The oldest complete Christian sermon outside the New Testament itself is writing often called Second Clement. For those of you who despise Latter-day Saint views on faith, grace, and works (i.e., the idea that we gain access to the full blessings of grace by following Christ, repenting of our sins, keeping His commandments, and enduring in faith to the end), you probably shouldn’t read this (ditto for most of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers – writings from the first couple centuries of Christianity by church leaders who had been influenced directly by the early Apostolic tradition). But for those who enjoy reading good ol’ fashioned “mostly Mormon” doctrine from ancient sources, it’s definitely enjoyable reading. It sounds an awful lot like many modern LDS General Conference talks (though there are some differences, to be fair). Turn on some Tab Choir background music while you read for best results.
Here is one interesting excerpt of many to consider:
And let no one of you say that this very flesh shall not be judged, nor rise again. Consider ye in what state ye were saved, in what ye received sight, if not while ye were in this flesh. We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God. For as ye were called in the flesh, ye 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 healeth us, and give to Him a recompense. 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 are My brethren who do the will of My Father.”
Implicit in the discussion of being in the flesh and resurrecting again in the flesh is the understanding that there is something that is actually in this flesh of ours, namely, our spirit. We follow the pattern of Christ who was originally a spirit and then was clothed with flesh and rose with his flesh. The writer may be treating our original existence as spirits as common knowledge, as did the Apostles when they asked Christ if a certain blind man was born blind because he had sinned before he was born (John 9:1-2).
Faced with judgment for what we do in the flesh, the call is to seek charity, to turn to God, and to repent. Through repentance and doing the will of the Lord, we will be accepted as His children and gain the blessings of eternal life.
A few paragraphs earlier he teaches something similar:
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 honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, 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 being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind.
Let us then practice righteousness that we may be saved unto the end.
If you enjoted Second Clement, be sure to try First Clement and the Didache, and many other early Christian writings. Loads of fun!