 'For virtue that is praised Grows like a tree.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
Clement sees both rewards and punishment as medicine for the soul, one to correct and the other to encourage. Even a wicked man can benefit from praise of the things that remain good within him. For there are in each of our lives things worthy of praise and things needing God's correction and instruction; we are in need of rewards and punishments at the same time.
"But there are myriads of injunctions to be found, whose aim is the attainment of what is good, and the avoidance of what is evil." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
This is the goal of God's instruction, that we might avoid what is evil and attain to what is good, and to this end, whatever might be the manner of God's instruction in our lives, it is always good.

David Robison

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The goodness of God - 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.
"If, then, we have shown that the plan of dealing stringently with humanity is good and salutary, and necessarily adopted by the Word, and conducive to repentance and the prevention of sins; we shall have now to look in order at the mildness of the Word. For He has been demonstrated to be just. He sets before us His own inclinations which invite to salvation; by which, in accordance with the Father’s will, He wishes to make known to us the good and the useful. Consider these. The good belongs to the panegyrical form of speech, the useful to the persuasive. For the hortatory and the dehortatory are a form of the persuasive, and the laudatory and inculpatory of the panegyrical." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
Paul writes of the "goodness and severity of God." (Romans 11:22 NKJV) Having written in great lengths to show that God can be both good and stern, Clement now directs his discourse to reminding us that God, in His goodness, can also be mild. God's choice of instruction in our life, whether kind or severe, is determined by our own behavior and choices. Based on that, God chooses the best course of action for our correction and restoration to the right way. God often lays out His goodly counsel and hopes that we will follow it. However, if we ignore his counsel, God has other resources at His disposal to gain our attention and divert us from harm. Someone once told me they "had to figure it out for themselves." However, this is what King Solomon refers to as the Discipline of Fools. "Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly." (Proverbs 16:22) We can either choose God's mild discipline or proceed on to learn His severe rebuke.

However, having dealt with the severe, Clement now returns to the mild.
"For the persuasive style of sentence in one form becomes hortatory, and in another dehortatory. So also the panegyrical in one form becomes inculpatory, and in another laudatory. And in these exercises the Instructor, the Just One, who has proposed our advantage as His aim, is chiefly occupied. But the inculpatory and dehortatory forms of speech have been already shown us; and we must now handle the persuasive and the laudatory, and, as on a beam, balance the equal scales of justice." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10)
In discussing milder forms of Instruction, Clement begins to enumerate some of the ways God instructs us.
"The exhortation to what is useful, the Instructor employs by Solomon 'I exhort you, O men; and I utter my voice to the sons of men. Hear me; for I will speak of excellent things;' and so on. And He counsels what is salutary: for counsel has for its end, choosing or refusing a certain course... And there are three departments of counsel: That which takes examples from past times; as what the Hebrews suffered when they worshipped the golden calf, and what they suffered when they committed fornication, and the like. The second, whose meaning is understood from the present times, as being apprehended by perception... And the third department of counsel consists of what is future, by which we are bidden... So that from these things it is clear that the Lord, going the round of all the methods of curative treatment, calls humanity to salvation." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10
Exhortation is an attempt to persuade us to choose a better path; to strive for a higher calling; to attain to the Way of Holiness. Counsel is primarily directed to us when we must choose between two diverging paths or two conflicting options of a decision. God's counsel sheds light on the end of our choices and our paths to help us to make the right decision and to continue down the right path. In His counsel He often shows us our past, present, and future as they pertain to our choices and decisions that we might know the right decisions and best choices to make.
"By encouragement He assuages sins, reducing lust, and at the same time inspiring hope for salvation... By Jeremiah, too, He sets forth prudence, when he says, 'Blessed are we, Israel; for what is pleasing to God is known by us.' And still another form of instruction is benediction. 'And blessed is he,' He saith by David, 'who has not sinned; and he shall be as the tree planted near the channels of the waters, which will yield its fruit in its season, and his leaf shall not wither'... Such He wishes us to be, that we may be blessed." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 10
By encouragement, God shows us the benefit and utility of salvation; both in attempting to persuade us to choose for ourselves the pathway of salvation and to encourage us to continue along the way. It is easy, at times, to loose heart and to grow weary, but that is when the encouragement of God comes to aid and strengthen us in our continued journey.

Finally, for me, "benediction" was always what the preacher said at the end of the service, but "benediction" simply means a "good word" or a "spoken blessing." Solomon said, "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. " (Proverbs 12:25) How often we need that Good Word from God to encourage us, warm hour hearts, and lift our load. It is like the couple that Jesus meat on the Emmaus Road who spoke of their time with Jesus, saying, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road." (Luke 24:32) Sometimes I need the severity of God to wake me up and to restore me to the right way, but I am also thankful for the encouraging and good word that He brings to encourage me along the way when my load gets heavy. He is sever when I need it and gentle with I need it, each in its own time. For both of these I am grateful.

