We turn in our reading of the patristics to Ignatius, who evidently wrote these letters on his march to Rome to be martyred — sometime during Trajan’s reign. We don’t know much about Ignatius until these letters and in the middle of his trip — somewhere around Philippi — the story of his life is lost. The tradition is that he died in Rome.
In our series on the patristic writings, we use the text Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers.
Enemies are called names, and there is but one true gospel and confession — and notice how Ignatius defines that gospel (christocentrically) in 7:2.
Eph. 7:1 For there are some who are accustomed to carrying about the Name maliciously and deceitfully while doing other things unworthy of God. You must avoid them as wild beasts. For they are mad dogs that bite by stealth; you must be on your guard against them, for their bite is hard to heal. 2 There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord.
His challenge to the Ephesians is so typical of his day: the challenge to remain, to be faithful, to endure, to suffer.
Eph. 8:1 Therefore let no one deceive you, just as you are not now deceived, seeing that you belong entirely to God. For when no dissension capable of tormenting you is established among you, then you indeed live God’s way. I am a humble sacrifice for you and I dedicate myself to you Ephesians, a church that is famous forever. 2 Those who belong to the flesh cannot do spiritual things, nor can those who are spiritual do fleshly things, just as faith cannot do the things of unfaithfulness, nor unfaithfulness the things of faith. Moreover, even those things that you do according to the flesh are in fact spiritual, for you do everything in Jesus Christ.
Another challenge — always — is false teaching. The Ephesians are a variety of “-bearers.”
Eph. 9:1 But I have learned that certain people from elsewhere have passed your way with evil doctrine, but you did not allow them to sow it among you. You covered up your ears in order to avoid receiving the things being sown by them, because you are stones of a temple, prepared beforehand for the building of God the Father, hoisted up to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using as a rope the Holy Spirit; your faith is what lifts you up, and love is the way that leads up to God. 2 So you are all participants together in a shared worship, God-bearers and temple-bearers, Christ-bearers, bearers of holy things, adorned in every respect with the commandments of Jesus Christ. I too celebrate with you, since I have been judged worthy to speak with you through this letter, and to rejoice with you because you love nothing in human life, only God.
Prayer for others to find faith in God, and to find repentance. The method of evangelism here is by way of action.
Eph. 10:1 Pray continually for the rest of humankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. 2 In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be civilized; do not be eager to imitate them. 3 Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord, to see who can be the more wronged, who the more cheated, who the more rejected, in order that no weed of the devil may be found among you, but that with complete purity and self-control you may abide in Christ Jesus physically and spiritually.
Eph. 11:1 These are the last times. Therefore let us be reverent; let us fear the patience of God, lest it become a judgment against us. For let us either fear the wrath to come or love the grace that is present, one of the two; only let us be found in Christ Jesus, which leads to true life. 2 Let nothing appeal to you apart from him, in whom I carry around these chains (my spiritual pearls!), by which I hope, through your prayers, to rise again. May I always share in them, in order that I may be found in the company of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been in agreement with the apostles by the power of Jesus Christ.
He compares his situation to theirs, and calls them to gather together:
Eph. 12:1 I know who I am and to whom I am writing. I am a convict; you have received mercy. I am in danger; you are secure. 2 You are the highway of those who are being killed for God’s sake; you are fellow initiates of Paul, who was sanctified, who was approved, who is deservedly blessed—may I be found in his footsteps when I reach God!—who in every letter remembers you in Christ Jesus.
Eph. 13:1 Therefore make every effort to come together more frequently to give thanks and glory to God. For when you meet together frequently, the powers of Satan are overthrown and his destructiveness is nullified by the unanimity of your faith. 2 There is nothing better than peace, by which all warfare among those in heaven and those on earth is abolished.
Genuine Christianity is observable.
Eph. 14:1 None of these things escapes your notice, if you have perfect faith and love toward Jesus Christ. For these are the beginning and the end of life: faith is the beginning and love is the end, and the two, when they exist in unity, are God. Everything else that contributes to excellence follows from them. 2 No one professing faith sins, nor does anyone possessing love hate. The tree is known by its fruit; thus those who profess to be Christ’s will be recognized by their actions. For the work is a matter not of what one promises now, but of persevering to the end in the power of faith.
Eph. 15:1 It is better to be silent and be real than to talk and not be real. It is good to teach, if one does what one says. Now there is one teacher, who spoke and it happened; indeed, even the things that he has done in silence are worthy of the Father. 2 The one who truly possesses the word of Jesus is also able to hear his silence, so that he may be perfect, so that he may act through what he says and be known through his silence. 3 Nothing is hidden from the Lord; even our secrets are close to him. Therefore let us do everything with the knowledge that he dwells in us, in order that we may be his temples, and he may be in us as our God—as, in fact, he really is, as will be made clear in our sight by the love that we justly have for him.