Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Farewell

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius concludes his letter with a promise of another letter, should time permit.
"If Jesus Christ shall graciously permit me through your prayers, and if it be His will, I shall, in a second little work which I will write to you, make further manifest to you [the nature of] the dispensation of which I have begun [to treat], with respect to the new man, Jesus Christ, in His faith and in His love, in His suffering and in His resurrection." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 20)
Either his journey to Rome precluded another letter or the promised letter was lost to history. Either way, it is unfortunate as his "little work" would certainly have been a treasure to the church. He further encouraged the church towards unity.
"Especially [will I do this] if the Lord make known to me that ye come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that ye obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 20)
Ignatius sees the church as a being composed of individuals. It literally means that they were gathered together individually and known "by name." When we come to the church we do not loose our identity or our uniqueness. In fact, it is that varied identity and uniqueness that gives life and strength to the church. Church should never become a place where we go to hide and to "blend in" but rather a place where we can freely express our God given individuality for the benefit of all. Ignatius also reminds them that their unity and "oneness" does not come from their sameness but from the common bread they break. They share a common life that is the result of partaking of a common bread and that bread is Jesus Christ.

Finally, he asks the church at Ephesus to pray for the church at Syria. As much as Ignatius was ready to die for his Lord, he still felt for those he was leaving behind; for those in Syria who would now be without a bishop. He asked that prayers for them would be made for their strength and comfort.
"Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembered you. Pray ye for the Church which is in Syria, whence I am led bound to Rome, being the last of the faithful who are there, even as I have been thought worthy to be chosen to show forth the honour of God. Farewell in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, our common hope." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 21)
In referring to himself as the "last of the faithful" in Syria, he was not saying that there remained no one faithful to God in Syria, but rather that he was last in terms of importance; he was the least of the faithful from Syria. Ignatius always represented himself with humility and with greater consideration for others than for himself.

This ends Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians.

David Robison

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - In Transition

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius begins to close his letter by reminding the Ephesians of some of the central truths surrounding the Gospel.
" 'Where is the wise man? where the disputer?' Where is the boasting of those who are styled prudent? For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 18)
When God was ready to reveal His salvation to men, He did it in a way that was unexpected and in a way that seemed foolish to men; He sent His Son as a baby to be born of a virgin. The Virgin Birth was one of the central beliefs in the early church as it contained in its truth the reality that Jesus was fully man and fully God.

The final line in this passage is a bit obscure as to what is meant by "purify the water." The loner version of this letter renders this, "that He might ratify the institution committed to that prophet." Jesus was born, baptized, and died that He might open up a way for us to be reconciled to God; a way that begins with a baptism of repentance. "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Mark 1:4)

Not only did God confound the wise with His plan of salvation, but He also confounded the devil.
"Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 19)
Paul confirms this when he referred to, "the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:7-8) Neither the rulers of this age nor the prince of this world fully understood what was going nor the change that was about to take place. However, God did announce His coming.
"How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 19)
However it was the humble and lowly that responded not the high and mighty and learned. Jesus' humble and obscure entry into this world was the beginning of a radical change that would be felt throughout the entire world and in every human heart. Jesus ushered in an era of change.
"And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 19)
Something violent had happened and its rumblings have been felt throughout history, even down to our day. It's as Jesus said, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." (Matthew 11:12) Many people have asked, "Why doesn't everyone get healed?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The truth is that we live in an "in between" time; in a time of transition; between the way things used to be and the way things ought to be. We live in a time where the Kingdom of God has not yet fully come and when the final victory has yet to be won. We are in a time of transition. However, one day all things will be put right; death will be defeated, the enemy and his hoards will be banished, and we will enjoy eternal felicity in the presence of God. Until then, we must remain steadfast and fight and believe in this time of transition.

David Robison

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Smelly doctrine

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius again cautions the Ephesians to be wary of those who would teach false doctrine.
"Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 16)
It is interesting that Ignatius considers it a greater offense to come in and corrupt someone's doctrine than to come in and corrupt their family. Both, for sure, he condemns, but he sees on as having eternal consequences for the corrupted while the other has only temporal consequences pertaining to this life only. Such a one who would do this is justly condemned to eternal perdition.

Ignatius again repeats his warning.
"For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?" (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 17)
The more time we spend in the truth the more we come to recognize the odor of false doctrine. False doctrine smells like self-love, self-righteousness, indulging the flesh, denying Christ and His divinity, and all other things that are contrary to sound doctrine. These things we should run from. We should continually contend for the truth of the Gospel that has been delivered to us through Jesus and His apostles for this truth is our life and our freedom.

