Considering Some Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought
The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7. Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth. Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction. One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.
There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts. First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future. Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future. Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth so that we may live out its implications presently and in the days ahead.
The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith. It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.
Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing. I trust in no way you will be bored. These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you the reader will take up and read at the source.
(Soli Deo Gloria)
The Patristic & Medieval Period
Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans
In his letter to the Romans, Ignatius addresses the issue of his death. As a prisoner, Ignatius first encourages the Romans to pray not for his deliverance, but for his death. Secondly, he desires a martyr’s death to prove the genuineness of his faith. Third, martyrdom is to be via the wild beasts. Fourth, Ignatius desires death to rid himself from his persecutors. If the wild beasts don’t want him, he will entice them to rip him to shreds. For his goal is to attain to Jesus.
Fifth, only by death could Ignatius attain to the true life. He desires neither the pleasures of this world nor it’s kingdoms, but rather the pleasures of God and His kingdom. Only through death can he attain to this true life. Sixth, he exhorts the Romans to demonstrate their fidelity to Christ by imitating him. Seventh, Ignatius affirms that what he has written to the Romans is in accordance with Gods will. Hence, to prevent Ignatius from martyrdom is equivalent to the Romans hating him. Finally, he encourages the Romans to pray for the Syrian church, who only have Jesus Christ as the overseer.
If Christ is not risen from the dead, then Ignatius was a fool. But if Christ is risen from the dead according to eyewitness accounts (The Gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15, etc.) then Ignatius understood true treasure and was thus willing to lay down his life for the Master.
As a young man, in 1984 I attended a lecture where Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran pastor tortured for Christ, imprisoned in a communist prison for over 14 years, spoke of his experiences. It was humbling for I was in the presence of one who loved Jesus in word and deed. While not all believers are chosen by God to journey that road of suffering, all believers are called by Christ do die to self. This is why Jesus made it clear that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. The road is hard, for some more than others, but the rewards far outweigh the temporary hardships. What say you friend?
 Ignatius, “Epistle to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, 73, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).