Monday, January 5, 2009

St. Ignatius of Antioch again

I already read and went over another one of St. Ignatius' letters and his strong Ecclesiology shone through. A friend is meeting me tomorrow because she is Catholic and dating a Reformed Protestant and wants to show him the proof of the Real (physical) Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the Early Church. So I quickly thought of the Apostolic Fathers and it amazes me how overwhelmingly Catholic they are. I just began reading St. Ignatius' letter to the Trallians and he writes almost immediately:

"without the bishop you should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ" Ch.2

"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" Ch. 3 - here he even links the Episcopate to an assembly of Apostles verifying the doctrine of Apostolic succession and he says apart from the Bishops there is no Church. Wow... this man was quite possibly St. John's Disciple. Theodoret writes that St. Peter himself appointed him as bishop of Antioch. He says here that there can be no Church without the bishop and that we are to obey them as we would Christ. Fairly strong attack on Presbyterianism and Congregationalism...

mmmm.....apostolic authority....nothing more delicious (just joking St. Ignatius)

" 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." Ch. 7 - he says that obeying these things will cure the 'poison of heresy'

Then I read part of his epistle to Polycarp and he writes again:
"Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God!" Ch. 6

Wow he really isn't budging on this submission to the Church bit. I really am having a hard time understanding where this divine mandate of broken communion and 'reformation' comes into play. If the "Reformation" saught to restore early Christianity where is the Ecclesiology which St. Ignatius can't seem to get rid of.

Finally I moved onto his Epistle to the Philadelphians, and he opens with:

"to the Church of God... which I salute in the blood of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal and enduring joy, especially if [men] are in unity with the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, who have been appointed according to the mind of 'Jesus Christ, whom He has established in security, after His own will, and by His Holy Spirit." Greeting

Man this guy doesn't shut up about Christ's establishment of the Bishops and their security and authority etc. But then here comes the icing on the cake:

"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.]" Ch. 3

Wow... if anyone follows a schismatic they are damned. . . St. Ignatius is like a 1st century John MacArthur. These are strong words against denominations outside of the historic episcopate *cough - non-Anglican/Orthodox/Catholic cough*.

Moving on he continues to stress Ecclesiology but also throws in some Real Presence stuff:
"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth ] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons" ch. 4

" Yet it is not I, but Jesus Christ, for whose sake being bound I fear the more, inasmuch as I am not yet perfect. But your prayer to God shall make me perfect" Ch. 5 - Completed Sanctification anyone? - a little purgatory proof as I call it. He seems to be under the 'delusion' that sanctification must be imputed righteousness here.

"But the Spirit proclaimed these words: Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God; love unity; avoid divisions; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father." Ch. 7 - Man now he's saying that the Holy Spirit is proclaiming his message "DO NOTHING WITHOUT THE BISHOP" - we get it St. Ignatius, shout it at the people talking about a Priesthood of all Believers.

" For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop. " Ch. 8 - Again in the Early Church division is a HUGE sin. There isn't alot of Ecumenical dialogue, just the orthodox and the heretics.

ok there were even a few more references to honoring bishops, presbyters, and deacons but I spared you.

Thus in conclusion as I read the faith of the Apostolic Fathers I am once again reaffirmed that no man has the authority to go against the Church Christ established and there is no 'invisible' body theory for the ancients, just a visible communion under the bishops. Lord have mercy on everyone else, and on those beneath the bishops. This is the catholic faith, once delivered to the saints.


  1. It was when I read St. Ignatius of Antioch for the first time that I realized that I was not in submission to my bishop. From that moment on I knew that if I was to follow Christ further, I had to submit to his Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, "founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul...[I]t is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority..." (St. Irenaeus Adv. Haer. Book III, Ch. III).

  2. Calvin denied the authenticity of the Ignatian epistles. Now that they've been proven authentic beyond any reasonable doubt, do the Calvinists change their minds? No, they just say Ignatius was wrong.

    Nice post.