As with any public debate or dialogue on a topic of great magnitude which disciples around the world are following closely (and our fellowship with one another in the One Body, those attitudes and actions that tend to divide us into warring factions, and our eternal salvation are indeed of great magnitude), there will be some peripheral matters arising on occasion that simply need to be dealt with (and sometimes in public) as a matter of clarification so as to provide the reader with some degree of perspective for the issue at hand. Most public, published, formal debates have established rules that are negotiated and agreed to by the principals prior to the beginning of the oral or written exchange. This was true in the case of the present debate between Darrell and me. Over a period of time, the rules originally suggested by David Brown (the editor and publisher of Contending for the Faith magazine) were narrowed down to just a few, each of which was logical and none of which were oppressive in nature. What I find more than just a little interesting, and even relevant to the topic of this current debate (which relevance I will be demonstrating, so please be patient), is that Darrell has, thus far in our debate, violated every one of these previously agreed to rules for this engagement. Again, please bear with me; there is a point to this ... and a very important one. I think you may be surprised, and hopefully pleasantly so, with where I'm going with this.
In an email to me dated Friday, June 13, 2008 (with a copy to Darrell Broking, John West and Daniel Denham, and with the body of the email later posted to the ContendingFTF Internet list -- message #11,629), David Brown stated: "Two weeks between each affirmative and negative post will be allowed before a post is made. This amount of time will allow for any unforeseen circumstances to be taken care of without putting each disputant in a bind regarding other work they may need to do." I sent David an email (same date, with copies to the same men) saying, in part, "I also appreciate the mandating of time restraints on how long one may go between responses. I've had opponents in debates go MONTHS between my posts and theirs, and this, frankly, was done intentionally. Thus, I appreciate you addressing this matter and I agree with the time you allotted." Darrell also agreed with this regulation of time between our postings, for on Thursday, June 19, 2008 he wrote to the ContendingFTF Internet list: "The following debate will begin today ... Each post must take place within a two week period of the post to which it corresponds. The debate begins today so my first affirmative will be posted by July 3rd" [message #11,632]. True to his word, Darrell's first affirmative was posted exactly two weeks to the day later -- Thursday, July 3, 2008. I posted my first rebuttal six days later [Wednesday, July 9], he posted his second affirmative thirteen days later [Tuesday, July 22], and I posted my second rebuttal three days later [Friday, July 25], which meant that his third affirmative was due no later than Friday, August 8.
I waited throughout the day on Friday for Darrell Broking's third affirmative, and I did so with some degree of anticipation, for I was rather curious as to how (and even if) he would respond to some of my questions and challenges. His post didn't appear during the day. Later that evening I officiated at a wedding at our church building and then attended the reception following. When I got back home, it still hadn't appeared. I stay up pretty late, so checked my mail one last time just before midnight ... it wasn't there. The next morning I discovered he had posted his third affirmative to the ContendingFTF site (message #11,644] on Saturday, August 9 at 1:03 a.m. Okay, you are correct -- it was just an hour and three minutes. So, what's the big deal? Who cares? Well, to be honest, it was not a "big deal" with me. If he had taken another couple of days, it would not have mattered to me (although I think if either of us needs extra time, then we ought to inform the other just as a matter of common courtesy). Human need supersedes law; that is a principle most people recognize. However (and here is my point), if one insists upon living by law, then there is no such thing as "almost" or "close." One either keeps law or one does not. Whether you violate "law" by an hour and three minutes, or by six months, either is a violation. THIS is the point here, of which the "hour and three minutes" is simply an illustration. Please, please do NOT misunderstand what I'm saying here. I couldn't care less about Darrell breaking this rule. But, it does illustrate a critical point that is being made in this debate. If we are under the type of legalistic patternism being promoted by Darrell and those in his camp, then such "infinitesimal, trivial details" do matter, and they matter a lot. I have been told that if a person dies after being plunged beneath the waters of the baptistery, but before his/her nose breaks the surface of the water, that person will go to hell. It is this mindset that I seek to confront within this debate. If I were to make a big deal of an hour and three minutes, then I would be no better than the person condemning a man who died on the steps of the baptistery, or whose nose had not yet broken the surface of the water.
