by Al Maxey

Issue #217 ------- November 1, 2005
We should not think of conversion
as the acceptance of a particular
creed, but as a change of heart.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

Salvation by Immersion
Reflective Analysis of 1 Pet. 3:21

A fellow minister of the glorious gospel of God's grace, who lives here in the beautiful state of New Mexico -- the Land of Enchantment -- and who also happens to be a good personal friend, wrote, "Al, I very much appreciated your recent discussion of John 3:5 in your article "Born of Water and Spirit" in Reflections #212. I would appreciate an exposition of 1 Peter 3:21 similar to what you've provided in discussing John 3:5. From what little I can understand of the Greek, there is some ambiguity in Peter's language in that passage. I think Peter made it a point to correct the notion that ceremonial dippings and washings in water (with which the Jews were very familiar in their daily rituals of ceremonial cleansing) is what saves us. Peter emphasized that one's salvation doesn't come about as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The point for these Christians to whom Peter was writing was they were saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by ceremony or ritual. But there's much more to this passage in that he also explains that their immersion constituted an appeal/pledge to God. In a similar way, the immersion of every disciple constitutes their appeal/pledge to God."

The statement of the apostle Peter in the passage before us (1 Pet. 3:21) does not occur within a vacuum. It, like every other passage in Scripture, has a context. One of the keys to responsible interpretation of any word, phrase, sentence or paragraph in the inspired writings is knowing its context. The thematic context of chapter three, and the latter half of the previous chapter, is the concept of submission, even to the point of great personal sacrifice. This is seen in our relationship to the government (2:13f), in business (2:18f), marriage (3:1f), and in all of life (3:9f). Such submission will at times result in circumstances that can only be characterized as less than pleasant (3:13f). During such times of duress our conduct before others will be critical to the validity of our faith and the Truth we have embraced. Our example in such times is Jesus Himself (3:18f), who willingly made the ultimate sacrifice as the suffering servant of both God and man.

The point that needs to be made from the above immediate context of 1 Pet. 3:21, however, is this: When God destroyed the wicked world in ages past, "a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water" (vs. 20b). This leads us to the focus of our present study --- "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (NASB). The next verse informs us that this Jesus, who has ascended, is now at the right hand of our Father, "having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him" (vs. 22). Our concern in this present issue of Reflections is to determine the significance of the statement in verse 21 that "baptism now saves you." Is Peter really preaching the doctrine of salvation by immersion? Is this what some perhaps refer to as "baptismal regeneration"? Further, is such a perception a valid teaching of Scripture, or have some disciples perhaps simply misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied this passage? Needless to say, there has been considerable heated debate throughout the centuries over this verse, some using it as a "proof-text," others longing to cast it from the Scriptures altogether as an annoyance! Just for the sake of comparative analysis, notice this verse in several other translations and versions:

  1. Holman Christian Standard Bible --- Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  2. Easy-to-Read Version --- That water is like baptism that now saves you. Baptism is not the washing of dirt from the body. Baptism is asking God for a pure heart. It saves you because Jesus Christ was raised from death.

  3. King James Version --- The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  4. New American Bible, St. Joseph edition --- You are now saved by a baptismal bath which corresponds to this exactly. This baptism is no removal of physical stain, but the pledge to God of an irreproachable conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  5. New International Version --- And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  6. New English Bible --- This water prefigured the water of baptism through which you are now brought to safety. Baptism is not the washing away of bodily pollution, but the appeal made to God by a good conscience; and it brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  7. Contemporary English Version --- Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death.

  8. American Standard Version --- Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  9. Revised Standard Version --- Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  10. New King James Version --- There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You may have noticed that in most of the versions cited above (and this will be true in almost all versions of the Bible), Peter declares that baptism saves YOU. However, in the KJV and NKJV, the wording is different. It says baptism saves US. Almost all reputable biblical scholars agree that the latter is an incorrect translation. Dr. Charles John Ellicott says this is an "undoubted false reading in this sentence which must be cleared away before we can even consider the meaning ... it should be 'you,' not 'us'" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 422). Therefore, although some may consider this a minor point, it is nevertheless important to textual accuracy to note that a very few translations have failed to correctly render the text, an error that should not be let pass without exposure! This is especially true in light of the claim of some radicals who profess the KJV to be entirely without error! Those who take such an absurd stand not only demonstrate arrogance, but ignorance.

