by Al Maxey

Issue #225 ------- December 15, 2005
'Tis not in knowing much, but knowing
what is useful, that makes a wise man.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734)

Things New and Old
The Parable of the Householder

Matthew 13 has been characterized by some biblical scholars as "the great parable chapter." It contains several of our Lord's best known and most beloved parables. Here we find the Parable of the Sower and its explanation (vs. 3-23), the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, with its interpretation also (vs. 24-30, 36-43), the Parable of the Mustard Seed (vs. 31-32), the Parable of the Leaven (vs. 33), the Parable of the Hidden Treasure (vs. 44), the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (vs. 45-46), and the Parable of the Dragnet (vs. 47-50). The chapter is brought to a close with an eighth parable (vs. 52), which some have regarded as the most puzzling of them all: the Parable of the Householder. Craig Keener, in his very scholarly work: A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, calls it "a cryptic Wisdom parable, a kind of riddle that invites further reflection" (p. 393).

Jesus asked his disciples if they had understood all His previous teaching, and they replied that they had (vs. 51). The Lord then says to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (vs. 52, NASB). There are several translations that utilize the term "householder." Many questions immediately come to our minds. Just who or what is a "householder," and what exactly does this person do? What is this "treasure" of his? Perhaps the most puzzling phrase of all, however, and one which has generated countless theories over the centuries, some of which are quite creative, is "things new and old" which this householder draws forth from his "treasure." What are these things "new and old," and what does he do with them? For whom are they intended? To what purpose?

"Interpretations of this difficult verse are legion" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 331). One of the vital keys to better understanding the intent of our Lord in His brief statement is in coming to a better appreciation for some of the terms and phrases employed, as well as the context within which they each appear. This is critical to responsible exegesis of the text. "The verse's parabolic structure must be noted and a number of exegetical details explored before its meaning can be grasped or the significance of the introductory 'therefore' rightly perceived" (ibid, p. 332). Thus, we need to carefully examine the significance of the parabolic mode of instruction, identify those intended by the terms "disciple," "scribe," and "householder," and then seek to determine the nature of his "treasure" and the significance of the "things new and old" drawn forth from it. Having done this, our Lord's "therefore" may take on greater meaning and application for us who serve in His kingdom today.

The Parabolic Mode of Instruction

A biblical scholar by the name of G. A. Buttrick once described Jesus as the "Master of parable because He is the Master of life." Through our Lord's parabolic method of teaching we come to know and appreciate life more clearly. Not only life in the present temporal realm, but in the eternal realm as well. His parables relate the two to one another; this is done by casting one alongside the other (which is the significance of the Greek word parabole = "to throw or cast alongside"). This word is used by the Synoptic Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke), but is never used by John (who prefers the term paroimia = "a wayside saying; a maxim," referring more to a proverbial saying than a true parable. In point of fact, there are no parables found in the gospel account of John.

Jesus employed many methods of instruction to convey His message concerning the nature of the Kingdom, but the Messiah's mode of choice was the parable. "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He was not talking to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world'" (Matt. 13:34-35). The quote is taken from Psalm 78:2, which is a "Maskil (contemplation, reflection) of Asaph." "And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them as they were able to hear it; and He spoke not to them without parables" (Mark 4:33-34). This methodology caused His disciples to ask, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" (Matt. 13:10). The response of Jesus indicates that the parabolic mode solicits a spiritual evaluation from the hearers; those desiring merely to be spoon-fed will have difficulty comprehending, while those who are genuine seekers of Truth will perceive the spiritual significance of the earthly/heavenly comparisons. Seed sown on good soil (honest, receptive hearts) will bear the fruit of understanding and life-application; shallow, self-centered soil will not.

John Milton (1608-1674), in his classic work Paradise Lost, wrote, "What if earth be but the shadow of heaven and things therein, each to the other like?" In many ways, that is the premise of the parabolic mode of instruction. A parable is simply a story taken from life or nature that is "cast alongside" some great spiritual truth, so that in the comparison of the two the latter might be better perceived and appreciated. A favorite rabbinical formula for introducing some truth was: "Whereunto shall I liken it?" (which provides insight into our Lord's remark in Matt. 11:16, "But whereunto shall I liken this generation?"). Hillel and Shammai were two illustrious teachers prior to Christ who favored the use of parables; Rabbi Meir was perhaps the most illustrious teacher after Jesus. The point is: parables were not unique to Jesus, but, without doubt, He was the Master of this mode of instruction.

Instructed Scribes

"Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matt. 13:52). Some, taking this statement very literally, believe the teaching of Jesus here is limited specifically to the Jewish scribes who were embracing the teaching of the Messiah with regard to the kingdom. While I would certainly not discount that application, I nevertheless feel it is much too limiting. Jesus may have been looking more to the work and mission of a scribe than to specific persons who held that position of responsibility. In other words, the term "scribe" may well have been used somewhat figuratively and representatively to describe a type of individual who would function in the kingdom as a spiritual householder (scribes instructed in the kingdom).

"The word must be understood of Christian teachers, who by their study of the Gospel should hold a position in the Christian Church parallel to that of scribes among the Jews" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 14). When using the term "scribe," Jesus meant "every transcriber and interpreter of the sacred Scriptures, in this connection every Christian teacher, taught of God in the mysteries of the Gospel of Christ" (Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 77). Many biblical scholars would agree with Dr. Richard Ritenbaugh, in the Forerunner Commentary, who declared his belief that the instruction of Jesus in this parable "is aimed specifically at the ministry." Most feel that "scribes instructed in the kingdom" is a clear reference to Christian pastors and teachers; to ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, although, obviously, the message is equally applicable, secondarily, to all who seek to share the wealth of God's abundant grace with those about them according to the abilities and opportunities God grants them. After all, our Lord's statement in this parable was not directed to the multitudes, but to those close disciples who were together with Him in the house (Matt. 13:36). To them He asked, "Have you understood all these things?" When answered in the affirmative, it was to them He gave this instruction in verse 52. Not everyone in a family is a householder, not every person a scribe or teacher or pastor. Those who are have certain God-given responsibilities. It is this of which our Lord speaks.

To better perceive the nature of our Lord's instruction here, one must better perceive the nature of the work of a Jewish scribe during the history of the Jewish people. Just who and/or what was a scribe? Long before the time of Christ, during the early years of the history of the people of Israel, scribes held positions of great responsibility that were deemed vital to the public affairs of the nation. Easton's Bible Dictionary points out that these individuals "acted as secretaries of state, whose business it was to prepare and to issue decrees in the name of the king" (2 Sam. 8:17; 20:25; 1 Chron. 18:16; 24:6; 1 Kings 4:3; 2 Kings 12:9-11; 18:18-37; etc.). These were important political figures in the nation's early history. There were also "lesser scribes," largely from among the Levites, who served as personal secretaries to lesser figures than heads of state. Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, would have been such a person (Jer. 36:4, 32).

In later years, following the return from the Babylonian captivity, a return which began in 536 B.C. following the benevolent decree of Cyrus, the scribes became less occupied with the affairs of state and increasingly concerned with the transcription and interpretation of God's Law. Upon them fell the responsibility for preserving the Law in written form, and also for teaching it to others, since they had come to be regarded as the "experts in the Law" (sometimes referred to in Scripture as "lawyers"). Ezra, for example, is referred to as "a scribe skilled in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6). "Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (vs. 10). In the very next verse of this passage he is called "the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the Lord and His statutes to Israel" (vs. 11). Verse 12 characterizes him as "the scribe of the law of the God of heaven." By the time of Jesus Christ they were primarily of the sect of the Pharisees, and had for quite some time been supplementing the Law of God with their own interpretations and traditions, which Jesus many times challenged and condemned (Matt. 15:1-14; 23:1-36).

In other words, at the time of Christ, the scribes were the public religious teachers of the people; the recognized experts in the Law of God and the traditions of Judaism. They would correspond to the preachers, pastors, published authors and professors of today. They were less a sect, and far more a profession. They were the scholars, the lecturers, the theologians, the debaters and the jurists of the Law. It was a very distinguished position among the people, and they typically wore long robes and were given the seats of honor in public gatherings. One biblical scholar referred to the scribes of this period of history as "the voice of tradition." Their opinions and interpretations of the Law were regarded as authoritative, and became the basis of the "oral law" or "oral tradition" of the people. A scribe was a venerated rabbi, and some even gained rather large followings. John Carter, in his work Parables of the Messiah, wrote, "The scribes were a class of learned Jews who devoted themselves to a scientific study of the Law, and made its exposition their professional occupation." Again, they would equate to the preachers, pastors, published authors and professors of our own age.

