Monday, July 16, 2012

Clement of Rome's Letter to Corinth

Note: I'm going out of town for four days and it is my intention to leave my laptop here.  Alright, now my post:

According to both Wikipedia and the CatholicEncyclopedia, Peter appointed Clement to be the first pope after him.  However, they both admit that Jerome considered him the fourth pope.  All sources agree that he is probably the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3.

He got martyred by being thrown into the ocean with an anchor around his neck.  Cyril carried some of his relics to the Slavic countries, and the Cathedral of the Caves in Kiev claims to have his head.  Which is cool because I’ve been there.  I also read his letter to the Corinthians.  

This letter could have been written in the 90s, and it could have been written in the 60s.  It is in reaction do Jerusalem's destruction in 70, and it is an encouragement today, especially in our changing America when the peace and security we knew seems to be crumbling.  It's good to know that despite all this, Jesus and his Word will never fade away.  Here are highlights from what I read in Clement.

Epistle to Corinth: chapter 4, he mentions brothers who killed brothers; Cain killed Abel, Moses killed an Egyptian, Saul intended to kill David, and Esau hunted down Jacob.  All these ancient murders happened because of envy.  

Chapter 5: he recalls the deaths of Peter and Paul, in his generation.  “Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death.”

Chapter 7: “These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling.”  It's the classic urge to Christians to not live their lives alone, but to live as a family.  A rule I'm always tempted to break.

Chapter 11: “On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture.”   I’m still not convinced that Lot was saved for any other reason than Abraham prayed for him.  He compromised too much with the Sodom town and may have had some belief in God, but Abraham prayed for him and God took that into account.  It always gives me hope that God might save people that I pray for.

Chapter 12: God saved Rahab because she gave hospitality to the Israelite spies, at least according to Clement.  According to me, God saved her because of his mercy.  She gave them hospitality because God saved her.

Chapter 14: “For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good.”  Amen

Chapter 20: The peace and harmony of the universe.  God keeps it all together and orchestrates it.  Really, this is perfect to read when your country starts to fall apart.

Chapter 25: Here, Clement compares the resurrection to the Phoenix as if the Phoenix was a real creature.  I’m not sure why he does this.  Was there some dragon that was a lot like a Phoenix who really did burn and come back to life?  I know there was no sun altar.  I guess we’ll never know.

Chapter 32: We are justified not by our works, but by faith. “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

33: “We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.” At the same time, he notes the tension between Romans/Galatians and James.  We are saved by faith alone.  But saved people will be known by what they do for people because the Holy Spirit makes that possible.

35: Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition.

37: “The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body.”  Granted, Jesus doesn't actually need us, but we very much need him and we need the rest of the Church.

38: Let the members of the Church submit themselves, and no one exalt himself above another.
“He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  This means no one is to claim to be a better Christian than anyone else or to try to sit in Christ's throne.

42: Clement mentions keeping a church order with bishops/overseers and deacons.  We consider bishop and elder to be interchangeable.

45: “Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them.”

49: “By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.”

50: Clement quotes from Isaiah 26:20, “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.”  Schaff quotes a KJV version, and I feel like the ESV that I quoted is a better translation.  In this chapter, Isaiah faces a society who is losing all its peace and security.  Isaiah’s only remedy is to hide in the Lord.  He is the only one who will keep you safe.

55: Clement quotes Judith.

56: Clement mentions praying for sinners and mentioning them to the saints.  The translation more accurately reads, “There shall be to them a fruitful and perfect remembrance, with compassions both towards God and the saints.”  This makes it more clear that these saints are just other living Christians on earth in visible communion with the Church.  We pray for the sinners to learn to love God and the Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment