Tag Archives: stanley grenz

God is Love (Grounds for the Trinity)

Tertullian (c. 160-220 AD) is officially given credit for coining the term “Trinity” to refer to the triune nature of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

The Biblical text, specifically the NT, references the Father, Son, and Spirit in about 120 different passages (e.g. Matt 28:18-20; Jn 14-17; Acts 2:32-33, etc.), though not all references use the three together.

While “Trinity” is not actually used in the Scripture, all orthodox Christian traditions have accepted the term as a sufficient way of describing the three-in-one relationship of God, including my own denomination, the MCUSA.

Those that don’t embrace Trinitarian theology are Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, Christian Scientists, etc. According to orthodoxy, these so-called “Christian” groups are heretical (or cultic) for being anti-Trinitarian, and for other reasons related to Christology.

The Trinity Revealed by Jesus & the Apostles

I’ve heard skeptics and YouTube atheists claim that Constantine is responsible for belief in the Trinity, and for it becoming the orthodox position. Is this true?

It’s true that the Trinity was further articulated and defended by folks like Athanasius at the Council of Nicaea in the 4th century, but it was by no means an “invented” doctrine of the church. Constantine’s concern was merely for the bishops to settle the theological dispute brought on by Arianism. Yes, he did want unity in his new empire, but the imperial decision was for Christendom’s growing hold on the world, it was nothing new for Christian theology.

On the contrary, Polycarp (69-155 AD), bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the apostle John, expressed Trinitarian belief when he wrote the following:

“O Lord God almighty… I bless you and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with Him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever” (n. 14, ed. Funk; PG 5.1040).

The ante-Nicene church fathers used Trinitarian language unambiguously in their writings. This includes Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Origen. And as previously stated, it was Tertullian in the late second century that identified the communal concept of God as “Trinity” to capture his essence.

Therefore, the Nicene Creed reflects the earliest Christian confession about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dating back to Jesus and the apostles themselves.

The Trinity as Christian Dogma

Despite the mysterious complexity of the Trinity, orthodox Christianity has considered it dogma since the very beginning. The one true God is triune. In other words, there is no room for “variance” or disagreement.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) once quipped, “If you try to understand the Trinity, you will lose your mind. If you deny the Trinity you will lose your soul.”

While I personally believe that folks can trip up on this doctrine and still know the salvation God offers in Jesus, I understand Augustine’s primary point to be this: The Trinity is a non-negotiable biblical truth.

In Theology for the Community of God (p.53), Stanley Grenz wrote:

“Of the various aspects of our Christian understanding of God perhaps none is as difficult to grasp as the concept of God as triune. At the same time, no dimension of the Christian confession is closer to the heart of the mystery of the God we have come to know. In fact, what sets Christianity apart from the other religious traditions is the confession that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit. As a consequence, no teaching lies at the center of Christian theology, if not of Christian faith itself, as does the doctrine of the Trinity.”

So, Augustine is right about the Trinity being a non-negotiable element of our faith. However, I’m certain that much about the triune God can be understood, and should be understood for faith and practice. And many trusted theologians throughout church history have offered helpful insights.

The Foundation for Belief in a Triune God

One of the most logical and practical insights into the triune God begins with the universally celebrated Christian confession: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). OK, how can we know that? More specifically, why does John believe it?

Listen to his answer: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world…” (1 Jn 4:9a NIV). John is saying that “God is love” and we can know it because Jesus has revealed God in all of his fullness!

Robert Barron, Catholic thinker and practitioner, says, “Love isn’t just something God does, it’s who God is.”  Think about that.

I believe after serious reflection, our confession that “God is love” can be recognized as the very foundation by which the apostles believed in the triune God. And from this God comes our understanding of the church in his image.

Listen to Barron explain how confessing “God is love” makes a triune God necessary and coherent for a truly liberating and practical theology.

What do you think of Barron’s explanation of God as lover (Father), the beloved (Son), and the love (Spirit) shared between them? How else does the Trinity matter for Christian belief and practice?

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

For further study, see my article: Trinity & Incarnation: Finding a Biblical Christology Within a Trinitarian Monotheism (2011).

Suggested Reading:

  • Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz (pgs. 53-95)
  • The Trinity & the Kingdom by Jürgen Moltmann
  • After Our Likeness: The Church as Image of the Trinity by Miroslav Volf
  • God in New Testament Theology by Larry Hurtado (pgs. 27-47)
  • A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology by Thomas Finger (pgs. 423-464)

Talking to Jesus on the Back Porch

Have you ever struggled with prayer? You may not be quiet as analytical as I have been with prayer, but maybe you have at some point wrestled with the purpose and the practice of it—even doubted its power to make any difference at all.

Let’s be honest. Prayer is a mysterious thing. But even those of us who are willing to embrace mystery often stumble over deterministic theology (everything is already settled), well-meaning sermons on prayer that only brought the ceiling closer to you, and marque slogans like “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes you.” It’s enough to make you want to become a Buddhist.

About 6 or 7 years ago I entered into a new understanding of my identity in Christ. I had recently come out of vocational ministry and was burdened down with a work-centered faith. In many ways I suppose it was like hitting the reset button on all the things I thought I knew about Jesus, the church, my identity, and prayer. I needed it. Ever felt like that before?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, Matthew 11:28

If you want to experience the Lord afresh in intimate fellowship with the Father by way Jesus, then I think it’s necessary to see prayer as a way of resting in the Spirit. It’s amazing how often you can do this throughout the day if you’re intentional about it. Prayer requires intentionality.

