First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (Part 2)

First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians Part 2

How we must live that we may please God.

1. Since we are a part of the Holy One, let us do all those things that pertain to holiness:
2. Fleeing all evil-speaking against one another, all filthy and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, youthful lusts, abominable concupiscences, detestable adultery, and execrable pride.
3. For God, he says, resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Compare with: "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:6); "...Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)

4. Let us therefore hold fast to those to whom God has given his grace.
5. And let us put on concord, and be humble, temperate, free from all whispering and detraction, and be justified by our actions, not our words.
6. For he says, Does he that speaks and hears many things, and that is of a ready tongue, suppose that he is righteous? Blessed in he that is born of a woman, that lives but a few days; therefore do not speak much.

Clement quotes the Septuagint; compare first the King James Version: "Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace: and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?" (Job 11:2, 3).

The Septuagint reading is: "He that speaks much should also hear on the other side: or does the fluent speaker think himself to be righteous? blessed [is] the short-lived offspring of a woman."

7. Let our praise be from God, not from ourselves; for God hates those that commend themselves.
8. Let the witness of our good actions be given to us by others, as it was given to the holy men that went before us.
9. Rashness, and arrogance, and confidence, belong to them who are accursed of God: but equity, and humility, and mildness, to such as are blessed by him.
10. Let us then lay hold of his blessing, and let us consider what are the ways by which we may attain it.
11. Let us look back upon those things that have happened from the beginning.
12. For what was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because that through faith he wrought righteousness and truth?
13. Because Isaac was fully persuaded of what he knew was to come, he cheerfully yielded himself up for a sacrifice. Jacob with humility departed out of his own country, fleeing from his brother, and went to Laban and served him; and so the scepter of the twelve tribes of Israel was given to him.
14. Now what the greatness of this gift was, will plainly appear, if we shall take the pains distinctly to consider all the parts of it.
15. For from him came the priests and Levites, who all ministered at the altar of God.
16. From him came our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
17. From him came the kings, and princes, and rulers in Judah.
18. Nor were the rest of his tribes in any small glory, for God promised, Your descendants will be as the stars of heaven.
19. Therefore they all were greatly glorified, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness that they themselves wrought, but through his will.
20. And we also, having been called by the same will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, neither by our own wisdom, or knowledge, or piety, or the works which we have done in the holiness of our hearts:
21. But by that faith by which God Almighty has justified all men from the beginning; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

We are justified by faith; yet this must not lessen our care to live well, nor our pleasure in it.

1. What shall we do therefore, brethren? Shall we be slothful in well-doing, and lay aside our charity? God forbid that any such thing should be done by us.
2. But rather let us hasten with all earnestness and readiness of mind to perfect every good work, for even the Creator and Lord of all things himself rejoices in his own works.
3. By his Almighty power he fixed the heavens, and by his incomprehensible wisdom he adorned them.
4. He also divided the earth from the water with which it is surrounded; and fixed it as a secure tower, upon the foundations of his own will.
5. He also by his appointment commanded to exist all the living creatures that are upon it.
6. So likewise the sea, and all the creatures that are in it, having first created them, he enclosed them therein by his power.
7. And above all, he with his holy and pure hands formed man, the most excellent, and, as to his understanding, truly the greatest of all other creatures, the character of his own image.
8. For so God says, Let us make man in our image, after our own likeness. So God created man, male and female created he them.
9. And having thus finished all these things, he commended all that he had made, and blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply.

Verses 3-9 are a summary of Genesis 1.

10. We see how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, for which reason even the Lord himself, having adorned himself with his works, rejoiced.
11. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay fulfill his will and work the work of righteousness with all our strength.

This is enforced from the examples of the holy angels, and from the exceeding greatness of that reward which God has prepared for us.

1. The good workman with confidence receives the bread of his labor; but the sluggish and lazy cannot look in the face him who put him to work.
2. We must therefore be ready and prompt in well-doing, for from him are all things.
3. And thus he foretells us, Behold the Lord is coming, and his reward is with him, even before his face, to render to everyone according to his work.

Compare with: "Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world,, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him." (Isaiah 62:11)

See also Jude 14, 15; Revelation 21:12, 13.

4. He therefore warns us with all his heart to this end beforehand, that we should not be slothful and negligent in well- doing.
5. Let our boasting, therefore, and our confidence be in God. Let us submit ourselves to his will. Let us consider the whole multitude of his angels, how ready they stand to minister to his will.
6. As the Scripture says, Thousands of thousands stood before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministered to him. And they cried, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Sabbaoth: The whole earth is full of his glory.

Compare with: "A fiery steam issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:10); "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy [is] the Lord of hosts: the whole earth [is] full of his glory." Isaiah 6:3)

7. For this reason let us also conscientiously be gathered together in concord with one another, and with one mouth, as it were, cry earnestly to him that he would make us partakers of his great and glorious promises.
8. For he says, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that wait for him.

Compare with: "For since the beginning of the world [men] have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, [what] he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." (Isaiah 64:4); "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10)

1. We must attain to this reward by faith and obedience, which we must carry on in an orderly pursuing of the duties of our several stations, without envy or contention. 24. The necessity of different orders among men. 33. None of us have anything but what we received of God: whom therefore we ought in every condition thankfully to obey.

1. How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God.
2. Life in immortality! Brightness in righteousness! Truth in full assurance! Faith in confidence! Temperance in holiness!
3. And all this God has subjected to our understandings:
4. What therefore will those things be which he has prepared for them that wait for him?
5. Only the Creator and Father of spirits, the Most Holy, knows both the greatness and beauty of them.
6. Let us therefore strive with all earnestness, that we may be found in the number of those that wait for him, and that we may receive the reward which he has promised.
7. But how, beloved, shall we do this? We must fix our minds by faith towards God, and seek those things that are pleasing and acceptable to him.
8. We must perform those things that are agreeable to his holy will and follow the way of truth, casting off from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, together with all covetousness, strife, evil manners, deceit, whispering, detractions, all hatred of God, pride and boasting, or vain-glory and ambition;
9. For they that do these things are odious to God, and not only they that do them, but also all such as approve of those that do them.

See Romans 1:32.
10. For thus the Scripture says, But to the wicked, God said, What have you to do to declare my statute, or that you should take my covenant in your mouth? Seeing that you hate instruction, and cast my words behind you.

"But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or [that] thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth: Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee." (Psalm 50:16, 17)

11. When you saw a thief, then you consented with him. You have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son.
12. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself, but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes.
13. Now consider this you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
14. Whosoever offers praise, glorifies me; and to him that arranges his way aright, will I show the salvation of God.

Verses 11:14 are from Psalm 50:18-23.

15. This is the way, beloved, in which we may find our Savior, even Jesus Christ, the high-priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our weakness.
16. By him we look up to the highest heavens; and behold, as in a looking-glass, his spotless and most excellent visage.
17. By him are the eyes of our hearts opened; by him our foolish and darkened understanding rejoices to behold his wonderful light.
18. By him would God have us to taste the knowledge of immortality. He, who is the brightness of his glory, is so much greater than the angels that he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Compare Hebrews 1:3,4

19. For so it is written, Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire:

See Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:7.

20. But to his son, thus said the Lord, You are my Son, today have I begotten you.

Compare with: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give [thee] the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession." (Psalm 2:7, 8); "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?" (Hebrews 1:5)

21. Ask of me, and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for your possession.

Compare Psalm 2:7,8

22. And again he says to him, Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.

Compare with: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Psalm 110:1); "But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" (Hebrews 1:13)

23. But who are his enemies? The wicked, and such who oppose their own wills to the will of God.
24. Let us therefore march on, men and brethren, with all earnestness in his holy laws.
25. Let us consider those who fight under our earthly governors: How orderly, how readily, and with what exact obedience they perform those things that are commanded them.
26. All are not generals, nor colonels, nor inferior officers,
27. But every one in his respective rank does what is commanded him by the king, and by those who have the authority over him.
28. They who are great, cannot subsist without those that are little, nor the little without the great.
29. But there must be a mixture in all things, and then there will be use and profit too.
30. Let us, for example, take our body: the head without the feet is nothing, neither the feet without the head.

See 1 Corinthians 12:14-21.

31. And even the smallest members of our body are yet both necessary and useful to the whole body.
32. But all cooperate and are subject to one common purpose, namely, the preservation of the whole body.
33. Let therefore our whole body by saved in Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbor, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God.
34. Let not the strong man despise the weak, and let the weak see that he reverence the strong.
35. Let the rich man distribute to the needs of the poor, and let the poor bless God that he has given one to him by whom his lack may be supplied.
36. Let the wise man show forth his wisdom, not in words, but in good works.
37. Let him that is humble, not bear witness to himself, but let him leave it to another to bear witness of him.
38. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, knowing that it was from another that he received the gift of continence.
39. Let us consider therefore, brethren, what we are made of: who we are and what kind of men we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from outer darkness.
40. He that made and formed us, brought us into his own world, having prepared for us with his benefits even before we were born.
41. Wherefore, having received all those things from him, we ought in everything to give thanks to him; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

He exhorts them to do everything orderly in the Church as the only way to please God.

1. Foolish and unwise men who have neither prudence nor learning may mock and deride us, being willing to set up themselves in their own conceits;
2. But what can a mortal man do? Or what strength is there in him who is made out of the dust?
3. For it is written, There was no shape before my eyes; only I heard a sound and a voice.
4. For what? Will man be pure before the Lord? Will he be blameless in his works?
5. Behold, he trusts not in his servants; and his angels he charges with folly.
6. Yes, if the heaven is not clean in his sight, how much less are they that dwell in houses of clay, of which also we ourselves were made?
7. He smote them as a moth: and from morning even to the evening they endure not. Because they were not able to help themselves, they perished; he breathed upon them and they died, because they had no wisdom.
8. Call now if there be any that will answer you; and to which of the angels will you look?

For verses 3-8, compare with: "Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: and image [was] before mine eyes, [there was] silence, and I heard a voice, [saying], Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: How much less [in] them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation [is] in the dust, [which] are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding [it]. Doth not their excellency [which is] in them go away? they die, even without wisdom. Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?" (Job 4:15-21; 5:1)

Clement clearly has in mind the Septuagint version: "And a spirit came before my face; and my hair and flesh quivered. I arose and perceived it not: I looked, and there was no form before my eyes; but I only heard a breath and a voice, [saying], What, shall a mortal be pure before the Lord? or a man be blameless in regard to his works? Whereas he trusts not in his servants, and perceives perverseness in his angels. But [as for] them that dwell in houses of clay, of whom we also are formed of the same clay, he smites them like a moth. And from morning to evening they no longer exist: they have perished, because they cannot help themselves. For he blows upon them, and they are withered: they have perished for lack of wisdom. But call, if any one will hearken to thee, or if thou shalt see any of the holy angels."

9. For wrath kills the foolish man, and envy slays him that is in error.
10. I have seen the foolish taking root, but lo, their habitation was presently consumed.
11. Their children were far from safety; they perished at the gates of those who were lesser than themselves, and there was no man to help them.
12. For what was prepared for them, the righteous ate: and they will not be delivered from evil.

Verses 9-12 are from Job 5:2-5, but again Clement quotes the Greek Septuagint. The King James Version, based on the Hebrew, reads: "For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one. I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation. His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither [is there] any to deliver [them]. Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance."

The Septuagint reads: "For wrath destroys the foolish one, and envy slays him that has gone astray. And I have seen foolish ones taking root: but suddenly their habitation was devoured. Let their children be far from safety, and let them be crushed at the doors of vile men, and let there be no deliverer. For what they have collected, the just shall eat; but they shall not be delivered out of calamities: let their strength be utterly exhausted."

