Studies in 2 Peter: 2 Peter 1:1-4 The Gracious Gifts of God

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV)

Peter begins his second epistle at the best place to begin: with God. In these four introductory verses, Peter focuses our attention on the gracious nature of our giving God. As we enter into the study of this letter we are to concentrate on three foundational gifts of God.

First, we have obtained faith by the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is God and Savior.[1] Believers have been given faith- it is not something they worked up from within themselves (Eph. 2:8-9). They did not obtain faith through their own efforts or strength, but through God’s favor alone (Calvin). This faith has fallen to believers by the righteousness of Christ who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

Secondly, believers are given everything they need for life and godliness. Believers have not just been given new life, but are given everything they need to sustain this new life. Often this verse is used to teach dependence upon Scripture: this is an unfortunate leap.

Knowledge is an important theme in 2 Peter. Already in verse 2 the apostle states that grace and peace are multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and Jesus. In verse 3, we find everything we need for life and godliness in the knowledge of God. Knowledge is to be added to our faith to prevent us from becoming ineffective, unfruitful, nearsighted, and blind (1:5-9). Peter wrote this letter to keep certain things in the mind of believers (1:12, 13, 15). He is not a propagator of myth, but of knowable truth (1:16). Believers must know the true nature of Scripture in order to stand against irrational false teachers who forsake what they once knew to be true (1:20; 2:12, 21). While these false teachers are deliberately ignorant of the judgment of God, believers must not be ignorant of the patience of God (3:5, 8). Knowing the destiny of all creation (3:17) and that God knows how to deliver the righteous (2:9) arms the believer to grow into even greater grace and knowledge of Jesus our Lord and Savior (3:18).

Scripture is obviously an indispensible element in our knowledge of God: Peter teaches as much in 1:19-21. Yet we must be careful to say what the Holy Spirit says and not what we think preaches better. Peter does not say we have been given everything we need for life and godliness in Scripture. Everything we need for life and godliness comes from knowing the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. It is not from knowing data, even inspired and inerrant data, that we find everything we need for life and godliness. We find everything in knowing a person. Eternal life does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing God and Christ (John 17:3). Godliness does not come from knowing Scripture, but from knowing Jesus in his death and resurrection (Phil. 3:8-12).

It is all well and good to say that God is not known apart from Scripture. That is true. But when we say everything we need for life and godliness is in Scripture, we can miss knowing the God of Scripture. Biblical faith and biblical knowledge are not primarily intellectual in nature but are primarily personal in nature.

Thirdly, believers have been given precious and very great promises. By “very great” Peter is not speaking of the amount of promises, but their value (cf. NASB “precious and magnificent promises”). The promises Peter explicitly are those centering on God’s promise of the return of Jesus and the renewal of creation (2 Peter 3:4, 9, 13). How is it that through the promises of God we share in his nature and escape the corruption of sin? Peter answers that question in 3:11, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?” Living in the light and knowledge of God’s promise to send his Son to punish wickedness and reward righteousness; to destroy that which is corrupted by sin and replace it with that which is perfect; motivates the believer to let go of the things of the world and pursue the things of the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells (3:13, cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3).

In these four verses Peter outlines how the gifts of God encompass the entirety of a believer’s existence. God has granted us faith- the genesis of eternal life. God has granted us everything for life and godliness- the sustaining of eternal life. God has given us precious and magnificent promises- carrying us through to the enjoyment of eternal life.

[1] It is debated among some whether or not the phrase “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” attributes deity to Jesus. There is nothing textually that indicates Peter might mean anything else. Any refusal to acknowledge that this text calls Jesus “God” is not textually, grammatically, or contextually based: it is prejudicially based. As Charles Bigg comments, “If the author intended to distinguish two persons, he has expressed himself with singular inaccuracy.” 2 Peter 1:1 identifies Jesus as God.

Lloyd Jones on our inability to know God completely

Scripture itself, it seems to me—I say it with reverence—does not attempt to give us an adequate conception of the Being of God? Why? Because of the glory of God. Our terms are so inadequate, and our minds are so small and finite, that there is a danger in any attempt at a description of God and His glory. (D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 113)

Exodus 15:11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

1Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

Psalm 89:6 For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,

Psalm 113:5-6 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

Isaiah 40:18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?

