by Al Maxey

Issue #216 ------- October 26, 2005
The slaves of custom are the sport of time.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Head Coverings for Women
Local Custom or Universal Command?

A member of the Non-Institutional Church of Christ Internet "discussion" group known as MarsList, who hails from the beautiful state of Georgia, recently posted a request to the group for clarification of the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding head coverings for women. This woman was especially perplexed as to the meaning of the phrase "because of the angels" (vs. 10), and whether or not the requirement for a covering was limited to the "worship services." This woman is not alone in her confusion over this passage. It has been the source of great concern to many over the centuries. Countless women, fearful of transgressing some church "law," have chosen to cover themselves in some manner "just to be safe." Another female member of MarsList, for example, who resides within the great state of Michigan, declared, "I wear a covering any time I'm involved in any type of a public prayer; I also wear it during the whole public worship service and when I teach a class." This is not an uncommon choice of women who have been raised up under the various ultra-conservative, legalistic sects and factions of Christendom.

Frankly, I applaud the willingness of such women, as the sister from Michigan, to live by their convictions, even though I personally do not regard such coverings to be necessary for women today. Nevertheless, the apostle Paul, in Romans 14, encourages us each to order our lives, and our actions and attitudes, according to our individual convictions. He also suggests rather strongly that those disciples of Jesus Christ who may have differing convictions regarding some practice should never condemn or cast off from fellowship those who choose, in faithful devotion to their Lord, to live by a separate set of personal standards of behavior. As long as a brother or sister is following some practice to the glory of their heavenly Father, then who are we to judge or condemn them?! Our responsibility is to accept them and work together with them for the building up of the body of Christ in love. One does not have to be my twin to be my brother. Where some individuals have gone wrong, on the other hand, is in seeking to bind their convictions upon all others within the church as though these personal preferences were divine precepts determinative of both fellowship and salvation. This is where such law-bound brethren err, and this type of sectarian legalism must be opposed by all faithful, grace-centered disciples of Christ Jesus.

Admittedly, the apostle Paul's teaching in the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 is rather difficult for disciples far removed from that time and culture to fully grasp. Those looking for a "pattern" for our assemblies struggle with this passage, as it almost suggests a garb for worshipful women reminiscent of Islamic tradition. Thus, many even of the patternists refuse to be bound by "the pattern" portrayed here. But, as is often mentioned in these weekly Reflections, the theology of patternism is by its very nature selective. Where some see law that must be universally bound, others see only local custom that resides within the parameters of personal choice. Thus, such matters for Christian women as the wearing of jewelry and the braiding of hair (1 Peter 3:3), to provide just a couple of examples, are issues of heated debate among many of the patternists. Some see these as conditions of salvation and terms of fellowship; others regard them as purely matters of individual choice. The latter would place such things as jewelry, braiding of hair, and coverings for the head in the same category as circumcision for men -- they are neither right nor wrong in themselves, but a person is obligated to live by their own convictions. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). "So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God" (Rom. 14:22). Those who willfully transgress their own personal convictions sin; so also do those who willfully seek to impose their convictions upon others! There is nothing wrong with living by one's personal convictions to the glory of God; there is much wrong with seeking to bind those convictions as divine decree upon one's fellow disciples, or separating from one's brethren who may have a differing perception or practice.

Dr. Carl Holladay, in his commentary on The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, declares, "The meaning of these verses appears to be hopelessly unclear, in spite of many ingenious, but ill-fated attempts to explain them. The most one can hope for are a few shafts which might illuminate a few dark corners, but even then the room as a whole is still dimly lit. The task of the biblical commentator, in these circumstances, is to keep the obscure from becoming even more obscure" (p. 139). The Pulpit Commentary boldly asserts, "There are some things in these verses that perhaps no one can rightly interpret" (vol. 19, p. 367). I believe these are overly pessimistic perceptions of this passage, but they do illustrate the problem -- Paul's teaching here is a challenge for the student of the Word. The New Testament Restoration Foundation, in a brief commentary on these verses, stated, "It ranks among the most difficult of all passages in the NT." The Expositor's Bible Commentary makes the following observation -- "These verses have evoked considerable difference of opinion about the nature of the head covering and the place of women both in public worship and in her relationship to the man" (vol. 10, p. 255).

