Have You Read the Oldest Christian Sermon Outside of the New Testament? Part 2
I have listened to a lot of sermons in the past 25 years. I have also read many old sermons from the great preachers of the past. I have amassed a huge library of books from great authors, both past and present. Many of these works have impacted my life in big and small ways. But none more than the writings and messages of the early christian church leaders.
In my quest to figure this thing called Christianity out, I have found it helpful to go back and read how the earliest Christ followers understood Christianity. For some reason unknown to me, many of my contemporaries are content to allow the modern preacher and theologian to shape their view of what it means to be a Christian. As if Christianity has not changed in 2000 years. What passed for authentic Christianity in the first and second century is not even close to what we see today in the larger body of Christ. I think that the earliest Christians would probably not even recognize us. Like the telephone game many of us played as children, the farther one gets away from the original, the more likely one is to distort the message. This is why I read the early church fathers, the anti-nicene Fathers in particular, and I think you should too.
Today, I have posted the last 10 chapters from the book of Second Clement. Written sometime in the late first century or early 2nd century, it is the oldest sermon we have, outside of the sermons recorded in the New Testament. It was probably a message delivered in Corinth and meant to be spoken to the congregation. It was either written by Clement himself or simply attributed to him.
As you read it, you will find that it reads just like a letter from the New Testament. Of course, it isn’t scripture, but you will be encouraged to follow Him if you read it. In addition to that, you will see how the earliest Christian leaders understood our faith. Let me know if you recognize today’s church in anything that is written here.
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF CLEMENT
CHAP. XI.–WE OUGHT TO SERVE GOD, TRUSTING IN HIS PROMISES. Read part 1 of the sermon here
Let us therefore serve God with a pure heart, and we shall be righteous; but if we do not serve Him, because we believe not the promise of God, we shall be miserable. For the prophetic word also declares, “Wretched are those of a double mind, and who doubt in their heart, who say, All these things have we heard even in the times of our fathers; but though we have waited day by day, we have seen none of them [accomplished]. Ye fools! compare yourselves to a tree; take, for instance, the vine. First of all it sheds its leaves, then the bud appears; after that the sour grape, and then the fully-ripened fruit. So, likewise, my people have borne disturbances and afflictions, but afterwards shall they receive their good things.” Wherefore, my brethren, let us not be of a double mind, but let us hope and endure, that we also may obtain the reward. For He is faithful who has promised that He will bestow on every one a reward according to his works. If, therefore, we shall do righteousness in the sight of God, we shall enter into His kingdom, and shall receive the promises, which “ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man.”
CHAP. XII.–WE ARE CONSTANTLY TO LOOK FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Let us expect, therefore, hour by hour, the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, since we know not the day of the appearing of God. For the Lord Himself, being asked by one when His kingdom would come, replied, “When two shall be one, that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.” Now, two are one when we speak the truth one to another, and there is unfeignedly one soul in two bodies. And “that which is without as” that which is within meaneth this: He calls the soul “that which is within,” and the body “that which is without.” As, then, thy body is visible to sight, so also let thy soul be manifest by good works. And “the male, with the female, neither male nor female, this He saith, that brother seeing sister may have no thought concerning her as female, and that she may have no thought concerning him as male. “If ye do these things, saith He, “the kingdom of my Father shall come.”
CHAP. XIII.–GOD’S NAME NOT TO BE BLASPHEMED.
Brethren, then, let us now at length repent, let us soberly turn to that which is good; for we are full of abundant folly and wickedness. Let us wipe out from us our former sins, and repenting from the heart be saved; and let us not be men-pleasers, nor be willing to please one another only, but also the men without, for righteousness sake, that the name may not be, because of us, blasphemed. For the Lord saith, “Continually my name is blasphemed among all nations,” and “Wherefore my name is blasphemed; blasphemed in what? In your not doing the things which I wish.” For the nations, hearing from our mouth the oracles of God, marvel at their excellence and worth; thereafter learning that our deeds are not worthy of the words which we speak,–receiving this occasion they turn to blasphemy, saying that they are a fable and a delusion. For, whenever they hear from us that God saith, “No thank have ye, if ye love them which love you, but ye have thank, if ye love your enemies and them which hate you ” –whenever they hear these words, they marvel at the surpassing measure of their goodness; but when they see, that not only do we not love those who hate, but that we love not even those who love, they laugh us to scorn, and the name is blasphemed.
CHAP. XIV.–THE CHURCH SPIRITUAL.
So, then, brethren, if we do the will of our Father God, we shall be members of the first church, the spiritual,–that which was created before sun and moon; but if we shall not do the will of the Lord, we shall come under the Scripture which saith, “My house became a den of robbers.” So, then, let us elect to belong to the church of life, that we may be saved. I think not that ye are ignorant that the living church is the body of Christ (for the Scripture, saith, “God created man male and female;” the male is Christ, the female the church,) and that the Books and the Apostles teach that the church is not of the present, but from the beginning. For it was spiritual, as was also our Jesus, and was made manifest at the end of the days in order to save us. The church being spiritual, was made manifest in the flesh of Christ, signifying to us that if any one of us shall preserve it in the flesh and corrupt it not, he shall receive it in the Holy Spirit. For this flesh is the type of the spirit; no one, therefore, having corrupted the type, will receive afterwards the antitype. Therefore is it, then, that He saith, brethren, “Preserve ye the flesh, that ye may become partakers of the spirit.” If we say that the flesh is the church and the spirit Christ, then it follows that he who shall offer outrage to the flesh is guilty of outrage on the church. Such an one, therefore, will not partake of the spirit, which is Christ. Such is the life and immortality, which this flesh may afterwards receive, the Holy Spirit cleaving to it; and no one can either express or utter what things the Lord hath prepared for His elect.