13. Seeing then these things are obvious to us, it will be incumbent on us to take care that looking into the depths of the divine knowledge, we do all things in order, whatever our Lord has commanded us.
14. And particularly that we perform our offerings and service to God at their appointed seasons; for he has commanded these to be done, not rashly and disorderly, but at certain fixed times and hours.
15. Therefore he has ordained by his supreme will and authority both where and by what persons they are to be performed, so that all things piously done to all well-pleasing may be acceptable to him.
16. Therefore they who make their offerings at the appointed seasons are happy and accepted, because they are free from sin by obeying the commandments of the Lord.
17. And the same care must be had of the persons that minister to him.

"Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40) was Paul's instruction to the church at Corinth. Apparently the Christians there again had lapsed into their old ways, for Clement is exhorting them to better church discipline by holding public services at fixed times under the direction of properly appointed ministers.

18. For the chief-priest has his proper services; to the priests their proper place is appointed; to the Levites appertain their proper ministries; and the layman is confined within the bounds of what is commanded to laymen.

Here and in verses 20-21 he appeals to the pattern of Jewish worship, which was the established model for the bishops, priests, deacons, and laity of the early Church.

19. Let every one of you therefore, brethren, bless God in his proper station, with a good conscience, and with all gravity, not exceeding the rule of his service that is appointed to him.
20. The daily sacrifices are not offered everywhere, nor the peace-offerings, nor the sacrifices appointed for sins and transgressions, but only at Jerusalem: nor just in any place there, but only at the altar before the temple, and what is offered is first diligently examined by the high-priest and the other minister we before mentioned.
21. They therefore who do anything which is not agreeable to His will are punished with death.
22. Consider, brethren, that by how much the better knowledge God has condescended to grant to us, by so much is the greater danger are we exposed to.

1. The orders of ministers in Christ's Church were established by the Apostles according to Christ's command, 7. after the example of Moses. 16. Therefore they who have been duly placed in the ministry according to their order cannot without great sin be put out of it.

1. The Apostles have preached to us from the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ from God.
2. Christ therefore was sent by God, the Apostles by Christ; so both were orderly sent, according to the will of God.
3. For having received their command, and being thoroughly assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and convinced by the word of God, with the fullness of the Holy Spirit they went abroad, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.
4. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits of their conversion to be bishops and ministers over those who would afterwards believe, having first proved them by the Spirit.
5. Nor was this any new thing, for long before it was written concerning bishops and deacons.
6. For thus the Scripture say in a certain place, I will appoint their overseers in righteousness, and their ministers in faith.

The source for this reference is uncertain.

7. And what wonder if they, to whom such a work was committed by God in Christ, established such officers as we before mentioned, when even that blessed and faithful servant in all his house, Moses, set down in the Holy Scriptures all things that were commanded him.
8. Whom also all the rest of the prophets followed, bearing witness with one consent to those things that were appointed by him.
9. For he, perceiving an emulation to arise among the tribes concerning the priesthood and that there was a strife about which of them should be adorned with that glorious name, commanded their twelve captains to bring to him twelve rods with the name of every tribe written upon its rod.

See Numbers 17:2.

10. And he took the rods and bound them together, and sealed them with the seals of the twelve princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness, upon the table of God.
11. And when he had shut the door of the tabernacle he sealed up the keys of it, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, whichever tribe will have its rod blossom, that tribe has God chosen to perform the office of a priest and to minister to him in holy things.

Keys are mentioned in the Bible as symbols of authority; see Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 1:18, 3:7, 9:1, 20:1, and of course Christ's mention of "the keys of the kingdom" in Matthew 16:19.

12. When morning came, he called together all Israel, six hundred thousand men, showed to the princes their seals, and opened the tabernacle of witness and brought forth the rods.
13. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but also to have fruit upon it.
14. What do you think, beloved? Did not Moses before know what should happen?
15. Yes surely, but so that there might be no division or tumult in Israel, he did in this manner so the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to him be honor forever and ever. Amen.
16. So likewise our Apostles knew by our Lord Jesus Christ that contentions would arise upon account of the ministry.

