Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Martyrdom of Ignatius

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.

This story begins when Tarran becomes emperor of Rome.
"When Trajan, not long since, succeeded to the empire of the Romans, Ignatius, the disciple of John the apostle, a man in all respects of an apostolic character, governed the Church of the Antiochians with great care, having with difficulty escaped the former storms of the many persecutions under Domitian, inasmuch as, like a good pilot, by the helm of prayer and fasting, by the earnestness of his teaching, and by his [constant] spiritual labour, he resisted the flood that rolled against him, fearing [only] lest he should lose any of those who were deficient in courage, or apt to suffer from their simplicity." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 1)
A great wave of persecution had crashed upon the church at Antioch and many were martyred for their love and hope in Christ. Throughout this time of persecution, Ignatius fought with every spiritual weapon for the faith and courage of those he cared over. His thoughts were not for himself but for his brothers and sisters, especially those young in the faith, lest they should be shaken from the simplicity of their love for Christ. In time, this wave of persecution rolled back into the sea granting peace once again and Ignatius rejoiced with his brethren.
"Wherefore he rejoiced over the tranquil state of the Church, when the persecution ceased for a little time, but was grieved as to himself, that he had not yet attained to a true love to Christ, nor reached the perfect rank of a disciple. For he inwardly reflected, that the confession which is made by martyrdom, would bring him into a yet more intimate relation to the Lord. Wherefore, continuing a few years longer with the Church, and, like a divine lamp, enlightening every one’s understanding by his expositions of the [Holy] Scriptures, he [at length] attained the object of his desire." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 1)
Ignatius rejoiced over the peace of the church, yet he was grieved that he had not yet been counted worthy by his God to suffer for His name. In his heart was a desire, along with a sense of calling, to suffer for Jesus even as Jesus has suffered for him. So for many more years he continued with the church, strengthening  and teaching them in Christ. After almost nine years of peace, the wave of persecution once again flowed over Antioch.
"For Trajan, in the ninth year of his reign, being lifted up [with pride], after the victory he had gained over the Scythians and Dacians, and many other nations, and thinking that the religious body of the Christians were yet wanting to complete the subjugation of all things to himself, and [thereupon] threatening them with persecution unless they should agree to worship dæmons, as did all other nations, thus compelled all who were living godly lives either to sacrifice [to idols] or die." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 2)
Once again Trajan breathed out threats against the church and once again Ignatius was in fear for the church that she would stand firm against the onslaught of evil. Knowing that he was a leader among the churches, Ignatius was arrested and brought before Trajan where Ignatius confessed the good confession of faith.
"Trajan answered, 'And who is Theophorus?' Ignatius replied, 'He who has Christ within his breast.' ... Trajan said, 'Do you mean Him who was crucified under Pontius Pilate? Ignatius replied, 'I mean Him who crucified my sin, with him who was the inventor of it, and who has condemned [and cast down] all the deceit and malice of the devil under the feet of those who carry Him in their heart.' Trajan said, 'Dost thou then carry within thee Him that was crucified?' Ignatius replied, 'Truly so; for it is written, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them." 'Then Trajan pronounced sentence as follows: “We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about within him Him that was crucified, be bound by soldiers, and carried to the great [city] Rome, there to be devoured by the beasts, for the gratification of the people.' " (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 2)
Ignatius was condemned to death, yet he rejoiced for being found worthy and for being given the honor of suffering and dying for His Lord.
"I thank thee, O Lord, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honour me with a perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains, like Thy Apostle Paul." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 2)
The trip to Rome was long and difficult and Ignatius suffered much at the hands of his captors, yet he still found time to dispatch letters to the churches and to meet with those sent from the churches to strengthen him in his way and, above all, to see his friend Polycarp one more time.
"And after a great deal of suffering he came to Smyrna, where he disembarked with great joy, and hastened to see the holy Polycarp, [formerly] his fellow-disciple, and [now] bishop of Smyrna. For they had both, in old times, been disciples of St. John the Apostle. Being then brought to him, and having communicated to him some spiritual gifts, and glorying in his bonds, he entreated of him to labour along with him for the fulfilment of his desire; earnestly indeed asking this of the whole Church... but above all, the holy Polycarp, that, by means of the wild beasts, he soon disappearing from this world, might be manifested before the face of Christ." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 3)
Having finally made it to Rome he perceived in the Spirit that some meant to persuade the people to let him go, so he entreated them to no do so but to rather pray for the church that her persecution might end.
"Now he enjoined some to keep silence who, in their fervent zeal, were saying946 that they would appease the people, so that they should not demand the destruction of this just one. He being immediately aware of this through the Spirit, and having saluted them all, and begged of them to show a true affection towards him, and having dwelt [on this point] at greater length than in his Epistle,948 and having persuaded them not to envy him hastening to the Lord, he then, after he had, with all the brethren kneeling [beside him], entreated the Son of God in behalf of the Churches, that a stop might be put to the persecution, and that mutual love might continue among the brethren." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 6)
After which he was immediately hastened to the amphitheater and tossed to the lions.
"he was thus cast to the wild beasts close beside the temple, that so by them the desire of the holy martyr Ignatius should be fulfilled, according to that which is written, 'The desire of the righteous is acceptable [to God],' to the effect that he might not be troublesome to any of the brethren by the gathering of his remains, even as he had in his Epistle expressed a wish beforehand that so his end might be. For only the harder portions of his holy remains were left, which were conveyed to Antioch and wrapped in linen, as an inestimable treasure left to the holy Church by the grace which was in the martyr." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 6)
The church was in tears and, in their sorrow, they turned to the Lord.
"Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our falling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labour, and standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy [martyr]." (Martyrdom of Ignatius, Chapter 7)
Having been encouraged by the revelation of God, they rejoiced together and gave thanks for their brother and friend Ignatius. Thus ended the incredible life of Ignatius. Oh that God would once again grant to the church men of such stature, faith, holiness, and love.

