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Meeting with the Early Church – Clement

Posted by on Mar 16, 2008 in church history, gathering | 2 comments

Clement was bishop in Rome from around 88 AD until his death in 99 AD. His best known writing is the First Epistle of Clement, or 1 Clement, which he wrote to the church in Corinth. This letter is considered by some to be the oldest non canonical Christian writing. In fact, it was considered Scripture by many in the early church. A second epistle (2 Clement) was probably written at a much later date by someone other than Clement of Rome.

In writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Clement, he admonished the believers for their factious actions. While Paul wrote about the divisions in Corinth, Clement indicates that these schisms were corrected. However, discord happened again, which led many of the believers to refuse to acknowledge the elders in the church, and instead to recognize different elders. In this letter, Clement covers many topics related to leadership and “followership”, including humility, service, and faithfulness. At one point, Clement mentions the importance of meeting together as the church:

For the Scripture says, Ten thousand times ten thousand stood around Him, and thousands of thousands served Him, and cried, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Sabaoth; the whole creation is full of His glory. Therefore, by being gathered together conscientiously in harmony, we should call out to Him eagerly, as with one mouth, that we may become partakers of His great and glorious promises. (1 Clement 34:6-7)

We can learn several important aspects of gathering together according to Clement from this short passage. First, Clement associates the church meeting with the eschatological, heavenly worship of God. This worship is carried out by those around God’s throne and by creation.

Second, the church should gather together “conscientiously”. This word is very important for Clement. He uses it several times to refer to the “good conscience” of those in Scripture who pleased God, and the “good conscience” with which the believers in Corinth should live. Apparently, for Clement, gathering together should be carried out in a good conscience, just as the rest of life should be lived.

Third, believers should come together in harmony with one another. We’ve seen several times that these early believers focused on unity and harmony among brothers and sisters, especially when they meet together as the church. In this passage, harmony is emphasized by three different phrases: two different phrases for “harmony” which are usually just translated once, and the phrase “as with one mouth”. This is understandable given the division at Corinth.

Finally, the focus of Clement’s meeting seems to be on the promises of God. Perhaps this is similar to the passage in Hebrews 10 where the author also associates trusting in the promises of God and gathering together with other believers:

[L]et us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:22-25 ESV)

So, we have seen many of the same emphases in Clement’s letter that we’ve seen in other early writings about the gathering of the church. Primarily, the authors continue to focus on unity among brothers and sisters. Also, important to a study of the church meeting, we also begin to see an association between the meeting of the church and worship.

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Meeting with the Early Church Series
1. Introduction
2. Pliny’s Letter
3. The Didache
4. Ignatius’ Letters
5. Clement of Rome
6. Epistle of Barnabas
7. Justin Martyr
8. Conclusion


2 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-3-2008

    Alan, you have some good stuff here, brother. Thank you for yoru summaries about early church gatherings. Easy to read also. Brian

  2. 7-4-2010

    Thanks for putting up this really helpful info; I happened to get to your blog just searching around the net. Please keep up the great work!