David Robison

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Discipline is our fault - 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.
"Further, His righteousness cried, 'If ye come straight to me, I also will come straight to you but if ye walk crooked, I also will walk crooked, saith the Lord of hosts;' meaning by the crooked ways the chastisements of sinners.... Thus the Lord’s reproof is most beneficial. David also says of them, 'A perverse and provoking race; a race which set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful with God: they kept not the covenant of God, and would not walk in His law.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God disciplines us, not because He is a sadist or has nothing better to do, but because the needs of our life demand it. God disciplines us because our lives need it to secure for us participation in the right way. If our lives were "straight" then there would be no need for discipline in our lives, but because our lives are "crooked," we need His discipline so that we might enjoy life and find it in abundance.
"Such are the causes of provocation for which the Judge comes to inflict punishment on those that would not choose a life of goodness. Wherefore also afterwards He assailed them more roughly; in order, if possible, to drag them back from their impetuous rush towards death. He therefore tells by David the most manifest cause of the threatening: 'They believed not in His wonderful works. When He slew them, they sought after Him, and turned and inquired early after God; and remembered that God was their Helper, and God the Most High their Redeemer.' Thus He knew that they turned for fear, while they despised His love: for, for the most part, that goodness which is always mild is despised; but He who admonishes by the loving fear of righteousness is reverenced." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
In reading the Old Testament, some see only a God who is mean, punitive, and harsh. However, what we should see is a people who are "stiff-necked" and rebellious, and a loving God who would do anything necessary to turn them back to Himself. How repeatedly did God rebuke His people in order to restore them only to have them again rebel and wander far from Him. However, His love for them never failed and, in His slowness to anger, He continually called them back to Himself with gentle and harsh discipline as necessary.
"There is a twofold species of fear, the one of which is accompanied with reverence, such as citizens show towards good rulers, and we towards God, as also right-minded children towards their fathers... The other species of fear is accompanied with hatred, which slaves feel towards hard masters, and the Hebrews felt, who made God a master, not a father. And as far as piety is concerned, that which is voluntary and spontaneous differs much, nay entirely, from what is forced." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
The fear that God seeks to instill in us is different from that fear that resulted from the law. One is out of love and the other out of hatred; hatred that we are ruled over and hatred for the result of defying the one who rules over us. This is true even in the natural. For example, I do not excessively exceed the speed limit because I fear a speeding ticket. I do this not out of a loving fear or because I believe the law is justified, but out of a fear that submits because I have too. They have the power to make the laws and I must submit to them whether or not I want to. Some obey God out of a loving fear while others because they have too, hating the one who is their master because He is God. All fear is not bad, but fear without love gives no life.
"Wherefore David—that is, the Spirit by him—embracing them both, sings of God Himself, 'Justice and judgment are the preparation of His throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.' He declares that it belongs to the same power both to judge and to do good. For there is power over both together, and judgment separates that which is just from its opposite. And He who is truly God is just and good; who is Himself all, and all is He; for He is God, the only God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God is just and God is good. In fact, God cannot be one without the other. How can God be good without being just and how can He be just without being good?
"For as the mirror is not evil to an ugly man because it shows him what like he is; and as the physician is not evil to the sick man because he tells him of his fever,—for the physician is not the cause of the fever, but only points out the fever;—so neither is He, that reproves, ill-disposed towards him who is diseased in soul. For He does not put the transgressions on him, but only shows the sins which are there; in order to turn him away from similar practices. So God is good on His own account, and just also on ours, and He is just because He is good... This mutual and reciprocal knowledge is the symbol of primeval justice. Then justice came down to men both in the letter and in the body, in the Word and in the law, constraining humanity to saving repentance; for it was good. But do you not obey God? Then blame yourself, who drag to yourself the judge." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
If we find ourselves under discipline, let us not blame God or count God as evil for showing and reproving us of our sin. The sin is ours and our judgment and discipline rightly earned. We are the ones at fault, we are the ones who are less than good. In times like these, let us never forget the words of King Solomon, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12 NKJV)