As for the other "transgressions" of the debate "laws," they are equally trivial ... in my personal view anyway, which is why I have never said anything about them, and have only done so here for the purpose of making the above point about the very mindset behind Darrell's position in this entire debate. One of these laws is -- "The disputants will not post directly to the ContendingFTF list. They must forward their posts to David P. Brown, list owner. If he is unavailable, the disputants will send their posts to one of the other moderators. If one of the moderators or the list owner is a disputant in a debate, one of the other moderators will receive the debate posts from the appropriate disputant and post it to the list." In point of fact, Darrell has not done this, but has sent his own posts directly to the list, whereas I (good legalistic patternist that I am) have sent mine to David and the other owners and moderators (as directed), and they have posted them. Another "law" is the following: "The moderators will not comment regarding the debate without first consulting with each other, and then it would need to be concerning a point of order. If such is necessary, the disputants will be notified and/or consulted regarding the matter." In point of fact, both Darrell [message #11,642 on July 31] and another of the owners/moderators, Daniel Denham [message #11,643, same date] have posted their personal views to the list in direct violation of this rule (while all other members of the list are forbidden to post a single word until the debate has ended). Indeed, Darrell quotes Daniel's post in his third affirmative: "Darrell, Al clearly is trying to poison the wells and silence critics on his own board. That's simply further proof of the moral bankruptcy of his ideas. It is so sad to see folks who profess to be Christians and lovers of the Word of God 'who cannot reason beyond the end of their noses,' as a history teacher of mine used to describe liberals in his day." Hardly a "point of order" pertaining to the debate itself, and I (as one of the "disputants") was most certainly neither "notified" nor "consulted" regarding this post, as per the requirements of the aforementioned directive.
With regard to this present debate, as Darrell noted, he placed a challenge on the ContendingFTF list in which he wanted to debate an "anti-patternist" (which I know he perceived me to be). I wrote indicating I thought it strange he would want yet another debate with me (we'd had one previously -- Click Here -- from April to December, 2000 on the topic of my book on MDR), and yet he did seem to want one with me, this time on the doctrine of patternism in the church, and so I indicated that I would be willing to oblige him. Darrell seems to want to leave the impression with the readers that I did not at that time believe there is any kind of clear "pattern" to which men are amenable, and that I have therefore recently changed my position on this (as he himself radically changed his, as I demonstrated). Had Darrell bothered to inform the readers of the subsequent email exchange between us, however (with copies to David Brown, Daniel Denham and John West), the reader would quickly see this was a misrepresentation. On June 15, in an email to David, John, Daniel and me, he wrote proposing the following announcement to the ContendingFTF list: "Al Maxey and I will debate the subject of 'Patternism.' Al takes the position that there is not a New Testament pattern to which men must conform or be lost, and I hold the opposite view. This is the issue that we will debate." I wrote them less than an hour later to clear up this confusion. I wrote, "I will indeed oppose the view that the NT is a divine pattern. I will NOT oppose that a specific divine pattern may be perceived therein. ... Thus, I urge Darrell to more precisely state his proposition to reflect this theological divide." Darrell Broking wrote back just a few minutes afterward: "Al, if I were to affirm that the New Testament is a divine pattern, would you affirm that the New Testament contains only a few matters that can be considered a divine pattern, or something to that effect?" I then immediately responded, "That would be more in keeping with my own personal convictions." Thereafter we soon arrived at the two propositions as currently stated. Therefore, although I did indeed state I would "oblige" Darrell with a debate on patternism, I did not in so doing acknowledge that I didn't believe in ANY form of pattern. Quite the contrary, as the above emails demonstrate. Thus, my position has not changed in recent days (as has Darrell's). It has remained constant over the years.
Just one more observation for the sake of clarification, and then I'll leave these peripheral matters behind us (and I shall not bring them up again). Darrell has posted a number of letters from readers within the body of his latest affirmative. I can understand Darrell's perceived need to do this. In my Reflections (which have been mailed out weekly to a list of subscribers for almost six years now) I have a section where I provide "Readers' Reflections" pertaining to my articles, and to anything else that may be on their minds. It is their "sounding board;" a place where they can "think out loud," yet without fear of being persecuted by those who might like to destroy them (thus the need for anonymity). Needless to say, some have responded to the debate that Darrell and I are having, which is perfectly acceptable within the established parameters of that specific forum. The Internet group ContendingFTF has established a very different format -- at the end of the debate, everyone on that group will have a week to post anything they want with regard to the completed debate. I anticipate there will be a flood of posts, with the majority less than flattering toward my position. That's to be expected, though, just as it is to be expected that my readers will, for the most part, favor my view. I get a lot of positive feedback, and little negative; the same is true with respect to those who write to Darrell. David Brown and Darrell Broking are both subscribers to my Reflections, and thus they read these responses. I don't mind sharing them with them, and believe that knowing how the "other side" feels can be helpful in formulating one's own thoughts in a debate. That is why I sincerely appreciate Darrell sharing with me the thoughts of those who write to him. Indeed, I would love it if he would send me more of these emails (and, no, he doesn't even need to let me know who they are or where they're from). Hearing their views helps me to identify my weak points, and they help me know where I need to perhaps give more attention in my arguments. I don't think the body of one's affirmative or rebuttal is really the place for a "Readers' Response" section, but I certainly don't think it inappropriate to quote from such responses if such is helpful in promoting a point in either the affirmative or rebuttal. Thus, again, I appreciate Darrell sharing these responses with us. They are helpful, although we should probably both be careful of seeking to flood our respective affirmatives and rebuttals with countless posts from others. I have refrained from doing this in my posts to this debate, and shall continue in that resolve.