Another problem connected with the first half of this eleventh chapter, especially for those scholars seeking to comment upon the passage in written form, is that there is a wealth of information presented here on a variety of topics. Unless one limits the focus of the review, the examination could easily become disjointed and devolve into aimless rambling. Thus, this current issue of my weekly Reflections will not attempt to be an exhaustive analysis of every aspect of the passage before us. That is simply beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we shall simply seek to contemplate the purpose of the covering for women, and whether that covering is strictly a matter of local custom or universal law for the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Other issues raised in the passage will perhaps be considered in more depth in later articles.

Paul begins 1 Cor. 11 with a challenge to follow his example of following the example of Jesus Christ (vs. 1) ... good advice for all of us. This was not the first time Paul had made such a plea (1 Cor. 4:16-17; Philp. 3:17; 4:9; 1 Thess. 1:6). It's important to note, however, that he does not encourage the brethren to blindly imitate him in all areas of his personal life, but rather that they imitate his imitation of Jesus Christ. In other words, to the degree and in the particulars that they saw him following Jesus, they should do the same. Paul also commends these brethren for "holding firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you" (vs. 2). Remember, the early disciples did not have copies of the NT writings readily available to every member. Indeed, a rather significant portion of the NT had not even been written at this time. What they had was the oral teaching of the various apostles, prophets and evangelists, with a few letters being circulated among them (some inspired, many not). This "oral teaching" that was handed down to them is the "tradition" of which Paul spoke. The Greek word is paradosis, which means "to deliver, hand over, hand down, transmit" from one age to another, or one person to another. The phrase "the traditions of the fathers," for example, would simply refer to the many teachings and convictions of these men which had been handed down to succeeding generations. Someone once accurately referred to tradition (according to this usage of the term by Paul) as simply "hand-me-down truth." Paul praises these brethren for holding firmly to many of those teachings he delivered to them.

The brethren in Corinth had some questions and concerns, however. Their faith, in some ways, was far from settled, and thus they had sought the advice of Paul (presumably in a letter they had written to him, which, sadly, is no longer extant) --- "Now concerning the things about which you wrote ..." (1 Cor. 7:1). Many believe the remainder of the epistle is Paul's response to this now lost letter. Thus, the teaching on the relationship of men to women, and coverings for women, and whether there was some connection between the two, may well be a direct response to a concern raised by the Corinthians themselves. Where there is diversity of custom, and of perception and preference with regard to said customs, there is great potential for turmoil within a body of believers. Is any one custom or practice favored by God over the other, and, if so, which? Such questions may well have been before Paul as he penned the words of 1 Cor. 11:3-16.

Before getting to the topic of coverings and their purpose, Paul lays the ground work for his later comments by addressing the matter of headship. This is a very controversial section, and is quite offensive to some within Christendom, especially to some women who consider Paul to be somewhat of a "male chauvinist." I have had several women over the years inform me that they have a real problem with Paul, believing him to be "down on women." Frankly, I think that is an unfair perception of what Paul was teaching, but the wording of some passages, if not rightly interpreted, could lend itself to such a bias. This present article will not seek to defend Paul's view of women, or their role in the church, but for those interested in examining the matter further I would recommend a review of Reflections #113 --- Women in the Church: Reflecting on the Nature of their Role. I'm convinced that after a careful analysis of the totality of Paul's teaching on the subject one will discover he elevates the status of women and ennobles their role in the church. Yet, Paul was just as much a victim of his times and culture as we are today, and simply sought to uphold eternal Truths within those societal restraints in such a way as not to hinder the proclamation and reception of the gospel. It can, at times, be a genuine challenge, and may of necessity involve some accommodation to local custom (although, certainly, never a compromise of Truth). For a discussion of how Paul dealt with one such challenge, read Reflections #166 --- Conforming to Jewish Custom.

