Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect.
Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us to Himself a part of election.
I chose this sentence for the main reason that it said “partakers”. In the ANF, there is a small note on the translation of this passage, so I gave the second possible translation. When I think of “partakers”, I think of the passage from the second epistle of Peter, chapter 1: “2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
The buzz word here is “deification” or “theosis” or “divinization” or “theopoiesis” etc. etc. This topic has received a lot of attention ever since a few Eastern Orthodox theologians have introduced the famous 13th century theologian Gregory Palamas to the scene. The realization however is that Palamas is not the first guy. Eventually, scholars worked backwards to find this theological idea existing possibly to the very beginning of Christianity itself, and Western Christianity, which had popularly rejected the idea of deification has begun to accept it. What a wonder reading the Church fathers can do for world Christianity!
I think the passage I have chosen from St. Clement is cloaked language for “theosis”. Here is why.
Think of the word “election” or “elect”. When you vote, you “choose” someone who is nominated, “called”, but only a select few are “elected”. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14). According to Fr. Thomas Hopko, the word “many” in Greek is actually “multitude”. So one can say actually, God calls everyone, every human being on earth, but few are chosen. He desires all to be saved, but He “elects” the few. Today, we can even say that out of the few who seem to be “elected”, even fewer are (and this can be obvious and no mystery to those who observe a teacher in the Church). In a more mysterious way, those who do not seem to be part of the “elect” secretly are so in God. In other words, while there is an exclusivity to the Church that needs to be maintained, there also needs to be humility, because not everyone in the Church are doing what a member of the Church is supposed to do, and not everyone outside the Church is destined for condemnation either given the Church’s lack of divine example to the world these days.
Nevertheless, in St. Clement’s time, being a member of the Church was serious business, and offense carried serious repercussions. Many people held off baptism so that they could be truly ready and be a true example in the faith. That is not to say we should not baptize our young ones, but those of us who are of age should take our baptism into the Church seriously, and this seriousness, unfortunately, is lacking, even in myself, and I condemn myself first and foremost in this.
So, assuming baptized Christians took their faith so seriously that they were ready to die for their faith, the “election” here is not something human, but divine. It is God who “elects”. He calls all people to salvation, but very few are able to be drawn to this calling. While all who are made in the image and likeness of God are desired by God for salvation, God has “predestined” a few, that is “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). His presence is in all places, at all times, filling all things, and draws all to Himself, but unfortunately most seem to be swimming against the current of the sea of Truth and Life, even those within the Church!
So few according to their freedom and seriousness have been predestined to justification and righteousness, predestined to blessings, predestined to “partake of the divine nature”. Notice here, God does not violate our freedom to reject His drawing presence. Those who He knows will be serious He chooses, He elects, for the sake of the gospel. In other words, He “elected” all the prophets, the ancestry of Christ, the Mother of God Mary, the Forerunner of God John, the Apostles, the Disciples, the successors of the disciples, the martyrs, the faithful, the righteous, the Church fathers, etc. etc. etc.
On the one hand, to be “elected” means it is not on our basis or our own abilities that we are “elected”, but God is the one who “elects”. A politician is not elected by His own strength. If that happens, that’s not called “election”, but “coup d’etat”, “tyranny”, “dictatorship”, you name it. God therefore elects us; we do not elect ourselves. We cannot impart on ourselves salvation. It is God who saves. There is no innate “inner spark of divinity” that we search for as New Agists deceptively teach. There is no inner guru of the self. God alone is divine and God alone is the “guru”. Therefore, God alone, who knows all things, chooses all who are serious in Him.
On the other hand, to be elected not only means you are chosen by God’s divine and uncreated choosing, that is “before the foundation of the world”, but that you are etched as part of the gospel, an important co-worker of the gospel with Christ, even though Christ is above all those who work for the gospel. We are made in the fellowship of Christ and the Father (1 Jn. 1:3). To be called a “fellowship” would be unworthy of us based on our status as created and weak beings. But yet, that’s the point, since it is God in Christ who makes us “fellows”, not we ourselves. St. Peter says this much himself (1 Peter 2):
1Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,
“The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
If you read this and think, “How dare you consider many people a part of the gospel? The gospel is only about one person, Jesus Christ, our God and Savior!” I would incline to say, “Yes, you are partially correct.” I dare not declare this from my own opinion. But the gospels tell me that we are indeed co-workers, dare I even say, co-redeemers in the gospel! Did not Jesus say that when the gospel is preached, it is imperative we include the story of the woman who anointed His feet (cf. Mt. 26:13)? Is there a gospel without the truth of the Virgin birth from Mary? Is there a gospel without the baptizing of John? Is there a gospel without the witnessing of the twelve? Is there even a gospel without Paul, who was not even a witness with the twelve? Do you not know that to exclude our own story in the gospel is to be ashamed of the gospel?
The gospel is not about Jesus alone. God is so humble, He wishes to give all of us His very own eternal glory, even if it be by being put to shame in this world with a vile and most abhorrent death on the Cross. God made this gospel about us because it is about Jesus engrafting us into the very divine life through Himself, the only begotten Son of God, by becoming all aspects of our life, even the worst aspects in death and in Hades. In Jesus, we become elected by God. Christ is the eternal and uncreated Predestination, the “choice” (pun intended) Image of the Father, in whom we are divinely predestined. It is as if God stretched out His timelessly divine hands, which are His Son and His Spirit, touched us, and pulled us into His Fatherly bosom to partake of His eternal blessings, His divine nature! And we also, while being in His bosom, also stretch out our “deified” hands to invite more people into His bosom by our comforting embrace, as is typified by the bosom of Abraham (cf. Luke 16), a “co-bosom” of God if you will. To be elected by God is to be touched and embraced by Him, we who are unable to do so out of our own abilities. And the great thing is this, that God opened up this election for all people. If you choose Him, that is if you obey Him (for He is not a tyrant, but allows your freedom as well to “elect Him” by a holy obedience to His Word), He will manifest His choosing you, which He already made eternally.
Let us therefore draw near to Him, and love Him who made us a part of His choosing in the primary and uncreated and incarnate Choice, our Lord, Jesus Christ, to Him be glory with the the Father and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of all ages. Amen!