The next task facing the biblical interpreter is to determine the antecedent of "the like figure" (KJV), the "antitype" (NKVJ). The NASB reads, "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you." What exactly is the "that" of this passage? Again, there is some speculation as to the identity of the antecedent. Some insist it is the ark that Noah built, and in which he and his family were spared from the flood waters. Thus, according to this view, baptism would "correspond to" the ark -- as these eight souls were saved by the ark, so are souls today saved by baptism. Those who are baptized are thereby "admitted into the ark of Christ's Church" (Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 145). Although this is an attractive theory in some ways, yet very few genuine scholars embrace it (even the Pulpit Commentary, cited above, rejects it; merely referencing this spurious position). The reason is that a "relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, "First Peter in the Greek NT," p. 108). Thus, the question of antecedent "is easily settled by the Greek grammar involved in this expression, for the relative pronoun ho is neuter, the word 'ark' is feminine, and the word 'water' is neuter" (ibid). The antecedent is not the word "ark," but rather the word "water" in verse 20.

The question that begs an answer, of course, is this: In what possible way are the flood waters of Noah's day the "figure" or "antitype" of Christian baptism?! Further, if baptism in water saves today, in what way did the flood waters "save" Noah?! Before we get to those questions, notice the word translated "figure" or "antitype." It is the Greek word antitupon, which simply means "a copy, corresponding form; representation." This word is used in Heb. 9:24, by way of example: "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself." In some fairly significant way, therefore, being saved by baptism is a copy, figure, representation, or corresponding form of Noah and his family being saved through the waters of the flood. Or, more accurately, the flood waters were the copy and representation (a prefiguring) of baptism in water. Both are seemingly characterized in some way as a "salvation by water," which certainly, on the surface, seems to be in conflict with the clear NT teaching of salvation by grace through faith. This verse, then, raises some serious theological questions and challenges.

First, let's look at verse 20 and seek to determine in what way "eight souls were saved by water" (KJV) during the time of Noah. The premise that would seem more logical is that Noah and his family were saved from the flood waters by means of being in the ark. It seems strange to many students of the Word to think of the waters of the flood as being the very means of their salvation. Yet, this does seem to be the teaching of the passage. The word that is translated "by" in the KJV is the Greek preposition dia, which is "a preposition of intermediate agency. That is, the souls in the ark were brought safely through the time of the flood by the intermediate agency of water. While it is true that it was the ark that saved them, yet Peter is not teaching that here. He says the waters of the flood saved them" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, "First Peter in the Greek NT," p. 107). Our challenge, then, is to determine in what way these flood waters proved to be the agency of salvation for Noah and his family. Once we determine that, we will have a better grasp of Peter's next statement: "corresponding to that, baptism now saves you."

Dr. Paul Kretzmann suggested that the flood waters are "considered the means of saving these eight people" because "the water lifted them up and thus saved them from destruction" (Popular Commentary of the Bible, "The New Testament," vol. 2, p. 534). "The very water which drowned the disobedient was the instrument of saving to those who believed, for it floated their ark" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 422). Dr. Ellicott does admit, however, that "it cannot be denied that this is a little forced" (ibid). In other words, it is an explanation, but he is less than happy with it. Dr. Kenneth Wuest sees some logic in the interpretation, though -- "The waters of the flood buoyed up the ark above their own death-dealing powers and saved those inside the ark. The very waters that were death to the rest of the human race were life to the inmates of the ark. The former were drowned because they were not rightly related to the waters. The latter were saved because they were correctly adjusted to them" (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, "First Peter in the Greek NT," p. 107).

Many scholars feel the "salvation" experienced by Noah and his family was from far more than just physical death by drowning. It is also perceived that they were saved from having to continue living in the presence of those who had become increasingly wicked, and were therefore even saved from the possible negative influence of such people on their own lives. "That water was made the means of saving a few; it bore up the ark in which they were. It saved them, perhaps, from the malice of the ungodly; it saved them from that corruption which was almost universal; it was the means of saving the race of men as by a new birth through death into a new life, a new beginning; it washed away the evil, and so saved those who had doubtless been suffering for well-doing" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 137). "Water saved the few that had entered into the ark; it bore up the ark, and saved those in it from the wrath of men and from the contagion of surrounding pollution" (ibid, p. 145).

