The Trinity in Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1-2 The Trinity in the Salvation of Pilgrims

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1Peter 1:1-2)

As with Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, Peter begins his first epistle with a Trinitarian summary of salvation. But it would be a mistake to view 1 Peter 1:1-2 as merely a condensation of Paul’s longer sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14. The two apostles approach the subject from different viewpoints. Paul is concerned with the vertical aspect of Trinitarian salvation: everything is for the praise of God’s glorious grace (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Peter takes the horizontal perspective: what does Trinitarian salvation mean for God’s people?

Salvation means that God’s people are sojourners and exiles (1:1, 17; 2:11) on this earth. God’s people are saved from the condemnation of sin. They are saved from judgment. They are heirs of eternal life. Yet their inheritance is in heaven (1:4), while they remain on earth. God’s people have been left in the world, though they no longer belong to it. So 1 Peter 1:1-2 describe how the grace of God works in the salvation of His people and their life as pilgrims.

The choosing foreknowledge of God the Father is how we became pilgrims. As commentator Peter Davids notes, “The cause of their salvation is not that they reached out to a distant God, but that God chose to relate to them and form them into a people, his people.” If we step back and consider the theologically loaded terms “elect” and “foreknowledge” under the umbrella of grace, we see that salvation could come by no other way than that which Davids summarizes.

A common view of foreknowledge is that God looked down through the ages and saw all those people who would embrace salvation if they were given the chance and then God ordained that they would indeed get the chance and be saved. But how is this grace? “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5-6). If God just saw everyone who would choose him and then he chose them, how is that grace? How is that unmerited favor? For the Father’s election and foreknowledge to be gracious, he must be the initiator, not the responder. Otherwise, he is just giving people what they deserve: and that is not grace.

“Sanctification in the Spirit,” refers to our continued life as pilgrims. Wayne Grudem states, “Peter is saying that his readers’ whole existence as chosen sojourners of the Dispersion is being lived in the realm of the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The unseen, unheard, activity of God’s Holy Spirit surrounds them almost like a spiritual atmosphere in which they live and breathe, turning every circumstance, every sorrow, every hardship into a tool for his patient sanctifying work.” The Holy Spirit is the one working together all things for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. The life of the exile is one of stress and pressure. He does not have the rights of a citizen. He is ostracized from the comfort fellowship and aid of community. He has no feet to stand on; no voice to raise; no vote to be cast. From the Father’s gracious decision to make us exiles, the Holy Spirit graciously uses their hardships of exile to make us more fit for heaven.

“For obedience to Jesus Christ,” is the purpose of our pilgrimage. There is a wonderful freedom of being a pilgrim of heaven; an exile on earth: God’s people are free from the laws of the planet. God’s people are set free from obeying the dictates of popular opinion. God’s people are set free from being slaves to fads. God’s people are wonderfully liberated from the constraints of political correctness. All of the unwritten laws that have so much more real power than any legislation of Congress are made powerless to God’s pilgrims. God’s people are released from the chains of society to obediently serve Jesus Christ.

“For sprinkling with His blood,” is the maintenance of our status as pilgrims. As Alan Stibbs comments, “…the cleansing virtue of Christ’s death is available, and will be needed, until the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Our calling is to obey; but when we fail the atoning blood can still be sprinkled.” Or, from someone with a bit more authority, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The blood of Christ avails to purify us when we fail. He ever lives at His Father’s right hand to intercede on our behalf.

Pilgrim, take heart! You have been set on your course by the gracious choice of the Father. The Holy Spirit broods over your pilgrimage to guide the journey to its appointed end. Jesus Christ, the One who is the goal of the journey, has charted the path and keeps you fit for it. Grace and peace are multiplied beyond measure.

John Calvin on Total Depravity

In commenting on 1 Peter 4:3 Calvin states,

But here a question arises, that Peter seems to have done wrong to many, in making all men guilty of lasciviousness, dissipation, lusts, drunkenness, and revellings; for it is certain that all were not involved in these vices; nay, we know that some among the Gentiles lived honorably and without a spot of infamy. To this I reply, that Peter does not so ascribe these vices to the Gentiles, as though he charged every individual with all these, but that we are by nature inclined to all these evils, and not only so, but that we are so much under the depravity, that these fruits which he mentions necessarily proceed from it as from an evil root. There is indeed no one who has not within him the seed of all vices, but all do not germinate and grow up in every individual.

It has been said before, and said better, but…

Total depravity does not mean that every man always sins.

Total depravity does not mean that every man is as bad as he could be.

Total depravity means that we are hopelessly enslaved to sin and there is nothing within our own power we can do about it.

Total depravity means that our our faculties are corrupted by sin: our thinking, our feeling, our willing, our actions.