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Jesus, Matthew 6:6

While we’re told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), it would be wise to listen to Jesus talk about prayer as a personal retreat. The intimate times with the Lord enable us to pray continually from a renewed identity with sensitivity toward the Spirit.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Ever find yourself saying, “Was that you, Lord?” Maybe you’ve wondered, “Was that my thoughts, or was God speaking?” I’m willing to bet that you’ve been there before. We’ve all been there.

A few years ago I decided to make an intentional effort to move out of the “roaming” mode of prayer—that place where I’m skeptical about hearing from the Lord—like a bad connection. I became convinced that God speaks to us through our thoughts into our spirit.

When I finally let go of this paranoia and unhelpful skepticism, knowing that I certainly wasn’t having a conversation with myself, I then began to experience intimate moments with the Lord, and much more frequently.

I simply trusted that the Lord was listening, and that he always desires to speak to me. He is closer than a brother (Prov 18:24).

Meeting Jesus Around a Campfire

If I have a place to “go away” by myself and “shut the door” (so to speak), it’s my back porch. Over my fence looms a forest of pine trees. I enjoy creation around me as I sit next to my cast iron chimenea (Mexican-styled fire pit) at dusk. A cup of hot tea or coffee aids in relaxation.

I enter into a place of solitude within my soul, opening myself up to the Lord, as I stare into the fire and close my eyes… waiting… expecting.

I imagine the Lord there with me, I see him just as I might see the face of a loved one. The real difference is that I’m not simply visualizing or remembering. I’m creatively imagining for the sake of conversing with a real person. I’m not talking about delusions of grandeur here.

Since I haven’t seen Jesus with my own eyes, not yet anyway, I borrow the face of Christ played by Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ (2004). That may seem strange at first, but it’s perfectly safe and effective.

The first time I did this I imagined myself on a beach at dusk. I saw the Lord’s face through the fire as if he’s sitting across from me. Within myself I said, “Lord.” He looked at me and began speaking with, “My son, I love you.” Those are usually the first words I hear him speak to me in prayer.

While my mind often races and seeks to be interrupted by intruding thoughts or slip into “roaming” mode, I resist the distraction and focus on the Lord—remaining in the moment as long as I can.

If I will stay open to the Lord and allow my imagination to move freely with the Spirit, I have found that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a rush of words from Christ, who is the embodiment of the Father.

Jesus Wants to Get Personal

“Though most believers are comfortable speaking of a ‘personal relationship with Jesus,’ few concepts are so greatly celebrated and little experienced.” Wayne Jacobson

I feel that I’ve only begun to experience Jesus in a fresh way. I’m what you would call an aspiring Christian mystic. What I hope to inspire with this post is a courage to try a method of prayer that treats the Lord as a real person, and a dialogue between two beings. Don’t pray like the hypocrites.

What’s keeping you from a fulfilling prayer life? Where’s your back porch? Does your prayer life suffer because of bad theology? What about your ability to creatively imagine the Lord being present in your life?

Give it a try. Take some deep breaths, close your eyes, and see the Lord there before you in the power of a disciplined imagination.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

For more on prayer, see the following books:


Trinity & Incarnation

Finding a Biblical Christology Within a Trinitarian Monotheism

Tertullian (c. 160-220 AD) is officially given credit for coining the term “Trinity” to refer to the triune nature of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).[1] The term itself is nowhere used in the Biblical text, but the majority of Christian traditions have accepted “Trinity” as a sufficient way of describing the three-in-one relationship of God.

The Biblical text, specifically the NT, references the Father, Son, and Spirit in about 120 different passages (e.g. Matt 28:18-20; Jn 14-17; Acts 2, etc.).[2] Jesus of Nazareth began a fringe movement within a strict monotheistic Second Temple Judaism that would in time overtake the entire Roman Empire.

In the beginning, Christ’s claims to divinity set forth an early “binitarian devotional pattern” which revealed a plurality within the one God.[3] The doctrine of the Trinity would eventually arise during the patristic age in an effort to accommodate the lordship of Jesus and the experience of the Holy Spirit into a Trinitarian monotheism.

Larry Hurtado makes the following observation:

It may not be sufficiently recognized by historians of dogma or contemporary theologians that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is essentially a christologically shaped statement of monotheism. To be sure, the earliest Christian texts reflect a triadic experience of “God,” comprising the sense of “God” (“Father”) as the source and ultimate destination of all things, Jesus as the essential and unique agent of divine purposes through whom creation is now to be seen and through whom also redemption is provided, and the Spirit is the impartation and gift of “God” that is at the same time also the advocate and medium through which believers receive a filial status that derives from Jesus’ own unique divine sonship. So, if it is a bit anachronistic to speak of “trinitarian” theology in the NT, it is right to see the roots of this doctrinal development in this body of texts.[4]

Questions of Jesus’ relationship to God within a Trinitarian monotheism, while being the very God-man himself, naturally leads the student to consider the incarnation of Christ—the divine and human natures of Jesus. How can both natures coexist in one person? How can Jesus be fully God and fully man at the same time?

In pursuit of discovering the truth about the real identity of Jesus, the scholar must ask: “Can the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history be held together?” Millard Erickson concludes: “Since the Jesus of history is approached through reason and the kerygmatic Christ is seized by faith, we are apparently dealing with a case of the classic faith-reason dichotomy.”[5]

The kerygmatic Christ and the historical Jesus are the same person. Therefore, faith in the divine Christ does not exclude the use of reason, it makes it necessary.