An alternative translation is "about the name of the bishopric."

17. And therefore having a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed persons, as we have before said, and then gave direction how when they died, other chosen and approved men should follow in their ministry.

The New Testament mentions (what already was the practice of the Church) that four "orders" formed the government of the Church: laity, deacons, presbyters, and bishops.

1) The laity are called "saints" (Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Timothy 5:10), the "faithful" (Ephesians 1:1), and "brethren" (Colossians 1:2). The laity (Greek: laos) are all the people of God, the "priesthood" (1 Peter 2:4-10). Technically "laity" includes clergy, though in our day the word usually refers to those in the Church who are not ordained. It is from among the laity that the other three orders emerge.

2) The deacons, literally "servants," are ordained to serve the Church and must meet high qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). The Apostles were the first to take on the service tasks of deacons, and when the workload became too great they called for "seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:3).

3) The presbyters, or elders, are to "rule," "labor in the word," and to teach true "doctrine" (1 Timothy 5:17) in the local congregation. Paul "appointed elders in every church" (Acts 14:23) and later instructed his apostolic apprentice, Titus, to do the same in Crete (Titus 1:5). From the word "presbyter" came the shorter form "prest," which was used in the early Church and finally became "priest." The ordained Christian priesthood is not to be seen as a throwback to or a reenacting of the Old Testament priesthood, but rather joined to Christ who is our High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:6, 10), and a minister of a New Covenant which supersedes the old.

4) The bishop is the "overseer" of the congregation and clergy in a given area. Often the terms "bishop" and "elder" are interchangeable in the New Testament (Acts 20:17, 28), with the bishop being the leader of the elders. The qualifications for bishop listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9 underscore this role. Nonetheless, "bishop" is a specific office both in the New Testament and in the early Church. The Twelve were the first to hold this office (in Acts 1:20 "office" is literally translated "bishopric") and they in turn consecrated other bishops to follow them. For example, Timothy and Titus are clearly of a separate order from that of elder (see 1 Timothy 5:17-22 and Titus 1:5). Early records show James was bishop of Jerusalem by A.D. 49 and functioned accordingly at the first council there (Acts 15:13-22). Peter is on record as the first bishop of Antioch prior to A.D. 53, and later first bishop of Rome, where he was martyred about A.D. 65 or 67. The bishop's authority is not over the Church but within the Church as a representative of Christ, "the Shepherd and Overseer (literally "Bishop") of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25).

Perhaps the earliest reference outside the New Testament to the presence of these four orders in Church government occurs in the writings of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch from A.D. 67-107, the very heart of the New Testament era. In his letter to the church at Philadelphia, he writes of "Christians (laity) at one with the bishop and the presbyters and the deacons..."

All this contrasts with the relatively recent development of religious bodies which call themselves "congregational" (ruled by the people), or "presbyterian" (ruled by the elders), or "episcopal" (ruled by the bishops), but is essential to understand the writings of the early Christians.

18. Therefore we cannot think that those may justly be thrown out of their ministry, who were either appointed by them, or afterwards chosen by other eminent men with the consent of the whole church; and who with all lowliness and innocence have ministered to the flock of Christ in peace and without self- interest, and were for a long time commended by all.
19. For it would be no small sin in us, if we would cast off from their bishopric those who holily and without blame fulfil the duties of it.
20. Blessed are those priests who finished their course before these times and have obtained a fruitful and perfect dissolution, for they have no fear anyone can turn them out of the place which is now appointed for them.
21. But we see how you have put out some who lived reputably among you from the ministry, which by their innocence they had adorned.

Apparently this was one of the Corinthians' "rash and disorderly" sins mentioned in 18:14 that Clement was trying to correct.

1. He exhorts them to peace from examples out of the Holy Scriptures, 20. particularly from St. Paul's exhortation to them.

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