David Robison

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ignatius to Polycarp - Farewell

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.

Before closing his letter, Ignatius encourages Polycarp to also send an emissary to the church at Antioch in Syria.
"Seeing that the Church which is at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple [of Christ]. It is fitting, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a very solemn council, and to elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be a man of activity, who may be designated the messenger of God; and to bestow on him this honour that he may go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 7)
Notice the honor that was to be shown the church at Antioch in that Polycarp was to select and send one whom was "greatly loved" and a "man of activity." This was not just someone who was willing but one who was greatly loved and respected by Smyrneans, one whose presence would both communicate their love to those at Antioch and also bring honor to them by their coming. Ignatius also reminds Polycarp and the Smyrneans that a christian should always be ready for God's service, even if it involved a long and dangerous journey to bless others.
"A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God’s and yours, when ye shall have completed it to His glory. For I trust that, through grace, ye are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 7)
It also is not enough to desire such a work but one must also bring it to completion. I have a friend who used to be a writer until one day he realized that he enjoyed being a writer more than writing. He loved it when people, including himself, thought of him as a writer, but he did not like the work of being a writer. Some believers are like this; they like being a Christian but do not like the work of being a Christian. It is one thing to be called a Christian but it is another to live as a Christian and to do the work of a Christian as God assigns it to us.

Polycarp's time of rest on his way to Rome is over and they are about to be on the move again. As time is short, he asks his friend Polycarp to reach out to the churches around him and ask that they too participate in the sending of people to Antioch to rejoice with them.
"Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the Churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the w [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] thou, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, wilt write to the adjacent Churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by thee, that thou mayest be glorified by a work which shall be remembered for ever, as indeed thou art worthy to be." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 8)
Finally, he sends his final greetings.
"I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him for ever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for your happiness for ever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue ye in the unity and under the protection of God,I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare ye well in the Lord." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 8)
Ignatius was a man who loved greatly as was greatly loved. This ends His letter to Polycarp.

David Robison

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ignatius to Polycarp - Marriage and Engagement

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.

It is interesting that the only command that Ignatius asked Polycarp to directly communicate to the church, other than being committed to unity and orthodoxy, relates to marriage.
"Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 5)
It is unclear exactly what those "evil arts" were and whether Polycarp was to discourse against then in public or if such things were disgraceful even to mention in public, but it is reasonable to assume that they were in reference to illicit relationships, especially sexual relationships. The Roman world, in that day, was quite liberal and "modern" in their views on sex and marriage and the church stood in stark contrast to the prevailing cultural norms. Polycarp was to encourage those in the church hold tight to their scriptural and apostolic teachings in regard to marriage and sex rather than being influenced by the culture around them. For many of them, this would involve re-teaching their soul and their perception of the world to confirm to that of Christ and not of Rome. Ignatius wanted them to come and learn what it meant when it was said, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge." ("Hebrews 13:4)

Furthermore, it is my opinion that Ignatius was not introducing a new rule that all marriages had to be approved by the Bishop, rather, that all marriages should be approved by God. Some people live a separated life; their spiritual life and their natural life, and each side has little to do with the other. The are concerned about what God says about how to worship Him but think little of whom He wants them to marry. So how are we to know if God approves of our marriage? I have seen those who have sought marriage secretly because they know what other believers around them would think while others sought it publicly knowing that the church would rejoice with them in their choice. If the church cannot rejoice with you in your planned marriage then maybe it's worth some consideration to determine if its just them or if God himself is also not rejoicing with you. Again, this is not a hard-fast rule, but if your brothers and sisters have reservations, then maybe you should pause and give it some thought.

Finally, Ignatius gives some charges directly to the people whom Polycarp was shepherding.
"Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 6)
First he encourages them to unity and to sharing a common life. The church is not just a social club but is, in reality, a family. They were to see each other as brothers and sisters with God as their one Father. As such, they were to share life together, the good and the bad, and to be committed to each other and to the building up of the "family" in love.
"Please ye Him under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 6)
Secondly, they were to fight the good fight, to stand strong against the influences of the world and of the devil. They were to persist to the end and not to be found deserters according to the faith.
"Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!" (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 6)
Finally, they were to be patient with one another, forgiving one another, even as Christ was patient and forgiving with them. A church that does these three things will certainly be a church where God's blessings reign over His people.