Teachers of the holy Scriptures must also, of necessity, be students of God's inspired revelation. Instructors of Kingdom truths must be instructed in Kingdom truths! "They who are to teach must learn themselves" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15). The Lord Jesus points this out in His parable -- "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household" (NASB). This particular translation, I am sorry to say, has done a rather poor job of translating this passage. It renders the word in English as a noun ("disciple"). In the original Greek text of the passage, however, it is not; it is an aorist passive participle, and means "having been discipled." The Greek word is matheteuo, and when used as a passive, as it is here, it means "to be trained, disciplined, instructed" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the NT, p. 257). The KJV reads, "every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven." We might also list the wording of the NIV, which has, "every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven." These are far better translations. Being "a disciple" often leaves the wrong impression in the minds of people today. It does not necessarily mean one who is a baptized believer and a member of any one particular group or faction. A "disciple" is simply a student, and when the word appears in verbal form, in the passive voice, it simply signifies one who is being, or has been, instructed in something.

Therefore, our Lord's teaching in this parable is to those individuals who have been instructed in the truths of God's kingdom, and who are thereafter utilizing this knowledge they have gained through this valuable instruction to teach others. They are the learned instructors of the people of the King in the affairs of His kingdom. They are scribes who have been instructed so that they might thereby be equipped to instruct others. Thus, like a good householder, or the "head of a household," they have great responsibility toward those with whom they have been entrusted (their students; God's people). They are responsible for their spiritual feeding, care and nourishment within the kingdom.

A Householder

These instructed scribes are compared to a householder. This is the Greek word oikodespotes, which means "the master or head of a household or family." This is a combination of two Greek words, the first one is the word for "house," the second is literally transliterated "despot." It is a neutral word, neither inherently good nor bad, and simply means one invested with power and authority. It is how one uses that power that will determine whether one is to be regarded as good or evil. The righteous use of authority can be a blessing; the abuse of power is a curse to the people who suffer under it. Bro. H. Leo Boles wrote, "A householder was one who had charge of a family, whose duty it was to clothe, feed, and govern them" (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 304).

His Treasure

Jesus Christ declares to His assembled disciples on this occasion that this man "brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matt. 13:52). Before we examine the word "treasure," and seek to identify exactly what that means in this context, we perhaps ought to mention that Jesus does identify this "householder" as being male, rather than female, a fact many regard to be rather significant if indeed this passage is speaking of those who serve as spiritual pastors and leaders in the Lord's house. This in no way discredits or diminishes the vital role of women in the kingdom (whether under old covenant or new), but simply demonstrates that the Lord desires for the major roles of leadership over His household to be filled by men. In our text (Matt. 13:52) the Greek literally reads that "every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man householder." The Greek word for "man" (anthropos) appears immediately before the word for "householder," and both agree in gender, number and case. Thus, this is a "man householder," even though few translations actually translate the word for "man." Further, the text literally reads that this is a man householder, "WHO (this is a pronoun that has three distinct forms depending on whether it is referring to male, female, or neutral object; the form used here is masculine) brings forth out of the treasure OF HIM (this is a pronoun appearing in the genitive, whose form could be either masculine or neuter, but could not be feminine) things new and old." Thus, Jesus clearly has men in view here. Since it is repeatedly stressed in a number of ways in the passage, it should probably not be discounted without some careful reflection.

The Greek word translated "treasure" is thesaupos, which refers to a "treasury, storehouse; a receptacle in which precious articles are kept." This same word is used in Matt. 12:35, where Jesus says, "The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil." Clearly there is a noted difference in the "treasure" and that which is brought from out of it. Many feel the "treasure" of which Jesus speaks in Matt. 12:35 is the heart (see: Matt. 15:18-19). The word "treasure" is probably not the best word to use here because we typically think of "treasure" as being the objects brought forth, rather than the location from which they came. Jesus has reference to the latter, as does this Greek word. The NIV uses the word "storeroom" in our text which depicts the meaning far more accurately in English. "It is clear in the Greek that it means a place, and not the actual treasure itself" (Ritenbaugh, Forerunner Commentary).

