St Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians

At the end of the first century AD, the Christian congregation of Corinth was so divided that the younger members of the local church formed a rebellion against their appointed elders.

When news of this reached St Clement, the Bishop of Rome, he felt deeply that the only way to preserve the unity of the Church was to respect the Ministry established by the Apostles. He therefore wrote a letter to the Corinthians: “How blessed and marvelous are the gifts of God, dear friends!”

St Clement called to the Corinthians to study the God-given examples of righteousness in the Old Testament, in the life and teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and even from nature and contemporary life. He reminds his audience of the advice St Paul gave them a generation earlier in the Epistles to the Corinthians. He emphasises the importance of humility, love and repentance for maintaining unity in the church.

The language of St Clement’s letter is strikingly similar to that used by his predecessors in the Epistles of the Bible, as he lived and breathed the teachings of the Apostles. His words still resonate with us today: “So, since we have this pattern, let us unhesitatingly conform ourselves to His will; let us with all our strength do the work of righteousness.” St Clement’s epistle is beautiful not only for its content but also for his spirit of love which is still evident to us many centuries later.

We must remember that the late first century was a period of transition when the Apostles were no longer physically present among the Church on earth. Alongside other early Apostolic Fathers, St Clement was instrumental in preserving the continuity of the Apostolic teachings and traditions. Let us remember his God-inspired teachings about unity in our churches today.


Source: Lychnos June-July 2020 edition