"Where, then, lies the likeness between the two?" (Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 422)? This is the question truly raised by Peter's comment in verse 21 -- "corresponding to that, baptism now saves you." We must determine the nature of this likeness, since Peter clearly suggests there is one. Bro. Burton Coffman, in his commentary on this passage, says, "Just as the waters of the flood separated between Noah's family and the rebellious antediluvian world, just so the water of Christian baptism separates between God's people today and those who are unsaved." In other words, the water becomes the agency (whether literally or figuratively) of visible separation -- as it separated the saved from the lost during the days of Noah, so it becomes a visible declaration of separation between saved and lost today. As the pollution of the world was washed away in the flood, so are we called upon to "arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16). This will effect a separation from those polluted by the sins of the flesh. Safely within the ark of the church we will be buoyed above the godlessness of the world about us. Dying to self, we shall truly "rise above" in Christ Jesus our Lord, being lifted up to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-11).

Few argue the fact that baptism plays a role in the salvation process. That is simply too clearly established in Scripture for any to seriously seek to invalidate the place of baptism in our response to God's offer of grace in Christ Jesus, although some do indeed make the attempt. Others suggest that perhaps some in Christendom, mostly among the ultra-conservative disciples, place more emphasis upon baptism in water than they do upon either God's grace or man's faith, making the latter incidental to the former rather than vice versa. Frankly, I think they may have a valid point. My preacher friend from New Mexico, whom I mentioned above, wrote, "If viewed as a legalistic requirement, insistence on immersion in water becomes the very kind of 'other gospel' to which the apostle Paul refers in Galatians. But, when seen as described by Peter as an appeal or pledge, rather than satisfaction of a legal requirement, immersion in water becomes a beautiful entryway into union with the body of Christ. May God forbid that we ever proclaim baptism as a legalistic ticket to heaven." I believe this brother makes a valid point. Immersion is not a law that must be obeyed, nor is it a work that must be performed, in order to merit salvation. It is a loving, willing response of faith to God's matchless grace! It earns nothing at all, but visibly manifests our willing reception of the free gift of life eternal. To reduce baptism to a legal requirement is to miss the purpose of baptism altogether!!

Peter wanted to be sure his readers did not wrongfully perceive baptism legalistically or ritualistically, thus he was careful to state that it was "not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience" (1 Pet. 3:21). In other words, this had nothing to do with the many Jewish ceremonial rites of cleansing, which largely consisted of external washings. Genuine baptism was a heart matter (internal), rather than a body matter (external). "Peter says it does not concern an external washing from filth but relates to the conscience. The conviction of sin by the Spirit in the mind calls for a response of faith or commitment to Christ and His work. Saving faith is expressed in baptism" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 243). "Water baptism is the outward testimony of the believer's inward faith" (Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, "First Peter in the Greek NT," p. 109). "Peter is very careful to inform his readers that he is not teaching baptismal regeneration" (ibid). Some religionists, seeing efficacy in the water, or in the act of immersion itself, have erred by employing immersion almost as an amulet against sin and death. It has thus become a "sacrament of the church" whereby grace is conferred. It was not a long leap from such a view to the forced immersions of the Crusades and infant baptism. The heathen needed to be "saved," so they were forced into the water. Infants, "infested with original sin," needed saved, so they were carried to the water. Whether one was willing or unwilling, aware or unaware, was rather insignificant to the end result. The power to save was perceived to be in the water and in the act. Such a view, of course, is blatantly false, and Peter seems to address this misconception, at least in "seed" form, in verse 21.

We should also not overlook, as mentioned in the discussion above, that the Greek word sozo, which we typically translate "save," has quite a wide semantic range. In other words, it can have a good many different meanings and applications. When the Bible speaks of someone being "saved," it does not always speak in terms of avoidance of hell and assurance of heaven. Some are saved from afflictions and diseases. Some are saved from lives misspent in service to self rather than the Lord. Some are saved from further association, and even harm, from the ungodly about them, as Lot when he was "saved" from the city of Sodom and Noah when he was "saved" from the wicked world about him. We must be cautious, therefore, of too quickly assuming that all "saving" is eternal in nature. Some may well be more temporal. Indeed, W. E. Vine suggests that the first meaning of the word is a "material and temporal deliverance from danger, suffering, etc." (An Expository Dictionary of NT Words). In view of this, one's baptism may, in part, be said to be a "saving" from a life focused on self, and a rising to walk in newness of life; one lived in service to the Lord God. Just as Noah experienced a new beginning after coming through the water, so do we during our subsequent walk with Jesus.