Isaiah 40:25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.

Isaiah 46:5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?

Jer 10:6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 10. Also addressing the question, “Why was Jesus Baptized?”

Acts 10 contains the account of the gospel’s entrance to the Gentile world. As with the birth of the church, and the spread of the gospel to Samaria, this event is explicitly Trinitarian. The apostle to the Jews, Peter, took some convincing, but was eventually persuaded of the truth that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35). To demonstrate his persuasion, Peter begins his address to Cornelius with the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism:

you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:37-38

As all four gospel writers record, at the baptism of Jesus all three persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously. As Augustine comments, “For we behold and see as it were in a divine spectacle exhibited to us, the notice of our God in Trinity, conveyed to us at the river Jordan. For when Jesus came and was baptized by John, the Lord by His servant . . . the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a Dove: and then a Voice from on high followed, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ Here then we have the Trinity in a certain way distinguished.”

But whereas every heretic has his text, here (the Trinity at Christ’s baptism) is one. The Gnostics, and others, would teach that at this time “the Spirit of the Christ” descended upon the man Jesus and he became, as it were, God’s Son. This teaching ignores at least two important pieces of information. First, Matthew and Luke are clear that the Spirit was intimately involved in the life of Jesus from his very conception (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35); Jesus and the Spirit were not introduced to each other at Jordan. Secondly, it ignores what the Bible does teach about the Spirit and Messiah.

At the baptism of Jesus the Father declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Commentators are in general agreement that this statement is a combination of Psalm 2:7 (The LORD said to me, You are my Son…) and Isaiah 42:1 (…my chosen, in whom my soul delights). In this brief statement is the seed of identifying who Jesus was: he was the righteous king to rule all nations (Psalm 2) and the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42).

Isaiah 42 is one of several in Isaiah that highlight the role of the Spirit in the life of the Messiah: others are Isaiah 11 and 61.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Isaiah 42:1-4

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. Isaiah 11:1-5

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor… Isaiah 61:1-2

According to the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah would be one who powerfully demonstrated the mighty work of the Holy Spirit. This work would be preeminently seen in the Messiah’s advocacy of the poor, the weak, the helpless and the hopeless. But so deep is the Messiah’s compassion, so healing is his mercy, so great is his goodness, that the Messiah embraces the outcasts of the world—the nations, the earth and coastlands.

We must acknowledge that Peter recognized the import of the intertextuality between the event of Jesus’ baptism—specifically the voice of the Father—and the Scripture in Isaiah. Peter recognizes the power that Jesus received from the Spirit for accomplishing the fulfillment of Scripture for he immediately says, “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Yet his larger point is indeed the fact that this singles Jesus out not as some mere Jewish superhero, but as the Messiah for “every nation.” The manifestation of the Trinity at the inception of Jesus’ ministry forms the basis for the Trinitarian commission given at the end of it.

To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Acts 10:43; Matthew 28:19-20

The creation of the church was not a knee-jerk reaction of the Trinity to Christ’s rejection by the Jews. From before the foundation of the world God had intended to call out from every nation, tribe, people, and language, a multitude washed in the blood of the Lamb over whom he would crown his Spirit-anointed Son King of kings and Lord of lords forever. The church is no plan B—no parenthesis in God’s outworking of history.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that the Trinity appears at the conclusion of Peter’s address and gives the benediction by thrusting open the doors of the church to all who will come in:

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:44-48

(By the way…did you notice the Trinity in each of the three passages from Isaiah?)

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 8. The Trinity, Simon Magus, and the Apostolic Church

In Acts 8 we have a rather perplexing account of the work of the Trinity in the salvation of Samarians and the salvation, or perdition, of Simon the sorcerer.

As a result of the persecution ignited at Stephen’s martyrdom, the church in Jerusalem was scattered. I know there is a latent tendency in some to always assume the worst, and so I have heard that God used persecution to move these Christians into obeying the Great Commission. I have my doubts as to whether this was really the case. If the believers were that lackadaisical why not just deny Christ, or not confess him openly, and return to synagogue worship? That would have been a lot easier than fleeing home. In any event, God did use the persecution to accomplish the spread of the gospel.