David Robison

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ignatius to Polycarp - Nothing without thy consent

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 continues to exhort Polycarp to the work he was called to do.
"Let not widows be neglected. Be thou, after the Lord, their protector and friend." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 4)
We are all called to defend and protect those who are weak and lowly in the Body of Christ. James reports that, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) We are called to be fathers to the fatherless, friends to the friendless, and supporters of those who have no one else to support them. Authority is of little use in the Kingdom unless someone other than ourselves benefits from our authority. Jesus said, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you." (Luke 22:25-26) In the world, those with authority are the same that benefit from it. However, in God's Kingdom, we are to use our authority to benefit others, even at our own expense. It is a true statement that the higher we climb, the greater our call is to serve.
"Let nothing be done without thy consent; neither do thou anything without the approval of God, which indeed thou dost not, inasmuch as thou art stedfast." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 4)
At first glance it seems that Ignatius is attributing almost unlimited authority and discretion to the bishops of the church. However, he qualifies their authority by requiring them to only give their consent to what God has already approved. Leaders do not have carte-blanche to do or demand what every they will, but they are to represent the authority of God; requiring and consenting to only those things He requires and consents. Leaders, and all of us really, are required to continually judge our interests and judgments by the mind and will of Christ.

More specifically, Ignatius knew that there were those in the church that were teaching things contrary to the apostolic message they had received. Ignatius was encouraging Polycarp to "stand firm" and to "draw a line in the sand" when it came to the faith that had been handed down by the apostles. Those teachings, doctrines, and traditions that he approved of, having already been approved of by God and taught by the apostles, were those that the church should follow. Anyone advocating anything else was "outside" the church, its teachings, its traditions, and its communion.
"Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 4)
It is unclear whether Ignatius is saying that they should meet more often or in greater numbers. Either way, Ignatius was encouraging Polycarp to ensure that the church meet regularly and together as one body. We need each other; we both need to encourage and to be encouraged by the faith of others. We were never meant to go this Christian life alone. Along with the Holy Spirit, God has given us each other to help us in our times of need. As Paul said, "let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Every member is needed, even the lowliest among us. Even the slaves were not to be despised by treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is as Paul said, "it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary." (1 Corinthians 12:22) It is unfortunate that many of us have been conditioned to look only to the strong and prominent for our encouragement and guidance. However, it is often true that God has chosen to place his gifts in those whom we would not naturally esteem. God often chooses the weak and lowly to be rich in faith and gifts. When we seek only the strong, then we tend to miss many of the blessings God has placed in his body. As Paul tells us, "For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God." (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

David Robison

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ignatius to Polycarp - The times call for you

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 reminds Polycarp that, while we will not always be loved by all men, we are called to love all men.
"If thou lovest the good disciples, no thanks are due to thee on that account; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things 'wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.' For this purpose thou art composed f both flesh and spirit, that thou mayest deal tenderly with those [evils] that present themselves visibly before thee. And as respects those that are not seen, pray that [God] would reveal them unto thee, in order that thou mayest be wanting in nothing, but mayest abound in every gift." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 2)
It is easy to love those who love us, it is harder to love those who hate us. It is easy to love the lovely, it is harder to love the unlovely. Anyone can love their friend, but true love is measured by the degree to which we can love all people, even those who reject us and stand in opposition to us. As believers we are called to love all people, even those whom it may be difficult to love.

Ignatius also reminds Polycarp that people are different. The remedy suitable for one may not be appropriate for another. For one, gentleness may be in order, but for another, open rebuke. In each case wisdom from God is needed to know how to love each one back to God and back to the good order that is beneficial for their relationships with God and mankind.

Finally, Ignatius reminds Polycarp that not everything is as it seems. "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after." (1 Timothy 5:24) We must be watchful in prayer that we might know the truth of things and not just their appearance.

Ignatius also exhorts Polycarp that this was his time.
"The times call for thee, as pilots do for the winds, and as one tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both thou [and those under thy care] may attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before thee is immortality and eternal life, of which thou art also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for thine, and my bonds also, which thou hast loved." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 2)
None of us live by chance, rather we have been appointed to this time by God and it is incumbent upon us to find out for what purpose we have been placed here and in this time. It was said of King David, "David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers." (Acts 13:36) May the same be said of us, that, having fulfilled what God placed us here to do that we then departed to our reward in heaven. However, first the fulfillment, then the reward. This is not always easy and, at times, may even be painful, yet it yields great rewards.
"Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill thee with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 3)
God never promised that we would not suffer, in fact, we should expect it. "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21) Discipline, labor, and suffering are all part of the Christian's walk, yet along with it there is grace, love, and communion with God. We must simply accept it, stand courageously in the face of it, and allow it to have its perfect work in our lives, working that which God desires to work in us.