In 1 Cor. 11:3 Paul writes, "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." The question that immediately arises, of course, is -- What exactly is meant by the term "head" in this passage? Some biblical scholars feel the word has reference to the concept of authority. God has authority over Christ (the Messiah); Christ has authority over man; man has authority over woman. This raises several additional questions -- In what practical sense does man have authority over woman? Is this over all women, or just his own wife? Is this authority throughout a public setting, or merely private (the home or church)? If Christ has authority over man, but man over woman, does this imply that woman is not under the authority of Christ, but rather of man? Obviously, this idea of authority can be a troubling one, with many ramifications in both public and private settings.

Bro. Jimmy Allen, in his Survey of 1 Corinthians, adopts the position that authority is in view here. He refers to the above verse as "the chain of command of God" (p. 129). Some have referred to this as the doctrine of Subordinationism. Dr. C. K. Barrett, in commenting on verse 3, writes, "Thus a chain of subordinating relationships is set up" (A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 249). The covering of the woman, according to this view, "represented the subjection of the woman to the man" (Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 393). Dr. Holladay suggests, "If one takes 'head' in the sense of 'master,' obviously the ... sequence appears to be outlining the chain of command. The notion that man was the 'master' of woman was a truism in Jewish thought, and had solid OT support (Gen. 3:16). Jewish writers of the period, including Philo and Josephus, regarded it as axiomatic" (The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 140). "In vs. 3-10 Paul emphasizes the order of authority and administration in the divine structure of things" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 255). "Paul argues for man's exercise of authority above woman's" (ibid). "There is an upward gradation of rank to be observed -- woman, man, Christ, God. The woman must show by her covered head that she is in the presence of her superior: man" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 527). In keeping with this position, "The veil expresses the authority of man over woman" (ibid).

Needless to say, such rigid theology is not often well-received, especially in more modern, liberated societies. Even in our own nation, however (not to mention some less developed cultures), some groups have taken this passage, and several others of similar focus, and used them to reduce their sisters in Christ to the point of servitude. The women are covered over, forbidden to speak, and in some cases even screened off from the male worshippers. This is unconscionable, and is not even remotely what Paul sought to prescribe in his teaching. Such behavior on the part of men is not only a wresting of Scripture, but an outright perversion of it. It is rightfully said that anyone who demands respect, is not worthy of it. The same holds true here, in my estimation. If a man must place some mark or sign upon a woman to show he is superior to her ... then he isn't. Just the reverse!

Brethren, I do NOT believe this passage in 1 Cor. 11 is about "authority." I realize this statement will likely cause me to be "marked" by the ultra-conservatives and traditionalists, but so be it. The more I study the teaching of Paul here, the less I see any doctrine of subordination or decree of the authority of man over woman. Yes, I do indeed believe God has given specific roles in the church to both men and women. Sometimes there is overlapping of those roles, sometimes not. But the idea of superiority of one over the other is not there. I believe God intended for the man to be the spiritual leader in both the home and church, but this is not about being better or superior; it is not about "being in charge;" it is not about authority. No, I don't believe we honor God's order for His creation when we step outside the parameters He has established for us. For example, when children lord it over parents, something is wrong. The same when a wife lords it over the husband (and, frankly, when husbands lord it over their wives). None of us are called to be lords over others, however we are called to function within the parameters for which God created us. There are God-created boundaries for men, women and children. These should be honored. There is trouble when they aren't. To assume from these differing areas of responsibility in the home, the church and society an attitude of superiority is unwarranted.

So, if the teaching behind the terms "headship" and "coverings" is not authority (God over Christ, Christ over man, man over woman), then what is this passage teaching?! More and more biblical scholars are embracing the view that Paul's teaching here is with regard to "origins." When one speaks of the "head of a river," for example, one is not speaking of authority, supremacy, or superiority, but rather of source or point of origin. This fits perfectly with the context of the passage, by the way, for just a few verses later Paul states, "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man" (vs. 8). In verse 12 the apostle Paul continues, "For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God." Thus, this passage is not supplying a "chain of command," but rather a "chain of origin." Paul also takes pains in this passage to show the interdependence of man and woman, which argues against the view of one being superior to the other. "In the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman" (vs. 11). Notice the following verse from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), which was written in 1855:

As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows;
Useless each without the other!