So what causes us to drift into error; what makes us susceptible to the odors of falsehood? Ignatius encourages us towards prudence in our lives. Webster defines prudence as, among other things, "the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason." (Webster Dictionary) When it comes to the truth, we must deploy self-government and reason. Self-government to obey the truth and reason to discern between truth and falsehood. If we blindly go through our lives we may fail to spot the lie that intends to snare us and, if we fail to obey the truth then we will never come to recognize what truth "smells" like and how its odor differs from that of error. The best defense of error is our commitment to the truth.

David Robison

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - From faith to love

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius describes our Christian walk as a journey from faith to love.
"None of these things is hid from you, if ye perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 14)
However, it's not simply a journey from one to the other but its a journey that begins with faith and, to that faith  adds love until our life is a commingling of faith and love together. This is what Paul meant when he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Faith in Christ is our beginning. As we grow we learn to express our faith through love towards the Father and towards others. In the end we become people of love, even as God is love. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8) The point that Ignatius is trying to make is that it is not enough to merely profess to be a Christian, we must also act like Christians. It's not enough to simply have faith, we must add works of love to our faith.
"No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 14)
Our lives, and the character of those lives, will be known to all by their fruit. If we say we are a Christian yet hate both our brothers and those in the world, then we are at best immature in our faith and, at worse, self-deceived as to our faith in God. A good tree cannot bare bad fruit and a Christian will, over time, bear the fruit of his or her faith. It is not what we say that maters most, it is what we do.
"It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not to be one. It is good to teach, if he who speaks also acts. There is then one Teacher, who spake and it was done; while even those things which He did in silence are worthy of the Father. He who possesses the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear even His very silence, that he may be perfect, and may both act as he speaks, and be recognised by his silence." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 15)
The believer is know by his words and by his silence. Even when silent, a christian is still known by their deeds. Like Ignatius, we live in a world that has seen a lot of professing but is still looking for a lot of doing. The words we say have little weight unless they are backed up by our actions. This is what John meant when he said, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:18) It is time for us to live the truth we profess; that our behavior would line up with our profession. In this way we will truly be a witness to the world, not just of what Jesus said, but also of the power of what He said; the power to change a life.

David Robison

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Meet together often

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius exhorts the Ephesians to come together often.
"Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 13)
The reasons for coming together may be as varied as the number of people who meet together, but Ignatius mentions two very interesting one here. When we meet together frequently (or regularly) the power of Satan over a place is destroyed and his work of destruction is thwarted. There is real power in our coming together  and that power is felt both in heaven and on earth. Its a power to overthrow the forces of evil and to establish the reign of God in our midst and in our communities. 

What is also interesting is the aspects of our coming together that accomplishes this spiritual warfare. They are our praise and our unity. When we meet in unity to show forth God's praise, power is released and the enemy is defeated and, in time, real change becomes apparent all around us. Knowing this, perhaps these things, praise and unity, should become central in our meeting together. We currently live in a time when the Word and teaching has become central in our meetings. Often praise is seen as the prelude or the lead-in to the teaching. I'm not saying teaching is not important, for it can produce great change in our lives, but we must never loose sight of the importance of praise and unity, for they can bring great change to our communities and even in the heavens.

David Robison

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Demonstrated Prayer

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius encourages us to continually pray for the needs and salvation of others.
"And pray ye without ceasing in behalf of other men. For there is in them hope of repentance that they may attain to God. See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be ye meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting: to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error, be ye stedfast in the faith; and for their cruelty, manifest your gentleness. While we take care not to imitate their conduct, let us be found their brethren in all true kindness; and let us seek to be followers of the Lord (who ever more unjustly treated, more destitute, more condemned?), that so no plant of the devil may be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety in Jesus Christ, both with respect to the flesh and spirit." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 10)
Our posture towards those outside the church should be first to pray for them that they might find repentance. Their error may seem beyond healing to us but, as Ignatius previously taught, there is a Healer that heals. Secondly, we should live lives that are consistent with the prayers we pray. We should live lives that show the fruit of the repentance we hope for others as being active in our own lives. And finally, we should live as brothers even to the lost. To be their brothers and sisters it is not necessary that we participate with them in their sin but rather that we treat them with the kindness and compassion that brotherly love commands. We don't have to go drinking with them in the bars or curse and sewer with them at their parties to become their brethren, we merely have to show them brotherly kindness as those who were once also trapped in sin and lawlessness.

