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Commentary on Clement of Rome: Chapter 2

Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity--Oil on Canvas painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, between 1730 and 1735

Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity–Oil on Canvas painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, between 1730 and 1735 Source

Chapter 2:

Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, you were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes.  Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and you had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all.

This is an interesting blurb, and it hits on two parts, “God” and “the Holy Spirit”.  Concerning “God”, St. Clement talks about His provision, His words, His doctrine, and His sufferings.  This last part needs mention.  Here, St. Clement is talking about the sufferings of God that were before their eyes.  Who suffered?  It sounds like St. Clement is talking once again about Christ, and I think it becomes clear here that He believes Christ is God.  I do not think Arius would take kindly to this, but a play of words may allow him to think, “well, he is *like God*, so you can be called *divine*.”  However, a rebuttal can be that this is not just an adjective, but a subject.  “God had made for you provision, and you were content.  You were attentive to God’s words.  You were inwardly filled with God’s doctrine.  You had God’s sufferings before your eyes.”

This is not merely word-play here.  Christ is God.  And when the people of God, who are also the people of Christ, thought about Christ’s provision, Christ’s words, Christ’s doctrines, and Christ’s suffering, a profound peace came upon them.  Remember what St. Paul wrote:  “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).  So this is not a peace that is merely contemplative, it is “given” from God “in Christ.”  Once again, Christ takes an important role in peace, but more importantly, Christ is also explicitly called “God”.  And so it is a divine peace, and it caused them to have this “insatiable desire to do good.”

But this is only part of the story.  After that statement there is this word, “while”.  I explained that their goodness resulting from their peace explained by a Pauline verse, which is the peace of God in Christ.  St. Clement explains it by the Holy Spirit, and not just a piece of the Holy Spirit, or a little bit of His power, but a “full outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”  It sounds almost as if the Holy Spirit is some sort of fountain.  It is reminiscent of Christ talking about the water that He shall give which will cause people to thirst no more (cf John 4:14), or in St. Clement’s case, “contentment”.  Christ has mentioned the importance of how the Holy Spirit is connected to water when He says you cannot be saved except by “water and Spirit” (John 3:5).  In fact, in the beginning of Genesis, some translations show the importance of this idea, that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2), and again in the Theophany in the Jordan River, as Christ is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends and rests on Christ (cf Matthew 3:16).  So, there was no restriction of the “flow” of the Holy Spirit.  His outpouring seemed to also be a cause of their peace and goodness.  It is no surprise that these two virtues are also part of the fruit of the Spirit (cf Galatians 5:22-23).

Now, Platonic philosophy only talks about the Demiurge doing God’s dirty work for Him.  Here, in Christian teaching, we have Christ and the Holy Spirit enlightening the peace and goodness of God in Christians.  The New Testament is filled with understanding of the Holy Spirit, but we find from St. Paul that the Holy Spirit is important in making us “sons of God” so that we may cry to Him “Abba, Father” just like His only Son, Jesus Christ (cf Galatians 4:6-7 and Romans 8:12-17).  Unlike Plato, who teaches that God is so pure, He had to create a Demiurge to deal with us impure beings, St. Paul teaches us that God wants to deal with us, and wants to connect to us, and so He sent the “Spirit of His Son” to dwell in us, so that we too may be “joint heirs with Christ” to the Father.  This is a profound statement, and I think it shows that the Holy Spirit too has to be fully and equally divine with the Father.  For Plato (and Arius), a pure creation is needed to deal with impure creation.  For true Christianity, God is needed to deal with a lost humanity.  God does not want to divorce Himself from us.  We are not too impure for God to handle.  Christ and the Holy Spirit are direct avenues to God, not middle men.  They are the means by which we have a direct relationship to God as if He was our very own Father just like Christ!  If the Holy Spirit is not God, then the peace and goodness the Corinthians were praised for are not “from God”.

St. Clement leaves us no choice.  He provided us with the groundwork of Nicene Orthodoxy, not Arian ideas of being forever divorced from the Father.  Since “God suffers”, therefore Christ is God.  The Holy Spirit seems to have this power of making us “joint heirs” with Christ.  That means, the Holy Spirit has the power and “symbol” (for lack of a better word) to show forth Christ as the true heir of the Father.  If the Father is God, and Christ is God (as St. Clement mentions), and the Holy Spirit is the symbol of showing forth Christ as “heir” to the Father, then there is no other way to comprehend the Holy Spirit.  He is truly God.  A mere creation cannot have this symbol of making someone an heir to the Father, especially since Christ is already called “God”.  And since God is not so bereft in Himself in dealing with us directly, unlike Plato’s bereft and incompetent “God”, the use of the Son and the Holy Spirit means they are just as much in the Father as the Father is in them, and therefore all able to do things for us on behalf of one another, since they are all equally and fully God.  This sophistication is not merely just an affirmation of the Trinity as having co-essential “persons” of the Godhead, but also an affirmation of our purpose, that we too by that very same Divine Spirit “become” or “are made” heirs, and as St. Peter explicitly writes, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever, and to the ages of all ages.  Amen!


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