Why is it I only hear crickets? Am I alone in this post? Hello?
OK, last time we had a little bit from Ignatius, and we have a bit more from him today. In his letter to Polycarp, Chapter VI, Ignatius said this:
Look ye to the bishop, that God also may look upon you. I will be instead of the souls of those who are subject to the bishop, and the presbyters, and the deacons; with them may I have a portion in the presence of God! Labour together with one another, act as athletes together, run together, suffer together, sleep together, rise together. As stewards of God, and of His household, and His servants, please Him and serve Him, that ye may receive from Him the wages [promised]. Let none of you be rebellious. Let your baptism be to you as armour, and faith as a spear, and love as a helmet, and patience as a panoply. Let your treasures be your good works, that ye may receive the gift of God, as is just. Let your spirit be long-suffering towards each other with meekness, even as God [is] toward you. As for me, I rejoice in you at all times.I find this passage interesting because of its relationship in structure to the previous letter we reviewed. These letters are both written at the same time, as Ignatius is being handed over for death in the Arena.
Last time we noticed that Ignatius said that Baptism should be our “arms”, and here our “armor”. In that, why exactly does Ignatius use these terms interchangeably here? My opinion – and if yours is different I’m interested in it – is that Ignatius is implying that baptism is a kind of protection for the believer. In his list, faith is the spear (that with which one attacks or advances his position), love is a helmet (that which guards the head or mind); patience is a “panoply” (which is lost on the modern reader; a “panoply” is the full array of battlements – the full supply and resources of a warrior). The believer, in Ignatius’ view here, is fully equipped for his task.
So if baptism is a protection, what does it protect against? Does Ignatius here say that it’s a supernatural protection, or some kind of spirit warding equipment? No: he places this description of baptism immediately after his admonition “let none of you be rebellious”. In the same way he has previously said, “let baptism be your arms”, he is saying here that it is a protection against rebellion. In the same way he was saying not to “abandon your post” in the previous letter we took a quick look at, here he is saying “defend yourself against being rebellious toward each other”. And the primary object of that protection, in his view, is baptism. Somehow (which he does not elaborate here), baptism is an “armor” against rebellion.
In the next installment, which is Ignatius’ letter to the Phillipians, he does elaborate briefly. If you’re really anxious or clever, you’ll read ahead and think about it before we post anything here.