Ignatius continues to exhort us who are found in Christ to remain in Christ.
"The last times are come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation. For let us either stand in awe of the wrath to come, or show regard for the grace which is at present displayed— one of two things. Only [in one way or another] let us be found in Christ Jesus unto the true life. Apart from Him, let nothing attract you." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 11)
There are many things that motivate us towards God. Some days, the revelation of the grace of God is enough to keep us steadfast in Christ; to motivate us to resist sin and to stand firm even in the face of temptation. However, other days, His grace seems dim and distant, in those days its the revelation of the fear of God that keeps us in Christ. Either way, what is important is that we stand. God knows what we need in every situation, either the revelation of grace or revelation of awe and fear, and it's His love that reveals one or the other as we need to keep us in His Son and to keep us bound towards Him.

Finally, Ignatius reminds the Ephesians of their unique calling in Christ.
"I know both who I am, and to whom I write. I am a condemned man, ye have been the objects of mercy; I am subject to danger, ye are established in safety. Ye are the persons through whom those pass that are cut off for the sake of God." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 12)
This passage is a bit enigmatic, but it seems to indicate that Ephesus was along the route that the condemned Christians of that area would take to Rome and to their deaths. Ignatius seems to congratulate them for their use of the grace and mercy of God that was upon them, that they would come and fellowship with even the condemned; to encourage them and pray for them and send them on their way to Rome with the blessings of God. What a unique calling and gift in that time and place.

David Robison

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - The Cross and a Rope

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius congratulates the Ephesians that they did not, for one minute, give ear to those who passed through preaching their false doctrine.
"Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom ye did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 9)
This praise is consistent with similar praises from earlier in the life of the Ephesian church. "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false." (Revelation 2:2) Now, not all the Spirit had to say to them was praise, but they were a church that held fast to the truth that had been passed down to them by the apostles.

Ignatius goes on to say that, part of the reason that they resisted the false teachers was because they understood the greater purpose they were called to; they were called to be stones for the Father's temple and as such they desired to keep themselves pure and not give themselves to a lesser faith.
"as being stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 9)
Their entry into the Kingdom of God was through the cross of Christ while they trusted and hoped in the Holy Spirit to enable them to press into the Kingdom, reaching out as it were by their faith, and all the time letting the love of God, for them and for others, guide them into the way of holiness. This journey into the Kingdom of God lead them away from the things of this world, including the doctrines of this world, and lead them to Christ and his righteousness, holiness, and likeness.
"Ye, therefore, as well as all your fellow-travellers, are God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christbearers, bearers of holiness, adorned in all respects with the commandments of Jesus Christ, in whom also I exult that I have been thought worthy, by means of this Epistle, to converse and rejoice with you, because with respect to your Christian life ye love nothing but God only." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 9)
So should be our hearts and our desire, to become like them, bearers of God, bearers of Christ, and bearers of holiness. Oh that we might too become like them, loving nothing but God alone. Because, when you have God, you have no need for the things of this world because you already have everything.

David Robison

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Sick men of sick faith

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius warns the Ephesian church of those who would lead them astray; of those who were teaching a counterfeit gospel.
"For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom ye must flee as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom ye must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 7)
There were many in that day that were preaching an alternative gospel. They had their own bishops, their own meetings, and even their own love (agape) feasts, yet when you looked closely at their lives they were still enslaved to sin and the deprivation of the flesh. Worse yet, some of them even incorporated their vile lusts into their doctrines; giving them religious cover as if such acts were pleasing and acceptable, or at least indifferent, to God. Such men were not only sick in their faith but also sick within themselves; they were sick in their hearts. However, Ignatius goes on to remind the Ephesians that, even thought we were once like them, we do have a physician that heals.
"There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible,— even Jesus Christ our Lord." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 7)
The words Ignatius chooses to describe our eternal physician were not only meant to be beautiful and inspiring but also to refute those who claimed another Jesus; one who was not human, did not have a physical body, could not suffer, and was not born of man. He was truly "God existing in flesh!"

