For most evangelicals, The early church consists of the book of Acts, and it picks up in the Reformation, or with Billy Graham, or perhaps when they were born. But Paul, Peter and John had their own disciples, many who died for their faith. They are a rusty treasure of the church.
I begin with Clement. This may very well be the Clement mentioned in Php 4:3. A man who knew Paul and Peter. Clement is identified by Irenaeus as one of the Bishops of Rome. His only surviving work is his letter to the Corinthians. Though we may think the Apostolic Fathers may merely confirm our perception of Scripture, often they challenge it. For instance, see how Clement explores the tension of justification by works and by faith:
“Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord in humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words…does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteousness?…Let our praise be in God, and not ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves Let testimony to our good deeds be born by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers.”
Clement juxtaposes works and words. Clement talks about praising our own works, indicating he is talking about our faith in the presence of others. We are shown justified (in the right) before men by our works, not our words. Though modern evangelists may object, Clement tells us the gospel is confirmed as true, not by our words (logical, apologetic, rational, or whatever our approach) but, as James said, by what we do. But then if we might think our relationship with God is of works, Clement continues:
“[The Levite priests were] great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. We, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to Whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” (Clem XXXII)