In his Theology for the Community of God, Stanley Grenz writes:

Of the various aspects of our Christian understanding of God perhaps none is as difficult to grasp as the concept of God as triune. At the same time, no dimension of the Christian confession is closer to the heart of the mystery of the God we have come to know. In fact, what sets Christianity apart from the other religious traditions is the confession that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit. As a consequence, no teaching lies at the center of Christian theology, if not of Christian faith itself, as does the doctrine of the Trinity.[6]

There are several historical traditions that have sought to make sense of Trinity and the incarnation of God in Christ. The purpose of this paper is to take a defendable position on the Trinity and incarnation by: (1) giving a brief critical examination of each major historical Trinitarian formulation, (2) surveying and critiquing the historical development of incarnational Christology, (3) constructing a Biblical theology that is sensitive to the Biblical texts in their original context.

This paper will conclude with a challenge to remain committed to a practical Trinitarian monotheism and faithful to a functional Christology that is rooted in the Scripture.

HISTORICAL TRINITARIAN CONSTRUCTIONS

The Eastern Orthodox Formulation

The two most historic of traditions are the Eastern Orthodox and Western views. Both of these formulations were largely constructed in response to the Arian controversy.

Arius, a deacon in the Alexandrian church, taught that the Son was the first creation of the Father. He said that God “beget” Jesus—the Father made the Son. Therefore, Arianism stated that Christ was not co-eternal with God.

Arius’ teaching was especially concerning because of the way in which he argued from the Scripture and Greek philosophy to make his case. Arius was opposed by the theologian Athanasius at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325.

The church unequivocally affirmed the NT and the full divinity of Christ.

Arianism was denounced as a heresy and Arius himself was banished as a heretic. In the Nicean Creed, the council asserted that the Son is “begotten of the Father, of the substance of the Father, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father.”[7]

Tertullian used the Latin phrase tres personae, una substantia (“three persons, one substance”) to describe the Trinity, which the Cappadocian fathers would later refine to produce the classic formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in order to avoid tritheism and modalism.

Tertullian and the church historian Eusebius are remembered as promoters of the Eastern Orthodox view. This view is heavily rooted in Greek philosophical (Stoic Logos) thought of the second and third centuries. Proponents of the Orthodox tradition believe in “eternal procession” from God the Father—the Spirit and the Son both proceeded from God. They are merely an extension of the Father, who is the source.

The incarnation is then the generated Son invading a (Neo-Platonic) human spirit and soul. The greatest weakness of the Eastern formulation is that it relies more heavily upon philosophical rhetoric and categories than it does the Biblical text.

The Western Formulation

Augustine was a major proponent of what is known as the Western view. He expressed that the “eternal generation” within the Trinity describes ontological relationships. He believed that any distinction of persons must reside within the relationships found in Triune community.[8] Each member of the Trinity is equally God and they have always operated together according to one will.

The Western view emphasizes the threeness characteristic of God as relational. This can be seen in the use of the triangle as a symbol for the shared relationships within the Trinity. Augustine saw human beings as a triad of being, knowing, and willing. He developed several analogies to further the idea that the Trinity has implications for living.[9]

Augustine’s view was much more balanced with a concern for the relationality of God within himself and creation. He nevertheless constrained himself to philosophical categories.

This philosophical understanding of God will reach its climax with Aquinas and continue to dominate until the Reformation.[10]

The Biblical Theology Formulation

There are two modern views that seek to modify the Eastern Orthodox and Western views. Dale Moody and Doug Kennard promote a Biblical Theology view that is careful to point out that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but the Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son.

These scholars hold that the philosophical language of “eternal procession” in understanding John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18 and 1 John 4:9 is logically contradictory and not helpful in discussions of Trinity and incarnation.

Instead, Jesus should be seen as being sent by God, not as the “only begotten” Son (Jn 3:16), but as the monogenes, from mono (single) and genos (kind)—Jesus is the only one of his kind. Just as Isaac was the uniquely chosen son of Abraham, not the only son (Ishmael), Jesus is the chosen one sent by God (Gen 21:12; Heb 11:18).[11]

In the Johannine writings the word monogenes is used exclusively to speak of Jesus’ unique historical birth. From this perspective, Biblical Theology proposes that there is an economic procession of Trinitarian ministry. There are three who’s and one what. Each member of the Trinity is unique in function.

Doug Kennard believes it is best to discard the ancient philosophical rhetoric:

Since the Biblical texts used to defend the doctrine of generation emphasize monogenes to be the historical birthing of Jesus’ humanity in incarnation, it is best to reject the ancient tradition that Jesus Christ was generated before all ages in eternity. As a historical oddity eternal generation does not reflect the Bible. At this point, the unanimous voice of scholarly commentators agree, further confirming the exegetical view that the generation of the Son should be Biblically understood as an initiation of an economic ministry of the divine Word incarnating to reveal the Father through His humanity.[12]

The Social Trinity Formulation

The Social Trinitarian view has been popularized by Leonard Hodgson, Stanley Grenz, and Jurgen Moltmann. This formulation emphasizes the ontological relationships shared within the Godhead.

This view incorporates the language of “generation,” but it is more specifically concerned to preserve the interpersonal relationships within the God who binds together all things in love. God is love because he is himself a social “familial” Trinity.

Therefore, Christ is fulfilling his divine familial role within the Trinity and incarnation. The Father is the originator, the Son is the revealer, and the Spirit is the completer of the divine program.

Grenz writes, “The ontological differentiations facilitate an economic as well as an ontological diversity in the one God. Each of the three Trinitarian members fulfills a specific role in the one divine program.”[13]

THE DOCTRINE OF THE INCARNATION

Logos Christology

Since Trinity and incarnation go hand in hand, it is necessary to briefly examine a few historical views regarding the incarnation of Christ before taking a position on the best Biblical explanation for the Trinity.