While some churches were struggling with these apostles of darkness and their teachings, Ignatius was confident of the Ephesians.
"Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed ye are not deceived, inasmuch as ye are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, ye are certainly living in accordance with God’s will." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 8)
Ignatius' confidence in the Ephesians, and their ability to resist the trouble of the false teachers, was based on the harmony and unity that existed in the Ephesian church. Ignatius knew what James wrote, "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." (James 3:16) The doctrine of God is peaceable, but when false doctrine is admitted into the church, there is disorder, strife, envy  and every evil thing.

Finally, Ignatius reminds them that the things of the spirit can only be accomplished by those who are of the spirit.
"They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which ye do according to the flesh are spiritual; for ye do all things in Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 8)
Those who are in the flesh can only act according to the flesh, however, those who are in the spirit, even what they do in the flesh is done in the spirit. Those in the flesh cannot do the things of the spirit, but those in the spirit, everything they do is spiritual. Our whole life is spiritual. Even our jobs and our responsibilities, when done in Jesus Christ, are no longer mere maters of the flesh but are truly spiritual and acceptable to God. Nothing we do is any longer carnal but all things are spiritual.

David Robison

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - The Bishop and Order

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius exhorts the Ephesians to give attention to their bishop.
"Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 6)
It is obvious that the role of the bishop was different from our modern day role of pastor, so much so, that Ignatius had to remind the people that his silence was not to be taken as tasset approval for their deeds but rather forbearance for their immaturity. The bishops role was more one of oversight than it was one of being "front and center" in their meetings. The bishop's presence along was often enough to bring about a sense of decorum, obedience, order, and safety within the church.

In instructing the Ephesians to look upon their venerable bishop as they would upon Christ, he was not imply that their bishop was equal to Christ or that he was Christ's physical representation of representative on earth and within their church, rather it was to remind them that they should receive him as being sent to them by Christ and that, in receiving him, they were also receiving Him who sent him; to look upon their bishop was to also look upon the one who sent him.

Ignatius goes on to speak of the impact Onesimus had among the church at Ephesus.
"And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that ye all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. Nor, indeed, do ye hearken to any one rather than to Jesus Christ speaking in truth." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 6)
His command to good order in God was not a verbal command or the result of lording his position over them, but it was the force of example as he lived his life before God. The light and power of his own pious life motivated others to live such a life and to live in order and harmony with each other, he was truly a light to the Ephesians.

Finally notice that his pious life did not lead people to himself, but rather to God. It was not the bishop's voice they hearken to but rather the voice of Jesus alone, which they often heard coming from the mouth of their beloved bishop. They learned to distinguish the voice of a man and the voice of their savior, regardless of how that voice was delivered, either through flesh, word, or spirit.

David Robison

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - The Bishop and Unity

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius speaks of the role of the Bishop in the unity of the church.
"For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God. (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 4)
In the early church, the bishop and presbyters provided oversight to the church, much like the elders in ancient Israel. However, the bishop represented the extension of the apostles and, as such, were the final arbiter of truth. They were the final authority as to what Jesus taught his apostles and what the apostles taught and what they meant by what they wrote. They were the "keepers" of the apostolic message of which the church was the "pillar and support of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15) They were the living definition of what it meant to be orthodox. This is why to be outside the fellowship of the bishop was to be outside the church.
"Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 5)
It is so hard to place ourselves back onto the situation that the early church experienced since we have drifted so far from the early church model. However, in their day they did have those who set themselves up against the bishops and the apostolic churches. Men such as Valentinian and Simon had setup their own churches with their own bishops and even their own love (or agape) feasts. They used the same scriptures and the same names for God but they preached a gospel that was radically different from the one the church had received. They were men whom Polycarp would call the "Firstborn of Satan." The evidence of their error was not just their teaching but also that their bishops had no connection (or lineage) back to the apostles and their churches could not trace the heritage back to any apostolic church. They were completely  found "outside" the altar.

Ignatius reminds us of one very specific advantage to unity, when he said, "thus you will always enjoy communion with God." When there is strife and discourse in the church, our communion with God suffers. However, when we exist harmoniously with each other and with the bishop and the presbytery then our hearts are united together and our lives are as a song that rises up to God. In such unity there is not only an individual communion with God but also a corporate communion; in such unity, God is present.

David Robison

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - I'm like you

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius always wrote in a self-effacing way.
"I do not issue orders to you, as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name [of Christ], I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 2)
Sometimes it seems that, in reference to himself, Ignatius writes as if he were a new believer, saying such things as "now I begin to be a disciple." However, we know he was a bishop which ensures us that he was not a novice but rather someone who had walked with God admirably for many years. We can justly assume that he was a man of great obedience to God, had great love for the brethren, and exemplified Christ to all he met. However, when he saw others he did not see himself as superior to them or lifted up above them in some way. Though he was a bishop, he did not use his position to "lord it over them." (Matthew 20:25) While he could have commanded then, he chose to speak to them as their brother.