Philip went down from Jerusalem, north to Samaria. His ministry is summarized in Acts 8:5 & 12:

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. . . . they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Special attention is given to the magician named Simon. Simon’s prominence in the community is given in 8:9-11: “But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.”

Of note is the qualifying statement in verse 9, “previously practiced magic.” What would cause the most popular guy in town to give up the source of his popularity? Apparently Simon was included in the number of those who believed. The evidences of his salvation are pretty compelling. First we have the statement of Scripture itself in 8:13, “Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.” As if the statement he believed was not sufficient, Acts 8:9-13 tells us that Simon gave up the sin that characterized his unbelief (8:9); that he was baptized (8:13); and that he continued to receive instruction from Philip (8:13). Any pastor would be happy to receive Simon into church membership.

But something, rather Someone, is missing in the account of the gospel’s spread to Samaria.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:14-17

In all of the great people movements for salvation seen so far in the book of Acts, the work of the Trinity was explicit. But even after the people of Samaria received the good news of the kingdom of God and salvation in the name of Jesus Christ, they did not have the Holy Spirit. It was not until the apostles Peter and John came and prayed for the Spirit’s coming that He actually did so.

The coming of the Spirit must have been wondrously evident, for Simon, no stranger to the fantastic, was taken aback. “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’” (8:18-19). And suddenly, our certainty about Simon begins to crumble.

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Acts 8:20-24

From showing all the signs of a true work of God in the heart, we are suddenly presented with the possibility that not only is Simon not saved, but that salvation might be impossible for him. What else are we to make of Peter’s statement, “pray to the Lord, that if possible…” It appears as if Simon is on the verge of committing the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit himself leaves the matter up in air: Scripture never tells us what became of Simon. (Tradition, on the other hand, presents Simon as the arch-heretic. See Justin’s Apology I.26.)

While speculation for either proposition could be made, it is always the best course to pay the closest heed to what Scripture does say and to not be overly concerned with what it does not say. What do we know from this mysterious account in Acts 8?

We are reminded again that salvation is a work of the Trinity. In all the pondering about Simon’s spiritual state after the apostolic visit it is easy to lose sight of the fact that none of the Samaritans were saved before that visit. They responded to God and Christ, but had nothing of the Spirit. Their salvation was incomplete, hence, non-existent. Acts 8 teaches us that no one is saved apart from the Trinity. Does a sinner have to believe in the Trinity, confess allegiance to the Athanasian Creed, to be saved? No, but someone who is saved will soon believe what the Creed teaches because he will have experienced the work of the Trinity in his salvation. Salvation is necessarily Trinitarian.

Secondly, and more controversially, we see that salvation does not occur outside of the apostolic church. Phrases like, “he who does not have the church for his mother has not God for his Father;” and “outside the church there is no salvation” are not found in Scripture. Yet the spirit of those statements is found in texts like Acts 8. Until the apostles Peter and John came, the people in Samaria were not saved members of the church. The church is Christ’s body, and the Spirit of God places believers into Christ’s body. If these people had not received the Spirit, what reason is there to believe they had received the work of the Spirit? If they had not received the work of the Spirit, what reason is there to believe they had received the result of that work? The “believers” in Samaria were not converts until the apostles “laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

This passage does not so much teach apostolic succession as it does apostolic continuation. The household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The foundation, or boundary, is determined. Anything outside of that bound is not God’s house.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 5

In Acts 5:1-11 we have the account of Ananias and Sapphira.  As previously alluded to, this is an important text for demonstrating truths about the Holy Spirit:  first, that he is God (Acts 5:3-4).  Secondly, the passage forms part of the evidence for his personality—as opposed to the view that the Holy Spirit is just some sort of force, energy, etc.  The support for his personality is based upon the fact that he can be lied to.  You can lie about things, but it is not really possible to lie to a thing.