Dr. T. R. Applebury wrote, "It is possible that in this context 'head' refers to source or origin. The origin of man and woman is the basis of Paul's argument in this context" (Studies in First Corinthians, p. 203). Dr. Carl Holladay also suggests, as do many other commentators, that the word "head" may "be understood in the sense of 'source' or 'origin'" (The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 140). In the context, Paul is clearly referring the Corinthians back to the time of God's creation of man and woman. He points out that man was created first, and then woman created for man's sake (vs. 9). The order of origin, therefore, is man then woman. We also read that the Son of God was directly involved in the creation of man; thus, Christ is the source from which man came forth. This is portrayed beautifully in Col. 1:15-18, which could almost serve as a commentary on 1 Cor. 11:3-16. We are told that "all things have been created by Him and for Him" (vs. 17). He Himself is the "image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation" (vs. 15). Thus, as man came forth from the Son, so also, though in a different way, did the Son come forth from the Father. Jesus indicated many times that He was "sent forth" from God; thus, God was the Source from which came the Messiah (the Christ). Verse 18 then tells us Christ is the "head of the body, the church," then explaining He is the "beginning." From whence cometh the church? From the Christ! It is literally the church of Christ; He is its source! It has its origin/beginning in Him. Now, isn't this exactly what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying? --- "But I want you to understand that the head (source/origin) of every man is Christ, the head (source/origin) of woman is man, and the head (source/origin) of Christ (the Messiah) is God." Dr. C. K. Barrett writes, "Paul does not say that man is the lord of the woman; he says that he is the origin of her being" (A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 248). "Man is the head of woman in the sense that he is the origin, and thus the explanation of her being" (ibid, p. 249).

There are a great many things within this passage that we could examine at this juncture, such as whether Paul had a "formal worship service" in view here, or if this teaching is applicable to any setting (the home and marketplace, for example). If a larger assembly is in view, is Paul actually suggesting that women were praying and prophesying within this assembly? Many commentators feel that is exactly what is being suggested here, which causes them to wonder how this reconciles with such passages as 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12. Yet, we know from such passages as Acts 2:18 and 21:9 that there were prophetesses in the early church. Under what circumstances did they exercise this gift? It would also be highly interesting and instructive to study the covering itself. What did it look like, and how did the custom of the veiling of women vary from place to place, culture to culture? The reality is, it varied greatly. Even among the Jews there was great variation. There were times in their history, for example, when Jewish men wore coverings, and then times when they did not. The same with the women. This was also true of the Greeks and the Romans. All three cultures were present in first century Corinth, and thus the nature of the covering, as well as its perceived necessity, would be matters upon which there was great public diversity. It would have been much like us asking today, "What is the customary dress for women in New York City, both publicly and in a worship setting?" Then, like now, there would really be no definitive standard recognized and accepted by all.

Some scholars feel Paul may have been attempting to bind one particular custom above all others in the city of Corinth (and, by extension, throughout the entire earth until the end of time). This seems highly unlikely to me, not to mention totally illogical and unreasonable. Additionally, it is just out of character with the teaching of Paul, especially with respect to the binding of custom (go back and read Galatians again!!).