Ignatius was also a man whom had given every thing to Christ; his obedience, his love, and his worship. However, he seems to have know that there was one thing missing, one thing he yet needed to offer up to God, and that was his breath. I think this is why he speaks of "beginning to be a disciple." He had reached the point in his life where all had been given to Christ and all that remained was for him to give his life as well. He was beginning a new phase of his life; he was beginning to become like his master in the final acts of his life; he was beginning to follow his Master to a like similar death as His. He was beginning to be a disciple. And in this new journey of his life he was thankful for the Ephesians.
"For it was needful for me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 2)
It was not that God's grace was insufficient, but rather that the Ephesians had been a part of God's grace, that God had used them to minister His grace to Ignatius in his time of need.

Finally, he reminds them that, though he could command them, yet he chooses to instruct them out of his love for them.
"But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that ye would all run together in accordance with the will of God." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 2)
Those who have come to know and understand who they are in Christ have no compulsion to order others around, as if they are their boss or their lord (with a small "l") and Ignatius was one of those men. His counsel and wish is that we would "run together" in accordance to the will of God. That will may be different for each of us, we may not all run the same race, but as we all "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1) then we will find ourselves running together in unity.

David Robison

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Ambassadors of Love

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius was encouraged and strengthened by those who had come from Ephesus to share with him the love of the church.
"And Crocus also, worthy both of God and you, whom I have received as the manifestation of your love, hath in all things refreshed me, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall also refresh him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, by means of whom, I have, as to love, beheld all of you." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 2)
Ignatius' response reminds me of the time that Paul was discouraged, even to the point of even disparaging of life. "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more." (2 Corinthians 7:5-7) We cannot over state the power of our presence to one who is suffering or in the midst of a trial, yet its not us, but the love of God that resides within us as. These men carried not only their love, and the love of the whole church, but also God's love to Ignatius. Often times love must be personal, love must be shrouded in human flesh, and often God uses our human flesh to communicate His love to those who need it.

One of the themes that is so significant to Ignatius is that of unity.
"It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who hath glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience 'ye may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing,' " (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 2)
Again we hear Paul, "make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose." (Philippians 2:2) This does not mean that we are no longer individuals nor that we are not different one from another, but these differences are not what divide us since there is that which is greater that unites us. What unites us is our unanimous obedience; not to Ignatius, not to their bishop, and not even a leader but to God and His word. Having secured such obedience to ourselves, it produces within us a common mind, judgement, and voice. This is because obedience to God flows from our love of God. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) and Paul replies "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." (Colossians 3:14) Unity begins with obedience to God.

David Robison

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - the Sermon (part 1)

I had the opportunity to preach part of my message in the "Full-Grown Man".  It also includes a short message from my daughter Kirstie. You can hear the audio here:

David Robison

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Whats in a Name

Ignatius opens his letter with a greeting to the Ephesians,
"To the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Prelude)
Ignatius reminds them of the source of their great blessing and happiness in God, that it flows from both the the greatness and fullness of the Father and the pain and suffering of the Son. The truth is that one leads to the other. God in His greatness sent His Son to endure the "true passion" of death that He might forgive us of our sins and that we might be reconciled back to God. God is great and merciful and just, but without the passion of Christ we would never have come to know Him in His greatness.

It appears that Ignatius never actually visited Ephesus, yet he had heard of them and of their faith in God.
"I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which ye have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Saviour." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 1)
The church at Ephesus was known among the other churches and had established a name for herself. Today, many of us want to establish names for our own churches. We try to do this through the quality of worship we provide, by the depth of the teaching we receive, or even by the degree of supernatural power in our midst. However, the Church at Ephesus achieved a name for themselves through the habit of righteousness. It was not based on anything the church did, anything they offered, or by any display of power, but their name was great among the other churches because of their surpassing righteousness which was theirs by habit and perpetual use. Would that this too would be the reason for our name being great among the churches of God.

