Why are we sailing old paths? Why do I insist upon the oldest map?
“Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.” (Jer. 6:16)
Our journey into the old continues. I do not see that our new ways are as good as the old ways our Lord set from the beginning. Over a period of 2000 years we have changed the set of the sails so much, that we have actually made a U-turn. We’re sailing back towards the world! We must shine the light of our early forefathers again! Their knowledge must be known again! Now let us learn from this bishop Polycarp whom the Lord gave such a high grade in Revelation 2:8, the Church of Smyrna.
Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers. With Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, we have Polycarp, bishop (Overseer) of Smyrna. Writings have survived concerning these three and others. Polycarp became of utmost importance to me when one: I realized he was the Overseer of the Smyrna Church when it got its excellent report card, and two, when I saw Polycarp standing against a major change that the bishop of Rome wanted to implement. According to Polycarp, this change went directly against the teachings of the Apostles of Christ!
I call them the “Missing 200 Years”. What changed from the time of Jesus, to around 300 A.D., that the Church was suddenly willing to follow a pagan Emperor like Constantine? It’s a time period of 300 years, but we mostly know the first 100. It’s from 100 A.D. to 300 that we seem to be in the dark! Lack of knowledge! Something changed and we don’t even know what or how? Previous articles have the details of what we’re speaking of here, if you need to catch up, but Polycarp refused to go down this fork of the road! And after his death the Church evidently eventually gave into changes coming down from Rome in more ways than one. Not only by way of the Bishops of Rome, but also the pagan Emperor. And where did this change begin? With the Lord’s Supper of all things. And we continue it to this day!
You might think this is a small matter and not so important, but evidently Polycarp and others of that time would not agree with you. What happened to the Lord’s Supper and Passover Communion done the way it was in Book of Acts and also as described by Paul in 1st Corinthians 11? Why do we not have the “Welcoming Table of the Lord” as the early Church did? Why do we not do a Christian form of a Passover meal and Communion as the Apostles said to continue? Is it a small thing to ignore the Apostles of Christ? Is it a small thing to ignore anything still written in our New Testament Bible? The Apostles, Polycarp, and others of our early Church fathers did not see it as a small thing. But do we? Actions speak more truth than words.
The Christian form of Passover, and the Lord’s Supper as it was done in the early Church and mentioned in Book of Acts more than once, came under attack. Polycarp led the way on resisting the change, but we don’t do it today. The Church has not done it as the Apostles taught in a very long time! We need to seek the old paths if we desire to be fully restored! The Lord’s Supper is not a small thing to God the Father, and is a template to all things Church! A true template is always of utmost importance!
I’m about to give you some quotes from that time from Polycarp himself, but first I would like to suggest something for consideration. Have you considered how much communication we have today? We have a ton of it! Texting, email, Marco Polo, Twitter, on line videos, blogging, radio, person to person, the list goes on and on! And that’s a good thing, right? But in all this communication, have you noticed how little real “conversation” we have today?
Communication is one thing, but true “communion” is “conversation”. Because communion is to share! Both talking and sharing and having close relationship like real friends and family! That is the template for God’s Church! God’s family! God does not have a business, he has a family! We’re not his employees, we’re his children! And Communion without the Lord’s Supper is like communication without conversation! Usually rather one sided, to the point, and on your way you go! That sounds just like our short-form Communion table of today! But it is not what the early Church of the Apostles did. Would you go on record declaring it a small thing? Has your actions declared it?
COVID 19 has made us think, hasn’t it. We have one last chance to treasure people and relationships more than money, fame, and image. If we fail to get back to a true love of God and love of people, then this window will eventually close. The window will remain closed until the next judgement shatters it in a trillion pieces and makes COVID 19, and the Twin Towers look like a picnic!
Polycarp lived form 69 to 155 A.D.. He had one surviving letter, and it was to the Philippians. You are about to read words that are close to 2,000 years old, who was one of the men the Apostles passed the torch to.
His letter to the Philippians, Chapter X- Exhortation to the practice of virtue – “Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because “alms delivers from death.” Be all of you subject to one another “having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles,” that ye may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct.”
Once again this article is a lot to ponder before consuming more. I wanted you to have a taste of some words written by this man’s own hand. You can get a feel for his nature and character from these words. Add to that what Jesus said concerning the Church he was Overseer of. Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians is full of words and exhortation such as this, but we have no other writings surviving from his own hand. The quotes coming in the next article of “New Wine Skin” will contain quotes from others who recorded Church history, and also stood with Polycarp and wrote of him.
These are waters we must come to know if we are to be true Soul Sailors. You must know the reasons why you sail by a different map than the moderns of our day, which I call the Motorboats and Rowboats. If true sailors we be, then we cannot be unknowing concerning the WIND as others may be. We have fallen in love with a life at sea powered only by the WIND. Therefore, we cannot be indifferent and unknowing as others. If we are to survive and succeed by sails alone, then our skills and understanding must match the WAY we have chosen. Praise be our Lord forever. Amen.