What is the "storeroom" or "treasury" from which the "instructed scribe" -- the householder in God's kingdom -- draws forth his valuables to share with those entrusted to his care? Adam Clarke, as do a good many other biblical scholars, believes that, like the scribes of old, that storehouse from which we draw forth is "the sacred writings" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 151). "The treasury to which he is to go for his materials is the sacred Scriptures" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15). Others feel one should return to the understanding of the word "treasury" just a few chapters earlier, and argue for the "storehouse" of the instructed scribe in the kingdom of heaven being his heart. "The thesaupos so regularly stands for a man's 'heart' ... that we must understand the discipled scribe to be bringing things out of his heart -- out of his understanding, personality, and his very being" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 332). Bro. H. Leo Boles agrees with this concept completely: "The one who learns of the kingdom of God and has his heart filled with the knowledge of the truth, or one who lets 'the word of Christ dwell' in him 'richly,' is like this householder" (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 305).

New and Old

The instructed scribe, the householder, "brings forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Matt. 13:52). This phrase is typically regarded as being the most puzzling part of the passage. What exactly are these "new and old" things of which Jesus speaks? Some biblical scholars, who feel the "treasury" is the Bible, regard the "new and old" to be the 27 books of the NEW Testament writings and the 39 books of the OLD Testament writings. The fact that the word "new" appears before the word "old" is to show the supremacy of the New Covenant of God in Christ over the Old Covenant of Law. Thus, the instructed scribe in the Lord's Kingdom, the householder, is to draw forth from the entirety of God's inspired Word in his instruction of mankind, giving more weight to the writings of the NT. Dr. Craig Keener speaks of "the old treasures of God's law, which were still valuable if correctly understood," and he writes that "Jesus expects His disciples to build on both the biblical teachings that had come before Him and on His gospel of the kingdom" (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 393).

Other scholars point out that the phrase "new and old" may simply be a Jewish expression denoting "great abundance." The actual Jewish head of the household would accumulate goods and produce from previous harvests as well as present ones. He would have an abundance of things "new and old" with which to satisfy the many physical needs of his family. Adam Clarke, in his commentary, said that it may originally have signified "the produce of the past and the produce of the present year" (vol. 5, p. 152). Clarke states it is "a Jewish phrase for great plenty" (ibid, p. 151). The Pulpit Commentary agrees, saying that "a householder brings out from his stores food recently and long ago acquired -- cf. Song of Solomon 7:13" (vol. 15). "A wise householder would balance serving his oldest store with fresh produce so that the old or the new is not wasted. If he served only the new, the old would go moldy and be ruined; it would have to be thrown out and wasted. But if he served only the old, then the fresh and the new would also be wasted because the family would not receive the benefit of the flavor and nutrition that is in fresh produce. So the wise householder serves his family old store as well as fresh-off-the-farm food, and he mixes them in balance so that neither is wasted" (Ritenbaugh, Forerunner Commentary).

Other scholars, who see the treasury as being the richness of the instructed scribe's understanding of God's Word, and his personal application of the same to his own life, regard the things "new and old" to be the kingdom scribe's own "new and old" illustrations and applications of truth. "A Christian scribe brings out the new truths that he learns, and also old ones that he has long since known" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15). New insights and fresh applications of eternal truths are seen to be the significance of "things new and old" to the minister of the Word. "He must not be a mere machine grinding out exactly the same ideas year after year. Yet he is not to invent notions of his own and give them forth as divine revelations" (ibid). In other words, "the Christian teacher has to apply truths of the Bible to present circumstances" (ibid), and this requires he draw forth from his own life's experiences and perceptions both fresh perspectives as well as time-tested illustrations; "the old truths, unchanging, ever the same, but in the new light of living, personal experience" (ibid). Ritenbaugh characterizes it as "taking old truth and putting it in a new context" (Forerunner Commentary). It is a "balancing of traditional understanding of God's truth with new insights and applications" (ibid). "The Christian teacher will be able to use old, familiar facts, types, and doctrines to illustrate the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven. He will present the old Gospel in a new dress, applying it to the conditions and times in which he is working" (Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 77).

Concluding Thought

In a single verse of a chapter filled with parabolic instruction from the Son of God we have been greatly challenged, both in understanding and application. Although there may be doubts in our minds with regard to the exact meaning of certain words and phrases, yet there is little doubt at all that our Lord expects His spiritual leaders to be men well-instructed in the eternal truths of the Father's kingdom. They are to be responsible servant leaders of the household of faith, drawing forth from their vast treasure of understanding and experience, having feasted deeply themselves upon the Word of God, so as to nourish the family of the heavenly Father. As Jesus looked into the eyes, and into the hearts, of His close disciples that day, He asked if they truly understood His teachings. They answered in the affirmative, thus declaring themselves to be "discipled scribes." The Lord then gave them the above commission. I believe that commission is for all of similar commitment today. May we who are instructed scribes in the kingdom of heaven serve faithfully as householders in God's spiritual family, drawing forth from the limitless riches contained within our storehouses so that the lives of His children may be enriched. It is a noble calling and a great responsibility! Father, grant us grace and strength for the task ahead!

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
The Publisher:
(301) 695-1707
Also Available Thru:, Borders,
Barnes & Noble, Grace Centered Magazine

Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I have been reading your Reflections for several months now, and I have appreciated your thoughts on various subjects. One of your readers, from Cloudcroft, New Mexico, sent me your new book, Down, But Not Out, and had me added to your subscription list, and I have thanked him for doing so. I know you must get lots of questions, but I thought I'd ask for your thoughts on the following. We are a group of ten families that have started a new work. We have been meeting for about three months in a home. As we contemplate getting a more permanent location, the question of what name to give our group has caused some difficulty. Currently, we have "Christians Meet Here" posted on the lawn. We all come from a Church of Christ background, and some feel a real need to have "Church of Christ" as our name. Others in our group, who have had some bad experiences with the legalists and patternists, really don't want to be identified with any group. What are your thoughts on the question: "What's in a name?" Thank you!

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, I goofed! And it led to a bit of misreporting. Cecil May and I graduated from Harding in 1954, not 1964, and it was our fiftieth anniversary reunion. I couldn't believe that I had given you the wrong date, and then I checked the message I sent -- and there it was: 1964. But that is okay. Cecil will read it and be delighted to learn that he is 10 years younger than he thought! Good article on Jephthah. For some time I have taken some comfort in Adam Clarke's suggestion that the daughter was not killed.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I tend to think your perspective on Jephthah's vow is the correct one. In the context of a loving God and His righteous law, I find it difficult to rationalize a human sacrifice as being pleasing to Him. Jephthah's vow highlights the foolishness of trying to give God something in exchange for His blessings. What thing that we possess could our God possibly want? I think that an atheistic argument might be, "You can't have it both ways, Mr. Maxey. God was willing to have His son die in a most horrible way. Why is Jephthah any different?" From their perspective it probably makes sense, but from the perspective of God's love for mankind, your position makes more sense.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Maxey, I am a member of the -------- ----- Church of Christ here in --------, Texas, and am part of a group who is directing the selecting of Elders for this congregation in 2006. In April and May we plan to have classes on the Eldership. I would like to have your permission to use your materials on Elders as the basis of our classes. With your permission, I would put these lessons on Power Point. Thanks for your studies!

From a Minister in India:

Beloved Brother, The research and reflection on Jephthah and his daughter is one more precious diamond in your crown. God bless you!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Hello Al, Merry Christmas! This article on Jephthah was excellent. I appreciate the scholarly research you have done. For some reason, I had thought perhaps Jephthah's oath was the beginning of a test, like Abraham's. Neither situation actually demanded a human death as the final outcome, yet each tested the character and heart of the person involved. I wonder if I could pass a test like that? Hope you and yours are well. I am into my third quarter of doctoral work, and seem to be (with God's help) holding my own.

From a Minister/Author in Arizona:

