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

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