Answers to Darrell's T/F Questions
Darrell's Answers to my T/F Questions
I found it fascinating, although not at all unexpected, that Darrell answered "True" to my first two statements. Indeed, he had to in order to remain consistent with a theological premise that every single word of the New Covenant documents has bearing upon our fellowship with one another in the One Body and our ultimate salvation. Most reasoning disciples are aware that such a premise cannot even remotely be sustained in the face of even a casual challenge, and yet Darrell persists in promoting it. The two statements which Darrell declared to be "True" are: (1) The apostle Paul wrote, "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand" [Gal. 6:11], which is a statement that is an integral part of the divine pattern pertaining to one's eternal salvation, and (2) The apostle Paul wrote, "When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments" [2 Tim. 4:13], which is a statement that is an integral part of the divine pattern pertaining to one's eternal salvation. Darrell Broking has declared that the size of Paul's handwriting, and his comment upon the fact, is a salvation issue. He's further declared that Paul's request of Timothy for a cloak, books and parchments is also a salvation issue. What Darrell has NOT provided us with is any explanation as to why or how this bold assertion of his should be perceived by us as valid. I hereby challenge Darrell to explain to us exactly in what way these two statements are "an integral part of the divine pattern pertaining to one's eternal salvation." We shall await his detailed response in his next, and final, affirmative.
It may come as a surprise to Darrell, but I am somewhat in sympathy with him regarding his view of transporting the elements of the Lord's Supper to persons who may have missed the corporate communion during our Sunday morning assembly, although my rationale is different from his. In response to my third T/F statement, Darrell declared that if a disciple takes the bread and wine Sunday afternoon to one who missed the assembly Sunday morning, and if that disciple should partake of these elements again along with the disciple who missed, this would constitute a violation of the "pattern," and would thus be a SIN. I personally would not call it a "sin," for the simple reason that GOD has not. There is not a single hint anywhere in the NT writings that such a practice would constitute "sin." In fact, when I was doing prison ministry about 20 years ago, I would conduct four services on a Sunday at four separate facilities at the Penitentiary of New Mexico, and we would offer the Lord's Supper at each service ... and I would partake with these brethren at each of the four assemblies. I fail to see how remembering my Lord's sacrifice via these elements once on Sunday pleases God, but if I remember that sacrifice via these elements more than that, He will cast me into hell. I can just picture my Father livid with rage on the day of judgment over the fact I dared to remember Jesus more than once on the Lord's Day. That's just plain ridiculous, and, further, to characterize our God in such a way borders on blasphemy, in my view.
No, I have no problem with partaking of these elements more than once. It seems to me this in no way violates the directive of Jesus, who said: "As often as." The problem that I have with the practice of transporting the elements to those who were unable to meet with the saints that morning, is that this practice has a tendency to promote a sacramental view of this memorial meal. We must get our "weekly wafer and wine" so as to be acceptable to our God, and if we miss the assembly where it is offered then we had better find someone to bring us some, lest we be "found wanting" in His sight. This makes far more of these elements than was ever intended. I have dealt with the rise of this sacramental view in Reflections #114 --- A Brief Historical Overview of the Lord's Supper, and I've dealt with the issue of transporting the elements to a missing member in Reflections #196 --- The Second Serving Controversy: Sins of Sunday Night Lord's Supper and Crimes of Carried Communion. Again, I would not go so far as to characterize such practices SIN, but I personally would not be in the least upset to see both traditions abolished. Nevertheless, this is strictly my own personal perspective on the matter, and, as such, it must never be allowed to rise to the level of imposed law. It is not a salvation or fellowship matter. God did not legislate in this matter, thus neither may I. This is where Darrell and I are very much different.
By responding "False" to my fourth statement, Darrell has demonstrated that he correctly understands our Lord's comment ("as often as") not to be regulatory with respect to frequency of observance of the Lord's Supper. He and I agree that this command of the Son of God does not mean "Sunday only," nor does it mean "every Sunday." Whenever we observe it ... as often as we observe it ... we are to do so in memory of Him. I also appreciate Darrell's "False" response to my fifth statement, by which he further agreed with me that no inference drawn by fallible men from biblical examples may be given greater bearing in the determination of "the pattern" than a command uttered by Jesus Himself. Thus, if Jesus commanded "as often as," and Acts 20:7 shows a singular example of Troas assembling on a particular day for this observance, the latter example (and any inferences we may draw with respect to such) does not have the weight to forever restrict or regulate all future observances of the Lord's Supper. "As often as" still trumps "on the first day of the week." And yet, although Darrell, by his responses, gives lip-service to this principle, in actual practice he denies it. Notice how Darrell responds to this statement of mine: "Observing the Lord's Supper on any day other than Sunday is a sin. True or False? True" [2nd Affirmative, July 22]. And by what authority does Darrell declare such to be SIN? You guessed it: inferences drawn by fallible men from a single example, which is then given greater bearing on establishing "the pattern" than the very words of the Son of God Himself. Or, to quote from one of Darrell's own readers: "'Oh consistency, thou art indeed a jewel!' In this case it's also 24-carat gold-encased!" How can Darrell possibly characterize such as SIN, given the following? -- "If men are fallible, then their inferences may be also. True or False? -- True." He admits that these inferences drawn from examples have the potential to be erroneous, for those doing the inferring are fallible. Yet he still gives them greater weight in establishing this "pattern" than a direct command by Jesus Himself. Wow!!
