Ignatius's next letter is to the church at Smyrna. His chief concern in all his letters is for the churches to find unity among each other and to follow the bishop, doing nothing without him. Churches not united are in danger of judgment.
Ignatius did not live long enough to see serious heresy and apostasy
rise in the church and the need for people to defend God's truth even if
they were excommunicated. He would see the people who left and say,
well, if they had not left, the church would not have become so liberal.
I see it today in churches I know and love. Some places I stayed and
shined what light I could until I could not any more, and for some
places I feel like I see a loved one dying. There comes a time when I
have to be faithful to what God is doing rather than try to help when I
can't. Martin Luther wanted to stay in the Mother Church, but they
would not hear him. He had to switch his loyalty to Jesus, the bishop
who trumps all bishops. The continental reformers still did what they
could to heal the church and kept many of the customs they believed were
biblical but left so that unbiblical concepts wouldn't be forced on
It is wonderful to be united when we all agree on the truth and we
follow a bishop or pastor who follows Christ. That is not always the
case. The tragedy is that churches to split over petty matters, but
believers in many denominations who truly follow Christ are still one
church, even if they disagree on things. There is no perfect church,
but we still must work to keep our churches on the path that follows the
Lord. We still interact with people in love and be there for their
life events, but the bigger goal is the invisible church, not a specific
location or preacher.