So, why the talk of a covering for women? What's the point? Is Paul opting for one custom over another? Is he seeking to bind cultural preference? And if so, whose? Is it not somewhat contentious to insist upon one over another? And upon what basis or authority? Can all of Paul's teaching on the supremacy of grace really be taken seriously if he now seeks to bind some aspect of culture or custom? These are serious questions, and they have troubled disciples of Christ for centuries. Some Bible scholars would suggest, and they have done so, that there is no acceptable way out of this theological dilemma. I disagree. The solution, in my view, lies in the interpretation that Paul is indeed declaring a covering for women to be essential, but that this covering has already been provided by the Lord God, woman's Creator, and thus some artificial covering of human design is not really required. Should such a covering as a veil be employed, then that is fine, but it is not necessary for the simple reason that the covering God has given the woman is her hair! "For her hair is given to her for a covering" (1 Cor. 11:15). Thus, she already has a covering; one given to her by her Creator. Thus, Paul has no intention of being contentious over some custom or practice regarding a humanly devised covering. If one wants to wear one, fine; if not, fine! This, I believe is the significance of verse 16. In the church of God there is no such practice or custom of binding the use or non-use of artificial coverings, thus no need to be contentious over such. It is a woman's hair that is her glory, and her God-given covering. "Women in the church have a ready-made covering and are therefore not necessarily in violation of the principles expressed in vs. 3-10. Overall then, 1 Cor. 11:3-16 is a very liberating passage. In it, women are freed from the bondage of wearing religious head garb" (NT Restoration Foundation).

Paul appeals to nature to show that men should have shorter hair, and that women should have longer hair. "Does not even nature itself teach you that ... if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her" (vs. 15), but "if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him" (vs. 14). What is the point? The point is that God has designed the sexes to be distinctive. Unisex is against every biblical teaching. Men are to look and dress and behave like men, and women are to look and dress and behave like women. There comes a time in most societies, as they grow and develop, where a tendency inevitably arises for these distinctions to become blurred in both attire and life-style. This is happening today, and it was happening during the time of Paul, and he deplores it. It was contrary to the will of God, whether that blurring of distinctives or crossing of boundaries occurred publicly or privately, at home or in the assembly. When men and women come before their God, when they speak to Him and for Him, they must honor him, and show honor to themselves as well, by maintaining the physical parameters He has established for them at the creation. A woman shorn or shaved was offensive to God, as was a man with long, flowing tresses. If you appear before your God, or seek to represent your God to others, as something other than what He created you to be, then you shame both Him and yourself, and your witness for the church is hindered.

At this point we must ask the question that truly perplexes many students of the Word --- what does Paul mean when he says, "Therefore a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels" (vs. 10, NASB)? The KJV reads: "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels." In the rendering of the NASB, the words "a symbol of" have been added to the text. Literally, the text says that a woman ought to have exousia on her head. This Greek word means "power, ability, authority, right, privilege." It is declared by some that this means a covering is a symbol of the "power, authority" the man has over the woman. "The fatal objection to this view, however, is that exousia expresses our own power, and not the power exercised by another over us. It is a word frequently used by St. Paul in this sense. Whatever interpretation, therefore, we put upon this passage, it must be consistent with this word being interpreted as meaning some 'power' which the woman herself has, and not some 'power' exercised over her by her husband" or any other man (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 7, p. 328).

As for the significance of the phrase "because of the angels," one of the scholars who produced The Pulpit Commentary said, "Who shall divine the meaning of the tenth verse? To me this is utterly incomprehensible!" (vol. 19, p. 367). There are indeed a great many interpretations. Some suggest that the women are to cover their faces with a veil because the angels covered their faces with their own wings when in the presence of God (Isaiah 6:2). Thus, women were to employ a covering "because of the angels." Others suggest the term "angels" just refers to the messengers (elders, evangelists) of the church (as some feel is the case in the address to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation). Thus, women should be veiled "in church" to keep the preacher and elders from lusting after them. Other scholars feel that angels "sit in on" every one of the assemblies of the church, and would be horrified if the women were not properly attired. Thus, "because of the angels," the women should not violate custom, and in so doing upset these angels who are looking in on them.

