Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bishop of Suh-myrna

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, writes to the church of Philippi with mostly Scriptural encouragements and instructions for its members as I have read so far.

Philippi have followed the example of true love, to believe without seeing, and they will enter into joy unspeakable and full of glory.  A reminder: by grace they are saved, not of works but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Because of God's generous grace, Polycarp calls the church to gird up their loins as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude and who have believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.  At this, Polycarp confesses that he nor anyone can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul.

He goes into one more chapter of instructions before addressing all the positions in the Philippian church.  He reminds them that the love of money is the root of all evils.  Since we brought nothing into the world, and we carry nothing out, let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness.  "They are the altar of God."  I fully concur that every true follower of Christ is an altar to God.  He constantly must sacrifice his desires to live according to His righteousness.  He is a walking sacrifice and also a representative of Christ himself.

To the deacons of Philippi: be blameless before the face of his righteousness, as servants of God and not men.  Be temperate in all things.  "If we live worthily of him, 'we shall also reign together with him.'"  I interrupt this thought to express that Polycarp believes that those who receive salvation will live worthily of God, doing good works and obeying Christ.  He does not end that thought there: "provided only we believe."  He leaves no room for back door salvation for sincere people.  They will reign with Christ if only they believe.  This goes against today's Pope who denies the real need for Christ in saying that all people will be saved.  He'd be wise to listen to the blessed bishop of Smyrna

To the young men: they are also to be blameless in all things, to preserve purity.  Virgins are to walk in a blameless and pure conscience.  He addresses the youth group; young men and women are to walk blamelessly as the deacons do.  They must strive for purity from libertinism and always think of the word "blameless." 

Finally presbyters: He wants them to be compassionate and merciful to all, to bring back those who wander, visit the sick, widow, orphan, poor.  As presbyters are trained ministers in the church, they must provide for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man.  The deacons carry out the compassionate services of the church while the presbyters continue to teach proper theology and proper forgiveness.

All church members should be zealous in pursuit of that which is good.

As a disciple of John, Polycarp recalls the woes that John pronounced on church heretics.  "Whoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist."  Whoever does not confess testimony of the cross is "of the devil."  Whoever perverts God's word to his own lusts and denies resurrection or judgment is "first-born of Satan."  These are not mere harsh words but the truth.  People come into the church all the time to discourage people from enjoying their security in Christ's salvation and redirect the to look toward everything else for meaning.  Some deny Jesus's physical reality, some deny the Gospel.  Some insult his sacrifice by denying a resurrection or a final judgment.  Without judgment, they can continue to sin and justify it somehow because God loves all people.  Without a resurrection, there is no accountability for this life.

Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, let us return to the Word handed down to us and continue in fasting and prayer.  Don't listen to the charlatans, but persevere in our hope and earnest of our righteousness which is Jesus Christ.  Imitate his patience.  That takes a lot of waiting and no instant results, if any results.  Our goal is to hold Christ as our God and Savior, and not to try to imagine a world without his sovereignty.  This loyalty could possibly mean martyrdom as it did for Ignatius, Zosimus, and Rufus.  Those three had not run in vain but achieved the resurrection of the dead.

Except for a line from the Apocrypha, "Alms delivers from death" which really contradicts the idea that Christ delivers from death and nothing else, but continues his chorus of "blamelessness" as a testimony to the pagans. 

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