James D.G. Dunn reminds the student of the great importance in the unfolding of incarnational theology within the Biblical text:

We have found nothing in pre-Christian Judaism or the wider religious thought of the Hellenistic world which provides sufficient explanation of the origin of the doctrine of the incarnation, no way of speaking about God, the gods, or intermediary beings which so far as we can tell would have given birth to this doctrine apart from Christianity.[14]

Hurtado adds to the significance of incarnational theology: “In historical terms we may refer to a veritable “big bang,” and explosively rapid and impressively substantial Christological development in the earliest stage of the Christian movement.”[15]

This development begins with the NT writers revealing the full humanity and deity of Christ, and continues through to the creeds of Nicea (325 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD)—affirming that Jesus is both God and man.

The first major philosophical explanation employed during the second and third centuries was known as Logos Christology. John declared that Jesus is the Word (Logos) in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel. The term corresponded with the Hebrew concept davar (Word of God) and the Stoic logos (inner law which humans ought to orient their lives).[16]

As stated previously concerning the Eastern Orthodox thinkers, this means that the incarnation is then the generated Logos invading a human spirit and soul. Folks like Justin Martyr and Origen utilized Stoic concepts to make sense of the Trinity and incarnation.

Kennard points out that, “the early church comes out strongly against embracing a Stoic world view, even though a few Stoic concepts contributed to Christology.”[17] It is understandable why the apologists would make use of philosophical concepts of their day to explain and defend the doctrine of Christ, but it quickly becomes a matter of debate and confusion (Arianism).

Logos Christology is built upon Greek concepts and it is explained in philosophical rhetoric that goes far beyond Biblical language.

Nestorian Christology

There does not seem to be any agreement as to how the early church articulated the paradox of Christ having two natures in one person. Nestorius (c. 386-451 AD) proposed that the two natures of Christ should be held apart from one another.

Was Nestorius promoting the heretical idea that two distinct persons resided in Jesus? It is hard to say because of the political and ecclesiastical rivalries that involved him in the church.[18] Also, his ambiguous language was easily misunderstood among the many heresies swirling about (e.g. adoptionism, docetism, Apollonarianism, etc.) Nestorius was viewed as not fully appreciating the unity of Christ’s person.

The West resolved the debate of the two-natures at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD):

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood; truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.[19]

It should be acknowledged that Chalcedon did not entirely remove the mystery of the paradox that exists in the person of Christ. At best, the Chalcedonian Creed states what the “two natures in one person” does not mean.[20]

The Eastern Church continued with a Logos Christology. And others would come along and express dissatisfaction with the older explanations.

Kenosis Christology

In the modern era of Protestant scholasticism, Sartori sought to resolve the problem of the relationship between the two natures with his interpretation of Philippians 2:7.[21]

“Kenosis” is the Greek term used to say that Christ “emptied himself” (RSV) to take on human form. This view theorizes that Christ gave up or emptied himself of those divine attributes that were incompatible with his human existence (especially omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience).

Some proponents go so far to say that Christ set aside all divine attributes. This great flaw in the theory inevitably leads to confessing that Jesus is less than God. Therefore, a modified Kenosis theory is necessary.

Grenz says the appearance of setting aside those attributes is actually the Son’s giving up the “independent  exercise of those powers.” Christ submitted his divine capabilities to the Father’s will.[22]

Since it is right to affirm that all the fullness of God dwells in Christ (Col 1:19), it is most appropriate to accept a modified Kenosis theory. Jesus emptied himself of those attributes that were incompatible with his humanity in order to be fully human. He was obedient to the Father and did not consider equality with God something to be exploited (Phil 2:5-8).

This view is preferred to all the rest.

CONCLUSION—FINDING A BIBLICAL CHRISTOLOGY

The historical views of Trinity and incarnation have laid a foundation on which future generations may construct, and deconstruct if necessary. It is likely that each generation of believers will seek to express a Christology that speaks directly to the needs of their own Christian community.[23]

As for the historical constructions, I believe it is the best of Biblical Theology and the Social formulation that combine for the strongest presentation of the Trinity. The relevant NT passages should not be read through Greek philosophical lenses of the patristic era in defense of  a Trinitarian monotheism and the incarnation of God in Christ.

Christ was uniquely born (Jn 3:16), sent into the world as the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3), and only subordinate to the Father in an earthly temporal sense (Phil 2:6-11). Christ is fully man and fully God. The NT writers do not leave this open to readers.

Jesus claimed to be divine and equal with the Father on multiple occasions (Matt 16:13-20; 26:63-65; Jn 1:1-14; 8:19-59; 10:30-33), God vindicated him through his resurrection from the dead (Jn 20), and he even received worship of himself (Jn 20:28-29). The Holy Spirit is economically sent by Christ after his ascension as the completer of God’s will (Jn 14:15-21; 16:12-15). The Father, Son, and Spirit are wholly God in a mysterious community of love (2 Cor 13:14; Gal 4:6; 1 Pet 1:2).

Oscar Cullmann said, “in the light of the New Testament witness, all mere speculation about his (Christ’s) natures is an absurdity. Functional Christology is the only kind which exists.”[24]

The church will continue to discuss and debate Trinity and incarnation. What matters most is that the church maintain a working Christology that leads to the perpetual celebration of the incarnation of the Trinitarian God, and faithful adherence to the Christ who has revealed the new way to be human.

May the continued pursuit of a Biblical Christology bless heaven and earth—until the Lord joins them together forever, and mystery gives way to perfect understanding.

D.D. Flowers, 2011.

[1] Fisher Humphreys, “The revelation of the Trinity.” Perspectives In Religious Studies 33, no. 3 (September 1, 2006): 287.

[2] Ibid., 292.; Not all of the references include the three persons together.

[3] Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 134-153.

[4] Hurtado, God in New Testament Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 46-47.

[5] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 689.

[6] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 53.

[7] Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, eds. Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 27.

