Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ignatius to the Trallians - The True Gospel

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.

In preparing to close his letter to the Trallians, Ignatius once again encourages them to remain true to the true Gospel.
"Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly born, and did eat and drink. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; He was truly crucified, and [truly] died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 9)
Ignatius' emphasis here is on both the physical reality of these events and the participation of flesh in these events. There were those in his day that denied that Jesus came in human flesh. Some taught Him as a phantom and others as having flesh of a celestial nature, but certainly not human. However, Ignatius contended for the truth that Jesus was both God and man, and as man, came in human flesh. He was physically born, lived among us, suffered and died in the flesh, and bodily rose again. His flesh was our hope of forgiveness and a resurrection of our own. It was for this hope that Ignatius was bound in chains and heading to Rome to face death for His beliefs.
"But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer (they themselves only seeming to exist), then why am I in bonds? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against [the cross of] the Lord?" (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 10)
Those who did not believe that Jesus had come in the flesh were more than willing to deny their faith and to worship the emperor's god; anything so that they could escape the threat of death; something a true believe in Jesus would never do. Ignatius encourages the Trallians to flee such heresy and heretics as those who have only death to offer us.
"Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots [of Satan], which produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies. For these men are not the planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches of the cross, and their fruit would be incorruptible. By it He calls you through His passion, as being His members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is [the Saviour] Himself, having promised their union." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 11)
We who believe are God's planting, those whom God has planted in His kingdom and will one day return to raise us up with Him to our inheritance. Jesus came, not to just die and rise for our sins, but that we too might live through a resurrection to ever be with Him. "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)

In closing, Ignatius thanks the Trallians for refreshing his spirit and encourages them once again to remain in unity.
"I salute you from Smyrna, together with the Churches of God which are with me, who have refreshed me in all things, both in the flesh and in the spirit. My bonds, which I carry about with me for the sake of Jesus Christ (praying that I may attain to God), exhort you. Continue in harmony among yourselves, and in prayer with one another; for it becomes every one of you, and especially the presbyters, to refresh the bishop, to the honour of the Father, of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 12)
He also asks them for their prayers for the church he left behind in Syria that God would strengthen and comfort them.
"The love of the Smyrn├Žans and Ephesians salutes you. Remember in your prayers the Church which is in Syria, from which also I am not worthy to receive my appellation, being the last of them. Fare ye well in Jesus Christ, while ye continue subject to the bishop, as to the command [of God], and in like manner to the presbytery. And do ye, every man, love one another with an undivided heart." (Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 12)
This ends Ignatius' letter to the Trallians.

David Robison

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