Monday, March 25, 2013

Ignatius to the Romans - What Bishop?

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.

For one final time, Ignatius pleads with the Roman believers not to stand in the way of his martyrdom.
"I no longer wish to live after the manner of men, and my desire shall be fulfilled if ye consent. Be ye willing, then, that ye also may have your desires fulfilled. I entreat you in this brief letter; do ye give credit to me. Jesus Christ will reveal these things to you, [so that ye shall know] that I speak truly. He is the mouth altogether free from falsehood, by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray ye for me, that I may attain [the object of my desire]. I have not written to you according to the flesh, but according to the will of God. If I shall suffer, ye have wished [well] to me; but if I am rejected, ye have hated me." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 8)
Only one thing could stand between Ignatius and his desire, and that was the intervention of the believers in Rome. His desire to die in battle with wild beasts did not come from some death wish he secretly harbored deep inside, rather, it was from Ignatius' deeply held belief that this was his calling in God and of the priceless reward that was awaiting him after he had successfully completed his journey. He asked them to pray and was assured that Jesus would give them the same answer he had, "Leave Ignatius alone; let him die." He would know their answer based on the outcome of his life. If he died a martyr  then they "wished well," if not, then the hated him and stole from him what he desired most, his liberty and freedom.

Ignatius also ask the Roman church to pray for the church is Syria who were about to loose their Bishop.
"Remember in your prayers the Church in Syria, which now has God for its shepherd, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love [will also regard it]. But as for me, I am ashamed to be counted one of them; for indeed I am not worthy, as being the very last of them, and one born out of due time. But I have obtained mercy to be somebody, if I shall attain to God." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 9)
It is interesting, in light of the early church's practice of apostolic succession that Ignatius did not appoint a new Bishop before his departure. Perhaps there was no time or there was no one eminently qualified to be bishop. Either way, he seemed confident that the church would survive without one, having "God as their shepherd."

Ignatius also sends forward the greetings of the churches that had been ministering to him in his journey.
"My spirit salutes you, and the love of the Churches that have received me in the name of Jesus Christ, and not as a mere passer-by. For even those Churches which were not near to me in the way, I mean according to the flesh, have gone before me, city by city, [to meet me.]" (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 9)
Ignatius was loved by the churches and it was the custom of the churches to show their love in practical ways, regardless of the distance. Ignatius may not have been their Bishop but he was one of them, a believer in Jesus Christ and one who also hoped in the resurrection to come. There was a profound sense of unity and fraternity in the early church.

At last, Ignatius closes his letter.
"Now I write these things to you from Smyrna by the Ephesians, who are deservedly most happy. There is also with me, along with many others, Crocus, one dearly beloved by me. As to those who have gone before me from Syria to Rome for the glory of God, I believe that you are acquainted with them; to whom, [then,] do ye make known that I am at hand. For they are all worthy, both of God and of you; and it is becoming that you should refresh them in all things. I have written these things unto you, on the day before the ninth of the Kalends of September (that is, on the twenty-third day of August). Fare ye well to the end, in the patience of Jesus Christ. Amen." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 10)
This ends his letter to the Roman church.

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment