Rebuilding the Foundations
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Basically, what I am doing is giving the passages in each chapter that I highlighted and discussing them. I am doing this as though I were discussing the chapter in my living room with a friend who is unfamiliar with the early Christian writings.
Some people may dislike [Rebuilding the Foundations]. It upsets applecarts, slays sacred cows, demands that we 'go back to the Bible' and for all of those reasons all of us must read it.—John Tancock
"Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and ye had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all."
Clement's letter is to the Corinthians. (His name is not given in it; we only know he wrote it from tradition.) Clement is explaining how the Corinthians responded to Paul's letters to them. Between Paul's letters in the mid-50s and this letter from Rome, probably in the mid-90's, Corinth had become an bulwark of faith, and example to other churches, and proven Paul's testimony that they were "that in everything you were enriched in him, in all speech and all knowledge" (1 Cor. 1:5).
They should be an example to us as well. Admittedly, the next chapter of 1 Clement will describe their fall from this standard, but we can learn from their fall not to follow them in it. We will discuss that in the next chapter.
From this chapter, we can learn:
And, of course, we will learn from all this that "a profound and abundant peace" is upon those who think the way Jesus does (cf. Matt. 6, the whole chapter) and obey him (Matt. 7:24-27).
Clement also says they had "an insatiable desire for doing good." This is exactly what Jesus died for, a people purified from iniquity and "zealous for good works" (Tit. 2:13-14). This is indeed proof that that "a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon" them all. God gives the Spirit to those that obey him, and those who obey him must surely be empowered by the Spirit because it is no easy thing to obey the Gospel. As a Jew once said to Justin Martyr, "I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them" (Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 10). Truly, no one can until they are refreshed by the oil of the Holy Spirit (Mark 2:21-22).
"Day and night ye were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God’s elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience."
Two really important things are touched on here: the importance of prayer and watching and the elect of God.
On the matter of prayer, the commentary is simple. We Americans, or even we "first-world" Christians don't pray enough. If we read the fathers, we will not only notice their exhortations to faithful, fervent, and ongoing prayer, but they will awaken us to the same exhortations in Scripture. It is the Scripture that says, "... with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18). It is also the Scripture that says that widows should continue in petitions and prayers night and day (1 Tim. 5:5).
In general, we are terrible at prayer. I know I am, though I am always working to change this. Missionary stories convict me deeply, not because of their boldness in mission, but because of their steadfastness and fervency in prayer. I am always trying to triumph over my American upbringing and ways. As I strive to pray more, God teaches me about prayer so that I am not simply multiplying words, but really finding the will of God and providing aid to others in my faith.
Let us all learn to pray.
On the matter of the elect of God, the fathers say often that all the elect of God must be gathered. There is an elect of God, and they are chosen by God. In the modern conflict over the teachings of Augustine and John Calvin must not deny that God chooses and predestines. Instead, we must argue for why God chooses. No one can deny that election is based on foreknowledge, for it is twice stated directly (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2). The question is, "What does God foreknow?"
Calvinists today—I admit to never personally have read Augustine or Calvin, so I will not accuse them—believe in "unconditional election." God chose who would be saved based on no condition at all. We who read the fathers know that they say there are conditions. He foreknew who would believe and obey. For now just let me direct you to Christian-history.org, where I have collected some of those quotes. You might want to scroll down to the Justin Martyr quotes and those following. The ones before him can be vague.
"Every faction and schism was abominable in your sight."
One would suppose this would be true of the Corinthians. He rebuked them rather soundly for their division from 1 Cor. 1:10 to the end of chapter 3. He also visited after writing the letter. I am sure those factions did not stand a chance in the apostle's presence. By Clement's testimony, Paul reformed them well, and it would be forty (or perhaps twenty-five) years before they slid back again.
This of all things is something we moderns need to learn. Unfortunately, it is no longer acceptable to "purge the loaf" (1 Cor. 5:7), and their can be no unity between Christ and Belial (2 Cor. 6:14-15). If we could separate the devil's children from the Lord's, a division that the apostle John thought was plain (1 Jn. 3:10), then we could pursue the unity that Jesus prayed for (Jn. 17:20-23) and that the Holy Spirit is always working to bring (Eph. 4:3)
That is all today. Grace and peace be with all those who follow Jesus in truth.