The key to accepting and enduring the difficult times in life is remembering for whom's sake we are suffering.
"Be ever becoming more zealous than what thou art. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 3)
We were never meant to live this christian walk on our own but to be strengthened by the indwelling of God by His Spirit within us. It is God who is our strength and our joy and our delight. We can trust Him to become all thing to us according to our need and to carry us by His power and strength through what ever and where ever He leads us. Our hope and confidence in Him will never be disappointed.

David Robison

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ignatius to Polycarp - 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.

Polycarp was the younger friend of Ignatius and they has both been disciples of John the apostle. In a final letter to his friend, Ignatius pours out his heart to Polycarp and encourages him to stay the course and to finish strong in the Lord.
"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Greetings)
Ignatius, in all his letters, always speaks of the bishops of the church in elevated terms. However, he understood that a true bishop had both the Father and the Son as his own bishop. It is dangerous to follow a man who is not following Christ, or to submit to human authority when that authority is not submitted to God. Polycarp's authority as a bishop did not come through apostolic succession but through his submission to God. It was because of this submission, and the gentle character of his christian life, that Polycarp was qualified and ordained as the bishop of Smyrna. Succession is never enough to legitimizes the ecclesiastical authority or anyone, they must also demonstrate that they possess the likeness of Christ.
"Having obtained good proof that thy mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] thy blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat thee, by the grace with which thou art clothed, to press forward in thy course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain thy position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity, than which nothing is better." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 1)
Ignatius loved his friend Polycarp and, while Ignatius' ministry was coming to its grand conclusion, Polycarp's was still ascending to greatness. One day he too would join Ignatius as a martyr for Christ, but for now his ministry was still growing and developing. Ignatius encouraged him to press on to the end even as his own ministry was coming to and end. He encouraged Polycarp to not loose heart as his own pending martyrdom  but to be fully committed to what God had called him to do and to fulfill his ministry on to the end. Ignatius reminds him that in maintaining his ministry he was contributing to the salvation of all who might be saved. His calling was not for himself, to exalt and bring glory to himself, but was for others, to support and encourage them on to salvation.

Ignatius continues by encouraging Polycarp to be active in his ministry and calling.
"Bear with all, even as the Lord does with thee. Support all in love, as also thou doest. Give thyself to prayer without ceasing. Implore additional understanding to what thou already hast. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables thee. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life]: where the labour is great, the gain is all the more." (Ignatius to Polycarp, Chapter 1)
Ignatius reminds him of two things. First, to treat others as Christ treats him. The one who is forgiven can forgive others. The one who has received mercy and forbearance from God can give it to his fellowman. Even when we are exhaled to places of ministry and authority, we are still no better than those we serve. We are still beset with weaknesses and temptations. The same mercy, forgiveness, and grace we receive from God for our weaknesses we must be willing to extend to others in their weaknesses. Secondly, he reminds him that all labor, while requiring effort and often sacrifice, produces gain and the more the labor the more the gain. King Solomon put it like this, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:4) Where there is no labor there is no mess but there is also no gain. Many of the things in the Kingdom of God do not come to those who sit by and wait for them, they require faith, patience, and effort. What God had called Polycarp to achieve would take effort on his part and the same is true with us. We must learn to labor with God if we are to see the promises of God come to pass in our lives.

David Robison

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ignatius to the Smyrneans - A motto to live by

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 begins his goodbyes.
"Ye have done well in receiving Philo and Rheus Agathopus as servants of Christ our God, who have followed me for the sake of God, and who give thanks to the Lord in your behalf, because ye have in every way refreshed them. None of these things shall be lost to you. May my spirit be for you, and my bonds, which ye have not despised or been ashamed of; nor shall Jesus Christ, our perfect hope, be ashamed of you." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 10)
Ignatius thanks the Smyrneans for receiving his friends that came to them in that they "refreshed" then in every way. When you've had a hard day, week, year, or life, where do you go to for comfort and refreshment?  Where do you go for love, understanding, and encouragement? Certainly we turn to our families and, hopefully, the Lord, but where else? Many who don't know the Lord may turn to their favorite bar, coffee shop, of illicit relationship, but as Christians, do we ever turn to the church? Unfortunately, for many, the church has ceased to be a place of refreshment. Far too often our churches have become simply a place to dispatch our weekly obligation or a dispensary for teaching and preaching. In becoming so we have lost hold of the human touch and the sharing of our lives together and the church, as a place of refreshing, has ceased to exist. We must remember that the church was created for us, not for God. God does not need a church to accomplish His will but we do. We need each other and the joy, love, and refreshment that flows from our relationship as believers in Christ. Our churches need to once again become a place for human interaction and refreshment.

