Some seem to think that the current controversy over the teaching of grace is new. Actually, it’s the oldest in Christianity. Starting with Paul’s chastisement of the foolish Galatians for accepting “another gospel,” a poisonous mixture of law and grace (Gal.1:6-9; 3:1-5), church leaders have been contending with the subject ever since.
Okay, I admit I’m a bit of a church history nerd for reading this stuff. But when one does crack open these ancient tomes we discover that, just like today, the early church wrestled with what to do with the Mosaic Law and faith in Christ’s finished work on the Cross.
Like most so-called “hyper-grace” preachers today, they weren’t looking to give the faithful license to sin, they were trying to get them to be empowered by grace—managed from the inside-out by the power of the Holy Spirit, instead of by outward observances and self-restraint through the Law. Like Paul, they only want to see Christ and Him crucified “among you.” (1 Cor.2:2).
Here are a couple of samples of Ignatius’ first-century teachings on grace:
“Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. Old things are passed away: behold, all things have become new.” For if we still live according to the Jewish law, and the circumcision of the flesh, we deny that we have received grace.” (Chapter VIII, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection)
“Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the corrupt leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven of grace. Abide in Christ, that the stranger may not have dominion over you. It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism. For Christ is one, in whom every nation that believes, and every tongue that confesses, is gathered unto God.”
(Chapter X, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection)
Beloved, may we stay on the ancient paths and “lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the corrupt leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven of grace.” Let us avoid the foolish fables that only put us on the treadmill of performance and into the religious bondage that Christ came to free us from (Gal.5:1). Instead, may we rest in Christ’s performance…His life..His faith.
May we truly learn how to abide in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.13:14). Amen.