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

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