Examining Darrell's 3rd Affirmative
Darrell Broking stated early in his third affirmative, "I too am praying for Al's defeat." I guess I have a somewhat different perspective on this. I am not praying for Darrell's "defeat." Rather, I'm praying that God will open his eyes so that he might better perceive the joys of freedom in Christ Jesus from the bondage of legalistic patternism. I don't want to defeat Darrell, I want to enlighten Darrell. If my goal is to defeat him, then I am already the loser!! This exchange isn't about me, nor is it about Darrell. It is about Truth. He and I each have differing perspectives of what constitutes that Truth, and we are both representative of a great many others out there who share our respective convictions. These differing perspectives have, sadly, been the source of much separation of spiritual siblings in the Family of God. Seeking to defeat one another will only solidify and perpetuate those walls that divide us. However, bold, yet respectful, dialogue may, with the help of God's Spirit in both our hearts, serve to chip away at those walls so that we may all draw nearer to that day when our Lord's prayer for oneness in the Body [John 17] might at long last come to be realized ... at least to a greater extent than it has been previously.
Darrell seems somewhat perplexed, and not a little frustrated, that I have yet to state what I perceive to be the essentials contained in God's inspired Word relating to both fellowship and salvation. He wrote, "I ... attempted once again to get him to deal with the importance and place of God's Word in the scheme of salvation and fellowship, which has yet to happen in this debate." This statement was made in the first paragraph. In the last paragraph (which is a quote from a preacher who had written to Darrell), one reads, "he still has not answered your questions with regard to which parts of the Bible we are accountable to." Darrell and this preacher whom he quotes seem to have forgotten that this debate consists of two parts. In the first part, Darrell is to affirm his own perspective, and I am to seek to provide a rebuttal. That is what I have attempted to do. In the second half of this debate, I will indeed affirm that God's Word contains particulars of a pattern pertaining to our fellowship and salvation, and I will seek to specify exactly what they are. I have yet to do so in this debate because we have not yet entered the second half where I take the affirmative stand. Thus, I would urge Darrell to try and be patient, concentrating his efforts on seeking to prove his own proposition, which thus far he has not come close to doing, in my view. In his "Conclusion" Darrell asserts, "Thus far in this debate it has been proved that the New Testament is the divine pattern for salvation and fellowship." Proved to whom? Certainly not to me, nor anyone with whom I've conversed about this debate thus far.
Darrell reads Jude 3-4 and somehow extrapolates "the Bible" from this passage. I suppose he equates these 27 NT documents (which, by the way, had not at that time been completed) with "the faith" which had been delivered (aorist tense) to the saints. He wrote, "Notice that people who deny that the Bible is truth, and truth which is to be expressly followed by men, turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. They say that the Bible is not a book of law; thus, they engage in sin while claiming that they are covered by the grace of God. Al Maxey is the classic example of the ungodly noted in Jude 4." I deny that the Bible (and the NT documents specifically) is a Law Book, and therefore the following verse describes me: "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" [Jude 4]. It appears that denying Darrell's position is the same as denying "our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Failing to perceive the Bible as LAW turns GRACE into licentiousness. Darrell almost had me worried there for a moment ... until I went back and read Galatians.
Darrell wrote, "When asked about the Bible's infallibility Maxey agreed that it is, but only in as much as it agrees with modern scientific theories." Actually, that's not what I stated. What I actually wrote was -- "We must keep in mind that the Bible is first and foremost a theological work, rather than a scientific work. Therefore, by way of example, we might have statements that give the appearance of being false, when the reality may be more a matter of interpretation and perspective. The Bible speaks of the heavens and the earth, and all that is within them, being created in just 'six days.' This might cause a problem with some until they realize that our Lord is most likely emphasizing more that our universe had a Source (God), and that the precise mechanics of that process of creation are expressed figuratively. Thus, I don't have a problem with a statement of 'six days' and the belief, scientifically, that it was most likely billions of years. The two are not inconsistent, since we must take the biblical account to be much more theological (and figurative) than scientific (and literal)." The infallibility of the Scriptures has absolutely nothing to do with any degree of agreement or disagreement with modern scientific theory. The Scriptures do not purport to be a scientific journal; rather, they're a spiritual revelation. Darrell, once again, has failed to perceive my intent, and in so doing has misrepresented my beliefs.
