Being both a neophyte in the faith of Christianity and the history of the Church, my hunger for reading both the Bible and other early Christian manuscripts has flourished. How does one come to the truth in a faith that is so full of opinion in doctrine, and misunderstood tradition? I guess if I knew that answer, I wouldn't be so involved in searching these texts. Regardless, I do trust that the truth is there, and that the Spirit has both lead and will lead me to it.
This book has been one of those occasions in which I feel that the Spirit and God's timing were working in me. At a time when all of the negative parts of the Church were bringing me down, this text has helped me to focus on what is really important in my faith, my walk with Christ.
To begin, the works of such early martyrs such as Polycarp, help one to see just what was going on in the mind of a man of faith who knows that he will be honored to recieve the same persecutions as his Lord. In this day and age, the idea or desire of such a sacrifice is alien to the majority of Christians, and other than 2 Maccabees, is only hinted at in the Bible.
Also, to have a glimpse of what was happening in the church shortly after the demise of the apostles, is very enlightening. Although the scraps that make up quotations of the lost letters of Papias are less than adequate, one finds that early after the distribution of Revelation, the argument over a millenial kingdom raged. Since Papias was under the tutilage of John (the elder, or the apostle, I won't argue that one) in Ephesis, his point of veiw on this matter should not be ignored, though he was proclaimed a heretic later on.
Finally, the most important aspects of this text is the concern that these early Church leaders had in the direction that the Church was leading. Questions that popped up at these times were and still are very important to the understanding of how one walks in the faith after one has come to it. These texts are strong in explaining the importance of a life of good works and the importance of unity amongst the congregations.
Also, we get a glimpse of what was happening at that troublesome Church in Corinth after the apostles were no longer an influence. In a way, some of the most practical instruction has been written because of this Church, and they didn't stop in needing more after Paul's demise.