Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Clement's Letter to the Corinthians (chapters 1-5)

Chapter 1
 From the Church of God in Rome to the Church of God in Corinth, to you who are called and made holy by God’s will, through our Lord Jesus Christ. May the grace and peace of God Almighty be multiplied to you through Jesus Christ.
We apologize, but we’ve had so many problems here that we haven’t been able to answer your letter until now. We’ve read about the church split that has taken place among you. Every one of God’s chosen people hates to hear about such things. And we understand that a few arrogant people have made such a problem there that your church, a church worthy to be loved and respected by everyone, is now getting a bad name because of it. I say that you are worthy of love and respect because anyone who has ever been with you, for even a short time, has found your faith to be strong and full of goodness. They’ve noticed and admired how serious and self-controlled you were, how godly you were in Christ. They’ve complimented how welcoming you always were and how perfect your knowledge of God and His Word really was. You did everything in fairness and did not play favorites. You walked according to God’s commands and obeyed and honored those who rule over you as elders, as you should. You encouraged your young men to be serious. You taught your wives to do everything with a pure conscience, as they love their husbands and obey them, as is their duty, and to manage their houses properly and with good judgment.

Chapter 2
More than that, you were all humble and willingly obeyed others instead of forcing other people to obey you. You were more willing to give than to receive. You were happy with what God had given you and you carefully obeyed His words, taking His teaching to heart, and you always remembered His suffering too. So God gave you all a deep and abundant peace and an insatiable desire to do good, as He poured the Holy Spirit out on all of you. In true sincerity and in godly confidence, you stretched your hands out to God Almighty and begged Him to be merciful to you if you had been guilty of any involuntary sin. You prayed day and night that the whole brotherhood, every member of God’s chosen people, would be saved by His mercy and would keep their consciences clean. You were sincere and without sin and were quick to forget any offense that you gave each other. Every kind of church split sounded horrible to you. You mourned over the sins of your neighbors as if you had been the one to sin. You never failed to do any act of kindness that you could and were “ready to do every good work” [Titus 3:1]. Decorated by a thoroughly good and religious life, you did everything in the fear of God and the Lord’s commands were written on your hearts.

Chapter 3
God gave you every kind of honor and blessing. The prophecy, “The one I loved ate and drank and became fat and kicked,” [Deuteronomy 32:15] was fulfilled in you. But because of these blessings, some people started wanting to be like other people and were jealous of them. You started fighting and splitting….The worthless rose up against the honorable, those of no reputation against those who were respected, the foolish against the wise, the young against the old. So now righteousness and peace have left you since everyone has abandoned the fear of God and has become blind in their faith. You’re not fulfilling the duties of your position or even acting like a Christian. You’re just doing whatever your own wicked lusts want you to do and are becoming jealous again. It was jealousy that allowed death itself to enter into the world.

Chapter 4
As it is written, “And it happened after a certain amount of time that Cain brought some of the produce of the earth as a sacrifice to God and Abel brought some of the firstborn of his sheep and their fat. God respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his sacrifices. So Cain was grieved and his face was downcast. And God said to Cain, ‘Why are you grieved and why is your face downcast? If you make your offering correctly, I will be happy with you. But if you do not divide your sacrifice rightly, have you not sinned? Be at peace. Your offering comes back to you and it will again be yours.’ But Cain said to his brother, Abel, ‘Let us go into the field.’ And it happened that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and killed him.” You see, brothers, how envy and jealousy led to the murder of a brother. Also because of envy, our father, Jacob, had to flee from his brother, Esau. And the envy of Joseph’s brothers caused them to persecute him almost to death and to be put in slavery. Envy made Moses run away from Pharaoh, King of Egypt, when he heard one of his fellow country-man say, “Who made you a judge or ruler over us? Will you kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” Because of their envy, Aaron and Miriam had to live for a time outside the camp. Because they were envious, Dathan and Abiram were buried alive after the rebellion they incited against God’s servant, Moses. Because of envy, foreigners hated David, and Saul, King of Israel, persecuted him.

Chapter 5
But rather than dwelling on these ancient examples, let us use more modern spiritual heroes. Let’s take some of the notable examples from our own generation. Because others were envious and jealous of them, some of the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church have been persecuted and put to death. Take the Apostles. Peter, because of others’ unrighteous envy, went through not one or two, but numerous occasions of persecution, and when he was finally martyred, he departed to the place of glory that was due to him. Because of others’ envy, Paul, after being thrown into jail seven times, being forced to run for his life, and being stoned, also gained the reward due to those who endure suffering with patience. After having preached in both the east and the west, he gained the famous reputation his faith deserved. Having taught the way of righteousness to the whole world and having come as far west as he could, he suffered martyrdom under the authorities here. So was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proven himself to be a striking example of patience.