The Jews had a strong conviction that Genesis 6:1-2 described a time when angels ("the sons of God") looked upon the daughters of men and saw that they were beautiful, and so they lusted after them. Indeed, they came down to earth and had children by them. Thus, they left their proper abode and the result proved costly for all concerned. Therefore, "because of the angels" women must cover themselves so these angels won't lust after them. It is a matter of heated debate among scholars whether Genesis 6:1-2 has reference to angels. Many feel it does not. However, this was the common interpretation of the Jews during the time Paul wrote, and it is possible he employed the phrase to make a spiritual point. When angels "abandoned their proper abode" (Jude 6), when they failed to honor the boundaries God had established for them, they paid a heavy price. It is therefore likely that Paul may have referred to this fact to impress upon the women the importance of not abandoning the parameters God has set for them. In other words, they were created as women, they should preserve that distinction, and honor Him and themselves by doing so. Thus, the fate of these angels may simply have been a warning to the women not to present themselves in a way contrary to God's design for them. A woman who abandoned the customary distinctions between the sexes would be committing a similar overstepping of divinely ordained boundaries as did the angels. Therefore, keep the abundance of hair on your head as your covering from God; it is your glory, and to remove it is to dishonor the Lord as well as yourself. Some even wore an additional covering of human design, but Paul seems to be saying that such is really not necessary in light of the fact that God has already provided the covering -- a woman's long hair. Thus, there is nothing wrong with wearing another covering, but it is not necessary. There is no such demand in the church of God, and Paul is not inclined to be contentious over it.

"On the ground of the abolition of distinction of sex in Christ (Gal. 3:28 -- "there is neither male nor female"), some women were claiming equality in every respect with men, and the right to appear and act as men did. When women leave their proper sphere, it is never to rise, but to fall. Women who would be men are failures" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19, p. 378). "The direction of the apostle Paul's advice is for the church not to remove those distinctions between men and women which would make it difficult for it to relate to society" (Dr. Carl Holladay, The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 141). "Woman is sharply and visibly differentiated from man; the oneness of male and female in Christ (Galatians 3:28) does not obliterate the distinction given in creation" (Dr. C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 251). "Nature (i.e., God) has made men and women different from each other, and has provided a visible indication of the difference between them in the quantity of hair He has assigned to each" (ibid, p. 256). "Human beings must give glory to God by being (e.g. in their unconcealed and unperverted sexual differentiation) what God intended them to be" (ibid, p. 257).

"The lesson here is clear enough: man is to dress in a manner that marks him, according to the culture of Paul's day, as a man. To do otherwise is to disregard the fact that God created him a man. Woman also is to maintain her position as a woman and not attempt to become a man by forsaking the customary dress that marked her as a woman according to the culture of that day. There is nothing in the context, as I see it, that suggests that man is superior to woman or has authority over her. Origin or source makes good sense in this context" (Dr. T. R. Applebury, Studies in First Corinthians, p. 203). "The problem that Paul is discussing in this context is that of distinctive dress that marks man and woman while praying or prophesying" (ibid, p. 204). "If a woman assumes the position of man by dressing like a man and thus losing her womanly dignity, she disgraces her head by denying that God created man first and then woman to be his counterpart (Gen. 2:18-24). It dishonors God for either man or woman to attempt to remove this distinction" (ibid, p. 205). "Should the custom of wearing a veil be observed today? Without doubt, the principle of maintaining womanly and manly dignity is to be observed. Since the use of the veil would not necessarily show respect for the principle, it would seem that its use is not called for where custom does not require it. It would be artificial to create the custom to support the principle. The principle can be supported by the distinctive marks of our culture just as it was by the requirements of Paul's day" (ibid, p. 205-206). The Expositor's Bible Commentary states that the main point of the passage is: "man is to be distinguished from woman" (vol. 10, p. 256).

As stated early on in this current study, 1 Cor. 11:3-16 is a very difficult passage, and there is much within it that we today may easily fail to grasp completely, not being fully familiar with the various customs and practices of another culture at another time in history. Nevertheless, there are divine principles presented to our view that are truly timeless. God has created us male and female, and He expects that distinction to be preserved, especially when we speak to and for Him. As His representatives, we are to honor Him by accepting our place in His order of creation. By abandoning our place, and blurring the natural distinctions of the sexes, whether in private or in public, whether alone or assembled with our brethren, we face dire consequences. Paul is warning the Corinthian brethren not to make this mistake, which many were making in the Roman Empire at that time (as a study of the history of the times, and the role of women in society then, clearly reveals).

