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Insights from Ignatius

Wikipedia on Ignatius: Ignatius of Antioch (Ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος, also known as Theophorus from Greek Θεοφόρος “God-bearer”) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117)[1] was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle[2][3]. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
I have read these letters as the first in a long line of early church sources. What is really fascinating is to see that the heart and life of Jesus is really the center and core of the faith of these people. It’s all about humility, love, and overcoming evil with gentleness and patience.
Convicting, soul-cleansing stuff!

You can read any/all of the church fathers for free at


I know that ye are not puffed up, for ye have Jesus Christ in
yourselves. And all the more when I commend you, I know that ye cherish
modesty [711] of spirit; as it is written, “The righteous man is his
own accuser.”

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines,
[1080] fill thee with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which
is beaten. It is the part of a noble [1081] athlete to be wounded, and
yet to conquer.
And especially, we ought to bear all things for the
sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more
zealous than what thou art. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who
is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for
our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our
account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.

Give ye [1099] heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you.
My soul be for theirs [1100] that are submissive to the bishop, to the
presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them
in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together;
run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as
the stewards, and associates, [1101] and servants of God. Please ye Him
under whom ye fight, and from whom ye receive your wages. Let none of
you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your
faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a
complete panoply [or complete set of armor]
. Let your works be the charge [1102] assigned to you,
that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore,
with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of
you for ever! [1103]

His letter to the Trailians was so good I decided to cut/paste it here in its entirety. (Note: it’s open-source, so I can do that) I have underlined the sections I found especially interesting.


Ignatius,  who is also called Theophorus, to the holy Church which is at  Tralles, in Asia, beloved of God, the Father  of Jesus Christ,  elect, and worthy of God, possessing  peace through the flesh,  and blood, and passion of Jesus Christ,  who is our hope,  through our rising  again to Him,  which also I salute in its  fullness,  and in the  character,  and wish abundance of happiness.
Chapter 1. Acknowledgment of their excellence

I know that  you possess an unblameable and sincere mind in  patience, and that not only in present practice,  but  according to inherent nature, as Polybius your bishop has shown me, who has come to Smyrna by the will of God and Jesus Christ, and  so sympathized in the joy which I, who  am bound in Christ  Jesus, possess, that I beheld your whole multitude in him. Having  therefore received through him the testimony of your good-will,  according to God,  I gloried to find you, as I knew you were, the  followers of God.
Chapter 2. Be subject to the bishop, etc

For, since you are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, you  appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according  to Jesus Christ,  who died for us, in order, by believing in His  death, you may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as you indeed do, so without the bishop you should  do nothing, but should also  be subject to the presbytery, as to  the apostle of Jesus Christ, who  is our hope, in  whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that  the deacons, as  being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ,  should in every respect be pleasing to all.  For they  are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of  the Church of God.  They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against  them], as they would do fire.
Chapter 3. Honour the deacons, etc

In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment  of Jesus Christ, and  the bishop as Jesus Christ, who  is the Son of the Father,  and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly  of the apostles.  Apart from these, there is no Church.   Concerning all this, I am persuaded that you are of  the same opinion. For I have received the manifestation  of your love, and still  have it with me, in your bishop, whose very  appearance is highly instructive,  and his meekness  of itself a power; whom I imagine even the  ungodly must reverence, seeing they are  also pleased  that I do not spare myself. But shall I, when permitted to write on this  point, reach such a height of self-esteem, that  though being a condemned  man, I should issue commands  to you as if I were an apostle?
Chapter 4. I have need of humility

I have great knowledge in God,  but I restrain myself, lest, I should perish through boasting. For now  it is needful for me to be the more fearful; and not  give heed to those that puff me up. For they that speak to me [in the  way of commendation] scourge me. For I do indeed desire to suffer, but I  know not if I  be worthy to do so. For this longing, though it is not manifest to many,  all the more vehemently assails me. I therefore have  need of meekness, by which the prince of this world is brought to nought.
Chapter 5. I will not teach you profound doctrines