[8] C.C. Pecknold, “How Augustine used the trinity: functionalism and the development of doctrine.” Anglican Theological Review 85, no. 1 (December 1, 2003): 134.

[9] Grenz, 62.

[10] R.L. Saucy, “Doctrine of God” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. ed. Walter A. Elwell, 500-504 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 503.

[11] Dale Moody, “God’s only Son : the translation of John 3:16 in the Revised Standard Version.” Journal Of Biblical Literature 72, no. 4 (December 1, 1953): 213.

[12] Douglas Kennard, Messiah Jesus: Christology in His Day and Ours (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 503.

[13] Grenz, 67. Also see Moltmann’s The Trinity and the Kingdom. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981; and Hodgson’s How Can God Be Both One and Three? London: SPCK, 1963.

[14] James D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1989), 253.

[15] Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, 135.

[16] Grenz, 300-301.

[17] Kennard, 495.

[18] Erickson, 743.

[19] Bettenson, 56.

[20] Erickson, 747.

[21] Kennard, 505.

[22] Grenz, 307.

[23] See Daniel L. Migliore’s “Christology in Context: The Doctrinal and Contextual Tasks of Christology Today.” Interpretation 49, no. 3 (July 1, 1995): 242-254.

[24] Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963), 326.


Resisting the Devil

Resisting the Devil—Satan’s Role in Suffering & the Christian’s Response

Considering how skeptical and even downright critical that American pop-culture is regarding the Christian faith, today there is a particular fascination with witchcraft, paranormal activity, and the Devil himself.

This demonic allure is a bit of a two-sided coin. It is somewhat unnerving to see a society so enamored with the occult that it has become fodder for our hearts and minds in books, movies, and music. It could be that a people with that sort of interest in the Devil may come to find him show up off the big screen and in their personal lives without a formal invitation.

Nevertheless, the recognition of such a principle figure in the story of Jesus and the Gospels may place folks in a better position to receive salvation. It is rather difficult to believe in the Devil, and not then acknowledge the One who stands opposed to him.

As popular as the Devil is in media today, there are plenty of Christians that seldom recognize him as a genuine threat and an ongoing force of evil in their lives. There have even been those within the Christian faith who have tried to dismiss the Devil as a superstitious relic of little importance to the church. However, historic Christianity is quite clear that the Devil is a real spiritual being that leads the demonic opposition to God’s divine program.

Jeffrey Burton Russell writes, “The Devil is not a peripheral concept that can easily be discarded without doing violence to the essence of Christianity. He stands at the center of the New Testament teaching that the Kingdom of God is at war with, and is now at last defeating, the Kingdom of the Devil.”[1]

As the archenemy of God, the Devil seeks to “steal, kill, and destroy” God’s good creation, especially those who are made in his image (Jn 10:10). Again, Russell writes, “The central message of the New Testament is salvation: Christ saves us. What he saves us from is the power of the Devil. If the power of the Devil is dismissed, the Christ’s saving mission becomes meaningless.”[2]

According to the Scripture, how much power does the Devil have in the fight against God’s people? What role does he play in the everyday trials and tribulations of the saints? How can Christians resist the Devil and secure God’s victory in their individual lives, as well as in the community of God—the church? How do saints fight against spiritual evil?

In order to answer these questions, it is best to first learn of the historical and theological development of the Devil—beginning with the Old Testament, moving through the intertestamental literature, and coming to rest in the New Testament. After a brief synopsis of this evolution in evil, attention can then be properly given to the ways in which Christians should resist the Devil and his evil schemes.

The purpose of this article is to briefly examine the theological development of the Devil in order that the believer might fully appreciate the call to Christian resistance in the New Testament, specifically in the epistles of James and 1 Peter. This article will move beyond a sound theodicy as it seeks a proper application of the wisdom and the altruism of Jesus concerning Christian discipleship in the face of suffering.

In this examination, the Christian will be challenged to recognize the “evil impulse within” and be intentional in spiritual formation; as well as to take serious the evil “tempter without” who needs to be aggressively opposed.[3]

THEOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE DEVIL 

Old Testament

“I form the light and create the darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD do all these things” (Isa 45:7 NIV).

It is critical to notice that pre-exilic Hebrew religion did not recognize the Devil as an active evil agent in the world. Yahweh is the only heavenly power in heaven and earth. However, after long periods of suffering in exile, and viewing certain tensions within their concept of Yahweh, the Hebrew religion came to see a cosmic dualism at work.

The Hebrews eventually concluded that God could not be directly responsible for their suffering. Instead, the world is in bondage to the Devil and in need of deliverance.

The fact that the Devil is not fully developed in the Old Testament is not a ground for rejecting existence in modern Jewish and Christian theology. That would be the genetic fallacy: the notion that the truth of a word—or concept—is to be found in its earliest form. Rather, historical truth is development through time.[4]

“Devil” (diabolos) is the Greek translation of the transliterated Hebrew word “Satan” (1 Chron 21:1; Job 1:6-8, 12; 2:1-7; Zech 3:1-2).[5] The Hebrew word satan means “to accuse” or “to oppose” in bringing slander and accusations (cf. TDNT, 2:71-81; 7:151-65). The Latin is diabolus, the German teufel, and the English devil.

In the OT, the word “satan” appears several times as a common noun in reference to a human opponent (1 Sam 29:4; 2 Sam 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4, etc.).[6] Early in the OT “satan” is used to describe those who oppose and obstruct as an adversary. Angels even act as obstructers and are called “a satan” working for the Lord (Num 22:22-35). It is only in the books of Job and Zechariah that “the Satan” is given a distinct personality as a superhuman adversary of God.[7] This is a noticeable development.

