the weblog of Alan Knox

Ignatius, the church, and others

Posted by on Nov 18, 2007 in church history, discipleship | 6 comments

One of the seminars that I’m taking this semester is called Theological Foundations. As I mentioned in a post called “Theological Foundations“, I honestly did not expect to enjoy this seminar. But, I have enjoyed it immensely, and I’ve learned tremendously from the readings, from Dr. David Nelson, and from the other students.

As part of the requirements for this seminar, I’m writing a paper about Ignatius of Antioch. I had planned to write this paper about the monoepiscopacy in Ignatius’ letters – that is, the teaching that one bishop should rule each church, with presbyters/elders under him, and deacons under them. However, as I studied Ignatius, I decided to write about something different. I may share more about this later.

Since I have read Ignatius’ letters several times over the last few months, I thought I would share one of my favorite passages. This comes from his letter to the church in Ephesus:

Therefore, you are also all fellow travellers, God-bearers and temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, holiness-bearers (or saint-bearers), made beautiful according to all things by the commands of Jesus Christ… Pray without ceasing for other men. For there is hope of repentance in them that they may find God. Therefore, allow them to be taught even by your works. In response to their anger, you be gentle. In response to their boasting, you be humble. In response to their slanders, you offer prayers. In response to their error, you stand firm in the faith. In response to their wildness, you be docile, making every effort not to imitate them. Let us be found to be their brothers in graciousness. Then let us make every effort to imitate the Lord, to be the one who is the more wronged, who is the more cheated, who is the more rejected. (Ign. Eph. 9:2-10:3a)

While Ignatius spoke against false teaching among believers, he also encouraged followers of Jesus – as seen in this passage – to treat others with gentleness and humility, dealing with them prayerfully and with a steadfast faith. The idea of imitating the Lord by trying the be the one more wronged, cheated, and rejected is certainly different from what we normally hear today.

I think I can learn alot from Ignatius, especially when it comes to dealing with “others”, that is, people who are different from me. If I’m talking with or serving with people from other cultures, or with other theological stances, or either with unbelievers, I need to learn to respond in gentleness, humility, and prayer, imitating our Lord instead of imitating the ways of this world.


6 Comments

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  1. 11-19-2007

    Beautiful text. We can learn from Ignatius, no doubt. But I still think (as it seems you do too) that he was leading God´s people in a direction away from Jesus teachings and example with his constant emphasis on leadership and hierarchy.
    /Jonas Lundström

  2. 11-19-2007

    Hi Alan

    I think there is ageneral trap that a lot fall into and you are aware of it.

    When you these old guys they had a fantastic faith. But as you say their teaching was also prone to errors.

    It is the same today, Scripture is our authority not the teachings of so and so!

    What is often worse is not so much the error of the original teacher but of the followers! I have heard horror stories from Methodists churches and Salvation Army churches, yet clearly Wessley and Booth were both powerful workhorses for the kingdom.

    I have met a lot of traditionalists who love to quote these guys (not Wessley and Booth, but Ignatius, Assisi and so on.) I am often overwhelmed by the depth of their understanding.

    But, the best anyone can do is make us aware of what scripture has said all along! To draw out the teachings that we miss because we are personally blinkered.

    I think the word “revelation” literally means “an uncovering”

    Richard

  3. 11-19-2007

    Jonas,

    I recognize some problems in Ignatius’ writings. However, there are problems in my writings as well. I pray that God will keep my errors from leading others astray, and that they will still be able to benefit from my writings. In the same way, I try to benefit from the writings of Christians, even if I may disagree with them in some areas.

    Richard,

    These guys with “fantastic faith” were regular guys just like you and me. They walked with God, but they failed at times also. I try to learn from them, recognizing that they were human. I hope others offer me the same grace.

    -Alan

  4. 11-19-2007

    Alan. Yeah, that´s good! I agree. Keep it up.

  5. 11-19-2007

    Alan,

    I think that is part of what amazes me about these guys. We hear people today wrestling with their understanding of the faith with all the books and stuff available to us. But these guys had such basic resources. There errors are no worse than those today yet somehow when you read their fath it seems somehow more authentic, especially in a time when many faced death for going against the instintution.

    Some were campaigners against heresy others were pioneers for aspects of the faith that had been hidden. I can but stand in awe of them.

    As for getting it wrong, I feel we have to live in knowledge that we will not be perfected until we are with the Lord! None of us has the whole truth, In fact I see don’t see the Christian faith as being about knowledge. Jesus didn’t say, “by this shall men know you are my disciples, because you have great knowledge!” All knowledge without love! Love builds up while knowledge puffs up! I see it that we are to develop Godly character. To live worthy of our calling.

    I know a lot of people who know a lot but don’t live a lot! I used to have my focus on knowledge, but would rather have character than knowledge.

    Sorry bit waffly

    Richard

  6. 11-19-2007

    anonymous,

    Thank you for the encouragement.

    Richard,

    Yes, I think it is interesting to read about how different people struggled with the faith. One of the concerns that I have about believers today is that they accept what anyone says with struggling with the faith. I think a little struggle is good.

    -Alan