The incarnation is of all-crucial importance in both doctrine and discipleship. Jesus did come in the flesh. The first Christmas happened truly and really. This babe in a manger is truly the God-Man, the Savior of His people. And so Ignatius can say, “I do not place my hopes in one who died for me in appearance, but in reality.”
“Stop your ears!” That is one of my favorite lines from one of the earliest church fathers, Ignatius. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, where the followers of Christ were first called Christians. He was martyred for his faith sometime around 110.
Ignatius left us a rich legacy, not only in the testimony of his martyrdom, but also in the testimony of his bold writings against the heretics of his day. The biggest battle Ignatius and the church faced in that first generation after the apostles had everything to do with the event we celebrate at Christmas.
The false teachers, known as the Docetists, declared that Jesus had not really come in the flesh, that He was not fully human. They denied the doctrine of the incarnation. They falsely claimed that Jesus only appeared to be flesh. The Greek word for appear is dokew, hence the heresy of Docetism.
So what did Ignatius have to say about all this? In one of his letters he delivers that great line: “Stop your ears!” Don’t even listen to the heretics. Jesus did not appear to be born of flesh, He did not appear to be the Word made flesh. He was really and truly flesh.