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

by Al Maxey
ISBN: 1-4137-8993-5
Order Your Copy Today
Also Available Thru:, Borders,
Barnes & Noble, Grace Centered Magazine

Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in (Unknown):

I hope that this is the right Al Maxey. If it is, I am reading your book Down, But Not Out. I'm about half way through it. It's very good and convicting. I appreciate your work, and the hope that you have provided for a wretch like me!!

From a Reader in Ghana, Africa:

Al, Just a quick note to let you know that I promoted your web site at the University of Ghana in Kumasi. I talked with the president of the Christian student body, a group of 110 students that meets at the university. I gave the web site address to the head librarian at the Ghana Bible College in Kumasi as well. He said he would post it there at the school. We will see what happens. On a side note, I had the opportunity to speak to both groups on the subject of "The Role of Women in the Church." Brother "White Conservative" was sitting in the audience. His name is Carroll Bennett. He has a reputation of having "liberal" brethren written up in Contending (Contentious) for the Faith. I made it a point to take aside several of our black brethren and warn them about his tactics. The good news is that they were already wise to his ways. So sad. This brother has been going to Ghana for many years and stirring them up. Thank God our brethren there are pretty sharp. By the way, the site we have chosen for the school and clinic looks great. I have raised the money necessary to put in the well and watering system, and I will be out and about raising another $15,000 to buy all the materials for the first building. We hope to add an orphanage at a later date. Living conditions there are horrendous. With God's help, we hope to change that. Maybe some day soon I will be able to visit with you in person. God bless!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Al, I read your article "Embracing Another Gospel" with interest. But I think your application of Paul's comment in Gal 1:6-9 may be a bit too broad. True, any false doctrine is wrong, and needs to be corrected, but Paul's emphasis in the Galatian letter is to offset and straighten out those who were following after the Judaizers, who followed him around insisting that the Gentile Christians also had to be circumcised after the manner of the Mosaic law. Again, like you, I oppose false doctrine, but I do not apply this Galatians text in my opposition unless I am using it against those trying to make salvation a matter of a works-merit system. Keep plugging!! My best to you and yours.

From a Minister in New York:

Brother Al, I was just reading your article on The Collection for the Saints. We have been facing this very problem in our congregation! We have, from the very beginning of this congregation, been taking up our collection on Sundays via a special box in our building, rather than passing trays at the end of the Lord's Supper. A new family came to us a year ago, and they have done nothing but criticize, take over our congregational meetings, and say that we are not the "True Church" because we "only perform four 'acts of worship'" (instead of five) during the service. They really don't have a problem with us using a box instead of trays, but rather believe that giving isn't really giving unless it is preceded by an announcement and prayer during the "worship service." They say that is the "pattern." We're weary of being accused of not worshipping, and of not being the "True Church." We love this family, and we would like for them to stay and be a part of our fellowship, but we see no way to bring a resolution. Do you have any advice?

From a Reader in (Unknown):

Al, I read your article "Embracing Another Gospel" last night and then sent it to my friend. I thought you might appreciate her comments --- "WOW! I think I just need to go into Al Maxey's web site and start READING and THINKING! These are some incredible comments, and boy, they REALLY DO MAKE ME THINK. I know I need to spend time in reflection and analysis to be sure there isn't some Scripture that is being violated by these comments of his, but on the surface, it seems to make so much SENSE! It explains so well how Jesus could truly say, 'My yoke is easy and My burden is light,' and how the gospel is the GOOD news, not the BAD news which seems to be what I've been hearing for most of my adult life. It is hard to change when one has been taught, taught, TAUGHT some of these concepts since birth, plus the fact that, since we've been taught that our salvation depends on getting it all 'right,' there is a tremendous FEAR in even attempting to change, because, after all, WHAT IF I'M WRONG???" Al, thank you for all you're doing!!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, Our preacher made the statement a few weeks ago that the denominations are preaching "a different gospel" because they don't understand baptism like we do. I just rolled my eyes, thinking, "Oh boy, here we go again!" Yes, I disagree with my "denominational" friends on baptism, but I don't consider them to be preaching "a different gospel." It's amazing what folks will say just to make others feel like the sons of the devil, and all because they don't agree with all of their conclusions! Keep up the great work, Al.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Al, I have been reading your Reflections article The Doctrine of Christ and see where you are acquainted with Cecil Hook. I used to attend the Tulsa Workshop yearly, and for many years Cecil had a booth there. Each year I would visit with this lovely, humble brother. Cecil was one of the first brothers I came to know and appreciate as I was struggling to rid myself and my family of the influence of the monster "Inconsistency." I can honestly say Cecil has taught me more than any one person I know or have read. Of course, not too many months from now and you will have surpassed Cecil in that respect! I love you, brother!

