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

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