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Book 1 – First Clement (10 Books Every Christian Should Read)

by | Feb 26, 2020 | Blog | 3 comments

“How blessed and marvelous are the gifts of God, dear friends! Life in immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth with boldness, faith with confidence, self-control with holiness! And all these things fall within our comprehension.” 35.1-2

The Background of First Clement

First Clement is filled with exciting and valuable insights for us today. Written likely at the close of the first century, around the time of the Revelation of John, First Clement gives us a picture of the earliest life of the newly formed Christian church. The author was likely a man named Clement, a leader in the Roman church. The need for the letter was caused by a schism among the members of the church at Corinth. From the fledgling details available to us, it appears that a group of young men in the church went out of their way to oust the established leadership of the church on preferential, rather than biblical, grounds. As such, the larger content of the letter deals with the Christian principles of humility, a warning against jealousy, and a call for repentance.

The Content of First Clement

First Clement was so well received in early Church History, it was given consideration by some to be part of the biblical canon. Reading through the work shows why. Clement addresses head-on the dangerous and ungodly problem of schisms among true believers, and the sorrow and shame it can bring to the faithful and the gospel witness.

Clement commends the congregation for their faith and righteousness. He notes, however, that they began to believe their own press clippings, as it were. They became proud of their good standing, became envious and jealous of one another, and sought the glory of self rather than the glory of Christ and the good of the other. All of these things have led to a need for repentance and a turning away from sin.

Clement makes much of the salvation found only in Christ and the work of the Triune God in accomplishing His purposes among His people. Clement concludes with a call for peace and moving forward toward righteousness, good works, and love.

The Good and The Bad in First Clement

Let’s start with the bad. Clement makes use of pagan concepts, some of which he expresses as being real and true. In the telling of the story fo the Phoenix, Clement describes it as a true-to-life event, rather than a reference to pagan mythology. It is likely that the inclusion of this story was a strong hindrance (from the human perspective) of First Clement being included in the canon of Scripture. Clement also flirts dangerously close with the edges of legalism. Rather than the “law of Christ” being magnified, there is a sense of being strained under the burden of legal obedience. The work and efforts of the congregation seem to (occasionally) take a more prominent place over the glory of Christ. The only saving grace to this point is that Clement is cautious to also give the Triune the glory for the work being done in us.

Now let’s consider the good. First Clement is filled with Scripture. The appeal to the Word of God over the philosophies of the day is the mark of the true Christian. Clement does not appeal to any pragmatic perspective. He appeals to the Word of God. As such, the letter is filled with sound, biblical counsel. The congregation is warned against the dangers of jealousy, envy, and schism. There is a call for repentance, humility, and sacrificial love. Above all this, there is an appeal to the person and work of Jesus Christ, particularly as it relates to his crucifixion and resurrection. The gospel has a prominent place in this writing, as it should in the lives of all those who claim the name of Jesus. Extending the gospel theme, Clement points his audience to the future hope of the resurrection and to the promises God has made to those He is redeeming. It is to these promises and this hope that believers should cling, not to the empty and vain advancement of self-interest in this life.

Going Forward

I hope you were able to read First Clement this month. If not, I hope you take the opportunity to do so in the near future. If you have questions or comments, you can reply to this blog post. It will allow us to have a “public discussion” of sorts. If you come across this on a social media page, you can include your comments there as well. If you are in or around the Tyler area, you can always email or call.

Next up, The Martyrdom of Polycarp.


  1. Michael Peek

    Phillip your post makes me want to read 1 Clement. I have a question about something that you said. Maybe I should not say a question but a request. In the section on the bad in 1 Clement you wrote: “Clement also flirts dangerously close with the edges of legalism. Rather than the “law of Christ” being magnified, there is a sense of being strained under the burden of legal obedience.” I would like to hear/read more of your thoughts on the “law of Christ.” What do you mean by “law of Christ?” I would like to hear/read what you have to say.

    • Phillip Dancy

      Mike, Sorry for the delayed response. This is a great question. When I say “the Law of Christ,” I am referring to the principle taught in the gospels and epistles of the “Law” being fulfilled by Christ. Our righteousness is found on the work of Christ, not our own work. The fulfillment of the “Law” is now living in the fulfillment of Christ. If we “walk by the Spirit,” there is no Law against our actions. There is a great deal of freedom given to the believer (restrictions from dietary laws, ceremonial laws, etc.). We are called upon to “love God and love neighbor.” We are no longer called upon to keep a checklist of our righteous deeds. This is brief, but a start to what I mean.

      • Donald Bosley

        Hey Mike and Phillip. I have just came across this series today. I don’t know if I will actually read the books in the list, though. I do like the idea of reading beneficial books. I will have to consider committing to the task.

        I know you both are already familiar with this Scripture; however, I thought I’d interject anyway.

        Galatians 5:14 (ESV): For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

        This Scripture immediately comes to my mind when the Law of Christ is mentioned. Especially when I consider the close context of:

        Galatians 6:2 (ESV): Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

        After reading your posts, I dove into this Scripture once again and the truth regarding the freedom given to the believer is, resultantly, more solidified in my mind. I think I am more rightly motivated to serve my neighbor—out of liberty rather than the burden of the OT Law.

        So, thank you both.

        I’ve come to conclude that, when reading books of this nature, I am wrestling with my own thoughts and ideas while in an inner dialogue of sorts with the author. Perhaps I will take this task on. It has been awhile since I have seriously done so.

        Grace and peace.


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