I was recently studying 1 Pet 1.9, where the apostle says that the outcome of the Christian’s faith is the salvation of her/his soul. While pondering how Peter would define faith there (and in the broader context of the epistle), one of my Pauline presuppositions kicked in: when thinking of faith and salvation I remembered that faith is not about working, but resting/trusting in Jesus. Are Peter and Paul related? I was leaning there, of course!
To make a longer study process shorter, I’ll skip ahead to the part where I checked the Scripture reference in The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (3rd edition, ed. Michael W. Holmes). I was more than a little excited to see what text Polycarp used to explain “faith” in the context of 1 Pet 1.8-9. He used Eph 2.5 & 8-9! Here’s the full quote from Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians (1.3; my translation), written in the early 2nd century AD.
“Even though you haven’t seen him (Jesus), you believe (pisteuo) in him with great and glorious joy – which many desire to have – while knowing that by grace you have been saved, not by works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.”
I understand that Polycarp may have simply juxtaposed the two and written them from memory (the Greek is somewhat close to the NT phrases), but the point remains. In his thought – and pen – he wrote about Jesus (1.1-2) and faith in Christ (v3) – faith which is not working, but trusting in him whom we cannot see. Anyway, I was thinking along those lines, and was happy to see Polycarp go where I went, or me going where Polycarp went. Of course, other commentators go there as well, most notably perhaps Calvin (cf. his comm. on 1 Pet 1.9). This is what “reading the Bible with the church” means, in part.
Read the Apostolic Fathers, and use the Scripture references in the back!