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

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