Patrick of Ireland: The Scripture-Saturated Life

By M.R. Conrad. Reposted from Rooted Thinking.

We’ve all heard of Patrick of Ireland. He lived in the fifth century, wore a halo, and liked picking clovers—the three-leaf kind (four leaf clovers would be heretical). People, the world over, remember him every March 17 by drinking beer and imagining leprechauns afterward. Rainbows and pots of gold could also be involved. The stereotypes get all muddled together. Maybe Patrick was a halo-wearing, beer-drinking leprechaun. Was there even a real Patrick? Do we even know who he was? Well yes, we do. Patrick was a scripture-saturated Celtic Christian who left behind a few writings that give us a glimpse at his work and testimony for Christ.

Who Was Patrick?

Long before the Roman Catholic Church took its current form or even started sainting people, Patrick followed Scripture.1 After being kidnapped as a teenager from his well-to-do family in Britain, he served as a slave in Ireland. There, remembering the gospel he had heard as a child, Patrick was “reborn in God,” his way of describing the biblical teaching of being born again (John 3:3). After a daring escape from his captors, the young man returned to Britain, studied God’s Word, and then answered God’s call to return to the land of his captivity. Patrick recounted this testimony in The Confession of Patrick, showing us today what kind of Christian and missionary he was.

His Scripture-saturated life is an example to us today. God commands each believer: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). How can we do this? By emulating three ways Patrick became the Scripture-saturated believer he was.

1. Quote the Words of Scripture

Patrick knew the Word of God. Nearly two hundred quotations or allusions to Scripture passages fill The Confession of Patrick. One biographer, Michael Haykin, writes, “Like other Fathers of the ancient church, Patrick also definitely came to know large tracts of the Latin Bible by heart. It was not only when he was formally citing Scripture that the Latin Bible appears, but even when Patrick was writing his own words the Scriptures are ever in view, shaping thought and vocabulary.”2 The words of Scripture molded Patrick’s thinking and bled from his pen.

2. Obey the Commands of Scripture

Patrick did not just know the Word: he obeyed God’s commands. Over one thousand years before William Carey launched the modern missions movement, Patrick discovered and carried out the Great Commission. In his Confession, he wrote, “The Lord teaches and admonishes in the Gospel, saying: ‘Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, even to the consummation of the world.’ And again: ‘Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.’”3

In fact, Patrick considered taking the gospel to the ends of the earth his responsibility. The gospel had come from Jerusalem all the way to Britain. From his perspective, he had the privilege of carrying the baton on the last leg of the journey to the very western edge of the known world—Ireland.

In his Confession, Patrick explains how God had used him: “I am very much God’s debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clergy were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth, as he once had promised through his prophets: ‘To you the Gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth and shall say: ‘How false are the idols that our fathers got for themselves, and there is no profit in them’; [Jer. 16:19] and again: ‘I have set you as a light among the Gentiles, that you may be for their salvation to the end of the earth.’ [Acts 13:47] And there I wish to wait for his promise who surely never deceives, as he promises in the Gospel: ‘They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob’ [Matt 8:11] — as we believe the faithful will come from all the world.”4 Patrick knew the Word, quoted the Word, and then obeyed the Word like few of his contemporaries.

3. Live the Promises of Scripture

Finally, Patrick staked his life of the promises of God. Six times throughout his Confession, Patrick repeats the phrase “the Lord promises.” In one instance, he testified, “For daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).5 When Patrick faced a problem, he turned to specific promises from Scripture for encouragement. Then, he acted based on what he learned.

Who Are You?

How about you and me today? Is our commitment to God’s Word obvious to all. While much of Patrick’s life is unclear, his testimony of knowing, obeying, and living Scripture is evident through his writings.

Is my conversation sprinkled with biblical truth? Do I know enough Scripture to fill a short document with quotes and allusions? How much has God’s Word saturated my thinking? To what extent has Scriptural truth transformed my everyday life? Does the Word of God dwell in me richly?

Photo: Mick Haupt, Unsplash.

Notes

1 Read more about Patrick in my book, Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises. “Patrick was a Celtic Christian who lived before the Roman Catholic church took its current form. The Roman Catholic Church later began considering Patrick to be a saint, but his beliefs differed from those now held by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition of canonizing saints did not even begin until hundreds of years after Patrick’s death.” M. R. Conrad, Daring Devotion, 205.

2 Haykin, Michael A. G.. Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact (Greanies House, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2014), 32-33. This is the best resource on the life of Patrick that I have found. It provides excellent background and analysis of Patrick’s writings.

3 The Confession of Patrick, article 40.

4 Confession, article 38.

5 Confession, article 55.


M.R. Conrad serves in urban Asia. He, his wife, and their four children squeeze into a 700 square-foot apartment where he seizes rare moments of quiet to write amidst homeschooling, a cacophony of musical instruments, and the steady stream of visitors they so enjoy having in their home. He enjoys birding, board games, and basketball. He is the author of Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises.

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