I find myself somewhat perplexed by Darrell's view of precisely when mankind first appeared upon this planet. He stated, "Jesus was the agent through whom the creation took place. He placed humans on the earth at the beginning by discussing the marital arrangement of Adam and Eve and placing this event at the beginning (Matt. 19:5-9)." I would love to hear a little more clarification as to what Darrell thinks this phrase "from the beginning" (Matt. 19:4, 8) actually means. He quotes Romans 1:20, which speaks of the invisible qualities of our God, which can be perceived within that which He has created from the beginning, and then he writes, "For those invisible things to be seen and understood from the 'creation of the world,' humans had to have been there at the beginning of the creation." Can Darrell actually be suggesting what this statement appears to suggest? The way my Bible reads, man was not created until the creation of the heavens and earth had been completed. Darrell, however, places mankind "there at the beginning of the creation." Either Darrell is correct, or Genesis is ... but they can't both be. Perhaps Darrell will enlighten us.
"When questioned about the possibility of salvation within denominationalism, Maxey responded in the affirmative and then taught that it is possible to be in Christ and in the Baptist denomination at the same time." Yes, Darrell, just as it is equally possible to be in Christ and in the Church of Christ denomination at the same time. Association with various faith-heritages is not what saves us, nor what necessarily condemns us. Our salvation is in a Person, not a Party. Darrell continued, "Maxey repeatedly affirmed that salvation is in Christ, which the Bible teaches." Amen. He then wrote, "The difference between what Maxey and the Bible teach is that the Bible teaches that to be in Christ is to be in the church of Christ, not any denomination." I would agree completely, and that last phrase would also include the "Church of Christ" denomination, just as it would any other named group found within the Yellow Pages. When we are "in Christ Jesus" (i.e., in union with Him through relationship with Him), He numbers us together with all others who are also "in Him." This vast, universal family of redeemed ones is the One Body of Jesus Christ; the Family of God. It can never be equated with ANY particular movement or group or sect or faction thereof ... and that includes our own. Yes, disciples the world over may have differing associations that may be identified by differing traditional tenets and preferences, but these are merely folds within the one flock. We are One Flock, and yet may find ourselves in differing folds. Yet, we are under one Shepherd. When we are His sheep, we are in His flock, although we may find ourselves in different folds. May I suggest a careful reading of Reflections #19 -- The One Body of Christ: Family or Faction? and Reflections #57 -- One Flock, Many Folds: Reflections on John 10:16.
Darrell declared, "Maxey and me [sic] are miles apart on the subject of baptism. Baptism is the point at which an alien sinner finds forgiveness and enters salvation. Maxey, on the other hand, believes in salvation before baptism for the remission of sins. That makes as much sense as saying that salvation existed before Jesus died on the cross for our sins." Hmmm. Darrell, was Elijah saved? Was Moses saved? When they both appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration, were they at that time lost? When God poured forth His Holy Spirit upon Cornelius prior to his baptism, and he was speaking with tongues and exalting God, was he lost at that moment in time? When Priscilla and Aquila pulled Apollos aside in Ephesus, was he at that moment in time lost? Darrell, I honestly do not believe either of your statements above will hold water theologically. Darrell stated, "Before baptism all people in need of salvation are still 'doing evil' and therefore do not have the approval of God to worship Him." Would this include Cornelius?!! A man who had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who was speaking in tongues, and who was "exalting God"? Was this worship, Darrell? Or, was this man still "doing evil"? Was Apollos "doing evil," Darrell?! I guess Acts 10 & 18 read a lot differently in your Bible than mine. Darrell, please specify the "evil" these two men were "doing."
Darrell Broking, to my utter amazement, wrote, "The fact of the matter is that Darrell Broking acknowledges that First Corinthians 16:1-2 is absolutely binding for each and every Lord's Day worship assembly." Very interesting!! Are you still waiting for Paul to arrive so these collections may cease?! And, by the way, just how does that phrase in verse 2 pertain to the pattern affecting one's eternal salvation? Do you take a special contribution each week for relief of brethren in Judea? Who have you appointed in your congregation to accompany Paul back to Judea with this collection? By the way, do not spend any of it on your salary or the upkeep of the building!! It is to be laid aside for this other specific purpose, and it is to be kept apart until Paul arrives. Darrell, please enlighten us as to how 1 Cor. 16:1-2 "is absolutely binding for each and every Lord's Day worship assembly." We eagerly await your eisegesis.
Sunday ONLY Observance?
Darrell made this observation within his third affirmative: "What the church does not have is one word of Scripture allowing the church to observe the Lord's Supper any day other than the Lord's Day." I believe Darrell is wrong about this. Please carefully and prayerfully examine the following information, which is a brief portion of my study in Reflections #30 -- The Lord's Supper: Focusing on Frequency. There has been much scholarly debate throughout the history of Christendom as to how best to interpret the historical references in Acts 2. On the day of Pentecost, after 3000 precious souls were added to the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 2:42 declares, "they were continually devoting themselves to (or: "they continued steadfastly in" -- KJV) the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." It is almost unanimously agreed among biblical scholars that this is a reference to the observance of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, most of us regard this as an obvious reference to the regular observance of the Lord's Supper by the disciples in Jerusalem. They "continually devoted themselves" to it.