From a Reader at Texas Tech University:

Bro. Al, I enjoyed your essay on "Embracing Another Gospel." I am preparing for a series on Galatians at our congregation in November and welcome your thoughts. I appreciate your references to Carl Ketcherside's writing. He, more than anyone else, turned our thinking away from legalism to grace, especially by emphasizing the distinction between gospel and doctrine. Are you ever in Lubbock? I would welcome the chance to visit with you or to have you visit our church at Quaker Avenue. God bless you and your ministry.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

I have been a reader of your Reflections for several months now. I think you are doing a marvelous job with them. Two years ago last June, my husband and I left the Church of Christ in -------, NM. Actually, we left the denomination as a whole. We do, honestly, still love them because we realize they are under the same legalistic bondage that we were under just a short time ago ... and they don't even know it. They are under such bondage that they can't open the eyes and ears of their hearts to even investigate the possibility of anything different from their own particular way of believing. We are truly very sorrowful about this situation. However, we believe we are now free in Christ, and are very happy about that. I have an intense longing for others in the Church of Christ to have their eyes opened, and for them to at least begin to see the folly of their ways, and to experience this freedom from legalism and joy in Christ. After I read your latest article ("Embracing Another Gospel"), I just felt the need to contact you. I would like to go over to Alamogordo some time to visit with you and worship with your congregation. Also, I'm wondering why you are still with the Church of Christ. All of them that I personally know of are still practicing exclusivism and legalism.

From a Reader in Florida:

Thank you so very much. I was thrilled and humbled by your quick response. I appreciate so much your article on the Holy Spirit. It was so good; so well written and easy to understand. I forwarded it to a lot of people and will make copies available for the Ladies Retreat. This will not be the first time that I have carried your articles around and handed them out. Many are "hooked" on your writings. Your name and something you wrote came up at a recent "Worship Experience" event here in Florida, and there was a public expression of appreciation for you. I had just recently begun reading your articles the last few weeks so I missed that August 15th article of yours on the Spirit. We were studying about Nadab & Abihu recently and someone handed me one of your articles on that topic (Issue #63), and I was so impressed by it that I subscribed to your Reflections that same day. Thanks again for being so approachable, and for encouraging me and helping me. Wait until I tell everyone that "Al Maxey" responded to my email. You are a celebrity here!

A Special Friend of Reflections
R. C. Rapier (1930 - 2005)

I received a phone call from Fresno, California this past week from a dear sister in Christ, Willadene Rapier. She called to inform me that her beloved husband, brother R. C. Rapier, had passed away on Wednesday, October 19. I have never met these two, but they have been, almost from the beginning, two of the strongest supporters of my Reflections ministry. Their prayerful support of my efforts, and constant encouragement, has truly been a source of strength. After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, R. C. became a minister of the gospel and preached for the Church of Christ for many years. Through his tireless efforts, countless precious souls came to know the Lord. Ever by his side was his faithful wife Willadene. His funeral was held this past Saturday, October 22. He is going to be greatly missed by a great many people, myself included! I would ask that all the readers of these Reflections please keep sister Willadene in your prayers that God may bring her personal peace and comfort during this difficult time. On the phone, we talked of the joyful reunion that is coming on that great day of resurrection. When the Lord calls us forth, we shall forever be together with Him and with our loved ones who have preceded us in death. May our Father hasten that day!

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: