Thursday, January 24, 2013

Polycarp 12 - The Privilege of the Scriptures

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Polycarp reminds the Philippian church to be remember the scriptures when faced with adversity.

"For I trust that ye are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, 'Be ye angry, and sin not,' and, 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.' Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you." (Polycarp 12)
It is unclear exactly what he means by the privilege "not yet granted" to him. My guess is that he is referring to the persecution that was occurring in the Philippian church and their privilege of taking their stand against it by the scriptures; "be angry and sin not," a persecution and a privilege that he was not presently experiencing.

Polycarp begins by acknowledging the importance of us being "well versed" in the scriptures. Here, specifically, Polycarp was referring to what we would call the Old Testament as it would be several hundred years before the writings and memoirs of the Apostles would be called "scripture." Paul also wrote of our need for the scriptures, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. " (1 Corinthians 10:11) and of the benefit the scriptures bring to our lives, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The role and benefit of the scriptures goes so much further beyond the simple formation of church dogma; it gives us wisdom and strength to live our lives and to overcome any adversity. John writes of the young men and women in the faith saying, "and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:14) I think there is a direct correlation between our working knowledge of the scriptures and our ability to overcome evil. We must all be "well versed" in the scriptures!

Polycarp continues by exhorting us to "Pray for all the saints." (Polycarp 12), but what should we pray for each other?
"But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, longsuffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who 'raised Him from the dead.' " (Polycarp 12)
He also exhorts us to pray for those in authority and for those who persecute us.
"Pray also for kings, and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that ye may be perfect in Him." (Polycarp 12)
The fruit he is referring to is the fruit of meekness, patience, and peace in the face of any adversity. Prayer and the Word of God, that is Polycarp's remedy for anything that might face us. It does not get any simpler than that.

David Robison

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