But the passage also demonstrates one of the difficulties facing Trinitarian study.  In Peter’s examinations of the wayward couple he speaks of their lying to the Holy Spirit (5:3); lying to God (5:4); and testing the Spirit of the Lord (5:9).  So we have reference to Holy Spirit, God, and Spirit of the Lord.  I think Peter is speaking of the Holy Spirit in all three.  But perhaps one might say God refers to the Father and Spirit of the Lord is another way of saying Spirit of Christ—a title Peter does use in 1 Peter 1:11.  In either case, we see the fluidity of terminology applied to the Trinity.  I am trying to be attentive in searching the Scripture for Trinitarian references:  attentive, but conservative.  So I do not see a reference to the Trinity in Acts 5:1-11; though I suppose it is possible some others might see it.

Acts 5 does contain a clear reference to the Trinity though:

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”  Acts 5:29-32

After yet another arrest and a miraculous release from prison, Peter and John are corralled again by the religious authorities and scolded for their audacity to preach in the name of Jesus (5:28).  Peter’s response is typically Trinitarian.  I say that because it seems every time Peter opens his mouth in the book of Acts he speaks of the Trinity.

Why would the apostles continue to preach in the name of Jesus while under the threat of imprisonment and even death?  Peter’s answer is powerful: because that is what the Trinity has done and is doing.  The Father resurrected and exalted the Son so people would repent and find forgiveness.  The Holy Spirit is witnessing to these things: both autonomously and through the followers of Christ that have obeyed the Father’s call to faith.   The Trinity is intimately, individually, and indissolubly pledged to the salvation of a people.  How can that people do anything else than proclaim the work of salvation the Trinity has accomplished, is accomplishing, and will accomplish?

Believers should be reminded of Mathew (28:18-20) and Luke’s (Acts 1:6-8) account of the Great Commission.  Both are deliberately Trinitarian.  We proclaim salvation to the nations because of the Father’s exaltation of the Son and the Spirit’s witness to the Son.  This is the work of the Trinity.  We joyfully join in their work.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 4

Acts chapter 4 continues the account of the fallout resulting from Peter and John pronouncing healing upon a lame beggar at the temple gate.  Now, the religious and civil authority shows up:  not usually the indication of coming mirth.  Quickly sought to squelch the happenings and arrested said apostles.  Not, it should be noted, before 5,000 souls had believed the word.  The next day, Peter and John were brought before the Jews to give an account of the uproar they caused.  Peter’s answer contains the first Trinitarian reference in the chapter:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   Acts 4:8-12

In this passage we see the promise of Jesus recorded in Acts 1:8 being fulfilled.  The Son had promised that the Holy Spirit would grant power to be witnesses in Jerusalem and now he was doing just that.  The Holy Spirit gives boldness to the once frightened fisherman to proclaim to the very ones who arrested and handed over the Lord that God had raised Jesus and was now saving men through him.  The Holy Spirit provides power to proclaim the power of God in choosing and exalting Christ as Savior of the all men.  And we will shortly see that the Spirit had been at this for quite some time!

The Jewish leaders, as was their custom, were too afraid of the crowds to do what they really wanted to do to Peter and John:  so they simply gave them some threats and sent them on their way.  Peter and John returned to their friends who lifted their voices in a prayer of praise which included a Trinitarian citation of the Old Testament:

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed‘–   Acts 4:24-26

This is not quite along the same lines of the earlier citation of Joel 2 since Joel contains in the text itself what can seen as a reference to each member of the Trinity.  Psalm 2 contains extensive explicit references to the Father and Son, but nowhere mentions the Spirit of the Lord.  But here again, just as in 1 & 2 Peter, we are reminded that whatever is recorded in Scripture is regarded as the work of the Holy Spirit breathing out God’s words.  Psalm 2 is a sermon of the Holy Spirit urging mankind to be reconciled to the Father through the Son.