The church at Ephesus, upon hearing that Ignatius was passing through on his way to be martyred, sent a delegation to him to encourage him by their love for him.
"Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, ye have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you. For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him 'who gave Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God,' ye hastened to see me." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 1)
The world they lived in hated Christians in general and Ignatius in particular. However, instead of being ashamed of Ignatius, and instead of trying to distance themselves from Him and His type, the flew to his side, to comfort him, to love him, and to identify with him in the eyes of the world. When a christian is being maligned by the world it is not a time for us to cower and draw away; being afraid to stand up and to be counted with our brother or sister lest we too feel the wrath and hatred of the world. Rather it is time to be "imitators of God", which is what is literally meant by "followers of God", and to do the works of God and to love one another.

Along with the delegation was the venerable Bishop of Ephesus, a man named Onesimus.
"I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him. And blessed be He who has granted unto you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 1)
It is quite probable that this was the same Onesimus that was once, as a slave, useless to his master, but who became useful to Paul and traveled with him and learned from him. It is also evident that he was a man of great godly character as Ignatius notes of him that he was a man of "inexpressible love." What a statement of character, righteousness, and holiness. Oh that we could all be known as men and women of inexpressible love!

Ignatius has much to say about the roles of the bishop in the church, as we will see in the letters we will be studying but, for the moment, suffice it to say that here Ignatius presents us with our first insight into the role of the bishop. Notice that the bishop is given to the church, not the church to the bishop. The bishop is given to encourage, teach, and watch over the church, not the church to serve the bishop. I don't know when things changed but sometimes it seems that we expect the church to serve our leaders  We may not say that out loud, but its our leaders vision and mission that we are expected to serve. We expect loyalty and honor to be shown to leaders regardless of whether or not they have proven themselves worth of such loyalty and honor. Leaders are to serve not be serve, as even Jesus said of Himself, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)

David Robison

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Ignatius, The God-Bearer - Introduction

We know little of Ignatius before his sentence of death. In 107 AD, Ignatius presented himself before the Roman emperor Trajan while he was visiting Antioch, where Ignatius served the church as bishop. He confessed before Trajan that he was a Christian, a confession that, in those days, earned you a one-way ticket to Rome and a chance to compete with wild beasts at the Colosseum. It was on this long journey from Antioch to Rome that Ignatius wrote his seven letters to the church. From there stop at Smyrna, where his younger friend Polycarp was bishop, he wrote letters to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the Trallians, and the Romans. From there they sailed and arrived at Troas where he wrote letters to the Philadelphians, the Smyrn├Žans, and to his friend Polycarp.

It is from these letters that we learn most of what we know about the man who's nickname was Theophorus, which means, God-Bearer. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and the older friend of Polycarp, also a disciple of John. From the account of his martyrdom,
"Ignatius, the disciple of John the apostle, a man in all respects of an apostolic character, governed the Church of the Antiochians with great care." (The Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 1)
Ignatius was a man beloved by those in the church and an example to other believes and even to his fellow bishops. The seven letters Ignatius wrote during his journey to Rome have been preserved for us in three separate forms, typically referred to as the shorter, longer, and the Syriac version. I am in no way a scholar of ancient writing so I have adopted the opinion of the majority and will use the shorter version of the letters in the following posts.

Over the next several post we will examine, one by one, the letters of Ignatius. I hope they are a blessing to you and that they also challenge you in your christian life and in your understanding of what it means to be "christian."

David Robison

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Piety

Part of the work of grace is to help grow us up, to help us to become full-grown men and women of God, to grow us up to share in the inheritance of the saints.
"And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)
This grace, or favor, from God expresses itself in many ways, but one key way is in teaching us how to live.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14)
This is consistent with the ministry of grace working through the apostles' lives.
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Colossians 1:28-29)
Some have viewed grace as simply a pass, a pass from sin, but grace is much more than that. It is by God's grace that we are forgiven of our sins, but it is also by His grace that we are taught how to live free from sin. God desires that we would be free from sin, free from the patterns in our lives that keep leading us back to sin, and one of the greatest tragedy in our lives is that, with each time we sin and repent, we never learn how to live differently and how to avoid sin in the first place. We fall and get up only to fall again and we never learn to stand; stand in the face of temptation and sin. Grace has appeared unto all men to teach us how to live; to teach us to live differently, to teach us how to live a life that is free from sin and pleasing to God.