David Robison

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fear is a good thing - 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.
"In fine, the system He pursues to inspire fear is the source of salvation. And it is the prerogative of goodness to save: 'The mercy of the Lord is on all flesh, while He reproves, corrects, and teaches as a shepherd His flock. He pities those who receive His instruction, and those who eagerly seek union with Him.'... For it is indeed noble not to sin; but it is good also for the sinner to repent; just as it is best to be always in good health, but well to recover from disease. So He commands by Solomon: 'Strike thou thy son with the rod, that thou mayest deliver his soul from death.' And again: 'Abstain not from chastising thy son, but correct him with the rod; for he will not die.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
The scriptures teach us that, in many ways, we are not to fear. "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again." (Romans 8:15) "and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) However, there are times when fear can be salutary in our lives. Fear should not be judged by its being fear in and of itself but rather by what harm or benefit it brings to our lives. Fear that would cause us to shrink back from God and from following His is fear to be resisted. However, fear that causes us to flee our sinful ways and embrace the way of God is useful and beneficial in our lives.
"For reproof and rebuke, as also the original term implies, are the stripes of the soul, chastizing sins, preventing death, and leading to self-control those carried away to licentiousness. Thus also Plato, knowing reproof to be the greatest power for reformation, and the most sovereign purification, in accordance with what has been said, observes, 'that he who is in the highest degree impure is uninstructed and base, by reason of his being unreproved in those respects in which he who is destined to be truly happy ought to be purest and best.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Reproof and rebuke, though they punish our soul, both serve to instruct us in a way that is destined to make us truly happy; the Lord using what is unpleasant in the present to ensure pleasures in the future. The one who is base, the one who is unholy, and the one who is useless to mankind is the one who has never been instructed by ways both unpleasant and painful. "You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol." (Proverbs 23:14)
"For if rulers are not a terror to a good work, how shall God, who is by nature good, be a terror to him who sins not? 'If thou doest evil, be afraid,' says the apostle... Thus also people in health do not require a physician, do not require him as long as they are strong; but those who are ill need his skill. Thus also we who in our lives are ill of shameful lusts and reprehensible excesses, and other inflammatory effects of the passions, need the Saviour. And He administers not only mild, but also stringent medicines. The bitter roots of fear then arrest the eating sores of our sins. Wherefore also fear is salutary, if bitter. Sick, we truly stand in need of the Saviour; having wandered, of one to guide us; blind, of one to lead us to the light; thirsty, 'of the fountain of life, of which whosoever partakes, shall no longer thirst;' dead, we need life; sheep, we need a shepherd; we who are children need a tutor, while universal humanity stands in need of Jesus; so that we may not continue intractable and sinners to the end, and thus fall into condemnation, but may be separated from the chaff, and stored up in the paternal garner." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Its not that God wants us to live in fear but there are times when fear is a salutatory medicine that restores us from the path of death to the path of life. Those who have been perfected by the love of God need never to fear again. However, those of us who still are still being perfected, and are still in need of a healer and savior, may need the "bitter roots of fear" to arrest us from our unfruitful and deadly way of living. In these cases, it is the Father's love to even use fear in our lives to reprove and restore us to the way of life.
"Feed us, the children, as sheep. Yea, Master, fill us with righteousness, Thine own pasture; yea, O Instructor, feed us on Thy holy mountain the Church, which towers aloft, which is above the clouds, which touches heaven. 'And I will be,' He says, 'their Shepherd,' and will be near them, as the garment to their skin. He wishes to save my flesh by enveloping it in the robe of immortality, and He hath anointed my body...For we who are passing over to immortality shall not fall into corruption, for He shall sustain us. For so He has said, and so He has willed. Such is our Instructor, righteously good... Generous, therefore, is He who gives for us the greatest of all gifts, His own life; and beneficent exceedingly, and loving to men, in that, when He might have been Lord, He wished to be a brother man; and so good was He that He died for us. (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
So should be the cry of our heart that God would employ such methods, and more so, to ensure our participation in His grand and glorious promises. For God has not promised us some earthly reward, but the reward of eternal life with Him; immortality like God and with God. Harsh and stringent discipline is never pleasant but it is a sign of His great love for us and the greatness of His promises towards us. Moreover, let us never forget His great love which He has already shown us in not only becoming a man that He might become our Savior, but also that He might become our brother. We often think of God as our Father, but He is also our elder brother. Should we not, with grateful hearts, gladly accept His instruction in our lives regardless if it is mild or harsh knowing that in both His love shines forth?

David Robison

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weapons of discipline (part 2) - 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.

In our previous post, Clement started to identify some of the key types of disciplinary speech God uses to get our attention and to instruct and guide us in our lives. Here Clement concludes his list. Once again, they are presented with minimal commentary.
"Denunciation is vehement speech. And He employs denunciation as medicine, by Isaiah, saying, 'Ah, sinful nation, lawless sons, people full of sins, wicked seed!' And in the Gospel by John He says, 'Serpents, brood of vipers.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
There is the story of the man who sold another man a mule, but the new owner could not get the mule to do anything. He went back and asked the original owner what to do and he gave him a 2x4 piece of wood. The new owner asked, "What is this for?" and the previous owner said, "to get its attention first." Sometimes God needs His verbal 2x4 to get our attention when we are acting like mules.
"Accusation is censure of wrong-doers. This mode of instruction He employs by David, when He says: 'The people whom I knew not served me, and at the hearing of the ear obeyed me. Sons of strangers lied to me, and halted from their ways.' And by Jeremiah: 'And I gave her a writing of divorcement, and covenant-breaking Judah feared not.' And again: 'And the house of Israel disregarded Me; and the house of Judah lied to the Lord.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
When Satan condemns us we just have a vague sense we've done something wrong. We feel bad but have no idea of how to feel better. However, when God convicts us we know exactly what we have done wrong and what He requires of us to set things right.
"Objurgation is objurgatory censure. Of this help the Divine Instructor made use by Jeremiah, saying, 'Thou hadst a whore’s forehead; thou wast shameless towards all; and didst not call me to the house, who am thy father, and lord of thy virginity.' 'And a fair and graceful harlot skilled in enchanted potions.' With consummate art, after applying to the virgin the opprobrious name of whoredom, He thereupon calls her back to an honourable life by filling her with shame." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
While, in our language, "Objurgation" simply means a harsh or severe rebuke, Clement seems to identify with it the sense of feeling our own shame and disgrace that results from our sin. Having felt the depths of the shame we have brought upon ourselves, we then can call out to God to be restored to our honorable place with Him.
"Indignation is a rightful upbraiding; or upbraiding on account of ways exalted above what is right. In this way He instructed by Moses, when He said, 'Faulty children, a generation crooked and perverse, do ye thus requite the Lord? This people is foolish, and not wise. Is not this thy father who acquired thee?' He says also by Isaiah, 'Thy princes are disobedient, companions of thieves, loving gifts, following after rewards, not judging the orphans.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
James says that, "we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well." (James 3:2) Sometimes, even when we are attempting to follow God's ways, we still stumble and fall. However, when we willfully replace God's good ways for base and sinful ways, calling evil good and good evil, then we rightfully earn God's indignation. This is the same indignation that God has stored up for the last days. "For the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal." (Zephaniah 3:8)