Peter clearly declares baptism to be "the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (NIV). Some see a parallel here to Acts 24:16 -- "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." This, in the view of some, may well be the "pledge" mentioned by Peter that is truly a vital part of baptism. In other words, baptism is far more than some empty ritual or outward rite. Unless our innermost being calls out to our God, from a pure heart and motives, truly seeking a new walk with Him, our baptism is of no worth. Dr. Joseph Henry Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, suggests the Greek word used here -- eperotema -- is really "the avowal of consecration unto God" (p. 231). In this demonstration of genuine faith we call upon the Lord, with pure hearts and minds, and pledge ourselves into service to Him. We are thus "saved" from living the remainder of our lives apart from Him, serving only self. This is a "salvation," and a pledge, that is clearly evidenced in our baptism (an act of faith that responds to His call of grace).

And beneath all of this is the foundation -- the central Truth of Christendom -- upon which our faith and service and baptism finds meaning and fulfillment: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Baptism derives its saving effect from the resurrection of our Lord; without that resurrection it would be an empty form" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 138). "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:14-19). Paul went about "preaching Jesus and the resurrection" (Acts 17:18). So did the others. Based upon Him, and the empty tomb, we have the hope of rescue from this perverse generation! His grace made the offer in love; our response of faith embraces the gift. In our pledge to our Lord, given in sincerity of heart and mind, we are lifted above the chaos about us and are carried forth in the ark of the church to that distant shore: the eternal destination that awaits all who are "clothed with Christ."

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 From
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(301) 695-1707
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Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in Kansas:

Bro. Al, I look forward to reading your book Down, But Not Out. Enclosed is my check for a signed copy. Thank you also for the encouragement you give through your Reflections.

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, I just finished reading Down, But Not Out. It was like a deep breath of fresh mountain air!! I am ordering copies for each of our elders and for my two sons! Pages 71 and 115-117 required some deep thought on my part, especially the sentences about God divorcing His spouse and then marrying her sister, then separating from her, not having achieved His own Ideal, were like trying to swallow a cocklebur -- pretty tough to get down. But, I cannot fault the logic; it was too well supported by facts. It was a challenge to our traditional stances, but very well presented and certainly well accepted. For too long I have wrestled with the question, "What about the divorced?" Thanks again for an insightful and well-written book on a difficult subject.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Dear Al & Shelly, It has been a long time since I've communicated with you. I spoke with Dr. Howard Hallmark (the Seniors Involvement Minister at your congregation) and I asked him if he would speak to you and ask you to autograph your new book Down, But Not Out, and if I could purchase one directly from you. He emailed me and said that I could. Please find a check enclosed for the purchase of the book and postage. We hope you and Shelly and family are all doing alright. We have some wonderful memories of our trip to Hawaii, and the church on the island of Oahu, while you were preaching there. You had a wonderful congregation to work with in Honolulu, and I'm sure that you both have many very good memories of your six years in Hawaii. I imagine you are glad to be back on the mainland and closer to family, however. Give our love to the children. By the way, how did it work out with the car that your son bought from us before we left Hawaii? I hope he used it for a long time. Well, I have been looking forward to reading your book for a long time. I'm glad it is now in print. Thanks again!

From a Reader in (Unknown):

Bro. Maxey, I love to read, but I am a slow reader who usually makes it only a quarter of the way through a book before I get bored and abandon it. That is definitely not the case with your book Down, But Not Out. I find myself picking it up several times throughout the day, and I even plan on reading it again. I would like to say to you that your book is the very first book on marriage and divorce that has convicted me of my past mistakes with divorce, as my ex-wife and I did not keep the Ideal. Furthermore, I have read so many papers, books, and information on the Internet concerning this subject, especially from the ultra-conservative point of view, but your book is the only one that has helped me to pull all of the pieces together in an effort to stand firm against many of the false doctrines that have arisen from poor interpretation of the Scriptures. Your explanation of the Greek words was also invaluable to me. Brother Maxey, thanks again for such a thoughtful book!

From a Minister in Texas:

I just finished reading Down, But Not Out. You have done a really great study on divorce and remarriage, and I believe it is right on the mark. It is excellent, and I think it will be a great benefit to many people in the future who are suffering through the tradgy of divorce for one reason or another. I also think that your study will eventually help many who teach "the unforgiveable sin" view to rethink their position (which is so unforgiving of those who are caught in such an unfortunate situation).

