Hierarchy in Early Christianity

Hierarchy in Early Christianity

The early Christians recognized the importance of hierarchy, and this was reflected in the way they worshipped. They appointed different people to lead the church. Each of the people elected or chosen for a position had certain responsibilities. The leaders had greater authority over the people, but their level of power differed. Bishops and deacons had varying levels of influence within the Christian community. Ignatius reflects this in his letter to the Ephesians. He writes of the importance of honoring the leaders placed in the church. He mentions the bishop and the deacon, and he urges the people to honor them. He also mentions the disciples and adds that they are the people’s servants. The people are subject to the bishop and to the presbytery. Bishops are the will of Jesus Christ, who is in turn the will of the Father. Therefore, the people are to recognize and acknowledge the bishop and act in accordance with his directives. He asks the people to look upon the bishop as they would the Lord (New Advent, 2009).

The form of hierarchy that the people recognized got its legitimacy from the Holy Trinity as reflected in the persons of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Although God is one in the trinity, Ignatius mentions of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the letter, he makes this distinction by mentioning God first before Jesus Christ every time he mentions both persons of the trinity together. He refers to Jesus as the will of the Father. By doing this, he seems to be saying that there is an established order that recognizes power and authority. He notes that things agree in unity when they are in order, and he urges the people to observe the established authorities for the sake of harmony (New Advent, 2009).





New Advent. (2009). The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians. Retrieved from http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0104.htm

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