Having completed his list of disciplinary speech, Clement then proceeds to show us how God uses all these for our salvation and benefit. However, that will have to wait for another day.

David Robison

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weapons of discipline (part 1) - 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 term weapons may sound a bit aggressive, yet sometimes God is aggressive in dealing with us in an attempt to call us back and to restore us to the right way. God is not only aggressive in His love for us but also in His discipline and correction of our lives. Clement continues enumerating the various forms of corrective speech God uses in our loves. Since He is very though to provide for us a definition and an example from the scriptures, I'll present them with minimal commentary.
"Invective is a reproachful upbraiding, or chiding censure. This mode of treatment the Instructor employs in Isaiah, when He says, 'Woe to you, children revolters. Thus saith the Lord, Ye have taken counsel, but not by Me; and made compacts, but not by My Spirit.' He uses the very bitter mordant of fear in each case repressing the people, and at the same time turning them to salvation; as also wool that is undergoing the process of dyeing is wont to be previously treated with mordants, in order to prepare it for taking on a fast colour." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Webster defines "Invective" as being "characterized by insult or abuse." Also, a "mordant" is a bitter and caustic substance used to help set the colors in dyes. Sometimes God uses biting and caustic speech to yield fear in our lives, fear of where we are heading in life, to motivate us towards salvation and to cause our salvation to "set" in our lives.
"Reproof is the bringing forward of sin, laying it before one. This form of instruction He employs as in the highest degree necessary, by reason of the feebleness of the faith of many. For He says by Esaias, 'Ye have forsaken the Lord, and have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.'... And He uses the bitter and biting language of reproof in His consolations by Solomon, tacitly alluding to the love for children that characterizes His instruction: 'My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord; nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;'... Consequently, therefore, the Scripture says, 'Let the righteous reprove and correct me; but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Have you ever tried hinting-around-the-bush to try and get someone else to understand the harm they are doing to others by their actions? Some people just don't seem to respond well to hints and gentle prodding, they need it laid out before them in black-and-white in order for them to see it and change. In the end, its better to be rebuked then to be allowed to remain in our sins. "Open rebuke is better than hidden love." (Proverbs 27:5 Darby)
"Bringing one to his senses is censure, which makes a man think. Neither from this form of instruction does he abstain, but says by Jeremiah, 'How long shall I cry, and you not hear? So your ears are uncircumcised.' O blessed forbearance! And again, by the same: 'All the heathen are uncircumcised, but this people is uncircumcised inheart.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Sometimes we can end up living our lives with no thought or regard to God. We do this, not out of evil rebellion, but often out of simple business and attention to the cares of life. Sometimes we need to be called back to our senses. Even Paul had to remind Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ..." (2 Timothy 2:8)
"Visitation is severe rebuke. He uses this species in the Gospel: 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee!' The reduplication of the name gives strength to the rebuke. For he that knows God, how does he persecute God’s servants? Wherefore He says, 'Your house is left desolate; for I say unto you, Henceforth ye shall not see Me, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.' For if you do not receive His love, ye shall know His power." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
It is hard to understand exactly what Clement meant by "Visitation," but notice the very personal nature of this type of rebuke, using the name of the one being rebuked. It would be as if God came to me and said, "David, you know the things I have promised you and yet you continue to live in this way and to do this and that!" Such a personal rebuke motivated by His personal love for each one of us.

We shall leave the remaining few for next time.