From a Missionary in Brazil:

Dear Al, and Dear Reader in New York, We have tried to find a way to include teaching about putting God in first place (including our offerings) without driving people away because of the abusive practice of focusing on money by many here in Brazil. We decided to use a collection box near the entrance. In Sunday School we have the Lord's Supper and then an offering devotional when the offering is collected. Sunday night (which is our big service) we have maintained the offering devotional after the Lord's Supper, but we do not take up an offering -- we just inform them that those who want to can deposit their offering in the box at their convenience. Thus, we maintained the teaching without putting on pressure. This has worked fairly well for us for about a year now.

From a Reader in England:

Dear Al, I surely read your article with eagerness, as I have often myself struggled with whether or not a head covering for myself was necessary. Your conclusion was thought-provoking, and I must confess I had not ever thought of the term "head" in those passages as meaning "source." In this same vein, I know a man in the conservative church who told me most emphatically that woman is NOT created in the image of God, but in the image of man. This was his conclusion based on the verse that says "Man was created in the image of God." He said it doesn't mention "woman," and therefore this means that she was not. I tried to point out that the word man in this instance refers to "mankind," or all of humanity, but he would have none of it. I was truly dismayed and broken-hearted that he could have such a view. This view, indeed, puts woman in a secondary position. Indeed, it might be said, then, that woman is no higher than a pet! With a belief such as this, I was not even sure that I could call him a brother in Christ, which was also very distressing!

From a Minister in India:

Beloved Brother Al, Thanks for another wonderful interpretation on a most misunderstood Scripture. I have been teaching the same way as you, but you have illuminated the text in a scholarly style using simple and appropriate terminology. Although you present the Reflections in a simple and truthful manner, anybody can easily perceive the effort you put into bringing out every article; they come after years of study. God bless you and your dedicated service for Him. We in southern India pray daily for your greater enlightenment.

From a Minister in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, Good work on the head-covering article! Your thoughts were very well presented and thought-provoking. I appreciate the time that it took to research this topic and share your discoveries with us. I agree with your conclusions on this text. Dr. W. B. West, at the Harding Graduate School of Religion, took the same position when I was in his class on 1 & 2 Corinthians in 1974, although I don't believe he ever wrote on the subject. I have not seen this exegesis articulated as well as you did since his class. Keep up the good work!!

From a Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, Over the years I have known many who took this difficult passage and made law out of it that subjected women to a position of inferiority and confusion. I have for a long time believed this passage to refer to some form of authority or "chain of command," at least in so far as positional authority. I feel comfortable with your interpretation of origin or source, but also will continue to study further on this matter. I have always looked upon the hair as a woman's glory and God-given covering. I also appreciated your comment about the "unisex" lifestyle. I think there exists a universal divine principle that we are to maintain the distinction between the genders. I think that whatever explanation one gives on this passage, the "bottom line" must be that we must use the appropriate cultural symbolism to show the proper respect for one's position or place in God's order. Thank you for your work, and may the Lord continue to bless your efforts.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I printed out your Reflections #216 and, as usual, I read the "Reflections from Readers" first. I have empathy with the lady from New Mexico who said she and her husband had left the Church of Christ. I can very easily understand her frustration and disappointment with many in the church. Although I haven't left, and have no intentions of doing so, I can understand why some people do. Like you, it is my heritage, and I want to remain a part and try to help make some changes from within. It does get discouraging sometimes, though. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have an Al Maxey in our presence! Thus, we feel like we are beating the drum by ourselves, and, my situation seems to make it harder because I am a single female, and that seems to make some believe it doesn't matter what I think.

From a Doctor in Kentucky:

Al, For some reason, I had missed and not read Reflections #204 regarding the Holy Spirit. I was very much impressed with this particular issue. I can't believe I missed reading it when it came out! I have been on a personal journey from believing the Holy Spirit works through the "Word only" to where I am today. Like you, I don't have all the answers. However, I thought Issue #204 was extremely good. It was very well-written and humble. That article expresses where I'm at on this topic as well. When you retire the Holy Spirit (and I have done so in the past) He doesn't work much in your life. Perhaps that is why when you go into those legalistic churches, you don't feel anything alive there. They have retired Him, so He does not reside there any more. Amen to your article, Al.

