Although it is insisted that there was a great falling away from the truth shortly after the time of the Apostles there is one church leader that the COGs tend to view quite favorably, namely Polycarp, who was a prominent Christian leader, a disciple of, and then the successor to, the Apostle John.
Polycarp is often mentioned within the COGs when they condemn Easter. One example of this may be seen in Herman Hoeh's deeply flawed 1959 booklet, A True History of the True Church. (It is actually very misleading and badly informed.)
Among the Gentiles the churches in Asia remained the most faithful to the word of God. We pick up the story of the true Church in the lives of such men as Polycarp and Polycrates. They were called "Quartodecimani" because they kept the true passover celebration instead of Easter.
Here is what the early Catholic historians admit about the true Church:
"But Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church of Smyrna ... He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus" -- bishop of Rome around 154 A.D. -- "caused many to turn away from the ... heretics to the CHURCH OF GOD, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles ... While at Rome, Polycarp discussed with the Roman bishop the matter of the introduction of the pagan Easter in place of the passover.
Irenaeus continued: "For neither could Anicetus (the bishop of Rome) persuade Polycarp not to observe it" -- the passover -- "BECAUSE HE HAD ALWAYS OBSERVED IT WITH JOHN THE DISCIPLE OF OUR LORD, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated; and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, who said that he was bound to FOLLOW THE CUSTOMS of the presbyters before him" (Quoted from Eusebius' "Ecclesiastical History", book V, chap. 24, in the "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers", Vol. 1). (Armstrongite Source.)Although the COGs bring up Polycarp because of this one issue they rarely discuss anything else about him.
This illustrious Polycarp wrote a letter: Polycarp's letter to the Phillipians.
Let us see what Polycarp had to say.
I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, (Chapter 1.)Here is a beautiful statement confirming that the Christians in Phillipi continued and, it would seem, even now remained staunch in their faith. I find this a wonderfully reassuring picture compared to what HWA and Hoeh ignorantly taught about the post-Apostolic Christians, insisting that the original Christians were overpowered by some sort of proto-gnostic, anti-law heretics, inspired by Simon Magus, centered in Rome, and later to become the Roman Catholic Church. Instead we find that even fifty years or so after the time of the Apostle Paul Polycarp praises the Phillipian Christians as continuing to be steadfast Christians, saying "the strong root of [their] faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endures even until now". How very different from what HWA and Hoeh said about early church history.
He later speaks of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Phillipians.
For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, "is the mother of us all." (Chapter 3.)(As far as I can tell "the mother of us all" here refers to faith.)
It is very good to see that Polycarp had should happy words to say to the Christians at Phillipi.
Now the COGs tend to view Polycarp quite favorably. This is because the COGs ministers often cite Polycarp's visit to Anicetas, the bishop of Rome, to resolve the Quartodecimian Controversy. This is often mentioned in the COGs' condemnations of Easter.
On the other hand the COGs tend to disparage Polycarp's contemporary, Ignatius of Antioch, as part of the evil conspiracy to suppress the truth. Notice how LCG's John Ogwyn portrays him in his booklet, God's Church Through the Ages.
Ignatius of Antioch, in about 110AD, wrote, "It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism" (Magnesians, 10). He also talked of "no longer observing sabbaths." ...Other reasons why Ignatius would be viewed with suspicion among the COGs is that he apparently speaks of observing the Lord's Day as opposed to the seventh day Sabbath.
These claims were being made to hold brethren in an organization that was rapidly developing into what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church. ... While they increasingly abandoned what the Apostles taught, these deceivers [referring to Clement, Ignatius and Cyprian it seems] sought to hold brethren together by appeals to unity and to the memory of the Apostles.
If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death ... (Magnesians, Chapter 9)He also was the first Christian author to refer to the church as the Catholic Church.
wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (Smyrnaeans, Chapter 8.)Polycarp and Ignatius are viewed as being on two different sides. Polycarp part of the true church, a part of the era of Smyrna, on the one hand. Ignatius, a deceiver working for what would eventually become the Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand. Is this true? Were Polycarp and Ignatius rivals?
Notice what Polycarp himself wrote in his letter regarding Ignatius.
I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness,Polycarp mentions Ignatius most favorably, even compares him to the Apostles and calls him "blessed".
Ignatius also mentions Polycarp most favorably.
My soul be for yours and theirs whom, for the honour of God, you have sent to Smyrna; whence also I write to you, giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. (Ephesians, Chapter 21.)It is clear they were on the same side.
The Ephesians from Smyrna (whence I also write to you), who are here for the glory of God, as you also are, who have in all things refreshed me, salute you, along with Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnæans. (Magnesians, Chapter 15)
Ignatius also wrote a letter to Polycarp. What did he have to say to Polycarp, his supposed rival?
Having obtained good proof that your mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] your blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press forward in your course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. ...There is not the slightest trace of dispute between the two. Not only that but Ignatius supports Polycarp as a leader among the Christians.
Let not widows be neglected. Be, after the Lord, their protector and friend. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither do anything without the approval of God, which indeed you do not, inasmuch as you are steadfast. (Chapters 1 and 3.)
John Ogwyn and the others are talking nonsense in besmirching Ignatius as a heretic.
It is also noticeable that Polycarp never mentions tithing in his letter.
So we see then that Ignatius and Polycarp appear to have been perfectly friendly with each other and supported each other. HWA and his imitators are once again shown to have badly misunderstood things regarding early church history.