St. Clement of Rome was the third Bishop of Rome after St. Peter the Apostle and was himself ordained by St. Peter. The letter called 1 Clement is his sole surviving writing, although there is a second, called 2 Clement, which is attributed to him but which most scholars think was written later, in about AD 140.
St. Clement’s letter, written in approximately AD 95, is addressed to the Corinthian church, where it was long considered to be Scriptural. In his letter, Clement addresses a dispute in the church of Corinth in which several Priests had been deposed by their flock. Clement responds to this dispute by explaining the concept which would later be called “Apostolic Succession;” he commands that the deposed Priests be immediately restored on the grounds that these Priests possessed authority due to their line of succession from the Apostles.
And why is all of this important in a post that’s supposed to be about Sola Scriptura? Because it demonstrates where early Christians believed that authority laid in Christianity — and it was not in “Scripture alone.” Authority resided in the hands of the men who had been appointed by the Apostles to receive this authority and stood in a direct line of succession via ordination by laying-on-of-hands from the Apostles. Here are a couple of quotes from 1 Clement:
“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent by God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God’s will. Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the Bishops and Deacons of future believers.” – 1 Clement 42:1-4
“Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of Bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” – 1 Clement 44:1-2 [emphasis mine in both quotes]
Read the Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians for yourself here.
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