Monday, March 11, 2013

Ignatius to the Trallians - The danger of knowledge

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 never saw himself as one who was exhaled above the brethren, rather as simply one of them.
"But shall I, when permitted to write on this point, reach such a height of self-esteem, that though being a condemned man, I should issue commands to you as if I were an apostle?" (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 3)
Ignatius was an honorable man, one who commanded respect, and one who, due to his position appointed to him by God, had the right and authority to command others, yet instead he used these gifts to serve others and to relate to them as equals. Ignatius was a man who understood the position allotted to him by God and was content with that position. He was not an apostle and that was fine by him. He didn't try to be one, rather he simply tried to fulfill his calling in God to the best of his ability.

Ignatius knew the power of knowledge and its tendency to puff us up, yet he also knew that his journey towards martyrdom required humility not pride.
"I have great knowledge in God, but I restrain myself, lest, I should perish through boasting. For now it is needful for me to be the more fearful; and not give heed to those that puff me up. For they that speak to me [in the way of commendation] scourge me. For I do indeed desire to suffer, but I know not if I be worthy to do so. For this longing, though it is not manifest to many, all the more vehemently assails me. I therefore have need of meekness, by which the prince of this world is brought to nought." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 4)
This was not a time for Ignatius to impress others with his knowledge and his authority, rather it was a time for him to strive to remain humble and weak knowing that in his weakness God would prove Himself strong. There were those, however, who, though well meaning, sought to encourage Ignatius through their commendations of Him, but Ignatius did not need to be reminded of his own greatness (which in fact as too little for the task ahead of him) but rather to be reminded of the greatness of God. In difficult times we need to be reminded of God and His greatness not of ourselves and our own supposed strengths.

Finally, Ignatius reminds the Trallians that knowledge is good when used wisely and when acquired in a way that is commensurate with our growth in the Lord.
"Am I not able to write to you of heavenly things? But I fear to do so, lest I should inflict injury on you who are but babes [in Christ]. Pardon me in this respect, lest, as not being able to receive [such doctrines], ye should be strangled by them. For even I, though I am bound [for Christ], yet am not on that account able to understand heavenly things, and the places of the angels, and their gatherings under their respective princes, things visible and invisible. Without reference to such abstruse subjects, I am still but a learner [in other respects]; for many things are wanting to us, that we come not short of God." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 5)
There are many great things to know and discover, yet David said, "O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me." (Psalms 131:1) When we pursue knowledge that is beyond our present life in God we are in danger of choking on that very knowledge we had searched for. The problem is not knowledge, the problem is when we search for knowledge more than we search for the Lord; when we want knowledge without the Lord. The temptation of Adam and Eve was that, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5) The problem was not knowledge, but what the Devil promised was knowledge apart from God; knowing good from evil apart from receiving this knowledge from God. Ignatius knew that not all knowledge was suitable to us and our current walk with the Lord. Even Paul said, "Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature." (1 Corinthians 2:6) Some knowledge is better suited for when we are more fully matured in the things of God. However, the knowledge of God is always "in season." It is far better to pursue God and the knowledge He brings then to pursue knowledge for its sake alone.

David Robison

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