From the context of the chapter we know the regularity of their meetings at this time was daily. The legalists promoting their restrictive tradition will declare that all the other items in verse 42 (teaching, prayer, fellowship) were experienced daily, but then they'll insist that the Lord's Supper was not. "Regularity" meant weekly in this one case, whereas the steadfastness of the others was daily. Is there anything in the context that even remotely suggests this interpretation? Of course not. This is a case of eisegesis, not exegesis.
From the very beginning of the church's formation, this memorial feast was considered to be one of the key elements of their spiritual life and worship. Nevertheless, Acts 2:42 itself really does not speak to the particulars of frequency. It merely points out that the observance was regular, steadfast, or continual. Dr. Thomas B. Warren observed, "The 'breaking of bread' in this passage no doubt refers to the Lord's Supper. But what does that prove? It doesn't tell you when (or how often) they did it. One can do a thing 'steadfastly' and do it every ten years!" (The Spiritual Sword, July, 1982, p. 4). Or, a person could also do it every day. The verse simply does not specify.
A possible reference to frequency and methodology might very well be found in Acts 2:46. "And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart." The phrase "breaking bread," which is found in verse 46, "is problematic" (Dr. Anthony Lee Ash, The Living Word Commentary: The Acts of the Apostles, vol. 1, p. 59). Some biblical scholars feel the phrase "breaking bread" [Reflections #168 -- Breaking Bread: Meal or Memorial?], when used in this verse, refers only to a common meal shared among the early disciples. Others attach a spiritual significance to this meal, but feel that it might be similar to the Jewish Chaburah = a coming together of like-minded believers during which a fellowship meal was shared. Others feel just as strongly that it is a reference to the Lord's Supper (as in the similar phrase just four verses earlier). Many scholars view it as a common meal, and yet they hasten to point out that the Supper of our Lord was frequently celebrated (at least in the early years) in connection with just such a meal. Therefore, even if this was a reference to a meal shared in homes, that doesn't necessarily exclude the Lord's Supper, which for many, many years was associated with an Agape meal.
For many centuries, and in many different parts of the world, the Lord's Supper continued to be celebrated with great frequency and great thanksgiving. "In many places and by many Christians it was celebrated even daily, after apostolic precedent, and according to the very common mystical interpretation of the 4th petition of the Lord's prayer -- 'Give us this day our daily bread'" (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church -- Ante-Nicene Christianity, vol. 2, p. 236). Cyprian, a church leader in Carthage, North Africa, who was beheaded for his faith in 258 A.D. during the bloody persecution of Emperor Valerian, spoke in his writings of the "daily sacrifice" of the Lord's Supper. So also did Ambrose (d. 397 A.D.), who was one of the most distinguished of the 4th century Church Fathers, and a leader of the church in Italy.
Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.), the most popular and celebrated of the Greek Church Fathers, complained of the small number of people who showed up for the "daily sacrifice" of the Lord's Supper. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), who lived at Hippo, North Africa, and who became one of the most influential leaders of the Western Church, indicated that the observance of the Lord's Supper varied from place to place. In the early years of the church there was no set pattern; some observed it daily, some weekly, some at other times. Basil (d. 379 A.D.), one of the most respected church leaders in Asia Minor, declared, "We commune four times in the week, on the Lord's Day, the fourth day, the preparation day, and the Sabbath."
These few references (and a great many more could be cited) indicate sufficiently that in the early years of the church's existence the frequency of observance was varied, and it was not considered a point of contention. Never were such diverse practices made into tests of fellowship or conditions of salvation. It was not until very much later in history that a specific time was ordained by various legalistic groups as being the only acceptable time during which disciples could observe the Lord's Supper, and thus the preferences of these dogmatists were made precepts to be bound upon all humanity as tests of faith and conditions of salvation. The doctrine of Sunday ONLY observance is derived from deductions made from a singular text by those who perceive the New Covenant writings as being a Law Book filled with proof texts. "And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7). Well, there you have it. Based on these few words an entire theology has been built. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to perceive that numerous assumptions must be made for one to arrive at the position that this passage commands Sunday only, and every Sunday, observance of the Lord's Supper [see: Reflections #173 --- The Great Time Debate: Were the Events in Acts 20:7-12 Reckoned in Jewish or Roman Time?]. And please bear in mind that Darrell has acknowledged that the statement of the Son of God Himself with respect to frequency of the meal He Himself established does NOT indicate a Sunday only and every Sunday pattern. And also bear in mind that Darrell has admitted that inferences drawn from a singular example do NOT have the weight to forever limit or restrict by legislation the words of Jesus Himself on the matter. And then keep in mind that Darrell Broking still declares that deviation from a Sunday only, and an every Sunday, and even a once only on Sunday "pattern" is SIN ... something never so characterized anywhere in Scripture.