Total depravity means that sin reaches to the very core of man’s being so that his only hope is the radical salvation of God in Christ.

Herman Bavinck: The Earth is still at the center of the Universe

In his discussion on the six days of creation, Herman Bavinck concludes with wonderful devotional thoughts on the centrality of earth in the universe:

But we must state the matter sill stronger: even if, in an astronomic sense, the earth is no longer central to us, it is definitely still central in a religious and ethical sense, and thus it remains central to all people without distinction, and there is not a thing science can do to change that. Here the kingdom of God has been established; here the struggle between light and darkness is being waged; here, in the church, God is preparing for himself an eternal dwelling.

The self-loathing of atheistic scientists is perplexing to me. Biologists want us to believe that man is nothing more than monkey 2.0 and astronomers are eager to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Why? Because neither can allow the idea that man is unique. Neither can allow for the idea that this planet does have a purpose. Because if man and this planet have purpose, Someone must have granted it. Man cannot be special because the Bible cannot be true because God cannot exist. So we are evolved primates, hoping there are other evolved life forms out there somewhere.

How gloriously humbling is the teaching of Scripture! Man is the image of God and God is restoring that image in and through the kingdom of his dear Son. Until then, “the whole creation” groans. Even if this planet is not at the center of the universe, it is central to God’s design.

Psalm 21: A song of Praise to the Father for raising His Son

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief,
they will not succeed.
For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.

In keeping with the previous post, and in an attempt to see everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms, I read Psalm 21 as fitting words of praise offered to God on the occasion of the resurrection of Christ.

What was Jesus doing on Saturday after the Crucifixion?

I am thankful for my Dispensational upbringing. I am thankful that I went to a Bible college and seminary where my professors believed the word of God and encouraged their students to pay attention to the text and go where the text leads.

And I believe those very reasons contributed to why I no longer consider myself a dispensationalist. As I have studied, I just have not seen Scripture interpreting itself with all the quirks, limitations, and idiosyncrasies of dispensationalism. Jesus is the point of Scripture: not dispensations, not the church, not Israel. Seeing Jesus as the point of Scripture has been for me like being one of those two on the road to Emmaus. My heart is set aflame as the Scriptures are opened.

I encourage you to seek to make Jesus the point of Scripture. What might that look like?

Psalm 142 begins with the inscription “A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.” We know that Jesus is the Son of David in whom all the promises of God are yes. Taking the apostolic example of taking David’s words and applying them to Jesus (Acts 2:29-31), let us consider reading Psalm 142 as a prayer of David’s great Son from the cave of his tomb. Read these words as the voice of Jesus on Saturday of Holy Week:

A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me;
No refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!
Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.

Praise be to God that he heard the prayer of his Son.

The Love of God and the Cross of Christ

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God’s love is the source, not the consequence of the atonement. As P.T. Forsyth expressed it, ‘the atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace.’ God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. If it is God’s wrath which needed to be propitiated, it is God’s love which did the propitiating.
(John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 174)

On the Passion of the Lord

Whoever you are who approach,
And are entering the threshold of the inner temple,
Stop a little and
Look upon me,
Who, though innocent,
Suffered for your crime;
Lay me up in your mind,
Keep me in your breast.

I am He who, pitying the bitter misfortunes of men,
Came hither as a mediator of offered peace,
And as a full atonement for the fault of men.

Here the brightest light from above is restored to the earth;
Here is the merciful image of salvation;
Here I am a rest to you,
The right way,
The true redemption,
The banner of God,
And the memorable sign of fate.

For your sake and your life
I entered the Virgin’s womb,
I was made man,
I suffered a dreadful death;
I found no rest anywhere in the regions of the earth,
But everywhere threats,
Everywhere labors.

First of all a wretched dwelling in the land of Judea
Was a shelter for me at my birth,
And for my mother with me:
Dry grass spread
In a narrow manger
Among slumbering cattle,
Gave me my first bed.

I passed my earliest years in the land of Pharaohs,
Being an exile from the realm of Herod;
And the remaining years
After my return to Judea
I spent always engaged
In fastings,
The extremity of poverty itself,
The lowest circumstances;
Always by healthful admonitions
Applying the minds of men to the pursuit of loving goodness,
Uniting with wholesome teaching many evident miracles:

On which account impious Jerusalem,
Stirred up
By the raging cares of envy
And cruel hatred,
And blinded by madness,
Dared to seek for me,
Though innocent,
A bloody death
By deadly torments
On the terrible cross.

If you yourself wish to discriminate these things more fully,
If it delights you
To go through all my groanings,
To experience griefs with me,
Put together the designs and plots,
And the impious price of my innocent blood;
The pretended kisses of a disciple,
And the insults and strivings of the cruel multitude;
Moreover, the blows,
And tongues prepared for accusations.

Picture to your mind the witnesses,
And the accursed judgment of the blinded Pilate,
And the immense cross
Pressing my shoulders and wearied back,
And my heavy steps to a dreadful death.

Now behold me,
Deserted as I am,
Gone through the extremes of punishment
Lifted up afar from my beloved mother.
Survey me from head to foot.

Behold and see my locks
Clotted with blood,
My blood-stained neck
Under my very hair,
My head drained
By cruel thorns,

And pouring down like rain
From all sides
A stream of blood
Over my divine face.

Survey my compressed and sightless eyes,
My afflicted cheeks;

See my parched tongue
Poisoned with gall,
My countenance
Pale with death.

Behold my hands
Pierced with nails,
My arms
Drawn out,

The great wound in my side;
See the blood streaming from it,
My punctured feet,
My blood-stained limbs.

Bend your knee,
And with lamentation
Adore the venerable wood of the cross,
And with lowly countenance
Stooping to the earth, which is wet
With innocent blood,
Pour out upon it tears,
And bear me
And my admonitions always
In your devoted heart.

Follow the footsteps of my life,
And while you look upon my torments and cruel death,
Remembering my innumerable pangs
Of body
And soul,
Learn to endure hardships,
and to be vigilant for your own salvation.

These memorials,
If at any time you find pleasure in thinking over them,
(If in your mind there is any confidence to bear anything like my sufferings),
If the piety due, and gratitude worthy of my labors shall arise,
Will be incitements to true virtue,
And they will be shields
Against the snares of an enemy,
Aroused by which you will be safe,
And as a conqueror bear off the palm in every contest.

If these memorials shall turn away your senses
Devoted to a perishable world,
From the fleeting shadow
Of earthly beauty,
The result will be, that you will not venture,
Enticed by empty hope,
To trust the frail enjoyments of fickle fortune,
Or to place your hope in the fleeting years of life.

But, truly, if you thus regard
This perishable world,
And through your love of a better country deprive yourself
Of earthly riches and
The enjoyment of present things,
The prayers of the pious will bring you up
In sacred habits, and
In the hope of a happy life, amidst severe punishments,
Will cherish you with heavenly dew,
And feed you with the sweetness of
The promised good.
Until the great favor of God
Shall recall your happy soul to the heavenly regions,
Your body being left after the fates of death.

Then freed from all labor,
Then joyfully beholding
The angelic choirs,
The blessed companies of saints in perpetual bliss,
You shall reign with me
In the happy abode of perpetual peace.

At one time, this poem was attributed to the Ante-Nicene father, Lactantius (A.D. 260-330). Most scholars, however, have come to see it as a much later composition. The text of this translation is essentially that of William Fletcher found in the Roberts & Donaldson Ante-Nicene Fathers Series. I have altered the text somewhat of my own accord while also using Mary Francis McDonald’s translation from CUA Press’ “The Fathers of the Church” series. I am entirely to blame for the versification.

John 8: A lesson on humility from Jesus

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. (John 8:54-55)

The context of this passage extends back to John 8:12 and Jesus’ assertion that he is the light of the world. The Pharisees immediately object that it is not legal for one to bear witness about himself. As with the entire gospel, this portion is focused on the identity of Jesus. Who is this man? Seven times in verses 12-58 Jesus provocatively uses “I am” to describe himself (8:12, 18, 23 (2x), 24, 28, 58); culminating in the inciting declaration, “Before Abraham was, I am.” At this, his enemies were prepared to commit murder within the temple precincts (8:59).

As Jesus revealed aspects of his true nature, he also gave an important lesson on humility. “If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.”

1. Humility does not avoid conflict at all costs. Humility is not weak-kneed wishy-washy spineless surrender. Here is Jesus, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles at the temple. Certainly discretion alone would dictate that this is not to place to make a scene. While it might be going a bit too far to state that Jesus purposefully instigated the confrontation, calling the Pharisees sons of the devil did little to diffuse the situation. Jesus did not back down from the enemies of God.
2. The humble person does not lie about himself. It would not be humble of Leonardo to say he just liked to doodle; of Shakespeare to say he just got a lucky break; of Einstein to profess having a decent idea or two. There was no “aw shucks, who me?” in Jesus. Indeed, if there were any, he would not have been; he could not have been; who he claimed to be. One cannot claim equality with God one moment, and then back away from such statements the next.
3. The humble person does not lie about others. In these verses Jesus says of the Pharisees: they judge according to the flesh (15); they do not know God (19); they would die in their sin (21); they were from below (23); that his word found no place in them (37); that their father is the devil (44); that they are not of God (47); and that they were liars (55).
4. Humility is not arrogant. Amazingly, even in the midst of radical claims about himself and scathing descriptions of his adversaries, Jesus never comes off as arrogant. How could this be? How could he be so certain of himself and justified in criticizing others, and yet never appear proud, boastful, snobbish?
5. Humility is submissive. Jesus did have a true estimation of himself and who he was: the servant of the Lord. Jesus was sent by the Father (16); witnessed to by the Father (18); declared what the Father said (26); did nothing on his own authority but spoke what the Father taught (28); obeyed the Father (29); honored his Father (49); did not seek his own glory (50); and kept his Father’s word (55). In short, Jesus committed his soul to the One who judges righteously. The right he claimed was the right to speak the truth about himself. Jesus lived in obedience to God: that is humility.