Ignatius thanks the Smyrneans for their prayers; both for himself and the church he left behind.
"Your prayer has reached to the Church which is at Antioch in Syria. Coming from that place bound with chains, most acceptable to God, I salute all; I who am not worthy to be styled from thence, inasmuch as I am the least of them. Nevertheless, according to the will of God, I have been thought worthy [of this honour], not that I have any sense [of having deserved it], but by the grace of God, which I wish may be perfectly given to me, that through your prayers I may attain to God." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 11)
However, Ignatius'  thoughts are more for the church than for himself. He encourages the Smyrneans to send a delegation to Smyrna to rejoice with them over the peace that had come to them.
"In order, therefore, that your work may be complete both on earth and in heaven, it is fitting that, for the honour of God, your Church should elect some worthy delegate; so that he, journeying into Syria, may congratulate them that they are [now] at peace, and are restored to their proper greatness, and that their proper constitution has been re-established among them. It seems then to me a becoming thing, that you should send some one of your number with an epistle, so that, in company with them, he may rejoice over the tranquility which, according to the will of God, they have obtained, and because that, through your prayers, they have now reached the harbour." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 11)
As the church, not only are we given opportunities to refresh one another but also, from time-to-time, to refresh other churches as well. It is time we loose our denominational labels that only serve to separate us one from another. We are not Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, or Charismatics rather we are all Christians and brothers and sisters of one another. We may attend an Episcopal church but we are not Episcopalians but simply Christians. Only when we have removed what separates us can we begin to reach out and refresh each other, even church-to-church.

Ignatius leaves them this motto to live by.
"As persons who are perfect, ye should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when ye are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 11)
It is time to put away smaller pursuits and to pursue the things of God, the things that are good, and the things that are perfect. If we want to be perfect, pursue the things that are perfect. If we want to be good, pursue the things that are good. If we want to be mediocre then pursue the mediocre.  The choice is our.

Finally, Ignatius solutes them goodbye.
"The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; whence also I write to you by Burrhus, whom ye sent with me, together with the Ephesians, your brethren, and who has in all things refreshed me. And I would that all may imitate him, as being a pattern of a minister of God. Grace will reward him in all things. I salute your most worthy bishop, and your very venerable presbytery, and your deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you individually, as well as generally, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in His flesh and blood, in His passion and resurrection, both corporeal and spiritual, in union with God and you. Grace, mercy, peace, and patience, be with you for evermore!" (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 12)
Ignatius encourages the Smyrneans to imitate those who have ministered (or served) well and to follow their example. We should learn to first look for "spiritual heroes" from among those around us.It is easy to be enamored by the ministry of some great man or woman somewhere else, but God has placed examples of godly men and women in our midst; these are the examples we should follow and seek to emulate.

Finally, he salutes a few close friends by name.
"I salute the families of my brethren, with their wives and children, and the virgins who are called widows. Be ye strong, I pray, in the power of the Holy Ghost. Philo, who is with me, greets you. I salute the house of Tavias, and pray that it may be confirmed in faith and love, both corporeal and spiritual. I salute Alce, my well-beloved, and the incomparable Daphnus, and Eutecnus, and all by name. Fare ye well in the grace of God." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 13)
Some believe that the reference to the "virgins" who were called "widows" refers to the deaconesses in the church. Great was the heart of Ignatius for the churches and the people who made up the churches.

This ends Ignatius' letter to the Smyrneans.

David Robison

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ignatius to the Smyrneans - Fealty to the 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.

These next two chapters in Ignatius' letter to the Smyrneans can be the most difficult to understand and interpret  in light of our present day structures and religious experiences. However, being the man of limited judgment that I am, I'm going to give it a try anyway.
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 8)
For many of us, adherence to Ignatius' teachings would be difficult if not impossible, since many of us have lived our entire religious lives without experiencing a bishop present and presiding over our gatherings. For many of us it is hard to understand how anything could be  "not lawful without the bishop" and that would include everything we have experienced and done throughout our entire christian lives. So how do we relate to such a teaching and, more importantly, now having read Ignatius' teaching, how should we respond?

Such quandaries are not be new to us as many injunctions in the scriptures towards the church can present us trouble today. For example, consider just a few teachings of Paul from his letter to the Corinthians. " But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved." (1 Corinthians 11:5) "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) For many today, these verses also cause trouble and, in some churches, our right conflict. So what is, or should be, our position towards these teachings?

The key questions are, first, are these teachings authoritative and, secondly, do they still apply to us today. For the sake of argument, I am assuming the answer to the first question to be yes; these teachings are authoritative. However, are these teachings immutable and universal? In other words  were these laws and rules for the church meant for all times and in every place, or where these rules specific to the apostles and bishops presiding over churches in a specific area and/or were they meant to address specific cultural and religious issues of the day?

To properly answer these questions we must first recognize that the churches of the first and second century were not homogeneous but differed widely in their traditions and structures. For example, while Ignatius, a disciple of John, speaks much about the role of a Bishop, we do not see the same teachings in the letters of Paul to the churches he was responsible for. Also, Justin martyr, in his First Apology, wrote
"There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things atHis hands." (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 65)
Here there is no mention of a bishop just the "president of  the brethren." Also, Tertullian, in writing on who may baptize says, 
"Beside these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received can be equally given." (Tertullian, On Baptism, Chapter 10)
Here, everyone could baptize; something which is not wholly consistent with the views of Ignatius.

