Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ignatius, Onesimus, and Church Leaders

Now that we have studied the words and life of Polycarp, Schaff moves on to his dear friend Ignatius.  There is a myth that Ignatius was the little child placed among the disciples in Matthew 18:2.  The truth is, Ignatius probably would be about that age.  He would have been a baby at the time of Jesus's ministry.

Ignatius calls himself "Theophorus."  His writings make people uncomfortable as it seems that he craves martyrdom, but this is not the case.  He was already condemned and honored to be counted worthy to die as a testament to the Lord.  His letters are controversial first because people are not sure he wrote them.  He is credited with 15 letters, and only 7 are still considered his.  Starting with his epistle to the Ephesians, there is a long manuscript and a short manuscript.  Which one is more accurate?  Again, did he actually write it?  From what I can read, Schaff thinks that the letters in this archive are his based on knowledge about Ignatius.

To get to the other controversy, I will simply start by talking about the Ephesian letter.  They have a name greatly-desired: followers of the love of God towards man (or just God in the short version).  They live by the blood of Christ.  Ignatius is friends with there bishop, Onesimus.  He might be the same servant that Paul converted in the letter of Philemon.  He might be another guy.  Evidently, he is a godly man who Ignatius loves and who the Ephesians can trust for godly direction.

Ignatius gives a shout-out to Burrhus, a deacon in the church, to Crocus who apparently served Ignatius on behalf of Ephesus, and other elders and deacons in that town.  Ignatius considers himself only a disciple of Jesus who is not allowed to issue orders.  He is not Paul.  He still gives advice to run in accordance with the will of God because that is what Jesus did.  To do this, we must live according to Jesus himself.

Here is where I both agree and disagree with Ignatius.  He also says to run according to the will of the bishop.  The elders of the presbytery are fitted as exactly to the bishop as strings are to the harp.  The whole town should become one choir in praise of Christ.  I agree because God does place church leaders in charge of Christ's earthly Bride in Christ's absence to minister and rehabilitate God's people.  I disagree because, Onesimus, as godly as he is, is still only a man.  He not Jesus nor Jesus's vicar.  Jesus has no vicar.  The best teachers and preachers out there are wonderful for spiritual encouragement and nourishment, but if they err, you have to stay accountable to Christ. 

In this day there are plenty of false teachers and societal pressure to silence the Church.  It is good to encourage people to follow godly men such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Ken Ham.  R.C. Sproul keeps me spiritually alive every morning.  We also must remember that sometimes Piper associates with controversial preachers, R.C. is not a young earth creationist (but R.C. Jr. is), John MacArthur despises infant baptism and preaches pre-tribulation dispensationalism, and Ken Ham can be legalistic at times. 

However, I encourage people to listen to them and not people who do not know Jesus such as Rob Bell, Oprah, the Dalai Lama, most mainline denomination leaders,and anyone who thinks that America is the promised land which would include people I love such as Mike Huckabee.  He's godly, but America is not heaven.  Some people are really sweet and great people, but if they preach salvation apart from Jesus or through any other method, then they are wrong and in danger of judgment and leading people there.

And just the same, never doubt your salvation if you trust Christ alone.  Ignatius specifies the Ephesians, but this applies to all Christians: they are all God-bearers, temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, and bearers of holiness.  We are all the new Eve to Christ's new Adam.  Not just Mary.  All true believers carry the death of Christ in their bodies.  And if Christians are unjustly treated, destitute, and condemned, then they can rest assured that they are doing the right thing.  They must continue to be gentle with the world and to care more about following Christ than rebutting human opposition.

Ignatius confirms my theory by saying to avoid false teachers as you would avoid wild beasts.

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