Nothing is said anywhere in this passage about the practice of Troas either before or after this particular weekend. Was the first day of the week the ONLY day these disciples observed the Lord's Supper? We don't know. Did they observe it every first day of the week without fail? We don't know. Was this the practice in every other congregation on the face of the earth at this time? We don't know from the biblical text, although history reveals it was not. But there is even more that needs to be considered here. Where, within the NT writings, does it state that the way Troas observed the Lord's Supper with regard to the matter of frequency (assuming we even truly know conclusively the exact nature of their regular practice) is the way ALL disciples the world over MUST observe the Lord's Supper until the end of time? Where does it ever state in the sacred Scriptures that our salvation today, and even our fellowship with one another, is dependent upon each of US observing this memorial feast in exactly the same manner as THEY did in ancient Troas? In other words, is the singular example of Troas forever binding upon all disciples the world over until the end of time? If the answer is "yes," then where in Scripture is such a demand ever specifically stated by our Lord? Would Darrell please provide us with this passage!!
Let me ask an even deeper hermeneutical question (one the legalists have never yet been able to answer for me) --- Can a singular example override or restrict a command given by Jesus Christ and repeated by an inspired apostle? In other words, which bears more weight -- a command of our Lord or an example of mere men (about which many assumptions must be made)? Which has more authority -- a precept of deity or a practice of men? Well, as previously noted, Darrell has admitted that it is the former. However, as we have seen, in practice he embraces the latter. Oh, for a consistent ultra-conservative!
What a great many rigid religionists have seemingly forgotten in their desperate quest to bind their practice upon others is that Jesus has already spoken to the matter of frequency with regard to the observance of the Lord's Supper. We do not have to resort to examples for our authority, for the authority lies in the words of the Master Himself. Further, a singular example does NOT have the power to forever override, restrict, limit and regulate a direct command of the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 Jesus issues the command, "Do this!" He then tells us the purpose and significance of the observance -- it is in remembrance of Him. And, of course, Paul elaborates on the spiritual significance in other passages, as well. Then, with regard to frequency, the Savior declared, "As often as" you do it. Paul then repeats that same phrase --- "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." The matter of frequency has forever been addressed in the phrase "as often as."
"As often as" is the Greek relative adverb "hosakis," and it "is only used with the notion of indefinite repetition" (Dr. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 973). Other than the 1 Cor. 11:25-26 passage, this particular word is used only one other time in all the New Covenant writings. This other occurrence is in Rev. 11:6 where the "two witnesses" are said to have the power to perform certain actions "as often as they desire." The passage in Revelation not only leaves the action within the realm of that which is indefinite with regard to frequency, but actually leaves the matter of determination of specific practice in the hands of those performing the action -- "as often as they desire." Thus, neither Jesus, nor any of the NT writers, directly regulate or restrict the observance of the Lord's Supper with respect to time or frequency. It is left completely within the realm of "whenever," and within the hands of those observing it.
The relative adverb "hosakis," translated "whenever" or "as often as," is nonspecific with regard to time. Daily, weekly, monthly are ALL equally in accord with the statement by both Jesus and Paul. Again, we must raise the vital hermeneutical question -- Which has the greater weight when it comes to determining our own practice today with regard to frequency of observance of the Lord's Supper? A specific command or declaration of Jesus Christ, which is then repeated by an inspired apostle? Or a singular example about which "fallible men" have made countless assumptions? Unto which of these will we give "authority" to determine our practice?
Was the practice of the disciples in the city of Troas, as best we understand it, in accord with the teaching of Jesus and Paul? Of course it was! Even if the disciples in Troas did in fact observe the Lord's Supper every first day of the week, and only on the first day of the week, that would still be in complete compliance with the directive of Jesus and the apostle Paul -- "as often as" you do it. "Whenever" you do it. However, a daily observance would also be in full compliance. So also would a monthly observance, or a bi-weekly observance. ALL would fall under the gracious umbrella of "as often as." True, the latter examples given would not be according to the pattern of Troas (as far as we truly perceive that pattern, which isn't far), but they would be according to the precept of Jesus and Paul. Thus, again, the question -- to which do we give preference in the establishment of practice -- precept or pattern? Unto which will we bow in submission -- the direction of the Lord or the practice of a group of disciples in a single city on a single weekend?
In this particular case, when we have both -- a precept from the Lord and an observed practice of a group of disciples -- it is my conviction that one must give the weight of authority to what Jesus decreed above what a handful of disciples did. In the absence of any passage of Scripture which declares that a practice of MEN overrules, redefines, limits, restricts, and regulates a precept of the MESSIAH, I must regard the practice of men as more narrative in nature than normative. In other words, Acts 20:7 gives us some limited, and admittedly subjective, historical insight into the practice of the church at Troas at that point in its history, but it in no way is our authority for overriding, limiting, restricting, or regulating a command of Christ Jesus so as to establish a new "forever LAW" for all peoples on the planet until the end of time. I have found NO teaching of my God in Scripture which gives such power and authority to a singular example in the face of two clear declarations (one from deity, one from an apostle) to the contrary.