It is clear that the churches were not all uniform and many had their own traditions and practices that were different from others. It is also interesting to note that not all the churches used the same set of New Testament writings in their services that other churches used. For example, some of the books that differed in usage and acceptance included 2nd Peter, Jude, Hebrews, and John's Apocalypse. It seems that primary factor in determining which books to use in there service was based on which apostle founded the church and/or which apostle they were most familiar with. For example, churches founded by Paul would give more weight to the writings of Paul and those founded by John to his writings. A church's traditions, practices, and selection of scripture seems to have been mostly determined by the traditions set down by their founding apostle. 

Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you." (1 Corinthians 11:2) It is quite conceivable that these traditions were different from those delivered by John to the churches he founded. Each apostle delivering to each church the traditions he believed most suited to them and, it was these traditions, that the bishops that followed sought to maintain and pass down.

Finally, it is interesting to note that when Ignatius says that it is "unlawful" to perform some rites without the bishop, he does not say that it is unscriptural or sinful, but simply unlawful, as being against the ecclesiastical rules, patterns, or traditions that had been established within the churches.

So how do we relate and respond to such teachings? What is important is to understand the wisdom of God that was behind such teachings and what the Holy Spirit was trying to avoid and or reinforce in the church.
"It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 9)
In Ignatius' days there were those who were setting up their own churches with their own scriptures, love feasts, and bishops. They even claimed to be "christian", but they were founded by and built upon heretics and heretical teachings that, among other things, denied Jesus as God in human flesh. How was the new believer to know which church was right? One way was to identify those bishops who were in succession from the apostles and who held to the apostles teachings and traditions. Keeping faith and communion with these men was a safeguard to keeping faith and communion with the true faith of God.

There were also those, in Ignatius' day, who sowed division and discord in the church; some centered around heretical ideas, other around a desire for honor, power, and position. These people worked in the dark, with secrets, and by subterfuge. The were like Absalom who secretly sought to draw the people's loyalty away from his father David unto himself. Absalom would rise up early and stand at the gate and fain his care for the people over that of his father. "Then Absalom would say to him, 'See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.' Moreover, Absalom would say, 'Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.' " ("2 Samuel 15:3-4) However, when everything is done in the light, it gives little room for deception and subterfusion. When we live and speak like everyone is hearing then we are more careful what we say and it becomes harder to draw away the faith and loyalty of others by our lies and deception.

Many of us enjoy communion in churches where there is no bishop, yet we can still learn from Ignatius and seek an open and honest communion with other believers. One built on truth, loyalty, and mutual submission. In doing so we will be living in the spirit of what Ignatius sought to teach.

David Robison

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ignatius to the Smyrneans - Battlelines of the Flesh

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 draws the a line regarding those who would deny that Jesus came in the flesh.
"Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 6)
Jesus was both God and man. God because he was the from the Father and was, born of a virgin birth, and man because he partook of flesh and blood just like you and me. As God, He spoke with the authority and power of God. As man, he paid the price for our sins, redeemed us from every offense, and reconciled us back to God. To deny the flesh of Jesus is do deny His humanity and His redemptive work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews also concurs regarding the significance of the flesh of Christ. "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15) Without the flesh of Christ, there is no salvation and our hope is in vain.

Furthermore, the evidence of the ineffectiveness of this false doctrine to redeem and reconcile anyone to God was demonstrated by the character and behavior of its most ardent supporters.
"Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 6)
It matters not how many followers a person has, the height of their stature, or the degree of respect they receive from the world, what matters is "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6) and, most assuredly,  "the tree is known by its fruit." (Matthew 12:33) The leaders of this false doctrine failed on both accounts.

Moreover, they also abstained from the true church of God and prefer their own gatherings with their own bishop, rules, teachings, and traditions.
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 7)
I believe that "the gift of God" that Ignatius is referring to is not the offerings at the "Eucharist" but rather Jesus Himself. Some have used this passage to purport that the early church believed that the elements of the "Eucharist" literally became the flesh and blood of Jesus. However, I am not convinced, for several reasons. First, in all my reading of the early church writings there seems little to no evidence that this was a common and universal belief among the churches. In fact, except for this passage, I cannot find this teaching taught anywhere by either the apostles or the writers of the first and second century. Secondly, in this letter Ignatius  main focus was the reality of the flesh of Christ. To change the focus from this to the elements of their "Thanksgiving" seems somewhat out of context with the rest of his letter. Finally, the reference to the flesh of the "Eucharist" does not appear in the longer version of Ignatius' letter which calls into question its existence in this shorter version of the letter. It is unclear which, if either, is closer to the original letter written by Ignatius  However, I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Finally, Ignatius encourages His fellow believers to withdraw and have no associations with such persons who hold to this false teaching.
"It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 7)
Ignatius is not referring to people who may be untaught, immature, or uncertain in their beliefs, as we are all still growing in our knowledge and understanding of God. Just because someone believes different from us is no reason to shun them. Rather, Ignatius is referring to those who are actively teaching such a doctrine and trying to lead astray true believers in God. That is why he stresses that they should avoid all divisions. In Ignatius' days there were many who thought false doctrine and sought to divide the church and to draw others after themselves. These we must, by all means, shun and withdraw from, since they have in their heart the work of Satan and not the love and grace of God.

