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

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