To live soberly, righteously, and godly is what it means to live piously. The full-grown man and woman of God is a man and woman of piety; they live a life that is pious before God and man. One aspect of piety is to live a life that is pleasing to God. This was the kind of life Jesus led,
"And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29)
This is also the life the apostles lead,
"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him." (2 Corinthians 5:9)
And it is the kind of life we are encouraged to live.
"Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more." (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
One of the maturing processes of a child is to learn what is pleasing to their parents, and in this case, for us, it is to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
"Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:7-11)
We could spend an entire life learning what it means to please God, but here are a few things we know for sure.
"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8)
One of the ways we can please God is to become increasingly more concerned about heavenly things than earthly things. While we live in the earth, our true home is in heaven and we should live like it even on this earth. We should live our lives always with eternity in mind; not living for temporal gain but living for what has eternal rewards. Those who live for the things of this earth cannot please God but those who live for the true rewards of heaven please Him and find favor with Him.
"No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:4)
We can become so consumed with the cares of this life that they can actually choke out the life of God within us. There are so many things competing for our time and attention. However, if we let those things steel our attention and affection away from Christ then our lives will be spent in the pursuit of the worthless and we will miss the blessings of Christ. Even worse, we will find ourselves unable to please Him as all our time and effort is spent on the things of this world rather than on the things of His Kingdom.
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
Its not faith that pleases God but the works of faith. When we refuse to live by what is seen and live by what is unseen then our faith pleases God. Living by faith is living according to the revelation of God, both in how we look at the world, in what we believe and hope  is possible with God, and in how we respond to the commands of God. When we live life like it is all true, in our confidence and obedience, then we are living by faith.
"and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." (1 John 3:22)
Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) What pleases God is when we respond to His love by loving Him back. Obedience is one act of love we can show God for all the love He has shown us. Jesus is not just looking for people to be born again but people to be born again to a virtuous life. Tertullian put it this way,
"For it was not merely that he might live the natural life that God had produced man, but that he should live virtuously, that is, in relation to God and to His law. Accordingly, God gave him to live when he was formed into a living soul; but He charged him to live virtuously when he was required to obey a law." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 2, Chapter 8)
Obedience is not only our duty but also our love-response to God.
"And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16)
Finally, to love God's children is to love Him and to serve God's children is to please Him. Jesus Himself said, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) Serving and preferring others is a mark of the full-grown life and brings pleasure to God.  Even God, in being born a man for our salvation, did so without regard to His own needs, wants, and desires (as if God could want or need for anything). His salvation was focused on our needs and wants, it was a selfless act to save those who could not do it themselves. As God proved Himself to be selfless, so should we.

A life of piety may no longer be considered "vogue" but it is one of the hallmark characteristics of a full-grown man and woman of God. In closing I want to consider what Clement wrote describing a life of piety.
"Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 35)
If we learn to do this, then we will learn to do well.

David Robison

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Brotherhood

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church rebuking them that, at least for some of them, they still remained carnal.
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
The situation at Corinth had reached a fevered pitch. The jealousy and competition among the members had lead to division and quarrels that threatened to tear the church apart. Paul chides them for their behavior and reminds them that those who behave such are yet infants and immature in their life with God. Paul's admonishment is that they would grow up and put away such division and strife.

Unfortunately, such envying and quarreling would once again resurface in Corinth. After Paul's death, those in Corinth would once again begin dividing themselves over party lines. However, this time it was not over honorable men, such as the apostles, but over worthless men who sought to draw away the church after themselves.
"Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 3)
It is clear that such behavior is a mark of immaturity and is not consistent with the full-grown man and woman of God. Clement reminds the church that brotherly love one for another is a gateway to righteousness in our lives.
"Let us therefore, with all haste, put an end to this [state of things]; and let us fall down before the Lord, and beseech Him with tears, that He would mercifully be reconciled to us, and restore us to our former seemly and holy practice of brotherly love. For [such conduct] is the gate of righteousness, which is set open for the attainment of life, as it is written, 'Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go in by them, and will praise the Lord: this is the gate of the Lord: the righteous shall enter in by it.' Although, therefore, many gates have been set open, yet this gate of righteousness is that gate in Christ by which blessed are all they that have entered in and have directed their way in holiness and righteousness, doing all things without disorder. Let a man be faithful: let him be powerful in the utterance of knowledge; let him be wise in judging of words; let him be pure in all his deeds; yet the more he seems to be superior to others [in these respects], the more humble-minded ought he to be, and to seek the common good of all, and not merely his own advantage." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 48)
Righteousness begins with brotherly love. We cannot compete, envy, and quarrel with each other and, at the same time, claim to have fully passed through the gates of righteousness. Love of the brethren is a mark of true righteousness.