From a Reader in Nevada:

Brother Al, Thank you for this tremendous article and study of head coverings for women! I definitely agree that God created each of us in our individual roles and we are not to "cross over" from those roles. I am a member of the family into which R. C. Rapier married. He was a good man, and I shall miss him. I did not get to attend his funeral service because I was in Hawaii at the time. It has been my experience to hear many speakers draw people to the church through their knowledge and ability. I am thankful that it was my blessing to watch R. C. draw people to Jesus through his godly wisdom and love! I shall miss him. God's blessing upon you, Al.

From a Critic in (Unknown):

I have family that is Church of Christ, and I was raised in the Church of Christ for a while. The type of gospel you represent has been refuted by men of faith, and promoted by lowlife snakes, since before Philo, Origen, Clement, Symmachus, or any of the other fine, upstanding godless reprobates. If you believe that baptism factors into salvation at any point then David Martin (The Maxey-Martin Dialogue) was correct about you not being indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord. This is my first and last correspondence with you, because I have righteous indignation where false doctrines are concerned. Wherever you got your education you need to throw it out the window and opt for home schooling from God with His textbook -- the King James Bible. After all, a Bible believer cannot accept 200 different translations of the Constitution of the United States. There can be only one, and as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and read the King James Bible!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Dear Al, Your Reflections are great, and your ability to be able to see things so clearly, and to make them make sense, is a true gift. You truly motivate us and inspire us to do better and to become more than what we are.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, That was a very good study on the veil. Some time ago I decided to take the position that passages which are not clear should not be made into matters of faith. In a study, one person asked if I believed a woman could pray and prophesy audibly in the assembly. I told him I didn't know if the women praying and prophesying in Corinth was in the assembly or not since the passage doesn't say, although when discussing the next topic, it is. It is interesting that if this wasn't in the assembly, it is found in a letter written to and read in the assembly of the Corinthian church. Strange that we will negate the praying and prophesying of women as being in the assembly, and yet insist that Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 were written to and read in the assembly, thus they are talking about singing being done in the assembly, even if the assembly is not mentioned! Ah, our logic is truly amazing. Since the covering is said to be worn to show that women were in subjection to the man, then why could she not speak in those assemblies in the presence of men since she was "in subjection" to them, illustrated by the very veil which she was wearing? Yet, I don't know of a "hat congregation" that will allow a woman, even with a hat on, to pray or prophesy in that assembly. Usually we will use 1 Cor. 14:34-35 to negate the women in 1 Cor. 11 from speaking in the assembly. However, would a prophetess, who is not asking questions, but answering them through inspiration, be included in this restriction?

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, I must say that I agree with our brother Peter the apostle. Some of Paul's teachings are hard to understand, and ignorant and unstable people will distort them to their own destruction. I believe you gracefully handled an extremely difficult subject in your article on the head covering.

From a One-Cup Minister in Missouri:

Greetings, my beloved brother! Your Reflections article "Embracing Another Gospel" (Issue #215) finally allowed the scales to completely fall from my eyes!! Brother, at last I am out of bondage, and I am never going back, Lord willing. I know it's His will that I don't. I have shared with you before that I grew up in the most legalistic end of the spectrum of our brotherhood (the one-cup, anti-class, anti-music, one-loaf where each person must break or pinch their own piece, etc.). We debated our other brothers on these issues, and we made them matters of salvation. If this is not "another gospel," then tell me what is?! I'm never going back, brother! I'm never going back!! I will now have to come out from among this group because this far right legalism is dangerous; it is toxic to the soul. There are certain fraternities of our faith-heritage that must be left. At least that is what I feel I myself must do to save my soul. While I have no problem with continuing to commune with one cup, I can never again condemn those who differ.

I hate all the time that I've wasted in this fraternity, being fearful of the police watchdogs who are always spying to see if you are conforming, and coming down hard on people so as to maintain the status quo. And I wondered why I wasn't growing spiritually?!! I now know that it was because I was trying to save myself by conforming and measuring up to a human code, instead of fully surrendering my life to Jesus Christ, and to Him alone. No Sunday School ... can you imagine?! Man, my own children have missed out on some real spiritual socialization by being limited to dead assemblies where the Spirit was quenched. Women couldn't say "Amen;" you couldn't clap; we sat there like lifeless statues. Brother, I'm looking forward to the day when I can meet you in the flesh!! Until then, in the words of brother Leroy Garrett -- Soldier On! By the way, I have enclosed with this letter a picture of myself and a check for $35. Please send me a Reflections CD for both 2003 and 2004. Also please send me the Debates CD. I'm giving these to my Dad for a birthday gift.

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