Second Clement, Effectual Calling, and Regeneration

2 Clement is an early sermon or “word of exhortation” that was written around 100 AD (or possible around 130 AD).  It was written not by Clement, but by an anonymous presbyter.  Michael Holmes calls it “the oldest surviving complete Christian sermon outside the New Testament.”

The sermon opens with an exhortation to “think of Jesus Christ as we do of God.”  The preacher then states that since Christ has suffered so greatly for us to save us, we owe him our praise.  Here’s how he explains this salvation (in 1:7-8).

“Our minds were blinded, and we worshiped stones and wood and gold and silver and brass, things made by humans; indeed, our whole life was nothing but death.  So while we were thus wrapped in darkness and our vision was filled with this thick mist we recovered our sight, by his will laying aside the cloud wrapped around us.”

“For he had mercy upon us and in his compassion he saved us when we had no hope of salvation except that which comes from him, even though he had seen in us much deception and destruction.  For he called us (ekalesen) when we did not exist (ouk ontaj), and out of nothing (ek mh ontoj) willed us into being.”

These are great phrases that describe God’s sovereign grace in effectual calling and regeneration.  The Apostle put it this way: God…gives life to the dead and calls (kalountoj) into existence the things that do not exist (ta mh onta wj onta) (Rom 4.17).  Even when we were dead in our trespasses [he] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:5).

This passage from 2 Clement is a great reminder that the Protestant Reformers didn’t make up the doctrines of grace; they stood in line with the historic Christian church, and on the shoulders of the Apostle Paul.

The above quote from 2 Clement can be found in The Apostolic Fathers, 3rd edition, edited and translated by Michael W. Holmes.

rev shane lems

4 thoughts on “Second Clement, Effectual Calling, and Regeneration”

  1. A great reminder for all of us, Shane. There is a lot more of this type of sentiment in the apostolic and early church fathers than most people realize. Thanks.

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  2. This is a heavily debated subject. For example, T.F. Torrance wrote his PHD dissertation on the topic and concluded that there was a major loss of the the doctrines of grace in the apostolic fathers when compared to the New Testament.

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    1. Thanks for the note, Jon. Though I haven’t read Torrance’s dissertation, I’m aware of the discussion, so I tried not to make an overstatement.

      It is debatable how much the early church fathers highlighted what we call the doctrines of grace, but it isn’t really debatable that the Reformers utilized the church fathers extensively in their work.

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