Clement of Rome Remembers Jesus Christ

Clement of Rome Remembers Jesus Christ

Clement remembered Jesus Christ. He saw the incarnation of Christ, his taking to himself our flesh and nature, as the model for all Christian humility and consequent unity. Jesus consummates the decree of election by shedding his blood as high priest and rising from the dead as the firstfruit for our redemption. Through him, the elect will see and find infinite joy in an eternal vision of the glory of God.

Possibly, the earliest post-Pauline, post apostolic literature that we have is in the letter of Clement of Rome to the Church in Corinth. Most likely this was written around 95-96 A. D, and persons appointed by the apostles still held office in the church but were being pressed out of leadership by a younger generation. Clement wrote, “For we see that you have removed certain people, their good conduct notwithstanding, from the ministry which had been held in honor by them blamelessly.” [Michael Holmes, Ed. and Rev. The Apostolic Fathers, second edition, Baker Book House, 1989, 53] Clement lamented that because of one or two persons, the ancient church of the Corinthians was “rebelling against its elders” thereby heapjng “blasphemies upon the name of the Lord” and by their “stupidity” were creating danger for themselves. [Holmes, 55]

In order to counter this egregious violation of Christian fraternity and even apostolic authority, Clement reached deeply into the theology of the Bible as seen most clearly in the condescension of Christ to encourage that church to correct their error. In the process of his argument, we find evidence of strong development of a comprehensive biblical theology, trinitarian theology, and the centrality of Christ’s having assumed human nature to bring to fruition the eternal purpose of God toward his elect. The reality of the full human nature of Christ is one of the fundamental assumptions of the argument. A creedal orderliness is present in the structure and content of this letter.

The basic Trinitarian structure of the implicit creed surrounded by certain affirmations of the peculiar operations of each person of the Trinity may be seen in several passages in Clement’s sober and stately style. Clement counters their pride by calling attention to examples of great humility in Scripture, punctuating the entire discussion with Christ’s example. The emphases on Christ’s work in his human nature are prominent. Formerly in the early days of the church, not only were they blessed with an “abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but they gave heed to Christ’s words, stored them in their hearts, “kept his sufferings before your eyes.” [29] Again, to counter the recent surge of haughty self-importance, “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is to his Father.” [32] Clement looked at Rahab’s scarlet thread as “making it clear that through the blood of the Lord redemption will come to all who believe.” [35] Clement quotes Isaiah 53:1-12 as an illustration of his observation, “The majestic scepter of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, did not come with the pomp of arrogance or pride … but in humility, just as the Holy Spirit spoke concerning him.” [36] He then summarized his point by saying, “If the Lord so humbled himself, what should we do who through him have come under the yoke of his grace?” [37, 38]

Clement urges peace and harmony in the church, because peace and harmony are “especially abundant to us who have taken refuge in his compassionate mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Again, Christ in his humanity has become the guarantee that God’s purpose of blessing his people will certainly come to fruition: “Let us consider, dear friends, how the Master continually points out to us the coming resurrection of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstfruit when he raised him from the dead.” [42]. Looking at Jacob as a man of blessings, Clement affirms, “From him comes the Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.”

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