The accuser (“the Satan”) and his role become especially pronounced in the drama of Job. The Satan is a member of the heavenly court of God (1:6; 2:1). He is functioning in accordance with God’s interests: to test mankind for the purpose of righteousness (1:6-12; 2:1-5). However, as time moves on in the OT and beyond, the Satan is portrayed as the great rebel of God and the “accuser of the saints.”

Stanley Grenz writes, “Somewhere in his story… the accuser in the court of God develops a hostile intent. Rather than simply acting as the one who tests the righteous on God’s behalf, he becomes the one who maliciously tempts them to sin.”[8] This has prompted some scholars to consider a “cosmic dimension” to certain prophecies—in hopes that it might shed some light on the circumstances leading to the fall of the Satan.[9]

What about the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-6)? The serpent is not identified in the text as being the Devil, only as a creature “more crafty than any other wild animal the LORD God had made” (3:1).

In the ancient world the serpent was a symbol of life, but instead this serpent brings death to Adam and Eve. Some scholars believe this account only to be a mythological explanation as to how humanity was cursed and why snakes crawl on their bellies. This is possible when you simply consider the immediate context. Russell writes, “Only in Apocalyptic and later literature does the serpent become the tool of Satan or Satan himself.”[10]

This does not necessarily diminish the evangelical interpretation of the serpent as Satan, but rather furthers the idea of a theological development of the Devil through history. The explicit designation of the serpent as the Devil by the inspired New Testament authors is theologically satisfying to say the least (1 Tim 3:13; Rom 16:20; Rev 12:9; 20:2).

Pseudepigrapha & Apocrypha

The literature excluded from the canon, written from 200 B.C. to about 150 A.D., had a great influence on Jewish thinking and interpretation in the first century. This period produced a variety of writings described as “apocalyptic.” Revelation is NT attestation to this bizarre literary genre.

It was during this period of suffering and oppression that the Jewish people began to look again at the prophecies of Scripture. These apocalyptic authors freely interpreted the Scripture in fresh ways to understand their present world, and the hope of the one to come.

Messianic expectations were born out of Syrian and Roman oppression. What’s God doing about evil? It is in this context that the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha were written. DeSilva writes, “The Apocrypha contain the testimony of faithful Jews who sought to live out their loyalty to God in a very troubled (and often hostile) world.”[11]

The names of the Devil are plentiful in the Apocalyptic period: Azazel, Belial, Mastema, Satanail, Sammael, Semyaza, or Satan. During this era, the Devil comes to personify evil itself.[12] These dark days provoked new theodicies. 4 Ezra states: “Call heaven and earth to witness; call them to witness, for I have left out evil and created good, because I live, says the Lord” (2:14)—a clear development from Isaiah 45:7.

In the Book of Jubilees 16:15-18, a retelling of Genesis 22:1-19, it is originally Satan’s (Mastema) idea to test Abraham by sacrificing Isaac—just as he did in Job! And it is Satan that meets Moses in the desert purposing to kill him, not Yahweh (Jub 48:1-3; Ex 4:24).

In Jubilees, it is Satan and his demons that tempt, accuse, and destroy, taking upon themselves all of the evil characteristics that were once ignorantly attributed to Yahweh in the OT (48:9-15; 49:2).

It is in 1 Enoch that “the Watchers” (angels) are said to have a leader named Semyaza—the Devil (6:3).[13] Enoch attributes sin to the fallen angels (“sons of God”) in Genesis 6:1-8, but that man is ultimately responsible (En 98:4). The Watchers do not introduce sin, but they certainly exacerbate the sins of the world.

The Wisdom of Solomon declares that the Devil and his angels are not only the opponents of mankind, but opponents of the Lord as well: “God created man for immortality, and made him the image of his own eternal self; it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, and the experience of it is reserved for those who take his side” (2:24). Satan’s hatred of man has also become hatred of the Lord.[14]

New Testament

In the NT, the Devil retains the OT role of the “accuser of the saints” but will synthesize Jewish concepts from apocalyptic literature and Greek Hellenistic thought.[15] The Devil, or Satan, is the evil one (1 Jn 2:13,14; 3:12; 5:18, 19), the ruler of this age (1 Cor 2:6, 8), the serpent (Rev 12:9, 14, 15; 20:2), the dragon (Rev 12; 13), and a variety of other titles (1 Jn 4:4; 1 Pet 5:8).[16]

The Devil’s activity and influence is much more pronounced in the NT. Jesus even has a personal confrontation with the Devil where he is tempted in the wilderness before beginning his ministry to preach the kingdom of God (Matt. 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13). It would appear that the Devil still has access to the heavenly court (Lk 22:31), yet Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Lk 10:18), an indicator that the Devil no longer functions in the court of God.[17]

The Devil in the NT will tempt people to sin (1 Jn 3:8), inspire false teaching (1 Jn 4:1-4), create doubt and fear (Rev 12:10), and incite hatred of Christians (1 Pet 5:8-9). Hermas, in his Mandate, says that “the devil lives in an angry temper” (5:1). The Devil exploits anger and rage. Paul warns believers not to sin in their anger—lest the Devil gain a “foothold” (Eph 4:27).

In the NT, the Devil has the power to steal away the good news from the hearts of the lost (Lk 8:12). He is the “ruler of the air” (Eph 2:2) and the “prince of demons” able to possess men (Matt. 12:24; Jn 14:30). The Devil has a significant amount of power over humans—even the natural world.[18] However, there is not a full dualism at work in the NT. Russell writes, “Christianity is in fact a semidualist religion.”[19] The Devil is a fallen angel, not the evil polar opposite of Jesus.