CHAP. XV.–HE WHO SAVES AND HE WHO IS SAVED.
I think not that I counted trivial counsel concerning continence; following it, a man will not repent thereof, but will save both himself and me who counselled. For it is no small reward to turn back a wandering and perishing soul for its salvation. For this recompense we are able to render to the God who created us, if he who speaks and hears beth speak and hear with faith and love. Let us, therefore, continue in that course in which we, righteous and holy, believed, that with confidence we may ask God who saith, “Whilst thou art still speaking, I will say, Here I am.” For these words are a token of a great promise, for the Lord saith that He is more ready to give than he who asks. So great, then, being the goodness of which we are partakers, let us not grudge one another the attainment of so great blessings.
For in proportion to the pleasure with which these words are fraught to those who shall follow them, in that proportion is the condemnation with which they are fraught to those who shall refuse to hear.
CHAP. XVI–PREPARATION FOR THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.
So, then, brethren, having received no small occasion to repent, while we have opportunity, let us turn to God who called us, while yet we have One to receive us. For if we renounce these indulgences and conquer the soul by not fulfilling its wicked desires, we shall be partakers of the mercy of Jesus. Know ye that the day of judgment draweth nigh like a burning oven, and certain of the heavens and all the earth will melt, like lead melting in fire; and then will appear the hidden and manifest deeds of men. Good, then, is alms as repentance from sin; better is fasting than prayer, and alms than both; “charity covereth a multitude of sins,” and prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every one that shall be found complete in these; for alms lightens the burden of sin.
CHAP. XVII.–SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Let us, then, repent with our whole heart, that no one of us may perish amiss. For if we have commands and engage in withdrawing from idols and instructing others, how much more ought a soul already knowing God not to perish. Rendering, therefore, mutual help, let us raise the weak also in that which is good, that all of us may be saved and convert one another and admonish. And not only now let us seem to believe and give heed, when we are admonished by the elders; but also when we take our departure home, let us remember the commandments of the Lord, and not be allured back by worldly lusts, but let us often and often draw near and try to make progress in the Lord’s commands, that we all having the same mind may be gathered together for life. For the Lord said, “I come to gather all nations [kindreds] and tongues.” This means the day of His appearing, when He will come and redeem us–each one according to his works. And the unbelievers will see His glory and might, and, when they see the empire of the world in Jesus, they will be surprise, saying, “Woe to us, because Thou wast, and we knew not and believed not and obeyed not the elders who show us plainly of our salvation.” And “their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be a spectacle unto all flesh.” It is of the great day of judgment He speaks, when they shall see those among us who were guilty of ungodliness and erred in their estimate of the commands of Jesus Christ. The righteous, having succeeded both in enduring the trials and hating the indulgences of the soul, whenever they witness how those who have swerved and denied Jesus by words or deeds are punished with grievous torments in fire unquenchable, will give glory to their God and say, “There will be hope for him who has served God with his whole heart.”
CHAP. XVIII.–THE AUTHOR SINFUL, YET PURSUING.
And let us, then, be of the number of those who give thanks, who have served God, and not of the ungodly who are judged. For I myself, though a sinner every whir and not yet fleeing temptation but continuing in the midst of the tools of the devil, study to follow after righteousness, that I may make, be it only some, approach to it, fearing the judgment to come.
CHAP. XIX.–REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS, ALTHOUGH THEY MAY SUFFER.
So then, brothers and sisters, after the God of truth I address to you an appeal that ye may give heed to the words written, that ye may save both yourselves and him who reads an address in your midst. For as a reward I ask of you repentance with the whole heart, while ye bestow upon yourselves salvation and life. For by so doing we shall set a mark for all the young who wish to be diligent in godliness and the goodness of God. And let not us, in our folly, feel displeasure and indignation, whenever any one admonishes us and turns us from unrighteousness to righteousness. For there are some wicked deeds which we commit, and know it not, because of the double-mindedness and unbelief present in our breasts, and our understanding is darkened by vain desires. Let us, therefore, work righteousness, that we may be saved to the end. Blessed are they who obey these commandments, even if for a brief space they suffer in this world, and they will gather the imperishable fruit of the resurrection. Let not the godly man, therefore, grieve; if for the present he suffer affliction, blessed is the time that awaits him there; rising up to life again with the fathers he will rejoice for ever without a grief.
CHAP. XX.–GODLINESS, NOT GAIN, THE TRUE RICHES.
But let it not even trouble your mind, that we see the unrighteous possessed of riches and the servants of God straitened. Let us, therefore, brothers and sisters, believe; in a trial of the living God we strive and are exercised in the present life, that we may obtain the crown in that which is to come. No one of the righteous received fruit speedily, but waiteth for it. For if God tendered the reward of the righteous in a trice, straightway were it commerce that we practised, and not godliness. For it were as if we were righteous by following after not godliness but gain; and for this reason the divine judgment baffled the spirit that is unrighteous and heavily weighed the fetter. To the only God, invisible, Father of truth, who sent forth to us the Saviour and Author of immortality, through whom He also manifested to us the truth and the heavenly life, to Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
For more writings of the early church and other topics, try these posts by Not For Itching Ears:
Posted on February 17, 2012, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, The Christian Life, Theology and tagged Calvinism, christianity, early church history, Eastern Orthodox, El cristianismo, faith, family, God, inspiration, Jesus, Purpose Driven, religion, seeker-sensitive, spirituality, worship, Worship Leading. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.