David Robison

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ignatius to the Smyrneans - A Resurrection of the Flesh

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 reminds us that Jesus not only lived, suffered, and died in the flesh but also was raised in the flesh.
"For I know that after His resurrection also He was still possessed of flesh, and I believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, 'Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.' And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He did eat and drink with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 3)
Furthermore, not only did He rise again in flesh, but it was Ignatius' belief that Jesus continues to live on in the flesh; His flesh having put on immortality. It is this fact, of His bodily resurrection, that frees us from our fear of death and gives us the hope of our own resurrection and eternal life.

Though Ignatius was confident that the church at Smyrna shared his beliefs, he felt it was worthwhile to remind them of this and to encourage them to be on guard against those who would preach a different gospel.
"I give you these instructions, beloved, assured that ye also hold the same opinions [as I do]. But I guard you beforehand from those beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them, if by any means they may be brought to repentance, which, however, will be very difficult. Yet Jesus Christ, who is our true life, has the power of [effecting] this." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 4)
Those who denied Jesus in the flesh had also denied the common hope of all believers and had withdrawn themselves from the communion of the saints. Ignatius reminded the church to pray for them that Jesus would restore them to the true faith and unite them to the one Body of Christ.

Ignatius also confessed that knowing that Jesus suffered and died in the flesh encouraged him in his own journey to martyrdom. In his own suffering and death he knew that Jesus was near to him, one who had already suffered these things, and would continue to strengthen and encourage him in his way.
"But if these things were done by our Lord only in appearance, then am I also only in appearance bound. And why have I also surrendered myself to death, to fire, to the sword, to the wild beasts? But, [in fact,] he who is near to the sword is near to God; he that is among the wild beasts is in company with God; provided only he be so in the name of Jesus Christ. I undergo all these things that I may suffer together with Him, He who became a perfect man inwardly strengthening me." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 4)
Ignatius was not only suffering for his faith but was also suffering with Christ and being strengthen by Him who had left him an example to follow.

The truth of the flesh of Christ was declared by the prophets, the law, the Gospels, and was being daily demonstrated by those believers who were suffering for their faith. Those who chose to deny the flesh of Jesus also denied the evidence and the testimony of the prophets, Moses, the apostles, and the early believers. In denying the flesh of Christ they found themselves denied by Christ.
"Some ignorantly deny Him, or rather have been denied by Him, being the advocates of death rather than of the truth. These persons neither have the prophets persuaded, nor the law of Moses, nor the Gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have individually endured. For they think also the same thing regarding us. For what does any one profit me, if he commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that He was [truly] possessed of a body? But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 5)
Ignatius considered it blasphemy to acknowledge Christ but deny His fleshy body. So concerned was Ignatius with the false apostles of Christ, that he refused to even mention them by name lest there should accrue to them some measure of honor and glory by being mentioned in his letters. Such honor and glory he reserve for those who loved and believed in his Christ.
"I have not, however, thought good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Yea, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to [a true belief in] Christ’s passion, which is our resurrection." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 5)
Today, there are not many who would fail to at least acknowledge the life and suffering of Jesus, including His flesh. Some of this is due in part to the tireless defense of the faith by these early Christian writers such as Ignatius. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

David Robison

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Ignatius to the Smyrneans - A Gospel of flesh

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 begins his letter by greeting the Smyrneans.
"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father, and of the beloved Jesus Christ, which has through mercy obtained every kind of gift, which is filled with faith and love, and is deficient in no gift, most worthy of God, and adorned with holiness: the Church which is at Smyrna, in Asia, wishes abundance of happiness, through the immaculate Spirit and word of God." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Introduction)
The church at Smyrna was a church that was blessed by God. They had obtained every kind of gift from God, were full of love for God and one another, and were adorned with true holiness in their actions and their inward thoughts. Ignatius'  prayer was that, along with all of this, they would also find and receive an abundance of happiness through God.