Am I not able to write to you of heavenly things?  But I fear to  do so, lest I should inflict injury on you who are but babes [in Christ].  Pardon me in this respect, lest, as not being able  to receive [such doctrines], you should be strangled  by them. For even I, though I am bound [for Christ],  yet am not on that account able to understand heavenly things, and the places  of the angels, and their  gatherings under their respective princes, things visible and invisible.  Without reference to such abstruse subjects, I am still but a learner  [in other respects ]; for many  things are wanting to us, that we come not short of God.
Chapter 6. Abstain from the poison of heretics

I therefore, yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ,  entreat you that you use Christian nourishment only, and abstain from herbage of a different kind; I mean heresy. For those   [that are given to this] mix  up Jesus Christ with their own poison, speaking things which are unworthy of credit,  like those who administer a deadly drug in sweet wine,  which he who is ignorant of does greedily  take, with a fatal pleasure  leading to his own death.

Chapter 7. The same continued

Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this  will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in  intimate union with  Jesus Christ our God, and the  bishop, and  the enactments of the apostles. He that  is within the altar is pure, but  he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from  the bishop,  and presbytery,  and deacons,   such a man is not pure in his conscience.
Chapter 8. Be on your guard against the snares of the devil

Not that I know there is anything of this kind among you; but I put you on your guard,  inasmuch as I love you greatly, and foresee the snares of the devil. Wherefore,  clothing  yourselves with  meekness, be renewed  in faith, that is the  flesh of the Lord, and in love, that is the  blood of Jesus  Christ. Let no one of you cherish any grudge against his neighbour.  Give no occasion to the Gentiles, lest by  means of a few foolish men the whole multitude [of  those that believe]  in God be evil spoken of.  For, “Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among  any.” Isaiah 52:5
Chapter 9. Reference to the history of Christ

Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance  with   Jesus Christ, who  was descended from David, and was also of Mary;  who was truly born, and ate and drank. He was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate;  He was truly crucified, and [truly]  died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on  earth, and under the earth. He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner  His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus,  apart from whom we do not possess the true life. [note: contrary to those who say this stuff was invented by Constantine, the Apostle’s creed is almost fully developed here, at the end of the first century!]
Chapter 10. The reality of Christ’s passion

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the  unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer (they themselves only  seeming to exist), then why am I in bonds? Why do I  long to be exposed to  the wild beasts? Do I therefore  die in vain?  Am I not then guilty of falsehood  against [the cross of] the Lord?
Chapter 11. Avoid the deadly errors of the Docetæ

Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots [of  Satan], which  produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one  tastes, he instantly dies. For these men are not the  planting of the Father. For if they were, they would appear as branches  of the cross,  and their fruit would be incorruptible. By it  He  calls you through His passion, as being  His members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its  members; God,  who is [the Saviour] Himself, having promised their  union.
Chapter 12. Continue in unity and love

I salute you from Smyrna, together with the Churches of God which are with me, who have refreshed me in  all things, both in the flesh and in the spirit. My  bonds, which I carry about with me for the sake of Jesus Christ (praying that I may  attain to God), exhort you. Continue in harmony among yourselves, and in prayer with one  another; for it becomes every one of you, and especially the presbyters, to  refresh the bishop,  to the honour of the Father,  of Jesus Christ,  and of the apostles.  I entreat you in love to hear me, that I may not, by having written, be a testimony against  you. And also pray for me, who have need of your love, along with  the mercy of God,  that I may be worthy of the lot for which I am destined,  and that I may not be found reprobate.
Chapter 13. Conclusion

The love of  the Smyrnæans and Ephesians salutes you. Remember in your prayers the Church which is in  Syria, from  which also I am not worthy to receive my appellation,  being the last  of them. Fare well in Jesus  Christ, while you continue subject to the bishop, as to the  command [of God], and in like manner to the presbytery. And,  every man, love one another with an undivided heart. Let my spirit be sanctified  by yours, not only now, but also when I  shall attain to God.  For I am as yet exposed to danger. But the Father is faithful in Jesus Christ to fulfil both mine and your petitions: in whom may  you be found unblameable.

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