Saturday, March 22, 2014

Commands of Wisdom - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

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.
"Here is then a comprehensive precept, and an exhortation of life, allembracing: 'As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye likewise to, them.' We may comprehend the commandments in two, as the Lord says, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself.' Then from these He infers, 'on this hang the law and the prophets.'" (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
As we read the Word of God, we find such broad and all-encompassing precepts that they can be applied to almost every area of our lives. They are precepts that are applicable to relationships on every level and to our behavior throughout every aspect of our lives. However, while such precepts are easy to comprehend and understand, they can often be more difficult to implement. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? What does love for God and love for our fellowman means look like? How do we know if we are truly loving our neighbor?
Further, to him that asked, 'What good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?' He answered, 'Thou knowest the Commandments?' And on him replying Yea, He said, 'This do, and thou shalt be saved.' Especially conspicuous is the love of the Instructor set forth in various salutary commandments, in order that the discovery may be readier, from the abundance and arrangement of the Scriptures." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The answer is found in the commands of God. The commandments of God show us what the precepts of God look like when lived out.
"We have the Decalogue given by Moses, which, indicating by an elementary principle, simple and of one kind, defines the designation of sins in a way conducive to salvation: 'Thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not worship idols. Thou shalt not corrupt boys. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shall not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother.' And so forth. These things are to be observed, and whatever else is commanded in reading the Bible." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
By examining the commandments of God we learn what it means to both love God and love our neighbor. We learn what it looks like to love our parents. We learn what it looks like to love our neighbor in respect to his possessions and his wife. The precepts of God are defined and explained by the commandments of God.

Throughout this chapter, Clement sets forth many examples of how the commandments of God express His overarching precepts for mankind, more than can be cited here. However, here are but a few.
"And to householders: 'A possession which is acquired with iniquity becomes less.' Also of 'love.' 'Love,' He says, 'covers a multitude of sins.' And of civil government: 'Render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things which are God’s.'" (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The commandments of God are like little packets of wisdom that help us understand the nature of God and who God has called us to be and how he has called us to walk. The commandments of God giving us bite-size understanding into the precepts of the Kingdom of God that we might grow step-wise into knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. Often, when we face difficulties in our lives, we need simple and direct solutions to our problems; concrete ways we can appropriate the sometimes more theoretical precepts of God into our daily lives. In times like these, the commands of God can deliver the wisdom we seek.
"Such are the laws of the Word, the consolatory words not on tables of stone which were written by the finger of the Lord, but inscribed on men’s hearts, on which alone they can remain imperishable. Wherefore the tablets of those who had hearts of stone are broken, that the faith of the children may be impressed on softened hearts." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
However, it is not enough to know the words and commandments of God, we must also allow them to become internalized into our hearts; a process that is only done as we walk with our Instructor. Sometimes this requires breaking but always impartation from Him who's word and wisdom we seek. But if we will allow it, his gentle companionship will inscribe His words on our hearts that we might not only know them but also live them.

David Robison

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