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1 Clement, chs. 6-8: Commentary by Paul Pavao

Envy and the Grace of Repentance

I really should have included chapter 6 with chapters 3-5 because it is just a continuation. We will focus on repentance and grace in chapters 7 and 8.

My books, and those I have published for others, consistently maintain 4-star and better ratings despite the occasional 1- and 2-star ratings from people angry about my kicking over sacred cows.

Chapter 6: Envy (Continued)

This chapter just gives more examples of martyrdom and persecution and points out the basis of persecution is envy.

I do need to touch on the two women Clement lists, "the Danaids and Dircae." According to the footnote in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, they are either two unknown women or the phrase was possible added later. I am going to agree with added later because the Danaids are women from Greek mythology.

Chapter 7: "The Grace of Repentance"

"These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves."

Clement, writing for the church of Rome, gives a humble beginning to his discussion on repentance. The Roman church needs reminding, too. Of course, we can conclude that we all do. As Peter wrote,"I think it is right, as long as I am in this tabernacle [this body], stir you up by reminding you" (2 Pet. 1:13).

"We are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us."

This could mean that Rome was also experiencing envy and there were those who wanted leadership roles out of envy. I think, though, that Clement is simply saying that battle for holiness and a pure church is a battle every church must continue in. Paul's warning to the Ephesian elders that evil men would rise up and draw men to themselves was a warning every church must heed (Acts. 20:28).

"Let us look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world."

I love this passage. It is easy to miss the fullness of it. Most evangelicals believe that Jesus died to pay for all our sins so that we will no longer be judged for what we do. This cannot be true because of the many warnings of judgment for Christians (e.g., Gal. 6:7-9). Instead, the apostles and the early fathers understood that Jesus came to really take away sin. When grace comes, sin loses its power over us (Rom. 6:14). It teaches us to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live sober, righteously, and godly in this present age" (Tit. 2:12). The Law of Moses could not deliver from sin or give the power to overcome it, but "what the Law could not do, God did by sending his Son" (Rom. 8:3).

Thus the precious blood of Christ that was shed for our salvation sets "the grace of repentance" before all of us. God has always forgiven those who repent (Ps. 51:16-17; Ezek. 18:20-30). Even in the New Testament, we are told that at the judgment those who patiently to do good will be rewarded in eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7). We all know the problem with this promise. God proved for over a thousand years of working with Israel that we humans are prone neither to repentance doing good. Paul explains the problem in Romans 7.

"The grace of repentance" brought by the blood of Christ changes all that. By grace we can have the power of repentance and overcome sin.

Similar terminology is used in the New Testament. The Jews from Jerusalem marveled at the precious gift given to the Gentiles, Cornelius being the first, by saying, "So God has granted repentance to life to the Gentiles as well" (Acts 11:18). Paul says that he went throughout the world preaching that the Gentiles should repent and turn to God, doing works suitable for repentance" (Acts 26:20).

This may be a new way of thinking for a lot of you. It might help to read my story of discovering the true purpose of the atonement at in the Scriptures and the early fathers. I discuss the atonement (somewhat) thoroughly in chapter 8 of Rebuilding the Foundations.

Finally, at least for chapter 7, I found this statement interesting:

Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved.

This was not a large crowd! His preaching of repentance only reached his wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law. Nonetheless, the Bible reports him as a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5). It is doing God's will that matters, not numbers.

Chapter 8

"'As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance' [Ezek. 33:11]; adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, 'Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity'" [Ezek. 18:30].

We saw the phrase "grace of repentance" in the last chapter. In this chapter, Clement calls God's desire for the repentance of sinners a "gracious declaration." Grace and repentance go hand in hand. You cannot have grace without repentance and faith.

"Desiring ... that all his beloved should be partakers of repentance ..."

Both these chapters make it clear that God wants everyone to partake of repentance, but in this sentence, Clement only includes God's beloved. It is a great reminder for us today that if we are not repenting, we are not going to be among his beloved.

As always, grace and peace to all those who love our Lord Jesus, the Christ, in truth.

Where to Go from Here.

You can return Home, go to the index of commentaries, or go to my categorized index of artices. I also have a rough draft of what will be the Rebuilding the Foundations book