David Robison

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The loving discipline of children - 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.
"With all His power, therefore, the Instructor of humanity, the Divine Word, using all the resources of wisdom, devotes Himself to the saving of the children, admonishing, upbraiding, blaming, chiding, reproving, threatening, healing, promising, favouring; and as it were, by many reins, curbing the irrational impulses of humanity. To speak briefly, therefore, the Lord acts towards us as we do towards our children." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God uses a myriad of weapons to save His children, which includes all of us who have become His. Some weapons are gentle and mild while some are hard and harsh, yet all are used for the same purpose: salvation. We should not be surprised or shocked at this for we do the same for our children. We use various methods to teach our children the right way to live and to correct them when they are wrong and straying. Though we love them, yet we are willing to wound them, if necessary, that they may escape the evil way and return to the way of life.
"For those who speak with a man merely to please him, have little love for him, seeing they do not pain him; while those that speak for his good, though they inflict pain for the time, do him good for ever after. It is not immediate pleasure, but future enjoyment, that the Lord has in view." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
King Solomon said, "He who withholds his rod hates his son,but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." (Proverbs 13:24) and the writer of Hebrews says, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11) If we truly love someone, then we should be willing to allow them to experience unpleasantness, even from our own hands, that it might lead to their life and freedom from sin. Love does not sit by, watching someone proceed down the path of destruction, afraid to discipline and to wound, all the while allowing the condemned to proceed unhindered along their pathway to death. Love reaches out and uses whatever resources are available to call such a one back to repentance and back to life. This is the kind of love the Father has for us.

Of these resources, Clement enumerates many of them. Here are the first three.
"Admonition, then, is the censure of loving care, and produces understanding. Such is the Instructor in His admonitions, as when He says in the Gospel, 'How often would I have gathered thy children, as a bird gathers her young ones under her wings, and ye would not!'... For it is a very great proof of His love, that, though knowing well the shamelessness of the people that had kicked and bounded away, He notwithstanding exhorts them to repentance... Here His loving care, having shown their sin, shows salvation side by side." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Admonition is an expression of our love and care for someone with the hopes that they will understand the path they are on, thus prompting them to change.
"Upbraiding is censure on account of what is base, conciliating to what is noble. This is shown by Jeremiah: 'They were female-mad horses; each one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?' He everywhere interweaves fear, because 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of sense.'... He shows their offence to be clearer, by declaring that they understood, and thus sinned wilfully. Understanding is the eye of the soul; wherefore also Israel means, 'he that sees God'—that is, he that understands God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Upbraiding is the identifying of what is base in someone's life. Showing a contract between what is profane and what is noble, that one may avoid the one and adopt the other.
"Complaint is censure of those who are regarded as despising or neglecting. He employs this form when He says by Esaias: 'Hear, O heaven; and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have begotten and brought up children, but they have disregarded Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known Me.' For how shall we not regard it fearful, if he that knows God, shall not recognise the Lord; but while the ox and the ass, stupid and foolish animals, will know him who feeds them, Israel is found to be more irrational than these?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Complaint is when we accuse others of falling short in their duty towards is. We complain when someone fails to do what we expect or what we have asked. The same with God who uses complaints when we neglect or fail to remember God through out our busy daily lives.

Next time we will look at more corrective resources at ours and God's disposal.

David Robison

Thursday, November 07, 2013

God is just - 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.
"But that God is good, all willingly admit; and that the same God is just, I require not many more words to prove, after adducing the evangelical utterance of the Lord; He speaks of Him as one, 'That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world also may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them; that they may be one, as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.' God is one, and beyond the one and above the Monad itself." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is good and He is also just. In asserting this statement, Clement proceeds to show from the scriptures, and the words of the apostles, that Jesus and the Father are one and that, together, they are good and just. While I have abridged his prove in  the following quotes for brevity sake, his key point is that if the Father is just and an adjudicator of mankind, then the Son is also just and judges with the same authority as the Father.
"And that He who alone is God is also alone and truly righteous, our Lord in the Gospel itself shall testify... This is He 'that visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, to them that hate Him, and shows mercy to those that love Him.' For He who placed some 'on the right hand, and others on the left,' conceived as Father, being good, is called that which alone He is—'good;' but as He is the Son in the Father, being his Word, from their mutual relation, the name of power being measured by equality of love, He is called righteous. 'He will judge,' He says, 'a man according to his works,'—a good balance, even God having made known to us the face of righteousness in the person of Jesus, by whom also, as by even scales, we know God. Of this also the book of Wisdom plainly says, “For mercy and wrath are with Him, for He alone is Lord of both,' Lord of propitiations, and pouring forth wrath according to the abundance of His mercy. 'So also is His reproof.' For the aim of mercy and of reproof is the salvation of those who are reproved." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God shows forth forgiveness out of His mercy and reproves out of His justice. However, in both case the goal is our salvation. How can one turn to salvation without first being reproved of his wrong conduct? How can one find forgiveness until he has first returned to the God of mercy? God is just and He judges that we might be converted from our unjust ways and return, through forgiveness, to a just and righteous life before God. In this, His justice is good.
"Now, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is good, the Word Himself will again avouch: 'For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil;' and further, when He says, 'Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.' Still further also He plainly says, 'None is good, but My Father, who is in heaven.' In addition to these, again He says, 'My Father makes His sun to shine on all.' Here it is to be noted that He proclaims His Father to be good, and to be the Creator. And that the Creator is just, is not disputed. And again he says, 'My Father sends rain on the just, and on the unjust.' In respect of His sending rain, He is the Creator of the waters, and of the clouds. And in respect of His doing so on all, He holds an even balance justly and rightly. And as being good, He does so on just and unjust alike." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is good to all, to the just and the unjust, yet His approach to our salvation differs based on our present state; reproving one and forgiving another, each in turn to secure our salvation.
"So that it is veritably clear that the God of all is only one good, just Creator, and the Son in the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. But it is not inconsistent with the saving Word, to administer rebuke dictated by solicitude. For this is the medicine of the divine love to man, by which the blush of modesty breaks forth, and shame at sin supervenes. For if one must censure, it is necessary also to rebuke; when it is the time to wound the apathetic soul not mortally, but salutarily, securing exemption from everlasting death by a little pain." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is love, yet God is also just. Neither are these two characteristics of God are mutually exclusive, nor does one negate the other. If we have any difficulty in accepting that love and justice can coexist together in the same heart then maybe its because we have failed to see this demonstrated by the people around us, or even by ourselves. However, God is not like men that He should love without justice or judge without love. God is love and God is just, and His loving justice is for our salvation.
"Great is the wisdom displayed in His instruction, and manifold the modes of His dealing in order to salvation. For the Instructor testifies to the good, and summons forth to better things those that are called; dissuades those that are hastening to do wrong from the attempt, and exhorts them to turn to a better life. For the one is not without testimony, when the other has been testified to; and the grace which proceeds from the testimony is very great. Besides, the feeling of anger (if it is proper to call His admonition anger) is full of love to man, God condescending to emotion on man’s account; for whose sake also the Word of God became man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
God is just and God is good. Therefore, let us accept His reproof, correction, discipline, and punishment in our lives as tokens of His love sent to awaken us and restore us to right relationship with Him. Without the justice of God we would be people left to our own devices whose end would be certain indeed.

