Ignatius (Part IV)

One can not read the letters of Ignatius and his emphasis on the ecclesial practice of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. All Bishops were certainly Presbyters, but not all presbyters were Bishops.

“You must all follow THE BISHOP as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbyters as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the church without THE BISHOP. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by THE BISHOP, or by one whom he appoints.
Wherever THE BISHOP appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
(Ignatius, TO THE SMYRNEANS)

“….your most worthy BISHOP, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow servant the deacon Soto, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he is subject to THE BISHOP as to the grace of  God.” (Ignatius, TO THE MAGNESIANS, Chapter II)

“Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ — they are with the THE BISHOP.  …Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  …Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one Cup in the union
of His Blood; one altar, as there is ONE BISHOP with the presbyters and my fellow servants, the deacons.”
(Ignatius of Antioch TO THE PHILADELPHIANS, 3:2-4:1)

Protestants will say (and I as a previous baptist would have said) that Ignatius of Antioch “created this hierarchy” ; that is “contrary to the practice of the Apostles, especially as we find in the Letters of St Paul” ; and contrary to our beloved authoritative doctrine of  “sola scriptura” so he can be discounted and disregarded for any pattern of church practice today. Bible only !!!

In fact, however, Ignatius’s letters demonstrate that Bishops already existed elsewhere. Ignatius certainly did not “create” the office of “bishop”; nor did he, as some have maintained, “suggest that each church have a bishop.” Rather, he speaks of these bishops as already-existing in each of the Asian city-churches he writes to; and he even addresses all but one of these bishops by name.

“I received therefore your whole multitude in the name of God, through ONESIMUS, a man of inexpressible love, AND YOUR BISHOP IN THE FLESH, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him.” (Ignatius TO THE EPHESIANS, Chapter I)

“I know that you possess an unblameless and sincere mind in patience, and that not only in present practice, but according to inherent nature, as POLYBIUS YOUR BISHOP has shown me.” (Ignatius TO THE TRALLIANS, Chapter I)

“I salute your most worthy BISHOP POLYCARP, and your venerable presbyters, and your Christ-bearing deacons, my fellow servants …” (Ignatius TO THE SMYRNEANS, Chapter XI)

“Since, then, I have the privilege of seeing you, through DAMAS your most worthy BISHOP, and through your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius, and through my fellow servant the deacon Soto, whose friendship may I ever enjoy, inasmuch as he is SUBJECT TO THE BISHOP as to the grace of God.” (Ignatius, TO THE MAGNESIANS, Chapter II)

“Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, which is at Philadelphia, in Asia …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. Which BISHOP I know, obtained the ministry I know which pertains to all ….Wherefore my soul declares HIS (one bishop) mind towards God a happy one, knowing it to be virtuous and perfect, and HIS (the bishop’s) stability as well as freedom from all anger is after the example of the infinite meekness of the living God.”
(Ignatius TO THE PHILADELPHIANS, Intro and Chapter I)

Again, John and perhaps Jude and other of the early disciples were still alive during this period of the Church and there is no contradiction of historical fact that Ignatius writes about. Bishops were everywhere, and the Lord used these men to build the church, preserve the traditions handed down to them, and fight against heresy.

“…and also BISHOPS, settled EVERYWHERE, to the UTMOST BOUNDS OF THE EARTH, are SO BY THE WILL OF JESUS CHRIST.” Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter III

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