Thursday, March 07, 2013

Ignatius to the Magnesians - Remain True

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 knew that repetition and reminders are useful in our walk in the Lord. In our busy days it is easy to forget God and the things of God, repetition and reminders bring those things back into the forefront of our mind.
"These things [I address to you], my beloved, not that I know any of you to be in such a state; but, as less than any of you, I desire to guard you beforehand, that ye fall not upon the hooks of vain doctrine, but that ye attain to full assurance in regard to the birth, and passion, and resurrection which took place in the time of the government of Pontius Pilate, being truly and certainly accomplished by Jesus Christ, who is our hope, from which may no one of you ever be turned aside." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 11)
The Gospel is not complicated. Notice what he write them to remember: Christ's virgin birth, His physical death, and His bodily resurrection. This is the core of the Gospel.

Ignatius also knew he could write to them with joy and confidence knowing their heart in the Lord and their willingness to obey.
"May I enjoy you in all respects, if indeed I be worthy! For though I am bound, I am not worthy to be compared to any of you that are at liberty. I know that ye are not puffed up, for ye have Jesus Christ in yourselves. And all the more when I commend you, I know that ye cherish modesty of spirit; as it is written, 'The righteous man is his own accuser.' " (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 12)
It is unclear which scripture Ignatius is referring to, but it is consistent with the words of Paul, "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:31) Ignatius further reminds them that it is one thing to know good doctrine but it's another to be established in good doctrine. One requires just knowing, the other requires handling.
"Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatsoever ye do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable bishop, and the well-compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God. Be ye subject to the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 13)
Study is not just for the intellectuals or the professional clergy but it is incumbent on each and everyone of us to study to know and understand the truth of God. Only by handling the word of God in study will we grow firmer in our establishment in the truth.

Ignatius also asked the Magnesians to pray for him and the church he left behind in Syria, He was facing a difficult future and knew he needed the prayers of the saints so that he might stand strong and resolute in his determination to face his martyrdom with courage and grace.
"Knowing as I do that ye are full of God, I have but briefly exhorted you. Be mindful of me in your prayers, that I may attain to God; and of the Church which is in Syria, whence I am not worthy to derive my name: for I stand in need of your united prayer in God, and your love, that the Church which is in Syria may be deemed worthy of being refreshed by your Church." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 14)
He also asked that the Magnesians would reach out to the church in Syria to refresh them. This was standard procedure for the churches in the early centuries; to support, encourage, and refresh each other.

Finally, he says his goodbyes.
"The Ephesians from Smyrna (whence I also write to you), who are here for the glory of God, as ye also are, who have in all things refreshed me, salute you, along with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrn├Žans. The rest of the Churches, in honour of Jesus Christ, also salute you. Fare ye well in the harmony of God, ye who have obtained the inseparable Spirit, who is Jesus Christ." (Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 15)
This ends his letter to the church in Magnesia.

David Robison

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