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The Church, in the early first and second centuries, fought to establish itself as a legitimate institution.

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Introduction

Throughout the second century, the church struggled to come into its own amidst a flourishing revival of paganism. New Christian writings served to inspire and defend the faithful, but it was the courage of the martyrs that gave them the strength to continue (Visalli 111). The Church, in the early first and second centuries, fought to establish itself as a legitimate institution. It faced much opposition and persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire, rival religions and various social groups. Regardless of efforts to end Christianity by the Empire, the Church began to flourish expanding itself far beyond Asia Minor. However, many of the thriving Christian provinces were without unity, subject only to the guidance of their local bishop. St. Ignatius of Antioch is a vital part of early church history, and his letters serve as a foundation of much of modern church doctrine. These include the fundamental understanding of a Universal Church through the Eucharist, the establishment of the bishop in an elevated status and opposition to Docetism. Little is known about St. Ignatius's early life and works, and much of what is known is drawn from his letters to the various Christian regions of the Roman Empire. He was born in 50 A.D. ...read more.

Middle

Ignatius also praises the necessity for unity in the Church, as well as the need to respect one's bishop as the "Lord Himself" (Kirby Ephesians). Like his letter to the Ephesians, St. Ignatius writes to the Magnesians encouraging unity within the Church. Specifically, however, he writes on the importance of reverence and obedience to their bishop. Many considered him young and inexperienced, but St. Ignatius praised him for "manifest[ing Jesus in his] youthful appearance" (Kirby Magnesians). This letter strengthens the foundations of Church hierarchy. In particular, it reaffirms the bishop in his important role as a leader among his province. Many of St. Ignatius's letters contain passages verifying the position of the Bishop and other ordained ministers as appointed leaders of the Church. His letter to the Trallians reiterates this belief that the vitality of the Church is dependant upon the laity's obedience to appointed ministers (Kirby Trallians). Ignatius also refutes Docetism by reiterating Christ's passion and compares it to his own. The letter to the Romans takes on a different theological tone than the prior three. It contains Ignatius's piety and humbleness towards his own martyrdom. He is aware of his savage death sentence, yet still wishes to continue his service to God. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lastly, Ignatius designates Bishop Polycarp to lead the council that will elect Ignatius's successor in Antioch. Many of the foundations of the Church use concepts established by Ignatius. In his Letters, "he develops three themes that were characteristic of early Christian spirituality: Christ, the Church and martyrdom" (Aumann). He refutes the docetist heresy, establishes the perception of the ordained ministries as leaders in the Church and presents a humble image of the "martyr" that many after him struggle to follow. Ignatius develops the universal ideas of the Church. All of this has proven to be an intricate part of the role of the modern Church in the world. As Christians, Ignatius's Letters provide an increased understanding of the origins of a divine revelation. Through his martyrdom, one can deduce that his faith in the Father inspired much of his writings. This is supported by Ignatius's belief that his death was a calling from God, (reflecting divine inspiration in his writings). His leadership and guidance to the Church epitomizes our own roles in the Christian faith community. It is through the basic understandings in Ignatius's Letters: obedience to our bishop, union in the Eucharist, and the false teachings of Docetism, that we learn our own function in the Church. ...read more.

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