Brotherly love is also a gateway to godly love as Peter said, "and in your brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:7) and in this Clement agrees.
"Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well-pleasing to God." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 49)
Clement goes on to identify two things that will help us grow in our love for one another. First is that we put the needs of others before our own.
"Who then among you is noble-minded? who compassionate? who full of love? Let him declare, 'If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it.' " (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 54)
This is not to say that, whenever a problem arises we should leave the church, but rather that, in each case, we should put the needs and health of the church above our own. We must think of others before ourselves. Brotherly love will compel us to love others before we loves ourselves.

The second key to growing in brotherly love is to learn to submit to one another.
"Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians  Chapter 38)
Submitting to one another does not mean letting others tell us what we should do; it not the blind obedience to others, but it is the recognizing that we are only a part of a greater whole and that we need the other parts; we all need each other. It's the eye realizing that it needs the hand and the hand realizing that it needs the foot. It's the prophet realizing they need the apostle and the pastor realizing they need the teacher. It's the poor realizing they need the rich and the rich realizing they need the poor. We submit to one another according to the special gifts God has given them. We don't have all the gifts, we need what God has given others, we need what they have to give and supply, we are dependent on each other. The full-grown man and woman has learned to live in such submission with their brothers and sisters.

Finally, this can all be summed up in the words of Christ.
"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." (Matthew 23:8-10)
Jesus reminds us that we are all brothers. Many of our problems arise when we desire to be more than brothers or we lift others up to be more than brothers. When we do this we make distinctions between ourselves and sow the seeds of division, sedition, and strife. We need to realize that the greatest relationship we can have with each other is one of brother and sister. The full-grown man and woman has learned to live as brother and sister to all. They have learned to live and cherish the brotherhood. They are men and women of brotherhood.

David Robison

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Full-Grown Man - A Man of Imitation

John describes our progress in God as follows,
"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:12-14)
We are born anew as children in Christ. As children we have come to know the Father and to receive and experience His forgiveness. Our sins are covered and we begin a relationship with God our Father. As we grow into young men and women of God we grow strong in His word and this strength helps us to overcome the evil one. Not only have our sins been forgiven but we are learning to live holy and righteous lives; His word is helping us to avoid sin and defeat the evil one. As we become mature in God we come into a greater and fuller knowledge of Him whom is from everlasting to everlasting. Our knowledge of Him grows to where He becomes our all-in-all and fills every part of us. We become satisfied, not with the things He has to offer, but with Him alone.

Full-grown men and women of God know God, but what does it mean to know God? God describes Himself this way in Jeremiah.
"Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Those who know God have come to know His character and nature, that He is a god of lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. However, later on God adds,
" 'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16)
To know God is not only to know about Him but also to imitate Him in His nature and character. It is evident that the man that God was describing above knew God because he imitated God; God is a God of justice and he did justice, God is a God of righteousness and he did righteousness God is a God of lovingkindness and he demonstrated lovingkindness by pleading the cause of the lowly. To know God is to imitate God. We can claim all the knowledge of God we wish, but if our lives do not imitate His then our claims are hollow.

Jesus, in reminding His disciples to love one another said,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
It was not that they were just to love one another, but they were to love one another as Christ had loved them. Their love for one another was to be in imitation of His loved for them. This is how the world was to recognize them as His disciples, not that they loved, but that they loved as Christ loved; that the disciples had become like their teacher and had learned to love.

It is God's will and purpose that we might be remade, or renewed, into the image of His Son. Paul reminds us,
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
God desires, not one Son, but many sons and daughters all made in His image; many sons and daughters all imitating His Christ. God's desire is to fulfill His original intent for mankind.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' ... God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:26-27)
We are all made in His image in that we are all rational and creative beings and that we bear the same nature as our creator, a nature that longs for righteousness, justice, and lovingkindness.  However, we have all come short of His likeness.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
Many of the early christian writers distinguished between the image and likeness of God. One we have by birth and the other that we are regaining by re-birth. Clement of Alexandria writes of this when he says,
"It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be God’s image, and also His likeness, having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, 'I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest.' " (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 12)
The full-grown man and woman of God is one who truly know God and one who, in that knowledge, imitates God in both his character and actions. The full-grown man and woman of God has come full-circle to find what had once been lost and to regain what had once been taken, to find themselves renewed into the likeness of God, to become "gods and all sons and daughters of the Highest."

David Robison