Ignatius to the Romans

Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria, an early center of Apostolic Christianity and activity on the far northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea (its land now part of modern-day Turkey). He ultimately also became an early Christian martyr. He is one of the earliest leaders of the Church, and is an early connection and window for us into the Christianity and Christian spirituality of the Apostolic Age. The Apostle John was still alive in Ephesus (also in modern-day Turkey) during some time of Ignatius's ministry, and they more than likely knew each other, Ignatius being a disciple of the apostle. We also know from the Bible that Paul, Barnabas, and Peter ministered in Antioch in Syria.

Ignatius wrote his epistle to the believers in Rome, and other epistles, en route to his own execution.

One of the apparent reasons behind his writing to the Roman Christians on the way to Rome was so that they would not attempt to rescue him, though he knows that it would only be through their love for him that they would do so. His letter to the Romans (and his subsequent death) being dated at around the year 110 AD, Ignatius's faith is an invigorating, refreshing, and challenging view into what it is to truly be a Christian, seen in an early follower of Christ that most likely had believed at the teaching of perhaps an eyewitness to Christ.

It is as if one can sense the burning fire of the Incarnation of Christ and the Gospel resounding in Ignatius,

and this is an encouragement for us, because we ought to be so enthralled in Christ and in love with Him just as he was. The message of the Gospel never changes.

Ignatius lets us see into the heart of a Christian in his epistles written at the end of his life en route to Rome to be martyred by wild beasts at the hands of Imperial Rome. Christians today would be able to truly resonate with the passion he has for Christ in reading his letters, and the beautiful and profound things coming from his pen as his living faith is truly put to the test. This martyrdom, and its very real prospect in his life (he is writing from a situation consisting of being forced to walk on foot in chains to his ultimate death), produces in him an unworldly joy and depth of purpose and assurance of life that is a testimony for all the world of the Gospel.

Nothing in the world could give you this passion faced with such circumstances, as is why I believe Ignatius's Epistle to the Romans is something everyone should read, anyone deep down wanting to read something substantial. I believe this epistle is a Christian testimony or response to postmodern literature as well as first being an expression of faith and a view into Christian martyrdom.

Ignatius' view of Christian martyrdom, as expressed in his epistle to the Romans, is a beautiful one that shows a passion and ardent desire to die and yield for Jesus. One word that comes to mind when I think of his passion in this writing is 'purity'. It seemed that to him, martyrdom was the purist way to be, not just die. He shared Paul's confession that he had died with Christ. His view of martyrdom was it being true and pure discipleship of the Lord Jesus, who perfected obedience and strength dying on the Cross. Having the honor of emulating the Lord in dying was a profound blessing for Ignatius.

"Now I begin to be a disciple, and have no desire after anything visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus Christ." (Chapter 5, Ignatius to the Romans)


I believe his view of martyrdom shows the way he has discovered the beauty of Christ. It is something that will edify new and more experienced believers alike, in any era, because he seems to remind us all of our first love. He reminds us that living, and indeed, dying for Christ because of faith in His supremacy is something pure because we then are truly identifying with God. Martyrdom is the most beautiful altar, and Ignatius pleaded not to be denied this. ("Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me in attaining to life" Chapter 6)

You can read a translation of the letter here.