David Robison

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

When God looks away - 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.
"See how God, through His love of goodness, seeks repentance; and by means of the plan He pursues of threatening silently, shows His own love for man. 'I will avert,' He says, 'My face from them, and show what shall happen to them.' For where the face of the Lord looks, there is peace and rejoicing; but where it is averted, there is the introduction of evil." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Sin brings death, not just physical death, but spiritual, emotional, and even relational death. James teaches us that, "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15 NKJV) There is nothing good in sin and nothing good comes from it. However, even in our sin, God desires good for us rather than our destruction. God, speaking of the sinner, says "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.' (Ezekiel  33:11) Fortunately, God has a plan to restore the sinner and sometimes that includes His silence.

Often, we take for grated God's grace in our lives. Whether sinner or saint, God's grace shines upon us in His kindness towards us. Jesus, speaking of His Father, says, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) While there is a greater grace that He bestows upon those who believe in Him, His grace and favor is upon us all. Sometimes we can mistake His favor for His indifference over our thoughts and actions. Sometimes we confuse His favor with our own ambition and our ability to make things happen. Sometimes, when enjoying God's favor even as we sin, we can turn a deaf ear to God's calling and warning of the death that awaits us as a result of our sins. In times like these, God will avert His eyes, lessening His grace, that we might begin to feel the true consequences of our sin, that we might wake up and correct our lives before it is too late.
"The Lord, accordingly, does not wish to look on evil things; for He is good. But on His looking away, evil arises spontaneously through human unbelief. 'Behold, therefore,' says Paul, 'the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness,' that is, in faith in Christ." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
It is true that, "the kindness of God leads you to repentance." (Romans 2:4) yet sometimes it is the severity of God that drives us to repentance. God is not weak nor is He timid and neither is He afraid to exercise severity in dealing with us that we might repent and find life. When God gazes upon us, evil is repressed, yet when God looks away, we find out what is truly within us; our unbelief springs up and our sin takes advantage and we see the true state of our soul. It is here that many call out to the Lord to forgive, heal, and save. Sometimes we need to see the depth of our need for God before we are willing to reach out to Him for salvation; we need to see us before we can appreciate Him.
"Now hatred of evil attends the good man, in virtue of His being in nature good. Wherefore I will grant that He punishes the disobedient (for punishment is for the good and advantage of him who is punished, for it is the correction of a refractory subject); but I will not grant that He wishes to take vengeance. Revenge is retribution for evil, imposed for the advantage of him who takes the revenge. He will not desire us to take revenge, who teaches us “to pray for those that despitefully use us.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
The hatred of evil attends to our good and the punishment of our disobedience also benefits us by correcting us and restoring us to the way of righteousness. Punishment is good when it proceeds from a good heart. When God punishes us, He does so for our good, not for His own. As humans, sometimes we delight in the punishment of others as it assuages our lust for revenge and our need for retribution. The goal for punishment is to make us feel better rather than to provoke the offender to a better life. Not so with God. He punishes us without any thought for Himself. His desire in punishment is for our eternal good. He loves us so He punishes us that He might restore us to right relationship with Himself. Even in punishment, God is good.