The essential scenario of the struggle appears something like this: The good Lord creates a good world, which is injured by the Devil and the demons, who bring disease and other ills. The world is also injured by the free choice of humanity, as represented by Adam and Eve, to do evil instead of good. The Devil may or may not have tempted Adam and Eve to their original sin; he has certainly been active in the world since. Through the activity of Satan, aided by the demons and by those human beings who fall into sin, the world has fallen under the domination of the Devil. The natural and moral evils of the world are the fault, not of the good Lord, but of these creatures. The conflict between this world, dominated by the Devil, and the Kingdom of God, now brought to earth by Christ, is an important emphasis of the NT.[20]

In this war of the worlds, the “father of lies” is being driven out with all of his sorcery, idolatry, perversion, and disease. Jesus said that it is time for judgment on this world (Jn 12:31). The “prince of this world” will soon be driven out forever and cast into the “lake of fire” (Rev 20:10).

Jesus has overcome by the cross and his followers are promised the victory in his blood (Rev 12:11). Disciples are presently called to “resist” in the momentary struggle and usher in the kingdom of God with good works until Christ comes to establish the new heavens and earth.

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES 

Wisdom in Action

Peter H. Davids believes the epistle of James to be a collection of oral discourses, delivered by James—the brother of Jesus—that were gathered up soon after his death and edited into a book to be published and circulated.[21] The epistle contains wisdom teachings, many which are similar to the sayings of Jesus, that are meant to encourage believers in their trials and spur them on to prove their faith through works—even in the face of evil and suffering.

The epistle is “primarily a theology of suffering, an expression of a Jewish theology of suffering with a long history before James’ Christian version.”[22] Furthermore, Davids states that James’ concern is primarily the “health of the community” instead of the wellbeing of the individual. Wisdom “from above” (3:15), even in the midst of trial, leads to “perfect virtue.”[23] James states:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (3:13-18 NIV)

James calls for the wisdom of Christ to be set into action. The testing of the communal faith ought to lead to Christian maturity (1:3). No one in the community should respond to temptation with “I am being tempted by God” because God is not the author of this evil (1:13).

It is the evil desires within humans that lure and entice (1:14). So what of the Devil in James? Is the Devil at work in the community of believers? If so, how does James suggest they respond?

Christian Resistance in James 4:1-10

James says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you (4:1 NIV)?” Before the reader can hear James speak of resistance against the Devil, it is crucial to understand that James believes the first problem is the yeser (desires or “evil inclination”) that begins in the hearts of those in the Christian community (1:14-15; 4:5).

When yeser is conceived it gives birth to sin (1:15). The believer that overcomes his yeser will not sin in anger (1:19), for he does not allow his yeser to ignite a fire within and corrupt his whole body (3:5-6). In his good works he destroys his yeser (2:14-26). His yeser is under control and does not war against the soul (4:1-3).[24] For James, temptation begins with evil inclinations of the heart (1:13-14).

So where is the Devil in this and how do Christians respond?

After attributing temptation to the impact of the evil inclination within individuals (Jas 1:13-15), James draws a close connection between the evil impulse and the work of the devil. He observes that the tongue is set on fire by Gehenna (Jas 3:6; a way of referring to Satan as the ultimate source) and that the so-called wisdom of the opposition is not only “earthly and un-spiritual” but “of the devil” (daimoniodes, Jas 3:15).[25]

Therefore, the Devil is behind the evil inclination! What does Christian resistance look like when the evil impulse burns within? James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7 NIV). First, James calls his listeners to “submit” to God in obedience to Christ’s teachings. The Lord must sit on the throne of the heart! This requires total surrender and allegiance to the “covenant” of God.[26]

Following submission, the church is told to “resist” the Devil. “Resist” (antistete) is the same word used in the context of the spiritual struggle in Ephesians 6:11-13. James is envisioning a resistance by faith in God.

The Devil will “flee” when he is resisted through submission to Christ’s law. As the Devil fled from Jesus in the wilderness, after having failed to tempt the Lord to sin, so he will do with those who “humble” themselves and “draw near to God” in reliance upon the power of God (4:6, 8, 10). “That will be the experience of the Christian as well if he or she learns to say no.”[27] Therefore, the key to resisting the Devil is to humbly submit to God’s desires—denying the evil inclinations—drawing near to Christ who then gracefully comes to the Christian’s aid.[28]

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:7-11 NRSV)

THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER

Following Christ in Suffering

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:1-2 NIV).

The first epistle of Peter was written in the context of suffering and persecution. Some of the suffering of Christians is described in a general fashion (1:6; 4:12, 19; 5:9, 12) and some of their trials are more specifically mentioned as being brought on due to their identification with Christ (3:15-6; 4:4, 14, 16). The Christian lifestyle has certainly brought them hardship.

Regardless of who was emperor at the time of 1 Peter’s message, whether that be Nero, Domitian, or Trajan, Christians are suffering all over the empire (5:9).[29] Suffering is a mark of authentic Christian discipleship.

Together with the Book of Revelation, 1 Peter is unrivaled among NT documents for its concern with questions of Christian identity, constitution, and behavior in a hostile world. For 1 Peter, Christian communities must struggle with how to maintain a peculiar identity as God’s people in the midst of contrary cultural forces. This is accomplished by identifying with Christ, both in his suffering and in the promise of restoration and justice. Through maintaining their allegiance to God the Father, theirs is a living hope certified by the resurrection of Jesus to life and animated by the Holy Spirit. Their inheritance is nothing less than eschatological salvation.[30]

Peter encourages the saints to follow Christ in suffering as “aliens” and “exiles” in enemy territory (2:11). For Peter, it is not at the hands of flesh and blood that they are being persecuted; instead, the true nature of their opposition is made known: the Devil is on the prowl (5:8)!

The Devil is masked in the human powers that are oppressing the people of Christ. Peter reminds the saints of the battle tactics of Christ—this is a war that must be fought with spiritual weapons.

