The First Epistle to the Corinthians claims no author except "the Church of God which sojourns at Rome," but the early church unanimously attributed it to Clement of Rome. This letter had a profound impact on the early church and was commonly read aloud to congregations even through the fourth century—a fact that demonstrates the letter's importance to the early believers and the endurance of the call to repentance found within its pages.
Little is known about Clement of Rome. Some believe he was the companion of Paul mentioned in Philippians 4:3. He is also listed as the fourth Pope, according to Catholic tradition, Pope Saint Clement I. While many details are uncertain, it is clear that Clement was a prominent Christian leader who worked closely with the apostles and cared deeply for the Church. As the believers experienced increasing persecution by the Roman Empire, writings like this one helped them persevere. May it do the same for you.
From the Introductory Note to the Epistle to the Corinthians:
[a.d. 30–100.] Clement was probably a Gentile and a Roman. He seems to have been at Philippi with St. Paul (a.d. 57) when that first-born of the Western churches was passing through great trials of faith. There, with holy women and others, he ministered to the apostle and to the saints. As this city was a Roman colony, we need not inquire how a Roman happened to be there. He was possibly in some public service, and it is not improbable that he had visited Corinth in those days. From the apostle, and his companion, St. Luke, he had no doubt learned the use of the Septuagint, in which his knowledge of the Greek tongue soon rendered him an adept. His copy of that version, however, does not always agree with the Received Text, as the reader will perceive.
A co-presbyter with Linus and Cletus, he succeeded them in the government of the Roman Church. I have reluctantly adopted the opinion that his Epistle was written near the close of his life, and not just after the persecution of Nero. It is not improbable that Linus and Cletus both perished in that fiery trial, and that Clement’s immediate succession to their work and place occasions the chronological difficulties of the period. After the death of the apostles, for the Roman imprisonment and martyrdom of St. Peter seem historical, Clement was the natural representative of St. Paul, and even of his companion, the “apostle of the circumcision;” and naturally he wrote the Epistle in the name of the local church, when brethren looked to them for advice. St. John, no doubt, was still surviving at Patmos or in Ephesus; but the Philippians, whose intercourse with Rome is attested by the visit of Epaphroditus, looked naturally to the surviving friends of their great founder; nor was the aged apostle in the East equally accessible. All roads pointed towards the Imperial City, and started from its Milliarium Aureum. But, though Clement doubtless wrote the letter, he conceals his own name, and puts forth the brethren, who seem to have met in council, and sent a brotherly delegation (Chap. lix.). The entire absence of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John 9), and the close accordance of the Epistle, in humility and meekness, with that of St. Peter (1 Pet. v. 1–5), are noteworthy features. The whole will be found animated with the loving and faithful spirit of St. Paul’s dear Philippians, among whom the writer had learned the Gospel.
Clement fell asleep, probably soon after he despatched his letter. It is the legacy of one who reflects the apostolic age in all the beauty and evangelical truth which were the first-fruits of the Spirit’s presence with the Church. He shares with others the aureole of glory attributed by St. Paul (Phil. iv. 3), “His name is in the Book of Life.”
From the Introductory Notice of the original editors and translators, Drs. Roberts and Donaldson:
This Epistle was held in very great esteem by the early Church. The account given of it by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 16) is as follows: “There is one acknowledged Epistle of this Clement (whom he has just identified with the friend of St. Paul), great and admirable, which he wrote in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth, sedition having then arisen in the latter Church. We are aware that this Epistle has been publicly read in very many churches both in old times, and also in our own day.” The Epistle before us thus appears to have been read in numerous churches, as being almost on a level with the canonical writings. And its place in the Alexandrian ms., immediately after the inspired books, is in harmony with the position thus assigned it in the primitive Church. There does indeed appear a great difference between it and the inspired writings in many respects, such as the fanciful use sometimes made of Old-Testament statements, the fabulous stories which are accepted by its author, and the general diffuseness and feebleness of style by which it is distinguished. But the high tone of evangelical truth which pervades it, the simple and earnest appeals which it makes to the heart and conscience, and the anxiety which its writer so constantly shows to promote the best interests of the Church of Christ, still impart an undying charm to this precious relic of later apostolic times.
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The narration is by Gerard VanHalsema, a professional theatre student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The cellist is Peter Plantinga and the audio technician is Emily Hanna.
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