Read it Now in Modern English - And Be Inspired!

Clement of Rome Lived Just Around 70 Years After Paul and is One of the Most Accessible of the 'Church Fathers'

There is much to learn by looking at the early writings of the 'church fathers.' Clement of Rome wrote around 130 AD and his writings (like most of the early 'fathers') show an immediate closeness to New Testament style and approach.

In the case of many of these early Christian letters we cannot be entirely sure if the writings are genuinely Christian or whether they are of 'gnostic' origin, but several of them are plainly very genuinely Christian; This brief epistle is one such letter. It is, of course, not inspired Scripture yet nevertheless probably a typical document from a church leader just a few years into the second century AD. Perhaps only one or two verses seem a little difficult, the rest is really quite plain.

Many are put off reading such writings because of poor translation, or translation into KJV-type English. But this is a very clear translation into modern English, perhaps more of a paraphrase at times, but - overall - with a firm intention to stick closely to the very good Roberts-Donaldson version which, in turn, made a good translation of the Greek - even though in occasionally unwieldy English. This translation makes the English really modern and very approachable - yet no serious 'liberties' are taken with the text.

Clement quotes Scripture a lot. Sometimes he quotes Scripture exactly as we would recognise it, but at other times in a paraphrased fashion, but this is nothing more than most modern preachers do all the time. But he also quotes Jesus as saying something which does not appear in the New Testament (chapter 12); this is no problem in itself for it is entirely possible that certain sayings of Jesus went straight into the tradition of the early church even though not forming a part of the New Testament.

So read and be inspired by the words of a Christian leader who lived around 70 years after the apostle Paul! The letter is in twenty chapters but the chapters are very brief.

Highspots to look out for:


(In Modernized English, though closely based on the Roberts-Donaldson translation).


RETHREN, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as you think of God, as the Judge of the living and the dead. And it does not become us to think lightly of our salvation; for if we think little of Him, we shall also expect but to obtain little [from Him]. And those of us who hear carelessly of these things, as if they were of small importance, commit sin, forgetting from where we have been called, and by whom, and to what station, and how much Jesus Christ submitted to suffer for our sakes.

What return, then, shall we make to Him, or what fruit that shall be worthy of that which He has given to us? For, indeed, how great are the benefits which we owe to Him! He has graciously given us light; as a Father, He has called us sons; He has saved us when we were ready to perish. What praise, then, shall we give to Him, or what return shall we make for the things which we have received? We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stones and wood, and gold, and silver, and brass, the works of men's hands; and our whole life amounted to nothing other than death. Involved in blindness, and with such darkness before our eyes, we have received sight, and through His will have laid aside that cloud by which we were enveloped. For He had compassion on us, and mercifully saved us, observing the many errors in which we were entangled, as well as the destruction to which we were exposed, and we had no hope of salvation except it came to us from Him. For He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.


"Rejoice, you barren [woman] that has borne no children; break forth and cry, you who have never been in in labour; for she that is desolate, [now] has many more children than she that has a husband." In that He said, "Rejoice, you barren [woman] that has borne no children," He was referring to us, for the church was - as it were - barren before her children were given to her. But when He said, "Cry out, you who have never been in labour," He means this, that we should sincerely offer up our prayers to God, and should not, like women in labour prior to childbirth, show signs of weakness. And in that He said, "For she that is desolate has many more children than she that has a husband," [He means] that our people [Israel] seemed to be outcast from God, but now, through believing, have become more numerous than those who are reckoned to possess God. And another Scripture says, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." This means that those who are perishing must be saved. For it is indeed a great and admirable thing to establish not the things which are standing, but those that are otherwise falling. So also did Christ desire to save the things which were perishing, and has saved many by coming and calling us when [we were] hastening to destruction.


Since, then, He has displayed such great mercy towards us, and especially in this respect, that we who are living should not offer sacrifices to gods that are dead, or pay them worship, but should attain through Him the knowledge of the true Father, whereby we shall show that we do indeed know Him, by not denying Him through whom this knowledge has been attained? For He himself declares, "Whoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father." This, then, is our reward if we shall confess Him by whom we have been saved. But in what way shall we confess Him? By doing what He says, and not transgressing His commandments, and by honouring Him not with our lips only, but with all our heart and all our mind. For He says in Isaiah, "This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."


Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that is hardly enough to save us. For He said, "Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that works righteousness." Therefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but by being morally disciplined, compassionate, and good. We also ought to sympathize with one another, and not be greedy for gain. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. Also, it is not right that we should fear men, but rather [should fear] God. For this reason, if we should do such [wicked] things, the Lord has said, "Even though you were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if you were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say to you, Depart from me; I do not even know where you came from, you workers of iniquity."


For which reason, brethren, leaving [willingly] our temporary residence in this present world, let us do the will of Him that called us, and not fear to leave behind this world. For the Lord said, "You shall be as lambs in the middle of wolves." And Peter answered and said unto Him, "What, then, if the wolves shall tear in pieces the lambs?" Jesus said to Peter, "The lambs have no cause after they are dead to fear the wolves; and in like manner, do not fear those that kill you, and can do nothing more to you [beyond that]; but fear Him who, after you are dead, has power over both your soul and body to cast them into hell-fire." And consider, brethren, that the residing of your the flesh in this world is but brief and transient, but the promise of Christ is great and wonderful, even the rest of the kingdom to come, and of life everlasting. By what course of conduct, then, shall we attain these things, but by leading a holy and righteous life, and by deeming these worldly things as not belonging to us, and by determining not to fix our desires upon them? For if we desire to possess them, we will fall away from the path of righteousness.


Now the Lord declares, "No servant can serve two masters." If we desire, then, to serve both God and wealth, it will be unprofitable for us. "For what profit is there if a man gains the whole world, and yet loses his own soul?" This world and the next [one] are two enemies. The one urges to adultery and corruption, avarice and deceit; the other bids farewell to these things. We cannot, therefore, be the friends of both; and it is necessary for us, by renouncing the one, to make certain of the other. Let us reckon that it is better to hate the things present, since they are trifling, and transient, and corruptible; and to love those [things which are to come,] as being good and incorruptible. For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments. For so also says the Scripture in Ezekiel, "If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity." Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we are found [to be] possessed of works of holiness and righteousness?


For which reason, then, my brethren, let us struggle with all earnestness, knowing that the contest is [in our case] close at hand, and that many undertake long voyages to strive for a corruptible reward; yet not all of them are crowned, but only those that have laboured hard and striven gloriously. Let us therefore so strive, that we may all be crowned. Let us run the straight course, even the race that is incorruptible; and let us in great numbers set out for it, and strive that we may be crowned. And we should all be able to obtain the crown, let us at least come near to it. We must remember that he who strives in the corruptible contest, if he is found to be cheating, is taken away and disqualified, and struck off the list. What then do you think? If one does anything unseemly in the incorruptible contest, what shall he have to bear? For of those who do not preserve the seal, [the Scripture] says, "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be put out, and they shall be a spectacle to everybody."


As long, therefore, as we are upon earth, let us practise repentance, for we are as clay in the hand of the artificer. For just as the potter, if he makes a vessel, and it becomes misshapen or gets broken in his hands, re-fashions it all over again; but if he has - even before this - thrown it into the fire, then he can no longer save it: so let us also, while we are in this world, repent with our whole heart of those evil deeds which we have done in the flesh, so that we may be saved by the Lord, while we still have an opportunity of repentance. For after we have gone out of the world, there will be no further possibility of confessing or repenting available to us. For in this manner, brethren, by doing the will of the Father, and by keeping the flesh holy, and observing the commandments of the Lord, we shall obtain eternal life. For the Lord says in the Gospel, "If you have not kept that which was small, who will commit to you the great [greater things]? For I say to you, that he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much." This, then, is what He means: "Keep the flesh holy and the seal unpolluted, that you may receive eternal life."


And let none of you say that your very flesh shall not be judged, nor rise again. Consider in what [state] you were saved, in what [state] you received sight, if not while you were in this flesh. We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God. For as you were called in the flesh, you shall also come [to be judged] in the flesh. As Christ the Lord who saved us, though He was first a Spirit became flesh, and thus called us, so shall we also receive the reward in this flesh. Let us therefore love one another, that we may all attain to the kingdom of God. While we have an opportunity of being healed, let us yield ourselves to God that heals us, and give to Him some compensation. Of what sort? Repentance out of a sincere heart; for He knows all things beforehand, and is acquainted with what is in our hearts. Let us therefore give Him praise, not with the mouth only, but also with the heart, that He may accept us as sons. For the Lord has said, "Those who do the will of my Father are my brethren ."


For this reason, my brethren, let us do the will of the Father who called us, that we may live; and let us earnestly follow after virtue, but forsake every wicked tendency which would lead us into transgression; and flee from ungodliness, in case evils overtake us. For if we are diligent in doing good, peace will follow us. On this account, such men cannot find it [i.e. peace] as are influenced by human terrors, and prefer rather present enjoyment to the promise which shall afterwards be fulfilled. For they do not know what torment present enjoyment will cause to be repeated, or what supreme joy is involved in the future promise. And if, indeed, they themselves only aid such things, it would be [the more] tolerable; but now they persist in impregnating innocent souls with their pernicious doctrines, not knowing that they shall receive a double condemnation, both they and those that hear them.


Let us therefore serve God with a pure heart, and we shall be righteous; but if we do not serve Him, because we do not believe the promise of God, we shall be miserable. For the prophetic word also declares, " Those of a double mind are miserable, and [those] who doubt in their heart, and who say, We have heard all these things many years ago; but even though we have waited day by day, we have never seen any of them [accomplished, or, fulfilled]. You 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, in just the same way, my people have suffered disturbances and afflictions, but afterwards they shall receive their good things." For this reason, 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 who has promised that He will bestow on every one a reward according to his works is faithful. If, therefore, we shall do righteousness in the sight of God, we shall enter into His kingdom, and certainly receive the promises, which "ear hath not heard, nor eye seen, neither have entered into the heart of man."


Let us, therefore, even hour by hour, expect the kingdom of God in love and in righteousness, since we do not know what day the appearing of God will occur. 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." (1). 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" surely means this: He calls the soul "that which is within," and the body "that which is without." As, then, your body is visible, so also let your soul [also] be clearly visible by good works. And "the male, with the female, neither male nor female," this He says, that a brother seeing a sister may have no thought concerning her as a woman, and that she may have no thoughts of him as a man. "If you do these things, He said, "the kingdom of my Father shall come."

(NOTE: 1. This is admittedly a somewhat difficult quote to be attributed to Jesus. The principle that Jesus may have said certain things which went into the tradition of the early church but did not go into Holy Scripture really presents no problem whatsoever, the problem is in the understanding of exactly what Jesus meant. Since Clement was not writing inspired Holy Scripture here we have every right to question his understanding of exactly what Jesus may have meant. The 'jury is out' on this. If this is truly a saying of Jesus, it is not clear what the meaning is, and I am not convinced that Clement's explanation is fully correct).


Brethren, then, let us now always repent, soberly turning to that which is good; for, so often, we are full of great folly and wickedness. Let us sweep away from us our former sins, and always be repenting from the heart [and] be saved; and let us not be men-pleasers, nor be willing to please only ourselves, but also consider those without, for righteousness sake, that the name [presumably, the Name of Christ] may not be blasphemed because of us. For the Lord has said, "My Name is continually blasphemed among all nations," and "In what manner my name is blasphemed, blasphemed in what? By believers not doing the things which I wish." For the nations, hearing from our mouth the oracles of God, do indeed marvel at their excellence and worth; but thereafter they tend to discover that our [Christian's] deeds are not worthy of the words which we speak, and because of this they turn to blasphemy, saying that they [the words of Scripture] are a fable and a delusion. For, whenever they hear from us that God says, "You have no thanks if you just love those who love you, but you have thanks, if you love your enemies and those who 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 do not even love those who love us, they laugh us to scorn, and the Name is blasphemed.


So, then, brethren, if we do the will of our Father God, we shall be members of the first [or, real] church, the spiritual, that which was created even before the sun and moon; but if we shall not do the will of the Lord, we shall come under the Scripture which says, "My house has become a den of robbers." So, then, let us elect to belong to the Church of life, that we may be saved. I don't think that you are ignorant that the living church is the body of Christ (for the Scripture, says, "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 only about the present, but is truly from the beginning. For it was and is 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 then made supremely visible in the flesh of Christ, signifying to us that if any one of us shall preserve it in the flesh and not corrupt it, 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 said, brethren, "Preserve your flesh, that you 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 a 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 those things which the Lord has prepared for His elect.


I do not think that I gave trivial counsel concerning the need for the restraint of the passions of the flesh; following [such advice], a man will not need to repent, but will save both himself and me who counselled him. For it is no small reward to turn back a wandering and perishing soul towards its salvation. For this recompense we are able to render to the God who created us, if he who speaks and hears both speaks and hears with faith and love. Let us, therefore, continue in that course in which we, righteous and holy, believed, so that with confidence we may ask God who said, "Whilst you are still speaking, I will say, Here I am." For these words are a token of a great promise, for the Lord said that He is more ready to give than he who asks. So great, then, being the goodness of that which we are partakers, let us not begrudge one another the attainment of such great blessings.

For in proportion to the pleasure with which these words are abounding to those who shall follow them, in that proportion is the condemnation with which they are abounding to those who shall refuse to hear.


So, then, brethren, having received no small occasion to repent, while we have opportunity, let us turn to God who called us, while we still have One who will 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. You should know that the day of judgment draws close 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 - but then very clear - deeds of men. Good, then, are kindly gifts as repentance from sin; fasting is better than prayer, and gifts of love better than both; "love covers a multitude of sins," and prayer out of a good conscience delivers from death. Every one that shall be found complete in these is blessed; for loving gifts lighten the burden of sin.


Let us, then, repent with our whole heart, so that none of us may perish in our error. 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, so that all of us may be saved and convert one another and be willing to admonish. But not only now let us seem to believe and give heed, when we are admonished by the elders; [not only when in church, appears to be the meaning] but also when we take our departure home, let us remember the commandments of our Lord, and not be allured back by worldly lusts, but let us regularly draw near and try to make progress in the Lord's will, so that we may all, being of one mind, be gathered together for life. For the Lord said, "I come to gather all nations [families] and tongues." This means that the day of His appearing, when He will come and redeem us [shall be] each one according to [their] works. And the unbelievers will see His glory and might, and, when they see the empire of the world in Jesus, they will be greatly surprised, saying, "Great misery to us, because You really were, and we did not know and we did not believe and we did not obey the elders who plainly taught of our salvation." And "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be put out; and they shall be a spectacle to 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 unquenchable fire, will give glory to their God and say, "There will be hope for him who has served God with his whole heart."


And let us, then, ensure that we are of the number who give thanks, who have served God, and not be of the ungodly who are to be judged. For I myself, even though a sinner in every way and not always fleeing temptation but continuing among 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.


So then, brothers and sisters, it is after the God of truth that I address to you an appeal that ye may give heed to these written words, that you may save both yourselves and him who reads an address among you. For as a reward I ask of you repentance with the whole heart, so that you 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 us not, 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 sometimes darkened by vain desires. Let us, therefore, do righteousness, that we may endure to the end. Those who obey these commandments are blessed, although - for a brief space - they may suffer in this present world, yet they will gather the imperishable fruit of the resurrection. But the godly man should not grieve, even if, for the present time, he suffers affliction, how blessed is that future time which awaits us there; rising up to life again with the fathers they will rejoice for ever without any grief at all


But do not even allow it to trouble your mind that we see the unrighteous possessed of riches and the servants of God distressed. 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 of that which is to come. None of the righteous receive fruit speedily, but must wait for it. For if God immediately granted the reward of the righteous, it would be like practising commerce, and not godliness. For it would be as if we were righteous not by following after godliness but only by gain; and for this reason the divine judgment confused the spirit of the unrighteous and heavily weighed the chains of our feet.

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.