Darrell declared, "There are many like Maxey who believe that the Bible cannot be correctly interpreted." Again, that is a rather misleading statement, and does not fully convey the truth of my convictions. Are there passages within the 66 inspired OT and NT documents that are difficult for us to interpret? Of course there are. My guess is that there are no two people within Darrell's own congregation who agree 100% on every sentence of every verse in the Bible. They very likely differ in their interpretations ... as we all do on various matters (some important, some less so). Some passages have been debated for centuries, and there are not a few where scholars have proffered dozens of possible interpretations. This is not the fault of the inspired writings, nor of eternal Truth ... it simply reflects that both are being approached by "fallible men" who tend to make "fallible inferences" and interpretations. Will any one person or any one group ever be able to assert they have "correctly interpreted" every word, phrase, sentence and verse in Scripture? Of course not. Does this mean Scripture CAN'T be correctly interpreted? No. It CAN be, but due to our own fallibility, it hasn't been. It was the same with keeping the Mosaic Law. COULD it be kept perfectly in every single respect throughout one's earthly life? Yes, it COULD be. But, did any man ever do so? Well, only one -- Jesus! We find this exact same problem when we who are finite seek to perfectly comprehend the revelation of the Infinite. Some do indeed come closer than others, but no one will ever do so 100% ... not even Darrell Broking (which I believe he has already demonstrated to us in this debate quite convincingly).
Darrell stated, "Eating meats sacrificed to idols created a problem for the early church, but God did not command the church not to eat meat sacrificed to idols." Apparently Darrell has forgotten about the ruling of the Holy Spirit through the Jerusalem Council -- "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well" [Acts 15:28-29]. By the way, Darrell, have you ever eaten meat from an animal that was strangled?! This is part of the "pattern," my friend!! A pattern that directly impacts our very salvation (or so you have declared). Can I have fellowship with you if you have eaten strangled meat? Do you even know if you have? You might want to do some checking; it would be a shame to be cast headlong into hell one day over inadvertently eating a drumstick from a chicken that had been strangled. Every word of the NT writings is part of that binding pattern impacting salvation, you know!! Do you like your steak rare, Darrell? Medium? I would start ordering well-done in the future, if I was you!! Eating blood violates the pattern, you know!! Perhaps we should start checking our brethren's steaks in the future to determine if we can have further fellowship with them!! "Stake not thy life upon a steak!" [2 Pattern 3:23].
Darrell wrote, "Come on Al, the Bible says to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. That is what God said." Well, once again Darrell has shown us that he really doesn't know what Scripture actually states. Eph. 5:19 reads, "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Col. 3:16 reads, "teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The word "sing" is not actually used in these two phrases, although it is true that singing may be implied within them. However, one could just as easily speak to, teach and admonish one's brethren (either in or out of an assembly, and it should be noted that neither of these passages is referring to a formal "worship assembly") by simply reading the words of a hymn to them, which sometimes a congregation will do, and such would not violate the teaching of these two phrases. And as far as any aids or accompaniment to said speaking, teaching and/or admonishing, there is nothing specified either for or against, thus leaving the matter in the realm of responsible personal judgment. The words "singing" and "psalming" (making melody) don't appear until the second phrase in each passage: "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord" [Eph. 5:19], and "singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" [Col. 3:16]. Notice that when it comes to the use of the word "singing," the audience is THE LORD, it is not one's fellow disciples, and the singing takes place IN THE HEART, and thus does not even have to be audible. There are two audiences in these two passages: God and "one another." The former "hears" our hearts, the latter is moved by that which is audible. If there may be aids or accompaniments that help facilitate our speaking to, teaching and admonishing one another, then by all means employ them, as long as our brethren are being presented with the message of Truth and our God is being glorified and honored in the process. There is absolutely nothing in either passage that even remotely hints at divine displeasure over instrumental accompaniment. Such restrictive, limiting legislation is humanly devised, not divinely decreed.
Darrell said, "Maxey too has a 'patternistic list' and condemns those who do not agree with him." I certainly have "a list" of personal opinions and perceptions and preferences, but I do NOT condemn those who differ with me regarding these. Indeed, I have been preaching, teaching and writing for many, many years that we must all ACCEPT one another, differing views and all. Darrell urged, "Maxey, if you don't agree with me, and at the same time you want to honor your perception of Romans 14, then just love me anyway and don't try to get me to violate my conscience." This is indeed my intention, Darrell. I have no desire whatsoever to try and impose my personal convictions upon you against your will. I will not declare you "bound for hell" because you choose to follow convictions that differ with mine. However, what I WILL oppose, and what I will oppose with every ounce of strength I possess, is the effort by others to BIND their own convictions upon the rest of humanity as though they were the will of God. That's exactly what the legalistic patternists attempt to do. It's THEIR way, or NO way. If you differ with them, you will "burn in hell," and they don't mind telling you so. Accepting each other as beloved brethren, embracing one another in full fellowship, acknowledging others as saved, even when we differ with them, is what Al Maxey teaches (and what I believe the Scriptures teach). Separating from others, condemning others, and declaring others to be hell-bound when they dare to differ with the party pattern, is what Darrell Broking teaches. The reader must decide which position is more in keeping with the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Questions for Darrell