Of chief importance to Ignatius for the church is Smyrna was to remind them of the truth of the Gospel.
"I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that ye are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if ye were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in the flesh and in the spirit, and are established in love through the blood of Christ, being fully persuaded with respect to our Lord, that He was truly of the seed of David according to the flesh and the Son of God according to the will and power of God; that He was truly born of a virgin, was baptized by John, in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him; and was truly, under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch, nailed [to the cross] for us in His flesh." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 1)
Ignatius congratulated them that they had become immovable in their faith, just as if they had been also nailed immovably onto the cross with Christ. The central theme of Ignatius' recitation of the Gospel was the physical participation of Jesus in all these events. Jesus was not some phantom, he was not an apparition, nor was he made of some kind of psudo-flesh, rather he partook of flesh and blood just like us. He was both God and Man. The truth of this fact Jesus entrusted to the church as both "the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)
"Of this fruit we are by His divinely-blessed passion, that He might set up a standard for all ages, through His resurrection, to all His holy and faithful [followers], whether among Jews or Gentiles, in the one body of His Church." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 1)
This faith in the fleshy participation of Christ was central to the truth of the Gospel and the core beliefs of the one Body of Christ, which is His church. The reason that Ignatius held this truth to be so essential and critical to our faith was that if Jesus did not suffer, die, and rise again in the flesh, then we too have no hope for our own resurrection and the reunion of our flesh and spirit after our death.
"Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits." (Ignatius to the Smyrneans, Chapter 2)
If Jesus only seemed to suffer or did not suffer in the flesh, then what hope do we have for our own flesh? If the flesh of Christ did not suffer and die then our flesh will neither participate with Him in His resurrection from the dead. Jesus died in the flesh to save both our spirits and our flesh, to save our whole person. He did not come just to save our spirits but also our flesh which will one be reunited with us after our death to live together eternally with Christ where He is. This theme Ignatius will continue throughout his letter.

David Robison

Monday, April 08, 2013

Ignatius to the Philadelphians - How to understand the scriptures

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 describes himself as a man dedicated and devoted to unity. Where ever he sees the seeds of discord and division, he is not afraid to speak truth and to call the offenders back to repentance.
"I therefore did what belonged to me, as a man devoted to unity. For where there is division and wrath, God doth not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop" (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 8)
Ignatius also addresses those who where sowing strife based on the Old Testament writings.
"And I exhort you to do nothing out of strife, but according to the doctrine of Christ. When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures, I will not believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, It is written, they answered me, That remains to be proved." (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 8)
Some were challenging Ignatius' teachings as not being scriptural which, in their time, meant that they did not conform to the teachings and prophesies of what we call the Old Testament. Specifically, they were challenging his teachings of the Christ. However, Ignatius believed that everywhere in the scriptures (or Old    Testament) Christ is preached.
"But to me Jesus Christ is in the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity; by which I desire, through your prayers, to be justified." (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 8)
Ignatius teaches them that to properly understand the ancient scriptures you need first to understand Christ. He is the center figure in all of history and very little makes since without Him. However, once you've come to know Him, then things become clearer and the ancient scriptures begin to pour forth their light and the message of the redemptive heart of God is made known. It is truly the case that the old is best understood by the new.
"The priests indeed are good, but the High Priest is better; to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been trusted with the secrets of God. He is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God. But the Gospel possesses something transcendent [above the former dispensation], viz., the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, His passion and resurrection. For the beloved prophets announced Him, but the Gospel is the perfection of immortality. All these things are good together, if ye believe in love." (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 9)
In closing, Ignatius reminds them that the church in Antioch recently enjoyed peace, presumably from the persecution they had previously experienced. Ignatius encourages the Philadelphians to send forth a delegation to congratulate them and to celebrate with them in thanksgiving towards God.
"Since, according to your prayers, and the compassion which ye feel in Christ Jesus, it is reported to me that the Church which is at Antioch in Syria possesses peace, it will become you, as a Church of God, to elect a deacon to act as the ambassador of God [for you] to [the brethren there], that he may rejoice along with them when they are met together, and glorify the name [of God]. Blessed is he in Jesus Christ, who shall be deemed worthy of such a ministry; and ye too shall be glorified. And if ye are willing, it is not beyond your power to do this, for the sake of God; as also the nearest Churches have sent, in some cases bishops, and in others presbyters and deacons." (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 10)
Today, our churches are so disjointed and we often find ourselves competing with each other as to who will be the largest, have the best worship  the best teaching, and have "first place" in the eyes of the community around us. We have become so disconnected that we have no idea of the trails and tribulations nor the blessings and joys that our brethren in other churches are experiencing. How might things be different if we took a concern for our brethren in different churches; to take the example from Ignatius and actually sent delegations to churches experiencing difficultly to let them know that we were standing with them, or to send delegations to those who have received some special grace from God to celebrate and give thanks with them? How might this change how we see each other and even ourselves? How might it bring joy to God's heart to see such unity being expressed among His people?

Ignatius finally concludes his letter and commends the Philadelphians to their common hope.
"Now, as to Philo the deacon, of Cilicia, a man of reputation, who still ministers to me in the word of God, along with Rheus Agathopus, an elect man, who has followed me from Syria, not regarding his life,—these bear witness in your behalf; and I myself give thanks to God for you, that ye have received them, even as the Lord you. But may those that dishonoured them be forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ! The love of the brethren at Troas salutes you; whence also I write to you by Burrhus, who was sent along with me by the Ephesians and Smyrnæans, to show their respect. May the Lord Jesus Christ honour them, in whom they hope, in flesh, and soul, and faith, and love, and concord! Fare ye well in Christ Jesus, our common hope." (Ignatius to the Philadelphians, Chapter 11)
This concludes his letter to the Philadelphians.

David Robison