Saturday, March 15, 2014

Brief Reflection on 'The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians'

"Humility too and complete lack of self assertion were common to you all; you preferred to offer submission rather than extort it, and giving was deeper to your hearts than receiving.  Asking no more than what Christ had provided for your journey through life you paid careful heed to his words, treasured them in your hearts, and kept His sufferings constantly before your eyes.  The reward was a deep and shining peace, a quenchless ardour for well-doing, and a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you all.  

You were full of aspirations to holiness, after any involuntary transgression you would stretch out suppliant hands to Almighty God in an agony of piety and devout trustfulness and implore His mercy.  Day and night you would wrestle on behalf of the brotherhood, that in His mercy and compassion the whole number of his elect might be saved.  In your single minded innocence you harboured no resentments; any kind of faction or schism was an abomination to you.  You mourned for a neighbour's faults, and regarded his failings as your own.  Never did you grudge a kindly action; always you were ready for any deed of goodness.  In the beauty of a pure and heavenly citizenship, whatever you did was done in the fear of God, and the statutes and judgements of the Lord were engraved on the tables of your hearts."

-The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter ii

Set out to read ''Early Christian Writings" and was immediately struck by this passage describing the Corinthian church prior to the start of 'envy, jealousy, strife, dissension, aggression, rioting, scuffles and kidnappings' (chap. iii).  What a description. Oh that all the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ would live in the power of his Spirit and evince the qualities described by Clement.  Not sure whether to take chapter two as a hyerbolic rhetorical contrast to chapter three, but in any case the description is awesome and something to strive towards.

That said, the dissensions described afterward show that the Church has always had ups and downs since the beginning.  Thankfully though, by God's grace, it has had more ups than downs.  Jesus promised to build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against her (Matt. 16).  Seasons of grace are sometimes followed by seasons of stagnation, but in his providence God is building his church into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Eph. 2).  In the meantime we 'wrestle on behalf of the brotherhood, that in His mercy and compassion the whole number of his elect might be saved'.

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