David Robison

Monday, November 04, 2013

Discipline is good - 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.
"God, then, is good. And the Lord speaks many a time and oft before He proceeds to act. 'For my arrows,' He says, 'will make an end of them; they shall be consumed with hunger, and be eaten by birds; and there shall be incurable tetanic incurvature. I will send the teeth of wild beasts upon them, with the rage of serpents creeping on the earth. Without, the sword shall make them childless; and out of their chambers shall be fear.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
So God is good, yet how do we reconcile this with such scriptures as Clement quotes fro Deuteronomy? How can God be good yet be so angry? The key to understanding this is to recognize that God is not a man and His emotions are not like ours. He has the same emotions but without the sinful passions that are often attached to those same emotions when we express them.
"For the Divine Being is not angry in the way that some think; but often restrains, and always exhorts humanity, and shows what ought to be done. And this is a good device, to terrify lest we sin. 'For the fear of the Lord drives away sins, and he that is without fear cannot be justified,' says the Scripture. And God does not inflict punishment from wrath, but for the ends of justice; since it is not expedient that justice should be neglected on our account." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement again quotes from the Book of Sirach and refers to it as "scripture." This book was part of the Greek version of the Old Testament that our early Greek speaking brothers and sisters read from.

God's anger is measured and calculated to bring forth good in our lives. The prophet Nahum says that, "The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished." (Nahum 1:3) God has a wide range of instructional tools that He uses in our live. He starts with the mild and gentle tools attempting to persuade us and to direct us towards the right way. However, if necessary, He will use the more strident and harsher tools to rescue us, if possible, from our own destruction. As a parent, I always strove to never punish my children out of wrath, yet there were times where I did just that. However, God never fails so but only punishes and corrects by way of justice and never out of wrath. God disciplines us for good and never out of an attempt to satisfy His wrath. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, "Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness." (Hebrews 12:9-10)
"Each one of us, who sins, with his own free-will chooses punishment, and the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame. 'But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? God forbid.' He says, therefore, threatening, 'I will sharpen my sword, and my hand shall lay hold on judgment; and I will render justice to mine enemies, and requite those who hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh from the blood of the wounded.' It is clear, then, that those who are not at enmity with the truth, and do not hate the Word, will not hate their own salvation, but will escape the punishment of enmity." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
When God's anger is aroused because of our own sinful behavior, we must be careful not to condemn God, for the fault does not lie with God but with ourselves. When we receive for ourselves discipline, correction, and punishment from the Lord, it is we who have chosen it for ourselves by our own behavior. In exercise of our free will we have chosen behavior that earns us the discipline and correction of the Lord. God does not desire our punishment but He will not shrink back from it when it is useful in our lives; to turn us from sin towards righteousness.
"'The crown of wisdom,' then, as the book of Wisdom says, 'is the fear of the Lord.' Very clearly, therefore, by the prophet Amos has the Lord unfolded His method of dealing, saying, 'I have overthrown you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; and ye shall be as a brand plucked from the fire: and yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord.' (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
The Lord disciplines that He might save, He punishes that He might rescue from the fire of judgment, and He corrects and He might transform. God is not afraid to use those things that we might consider to be harsh, unpleasant, and discomforting; not to please His wrath, but to do good for us. These steps, along with His milder correction and guidance are all an expression of His deep and abiding love for us. The write of Hebrews put it best, "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Hebrews 12:7-8) His discipline in our life is proof that we are His children and that He is our Father.

David Robison

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Threatening and punishment are good - 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.
"Further, the Lord shows very clearly of Himself, when, describing figuratively His manifold and in many ways serviceable culture,—He says, 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.' Then He adds, 'Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit He pruneth, that it may bring forth more fruit.' For the vine that is not pruned grows to wood. So also man. The Word—the knife—clears away the wanton shoots; compelling the impulses of the soul to fructify, not to indulge in lust. Now, reproof addressed to sinners has their salvation for its aim, the word being harmoniously adjusted to each one’s conduct; now with tightened, now with relaxed cords." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
When we come to Christ, we come as wild, uncultivated, branches and we are grafted into the vine that is Christ. While accepting us "just as we are," Jesus also embarks on a process of cultivating us that we might receive the full benefits of our association with the true vine that is Himself. Without this cultivation we would become wood and the blood of the vine would cease to flow in our lives. This cultivation requires the excising of the sinful and lustful areas of our lives that the righteous and rational parts may remain and grow strong. This surgery, at the hand of our pruner, requires the knife of the Word to cut away the dead works of our lives. Such is the reproof of Christ; rebuking us strongly for the greater sins in our lives and mildly for our lesser sins, yet reproving us still the same. Such reproof is good and beneficial for us.
"Accordingly it was very plainly said by Moses, 'Be of good courage: God has drawn near to try you, that His fear may be among you, that ye sin not.' And Plato, who had learned from this source, says beautifully: 'For all who suffer punishment are in reality treated well, for they are benefited; since the spirit of those who are justly punished is improved.' And if those who are corrected receive good at the hands of justice, and, according to Plato, what is just is acknowledged to be good, fear itself does good, and has been found to be for men’s good. 'For the soul that feareth the Lord shall live, for their hope is in Him who saveth them.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement appeals to two interesting sources here, one is Plato who was greatly influenced by the writings of Moses and who asserted that there was one great god who was god over all other gods. The second is the Book of Sirach which was part of the version of the Old Testament scriptures which he used to and read from. Moses, Plato, and Sirach all agree that fear, punishment, and correction are all good and beneficial to mankind. All these extend from the hand of justice and serve to save a man as they seek to turn him from sin to righteousness. None of these are to be rejected or to be construed as negating the goodness of a just and loving God.
"And this same Word who inflicts punishment is judge; regarding whom Esaias also says, 'The Lord has assigned Him to our sins,' plainly as a corrector and reformer of sins. Wherefore He alone is able to forgive our iniquities, who has been appointed by the Father, Instructor of us all; He alone it is who is able to distinguish between disobedience and obedience. And while He threatens, He manifestly is unwilling to inflict evil to execute His threatenings; but by inspiring men with fear, He cuts off the approach to sin, and shows His love to man, still delaying, and declaring what they shall suffer if they continue sinners, and is not as a serpent, which the moment it fastens on its prey devours it." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Esaias is how Isaiah was translated in Clement's day and language. There are many who would desire to judge us and, often, we tend to judge others by our own standard. However, the true standard and true judge is the very Word of God that has come to us to show us the true way. He alone is rightfully our judge and corrector, not man. Those who spew judgment and judge others by themselves are impostors and not the true Word who alone has been appointed our instructor, judge, and corrector. Jesus judges our sins that He might correct us and reform us from our sinful ways and might bring us into conformance with Himself and His way which is truth. His threatenings and correction are a result of His goodness and love for us; wishing us the best and a life that is in abundance. However, some may view the threatenings of God as an affront to His goodness because they fail to understand how God can threaten any differently than how they threaten, with evil intent. Yet there is no evil intent in God's threatening, only a pure desire for our greatest good. Someday God may have to execute His final judgement on us, but until then He uses His threatening to warn us of our future fate and to persuade us to choose a path that leads to life rather than our current path that is leading to death. His threatening is our security from destruction.

David Robison

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rebuke is good - 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, therefore in addition to persuasive discourse, there is the hortatory and the consolatory form; so also, in addition to the laudatory, there is the inculpatory and reproachful. And this latter constitutes the art of censure." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement enumerates many of the different forms of instruction, some being more sterner than others.

Persuasive: Persuasive instruction tries to convince us, of our own free will, to follow a path that is beneficial for us. It seeks to entice us with the benefits of the right path and of the fruitful end of its leading.

Hortatory: Hortatory instruction uses strong urging to provoke us along the way. Urging us to start our journey and to continue along even when times get difficult. It sometimes uses examples of those who succeeded along the way as well as those who failed in their quest to motivate us to continue in the way of the Lord.

Consolatory: Consolatory instruction helps us when we encounter discouragement, disappointment, and difficulty in our journey. It comforts our minds and reminds us of the reward that awaits for us at the end. Giving us hope that our present difficulties will not be our terminal reality as we walk with God.

Laudatory: Laudatory instruction praises us for our successes along the way. Giving us encouragement and hope of future success is we continue in the instruction of God.

Inculpatory: Inculpatory instruction identifies our failures and assigns our part in them. It shows us how and why we failed and, more importantly, our responsibility in our failure. For unless we can identify our part of our failure, we cannot find repentance and forgiveness for our actions.

Reproachful: Reproachful instruction shows us the sinfulness of our sin. Some sin yet find nothing wrong with it. How can someone who steels repent unless they understand the sinfulness of the theft? Reproach not only identifies what we did wrong, but also why it is wrong that, in understanding not only our actions but also our wrongs, we might repent.

Some of these modes of instruction are gentle and mild while others are more stringent and stern, yet all are necessary and are applied by God to our lives as times require. Sometimes He is persuasive, when our hearts are easily turned, and other times He is inculpatory, when our stubbornness threatens our progress. What ever the need, God has the remedy for our lives.
"Now censure is a mark of good-will, not of illwill. For both he who is a friend and he who is not, reproach; but the enemy does so in scorn, the friend in kindness. It is not, then, from hatred that the Lord chides men; for He Himself suffered for us, whom He might have destroyed for our faults." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Sometimes we view censure as unloving since we cannot imagine censure being dispensed any other way than how we would dispense it, with scorn. We fail to understand God's motives because we expect God to be like us. However, God is not a man nor are His emotions and actions like those of mankind. God censors but not in scorn rather in love. God reproaches us out of His love for us and His desire for good in our lives. As a demonstration of this God chose to die for our sins rather than to destroy us for our sins. Not the actions of a scornful God but of a loving and compassionate God.
"For the Instructor also, in virtue of His being good, with consummate art glides into censure by rebuke; rousing the sluggishness of the mind by His sharp words as by a scourge. Again in turn He endeavours to exhort the same persons. For those who are not induced by praise are spurred on by censure; and those whom censure calls not forth to salvation being as dead, are by denunciation roused to the truth. 'For the stripes and correction of wisdom are in all time.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
It is because God is good and loving that He rebukes and censures us that He might lead us back to the way of salvation. At every moment in our our walk with the Lord, our Instructor knows what we need; sometimes praise, sometimes rebuke, and sometimes denunciation. However, regardless of the mode our instruction takes, it is always meant for our benefit that we might obtain life and salvation. In His rebuke, God is still good.

David Robison