It’s Good Friday; we focus on the unjust crucifixion of Jesus’ death, his willingness to go to the cross for us and on our behalf, and at the same time his cross becomes the paradigm of Christian living. So today we look at Good Friday faith in 1 Clement 29-32.
First, Clement urges the Corinthians (Clement, remember, is in Rome) to holiness, understood as worship and love of God. This is right because holiness is about God and God’s presence and devotion to God and being in God’s presence.
1Clem. 29:1 Let us, therefore, approach him in holiness of soul, lifting up to him pure and undefiled hands, loving our gentle and compassionate Father who made us his own chosen portion. 2 For thus it is written: “When the Most High divided the nations, when he dispersed the sons of Adam, he fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people, Jacob, became the Lord’s portion, and Israel his inherited allotment.” 3 And in another place it says: “Behold, the Lord takes for himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man takes the first fruits of his threshing floor; and the Holy of Holies will come forth from that nation.”
Notice the logic: as devoted to God, the Corinthians are to pursue a life of holiness as a result of God’s transforming holy presence. What are “things that pertain to holiness”? (I have italicized his emphases.) Compare his view of holiness to how so many today think it means “to be separated.”
1Clem. 30:1 Seeing then that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all the things that pertain to holiness, forsaking slander, disgusting and impure embraces, drunkenness and rioting and detestable lusts, abominable adultery, detestable pride. 2 “For God,” it says, “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
To be holy for Clement means to be in relationship in the fellowship of the church, and that means in concord or unity (he’s pushing yet again divisiveness) and holiness then is made concrete again:
3Let us therefore join with those to whom grace is given by God. Let us clothe ourselves in concord, being humble and self-controlled, keeping ourselves far from all backbiting and slander, being justified by works and not by words. 4 For it says: “The one who speaks much shall hear much in reply. Or does the talkative person think that he is righteous? 5 Blessed is the one born of woman who has a short life. Do not be overly talkative.” 6Let our praise be with God, and not from ourselves, for God hates those who praise themselves. 7 Let the testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was given to our fathers who were righteous. 8 Boldness and arrogance and audacity are for those who are cursed by God; but graciousness and humility and gentleness are with those who are blessed by God.
1Clem. 31:1 Let us therefore cling to his blessing, and let us investigate what are the pathways of blessing. Let us study the records of the things that have happened from the beginning. 2 Why was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he attained righteousness and truth through faith? 3 With confidence, Isaac, knowing the future, went willingly to be sacrificed. 4 With humility Jacob departed from his land because of his brother and went to Laban and served him, and the scepter of the twelve tribes of Israel was given to him.
From Jacob, who sought God, come blessings (underline) that are a model for seeking blessings from God:
1Clem. 32:1 Anyone who sincerely considers these matters one by one will understand the magnificence of the gifts that are given by God. 2For from Jacob come all the priests and Levites who minister at the altar of God; from him comes the Lord Jesus according to the flesh; from him come the kings and rulers and governors in the line of Judah; and his other tribes are held in no small honor, seeing that God promised that “your seed shall be as the stars of heaven.”
In Pauline fashion, he wants it clear that this is not meritorious; this is the will of God.
3 All, therefore, were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions that they did, but through his will.
He clarifies it further toward justification by faith alone, and works here clearly are general human works:
4 And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety, or works that we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the Almighty God has justified all who have existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Good Friday faith knows that Jesus has died for us and through is death and resurrection we are made right with God. We don’t do this for ourselves. This right-making by God makes us right-makers, makes us holy.