Friday, March 01, 2013

Ignatius to the Magnesians - Greetings

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, who is also called Theophorus, to the [Church] blessed in the grace of God the Father, in Jesus Christ our Saviour, in whom I salute the Church which is at Magnesia, near the M├Žander, and wish it abundance of happiness in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Magnesians)
Not much is known about the church at Magnesia. About all I could find out about Magnesia is that it was an imperial city in the same region as Ephesus but smaller than Ephesus. However, while I had never heard of Magnesia before, Ignatius had.
"Having been informed of your godly love, so well-ordered, I rejoiced greatly, and determined to commune with you in the faith of Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 1)
Whether it was through letters, travelers from Magnesia, or via the delegation the church at Magnesia sent to encourage Ignatius, he had heard of their godly, and well-ordered, love for one another. He writes to them to "commune" with their faith. Notice that he doesn't write to teach them, to correct them, or to compel them to obedience to his doctrine, but rather to commune with them; to share with them his faith with a hope of encouraging and strengthening them in their faith.

He reminds them that Jesus is the source of all we need in this life and in the next. That He is to be sought before all things and preferred before all things. In this life we will face many trials and maybe even persecutions, but if we endure all these things as preferring Jesus over the things of this world, we will overcome and come to find true enjoyment in God.
"For as one who has been thought worthy of the most honourable of all names, in those bonds which I bear about, I commend the Churches, in which I pray for a union both of the flesh and spirit of Jesus Christ, the constant source of our life, and of faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred, but especially of Jesus and the Father, in whom, if we endure all the assaults of the prince of this world, and escape them, we shall enjoy God." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 1)
Ignatius commends those of the delegation from Magnesia for their character and their friendship.
"Since, then, I have had the privilege of seeing you, through Damas your most worthy bishop, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my ellowservant the deacon Sotio, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ, [I now write to you]." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 2)
It is interesting that, in an age when it would be far easier and, certainly safer, to just send a letter, the church chooses to send people to encourage Ignatius  In our age of e-mails, instant messenger, facebook, and other forms of electronic communications it is easy to loose the personal one-on-one connection with each other. Sometimes a letter or e-mail will not do; sometimes we must make the effort to make personal contact, face-to-face; sometimes what people need is not our notes or messages but our face. We must always be willing to make time for people, personal time to meet with them personally, that we might encourage and strengthen one another.

David Robison

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