Luke closes out the account of this episode by writing, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

From what we know in Acts already, it seems safe to propose the “word of God” they spoke upon being “filled with the Holy Spirit” was the same word preached already in chapters 2, 3, and 4—the word regarding the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 1

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:1-5

In the preface to Acts, there are two complete references to the Trinity the first in verses 1-3 and the second in verses 4-5. In both references Jesus is seen as a teacher, a communicator of God’s truth. In verse two we are told that Jesus gave commands “through the Holy Spirit.” So while Jesus was the teacher, he was doing so in the power of the Holy Spirit– that is how I understand the “through.” While the subject matter Jesus was the “kingdom of God.” I have a slight quibble with Calvin who asserts quite strongly (as is his wont) that whenever God is used without qualification Scripture is referring to the Trinity. I tend to believe that in the New Testament “God” usually refers to the Father and “Lord” to the Son. So the Son, relying on the ability the Holy Spirit provided, spent the forty days between his resurrection and ascension teaching on the kingdom of the Father– the kingdom he himself was anointed ruler of.

In verses 4-5 Jesus is again presented as something of a teacher– though more of an instructor than informer. Jesus ordered the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. The promise of the Father was the Holy Spirit. So as the Son returned to the Father, he ordered his follower to wait for one who would come from the Father: the Holy Spirit.

In these two cases, the Holy Spirit is seen as the one who empowered the ministry of Jesus and the one who replaces Jesus as the manifest presence of God on earth. The Father is seen as the one to whom and from whom things belong. The kingdom is God’s. The promise is the Father’s. Jesus is the communicator– the Word to borrow from John. The Son teaches. The Son commands.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:6-8

Luke wastes little time in offering another reference to the Trinity. The disciples, as was their habit, seemed to miss the point of Jesus teaching on the kingdom of God, and inquired about the kingdom to Israel. Once again, the Father is portrayed as the one with authority. It is the Father who has fixed the times and seasons– they are progressing toward his appointed purpose. Once again the Holy Spirit is the one who provides power, or ability, to accomplish God’s purpose. Though here, the Holy Spirit is the source of power for the disciples instead of Jesus. So there is a transition in the role of the Son. No longer is he the teacher; instead he is now the one witnessed to. It is the Father’s will that the message concerning the Son be carried throughout the world. This task is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

These three references to the Trinity in Acts 1 offer strong consolation to the believer. God’s kingdom will come. The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples will be answered. We are assured of this because it is the Father who has all authority over times and seasons. He will accomplish his purpose. Our charge is to preach Jesus to the end of the earth. He have no confidence in ourselves to accomplish such a task but our hope is in the promised gift of the Father to empower us for this great task. The same Holy Spirit who strengthened and led Jesus has been poured out upon Christ’s followers. We draw strength and confidence from the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Clement of Rome on Scripture–Introduction

It is generally held that Clement of Rome wrote his epistle to the Corinthians around A.D. 95. Some believe he is the same Clement mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3. A concise introduction and background can be found here.

In chapter 45, Clement writes,

“Be ye contentious, brethren, and jealous about the things that pertain unto salvation. Ye have searched the scriptures, which are true, which were given through the Holy Ghost; and ye know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them.”

How does this contribute to the formulation of Patristic doctrine of Scripture? What is Clement ascribing to Scripture, and what is he not ascribing to Scripture? Some particular issues to consider:

1. What does Clement consider Scripture to be? If traditional dates are accepted for both, Clement almost certainly did not have the last of John’s writings. He could not have been thinking of a closed New Testament canon. Aside from a canon, however, what might Clement have thought of individual NT books available to him?

2. What is the import of Scripture “given through the Holy Ghost”? How compatible is such a statement with NT passages like Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; Hebrews 3:7-11; and 2 Peter 1:21?

3. What weight should be given to the phrases “the scriptures, which are true;” and “nothing unrighteous or counterfeit.”? We cannot expect Clement, or any of the Fathers, to use the shibboleth “inerrant.” But could Clement believe such a thing without using the term?

In succeeding posts I will seek to approach an answer to these questions. This will be attempted by:

1. Noting Clement’s citations of Scripture. What does he call Scripture?

2. What import does Clement give to the words he cites?

3. How does being sourced in the Holy Spirit impact his view of Scripture?

(The English translation quoted from is J.B. Lightfoot’s. The Roberts & Donaldson translation is available here.)