Soteriology / Salvation
Excerpts from Early Church Fathers: Polycarp and Ignatius
Also the ‘Apostle’s Creed’
Usher implied Polycarp as ‘the angel of the church in Smyrna,’ to who was said, ‘be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ Polycarp was born in the first century and was a disciple of John. Irenaeus was his disciple. It is said when Polycarp was being martyred for the sake of Christ, and asked to recant; his last words were, ’86 years have I serve Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?’
“Polycarp and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi: Mercy to you and peace from God Almighty and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied. I have greatly rejoiced with you… knowing that ‘by grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.’ Wherefore, ‘girding up your loins (Eph. 6:14; 1 Pet. 1:13),’ serve the Lord in fear and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and ‘believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory (1 Pet. 1:21),’ and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead.”
Now before continuing I must display how Polycarp followed the apostle teachings and how many his words mirror that of the Apostles Creed. Philip and David Schaff, in there The Creeds of Christendom (vol. 1; 1877) wrote, ‘A Creed, or Rule of Faith, or Symbol, is a confession of faith for public use, or a form of words setting forth with authority certain articles of belief, which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation, or at least for the well-being of the Christian Church… The first accounts we have of these primitive creeds are merely fragmentary… We know the Latin text from Rufinus (390), and the Greek from Marcellus of Ancyra (336-341). The Greek text is… probably older than the Latin, and may date from the second century, when the Greek language prevailed in the Roman congregation… The Apostles’ Creed, which came into general use… additions are enclosed in brackets:
- I believe in God the Father [Maker of heaven and earth]
- And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
- Who was [conceived] by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary;
- [Suffered] under Pontius Pilate, was crucified [dead] and buried [He descended into Hell (Hades)]
- The third day He rose from the dead;
- He ascended into heaven; and sits at the right hand of [God] the Father [Almighty];
- From thence (were) He shall come to judge the quick (living) and the dead.
- [I believe] in the Holy Ghost;
- The Holy [Catholic] Church [the communion of the saints];
- The forgiveness of sins;
- The resurrection of the body (flesh);
- [And the life everlasting].
Ok so Polycarp believes and writes of these things, then immediately adds, ‘His (Jesus) blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, IF WE DO HIS WILL, AND WALK IN HIS COMMANDMENTS, AND LOVE WHAT HE LOVED, KEEPING OURSELVES FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, covetousness, love of money, evil-speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil… but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching; ‘Judge not, the ye be not judge; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy…’
‘These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness… because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and stedfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be means of building you up in the faith which has been given you…’
‘…But the love of money is the root of all evils. Knowing, therefore, that ‘as we brought noting into the world, so we can carry nothing out (1 Tim. 6:7),’ let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord… And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan or the poor… Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; is antichrist; and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.’
‘I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen set before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in other among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles…”
Now look at Polycarp’s words, does it sound like grace and faith alone, without repentance, righteousness through obedience to the Lord’s commands, and confession, is enough for salvation. Clearly he advocates no less than he was taught, including that which the Lord Jesus said plainly Himself, ‘whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).’
Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 – 107)
Ignatius died 107 or 117; in which year he, the bishop of Antioch, wrote seven letters which greatly influenced the early Church. Ignatius is said by some to have been appointed by Peter. He was a friend of Polycarp, a fellow disciple of John, who followed Ignatius into martyrdom. Many of Ignatius’ teachings are found in the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church. In his letters, we find the first use of the term ‘Catholic.’ His teachings on the Eucharist (Lord’s supper), and on the position of the ‘bishop’ that ‘as the Lord does nothing without the Father … neither presbyter, nor deacon, nor layman, do anything without the bishop,’ are still practiced by several denominations today.
In his letter to ‘the Ephesians,’ Ignatius wrote: “Take heed, often to come together to give thanks to God and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith…” Just before he was martyred in Rome, he warned in several letters: ‘Beware of false teachers… and doctrines;’ and wrote ‘If we are not in readiness to die for the truth into Christ’s passion, His life is not in us.’ As he was being taken to Rome for execution, he asked his brethren not to asked him to recant, and prayed, oh that ‘I may attain to God and Jesus Christ (through death) …When I suffer, I shall be the freedman of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in Him.’
Concerning our faith, he wrote to the Church in Smyrna: ‘Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life…’. Though Paul and others did teach creeds, such as in 1 Timothy 3:16; after Ignatius’ letters and by the instructions of many, the churches began to develop and use creeds (confessions of faith; such as the Apostles Creed). See: Matt. 10:32; 16:16; Rom. 10:9. Ignatius’ survived works, though less than many are much more vast than both Clement and Polycarp’s combined. Due to the limits of space i shall provide only a couple more examples of Ignatius’ teachings related to the subject.
‘…All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, but lose his own soul (Matt. 16:26)? Him I seek… The prince of this world (devil) would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition towards God. Let none of you who are in Rome help him…’ Polycarp was to be carried to Rome and martyred in their circuses and he did not want any Christ to tell him to flee or try and use political connections and recants to save his flesh.
In his letter to the Smyrneans, he wrote, “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church of God the Father and of the beloved Jesus Christ… which is at Smyrna, in Asia… Let no man deceive himself. Unless he believes that Christ Jesus has lived in the flesh, and shall confess His cross and passion, and the blood which He shed for the salvation of the world, he shall not obtain eternal life, whether he be a king, or a priest, or a ruler, or a private person, a master or a servant, a man or a woman. ‘He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Matt. 19:12)’.”
Does not sound like the modern ‘with every head bowed and every eye close; I invite you who salvation through Jesus or who want God to saved you, raise your hand and pray this prayer with me.’ No way; like Ignatius who followed the apostle Paul, we cannot be ‘ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… for the righteous (just) shall live by faith (Rom. 1:16-17);’ for as John says, ‘the cowardly, the unbelieving and the immoral… with liars, will have their part in the lake that burns with fire… the second death (Rev. 21:8).’ You don’t have to wave banners, but you sure must communicate your faith.
By a servant
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