Did the Early Church believe in Evolution or Creation?

…listen to the words I am about to say to you. God, who dwells in the heavens and created out of nothing the things that are, and increased and multiplied them for the sake of his holy church… (The Shepherd of Hermas, I.1)

What would be remarkable if God made the world out of preexistent matter? Even a human artisan, when he obtains material from someone, makes whatever he wishes out of it. Bur the power of God is revealed by his making whatever he wishes out of the nonexistent, just as the ability to give life and motion belongs to no one but God alone. For a man makes an image but cannot give reason or breath or sensation to what he makes, while God has this power greater than his: the ability to make a being that is rational, breathing, and capable of sensation. As in all these instances God is more powerful than man, so he is in his making and having made the existent out of the non-existent’ he made whatever he wished in whatever way he wished. (Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum, II.4)

…God, according to His pleasure, in the exercise of His own will and power, formed all things (so that those things which now are should have an existence) out of what did not previously exist. . . They do not believe that God (being powerful, and rich in all resources) created matter itself, inasmuch as they know not how much a spiritual and divine essence can accomplish. . . . While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point pre-eminently superior to men, that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II, 10)

Now, with regard to this rule of faith – that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend – it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word… (Tertullian, Prescription against Heretics, XIII)

I am fully aware that the contrarian might come along and dispute that these quotes only speak of the initial creation of matter and do not necessarily preclude God using an evolutionary process to guide the progress of creation. They focus on pixels only to ignore the picture.

Theistic evolutionists- whether they hold to the day-age theory, gap theory, literary framework view etc.- wish to impress us with scholarly credentials and argument; the need for cultural relevance; a desire to harmonize, reconcile, correlate science and Scripture. For all of this, they miss the big picture of Scripture:

Elohim is not presented in Genesis 1 as a cosmic sculptor who, in human fashion, with preexisting material, produces a work of art, but as One who merely by speaking, by uttering a word of power, calls all things into being. And with that view the whole of Scripture chimes in. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, II, p. 417)

You do not have to be a narrow-minded, literalistic, simpleton to read the Bible and come away with the impression that God instantaneously created all things out of nothing by his powerful word. In fact, you have to fight against the Scripture to come away with any other impression.

Herman Bavinck on the Apalling Reality of Calvinism

The difference between Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin or Castellio, Gomarus and Arminius, is not that the latter were that much more gentle, loving, and tenderhearted than the former. On the contrary, it arises from the fact that the former accepted Scripture in its entirety, also including this doctrine [of reprobation]; that they were and always wanted to be theistic and recognize the will and hand of the Lord also in these disturbing facts of life; that they were not afraid to look reality in the eye even when it was appalling. Pelagianism scatters flowers over graves, turns death into an angel, regards sin as mere weakness, lectures on the uses of adversity, and considers this the best possible world. Calvinism has no use for such drivel. It refuses to be hoodwinked. It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords, and humbly bows in adoration before the inexplicable sovereign will of God Almighty. As a result it proves to be fundamentally more merciful than Pelagianism. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, II, p. 394)

Two of the names Bavinck mentioned were unfamiliar to me. Here is what I found about them:

Sebastian Castellio– Castellio worked under Calvin in Geneva for several years. Castellio opposed the execution of heretics and wrote a work endorsing the freedom of conscience, limited government, and separation of church and state. From the little I have been able to find out about him, I find Bavinck’s reference a bit curious.

Francis Gomarus– Today we speak of Calvinism and Arminianism in a way that leads some to think John Calvin and James Arminius opposed each other. Such was not the case. Calvin died when Arminius was 4 years old- so the two obviously never met. It was actually Gomarus who opposed Arminius and the teaching that man cooperated with God in his salvation. It was the controversy between Gomarus and Arminius that led to the Synod of Dort in 1618 and the classic statement of the “5 points of Calvinism”— nearly 55 years after Calvin’s death.