Christian Resistance in 1 Peter 5:1-11

Peter says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (5:8 NIV). This is the only place in the Bible where the Devil is identified as a lion.

However, the lion is used elsewhere in the OT to describe the enemies of Israel (Jer 27:17; Ps 21:14; Ezek 22:25).[31] This imagery is likely taken from Psalm 22:13, “They open their mouths wide at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.” Peter means to communicate that the Devil’s intentions are to annihilate the believer through ungodly men.

Christian resistance also begins with humility in 1 Peter. However, in the context, Peter is asking younger believers to accept the authority of the elders (5:5-6). These young believers need to heed the wisdom of the elders in this suffering. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (5:7 NIV).

Peter uses the imperative: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (5:9). Resistance to the Devil in suffering will require humility and submission to men, as well as God. Standing “firm in faith” reveals that the Devil’s aim is for apostasy. He seeks to destroy the faith of believers in suffering.

There are more than cultural and social consequences at work here. Paul Achtemeier says, “It is a matter of the final fate of the universe itself, since the one the community follows is none other than the creator and sustainer of the universe who will in the end see to the triumph of the divine will.”[32]

Like the Book of Revelation, Peter draws his audience in to confirm that the suffering is demonic and the battle is cosmic. The Lord will triumph, and those that share in his sufferings will overcome—restored, supported, strengthened, and established till he comes (5:10).

For Peter, Christian resistance to the Devil demands a “standing firm on the basis of what one knows to be true, and this makes the shaping of what one ‘knows’ all the more crucial.”[33]

CONCLUSION—EMBRACING THE BIBLICAL TENSION

It should be evidently plain from the historical and theological development of the Devil that the people of God have for a long time acknowledged the reality of this malevolent being. His destructive work cannot be ignored throughout the Bible. And it should not be forgotten today.

The authors of the NT will certainly not allow their audience to forget about the one who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) yet moves under the cover of darkness (Acts 26:17-18; Eph 5:8-11).

The biblical corpus testifies to a great cosmic battle between heaven and earth. On the other side of the curtain is a world of angelic and demonic beings that are well aware of what is at stake here. This article is a reminder for those who embrace the biblical narrative to keep their head in the game.

The Christian must avoid exaggerating the power of the Devil.[34] Gregroy Boyd writes, “Admitting that Satan and demons can sometimes influence our thinking and behavior does not mean that they can determine our thinking and behavior.”[35]

James has made this much clear concerning temptation: the Devil did not make anyone do it—while Peter assures us that it is safe to assume, and even to know with certainty, that the Devil is working behind the scenes to bring about our demise.

Dear saints of God, be humble, resist him, stand firm in the faith, and pray as righteous people of God (Jas 5:16). For as the apostle Paul has written: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20 NIV).

May the Lord grant us his peace.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph 6:11-13 NIV)

D.D. Flowers, 2011.


[1] Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil From Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 222.

[2] Ibid., 229.

[3] Peter H. Davids, James. New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), 14, 16.

[4] Russell, 174.

[5] Clinton E. Arnold, “Satan, Devil.” Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments. eds. Ralph P. Martin & Peter H. Davids, 1077-1082 (Downers Grove: IVP, 1997), 1077.

[6] Russell, 189.

[7] Ibid., 190. Compare 1 Chron 21:1 and 2 Sam 24:1. It may be that the Chronicler edited his later account to reflect the historical and theological development being argued in this paper. See Boyd’s God At War, pgs. 153-54.

[8] Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 226.

[9] See Gregory Boyd’s God At War, pgs. 157-162 on Isaiah 14:1-23 & Ezekiel 28.

[10] Russell, 182.

[11] David A. DeSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 16.

[12] Russell, 188.

[13] The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs also name Belial (Satan) as leader of the fallen angels.

[14] See T.J. Wray, The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil’s Biblical Roots (New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2005), pgs. 95-112 “Satan Between the Testaments” for further study; also see Boyd’s God At War, 172-180 over the intertestamental period.

[15] Russell, 221.

[16] Arnold, 1078.

[17] Grenz, 227.

[18] Boyd, 206-207. Boyd says that Jesus’ “rebuking” (epitimao) of the wind and sea is paralleled with his many exorcisms (e.g. compare Matt. 8:18-27 and Mk 9:25).

[19] Russell, 228.

[20] Ibid., 231. I am extremely indebted to both Russell and Boyd’s historical and theological insights.

[21] Davids, 7.

[22] Ibid., 13.

[23] Peter H. Davids, “Theological perspectives on the Epistle of James.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23, no. 2 (June, 1980): 97-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 16, 2011), 98.

[24] Joel Marcus, “The evil inclination in the Epistle of James.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 44, no. 4 (October 1, 1982): 606-621. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 16, 2011), 620-21.

[25] Arnold, 1079.

[26] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible (New Haven: Doubleday, 2005), 283.

[27] Davids, James, 102.

[28] Hermas wrote that angels came in aiding and strengthening for the struggle with the Devil (Man. 12:6). An angel(s) strengthened Christ after he had been tempted (Matt 4:11) and when he was weak (Lk 22:43).

[29] Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter: A Commentary on First Peter. Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 28-29. Achtemeier believes that the persecutions mentioned in 1 Peter are more likely due to “unofficial harassment” than official imperial policy.

[30] Joel B. Green, 1 Peter. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 11.

[31] Achtemeier, 341.

[32] Ibid., 338.

[33] Green, 180.

[34] For further study, see Sydney Page, “Satan: God’s servant.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50, no. 3 (September 1, 2007): 449-465. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 16, 2011). Page is concerned to point out that the Devil is working for the Lord even now.

[35] Gregory Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 168.


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