For many Christians in our day, the concept of Christianity begins with the reformation period of the 1500’s, often with little desired to be known about the church before that time. And so, like a vessel adrift in the sea of modern individualism, we have in many ways strayed from the original course marked out for us by the Apostles of the Lamb.
An Identity Crisis
This identity crisis has been manifesting itself in very strong and even unnecessary divisions forming in the body of Christ. And, though true disciples of the Lord must of necessity refuse what is heretical, many of these divisions are due to ignorance and misunderstanding, and have been brought about by the deceptive wiles of the Enemy of our souls.
Another symptom of this identity crisis is the continual inventing of new doctrines and ideas. If there is no original belief or foundational understanding, then truth is essentially up to everyone’s own private interpretation of Scripture. In our day, there seem to be almost as many interpretations of Scripture as there are people reading those same Scriptures—along with an endless questioning and re-questioning of everything. With currently over 42,000 Christian denominations, the rugged individualism of Western thought has allowed an unprecedented explosion of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.
Yet, in the midst of the wilderness of this modern quandary there is a renewed hunger and thirst for Christianity in its purest form. Many are asking questions such as, “What did the original, early disciples of the Lord Jesus believe?”and, “How did they worship?
Meet St. Clement
Many of us would love have been given the chance to sit down with the Apostle Peter, or have a meal with Paul the Apostle. St. Clement may have done both!
Born in AD 35 and ending his earthly journey in AD 99, Clement was contemporary with the twelve Apostles.
Paul the Apostle mentions Clement in his Epistle as a co-worker:
“I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Early Church Fathers Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome, amongst others, hold to the view that this is a referral to St. Clement in the Scriptures. What an exciting thing to know that this name “Clement” now carries much more significance in our Bibles, he having been a co-worker with the Apostle Paul. Not only this, but he also went on to become to the bishop of Rome.
Connecting The Dots
For much of Church history the writings of the early Christians were available and the traditions of the Apostles and proper interpretation of the Scriptures were passed on. Since the reformation times unfortunately there was a divorcing of the historic interpretation of many practices of the Church and the interpretation of each reformer was more important. Of course there were lost doctrines that needed to be re-emphasized such as justification by faith. But many historic doctrines and beliefs were minimized at the same time.
Not only a minimizing of doctrines was occurring but also a great confusion ensuing where each reformer had his own viewpoint. Some stayed very close to the early historic church such as Thomas crammer in the starting of the Anglican Church. But most reformers decided the Church councils and decisions made in the past did not matter and they would re-find all truth themselves with the Scriptures in hand. This sounds good at first glance but when each person saying that comes up with a different interpretation of what the Scripture verse means then we have more confusion than clarity.
A way for us to minimize this confusion and muddying of the waters is to connect the dots from the first century Apostles in the Scriptures to the second century bishops and leaders in the Church who were established. St. Clement who we highlighted above was not only contemporary with the Apostles but discipled by them and ordained through their choosing as the bishop in Rome.
A Needed Study
It is of conviction that I believe evangelicals need to make a study of these early Christian leaders and see how the faith was passed on faithfully to the next generation. It is through this desire that I have compiled 3 books being released with samples of the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Symrna. All of these men were leaders in the Church, knew the Apostles and were ordained with their blessed in passing on the faith to the next generation. We can read their letters and I believe it will help give some clarity to Scriptures and the faith we hold precious in Jesus Christ. The first in the Early Church Father series on St Clement has been published and it can be read and downloaded freely: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KB56X7R
Enter the world of first century Christianity, hear the heart of an early Christian leader. You might be surprised and also blessed in what you read. The Lord bless you.