Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
“I have become acquainted with your name, much-beloved in God, which you have acquired by the habit of righteousness, according to the faith and love in Jesus Christ our Savior. Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, you have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you.
For, on hearing that I came bound from Syria for the common name and hope, trusting through your prayers to be permitted to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by martyrdom I may indeed become the disciple of Him who gave Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God, you hastened to see me.
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. And blessed be He who has granted unto you, being worthy, to obtain such an excellent bishop.”
Ignatius of Antioch in The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 1 (dated between AD 107-110).
If we think times are hard today, listen to what Ignatius of Antioch faced. Let me set the scene. By the end of the first century, Clement, Bishop of Rome was martyred. He was ied to an anchor and tossed into the sea.
Next, Ignatius would be escorted from Syria to Rome. He would encourage saints to persevere in letters to churches along the way. In this, his letter to the Ephesians, we hear him commended them for their habit of righteousness.
Notice his willingness, even eagerness, to give his life for God. For the early church, to be a disciple was not to believe in Jesus but to give your life for Jesus. Big difference!
Remember, he’s writing the church in Ephesus. This is the same church where Paul ministered from AD 52-54, and where Timothy served after him until his martyrdom in AD 80.
But by around AD 96, when John wrote Revelation, he alerted them to return to their first love. How would their story go from there? They must have gotten the message and repented.
What matters is not how we start but how we finish. God help us finish well. Help us give our lives for Jesus and be known for a habit of righteousness, and may those who serve have a reputation of inexpressible love.
Keep praying for my GTP global gathering meetings with 29 workers from 17 countries this week. Soon the GTP annual report will be released to get to know them. For now, your prayers are appreciated.
These are disciples of Jesus, giving their lives in service to Christ with eagerness.