Dear Al, Thanks for the useful study on Jephthah and his daughter. My study has led to the same conclusion.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Al, I just had to respond to your exchange in the last Reflections with the unknown reader who sought information regarding clapping in the assembly. Several years ago I had the opportunity to hear Jimmy Allen speak. He said that from his study of early church history, he was led to believe that their assemblies were very lively, sometimes rollicking, and yes -- they clapped hands! He said it was something he was not comfortable doing, but believed it to be Scriptural. It appears to me that if we are led to give announcements of congratulations or praise in the assembly, then why not let the church "Amen" that by clapping? It is not disruptive in the least. I continue to thank God for your wisdom, and for the loving way that you present your cases.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Al, in your last readers' section a minister from Florida wrote, "Something that might also be helpful in dealing with the issue of 'patterns' is if we could somehow compile the list of traditions that Church of Christers feel must be followed, then have them provide proof." Al, this is a good idea. Why don't you start the list and then let's see how many traditions can be added to it. It would be interesting, even though there would probably not be any proofs provided.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Bro. Al, I just finished reading your excellent study on Jephthah's daughter. I have never believed that he actually performed a human sacrifice, but had never seen a good study on the subject, until yours. I always go back to the nature of our Yahweh God. His infinite agape love, mercy and justice would never allow such a thing to happen. So, there must be some reasonable explanation for this situation, such as you and these scholars you quote have put forth. For your further consideration, here is a very literal translation of Jephthah's vow done by our brother in Christ: Stanley L. Morris --- "And vowed Jephthah a vow to Yahweh, and said, If indeed You will give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it will be the thing outcoming, which comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon will belong to Yahweh, and I will offer it {instead of} a burnt offering." Bro. Morris is a Bible scholar and translator who I believe has corrected many passages in his work that have been erroneously translated. Bro. Al, thanks again for all your good studies on your web site. I especially appreciate your wise, reasoned and logical analysis of the Scriptures. Too many Christian writers, in contrast, lean toward either extreme conservatism or extreme liberalism. I eagerly look forward to your Reflections, and I pass them on to other Christians, recommending your web site.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Dear Brother Al, I am on your Reflections mailing list, and I enjoy and appreciate your work very much. I come from a very conservative and patternistic background. But now, with your help, I am finally beginning to question some things I've always accepted in the past as being the only way. Thanks so much for all of your Reflections, and for helping me to reflect more on my personal worship to God!

From a Minister/Elder in New Jersey:

Al, I have been encouraged, enlightened and informed by many of your Reflections in the past few months. I almost responded to the recent discussion of the selection of elders, however, my views are probably more radical than yours, and would have dealt more with the "role" and "office" of elder than the selection, so I opted not to burden you with them. I really appreciate this most recent Reflections on Jephthah. It offers what I think is a viable, believable, supportable argument. It is very helpful. Thank you! Also, your point on the principle regarding the selection of elders is well made. You wrote, "I firmly believe there is a principle here that carries over to our selection of leaders in the church today: they are raised up by the Spirit of God, sought out and selected by the elders, affirmed by the people." I agree whole-heartedly. Love you brother --- by the way, can I send you about six inches of snow? How about bearing your brother's burden ... the sidewalk needs shoveled. Since it is in front of the "Lord's Building" it would be the "Lord's Work."

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I am in the process of recording all of the Reflections you have written thus far, and it is a hard task to do, very hard. I catch myself reading your Reflections all over again and not getting the job completed. I read again the story of Terry Clark (Issue #17) and your attending to his spiritual needs before his execution. I just could not keep the tears back for you and him. Such a heart-wrenching story. God has indeed blessed us all by allowing you to be in our midst via the Internet. I just had to thank you once more for your presence and for the work you are doing. I will soon have all the Reflections on a "thumb drive" that can be carried around in my pocket and used any place there is a computer available. What a wonderful little devise. Al, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Just you keep on keeping on. God bless you!

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Al, Thanks for your article "Jephthah's Reckless Vow." I am amazed and very appreciative of the breadth of your research. You've evidently sought information from dozens of scholars in your quest for understanding. I applaud your diligence and dedication to your ministry. May God grant you continued strength and perseverance in your diligence (and may Shelly be patient with your zealous dedication!!). One of the reader's responses triggered a pet peeve: referring to assemblies as worship "services." In what sense can we call such assemblies "services"? The way that some people sometimes use this term seems to indicate they've only set aside one hour a week to "serve" God. Surely that's not the purpose or extent of our duty. Oh, well ... it's just a pet peeve. May God bless your enduring service for Him.

From a New Reader in Florida:

Edward Fudge gave me the URL for your web site when I asked him about men making examples into LAW. Your essays have been very helpful and thought-provoking. I worship with a Non-Institutional, ultra-conservative Church of Christ here in ----- ---, Florida. We live in our own little world, and I had no idea that there were actually people challenging our doctrine! I was so scared at first, and still am to some degree. I am a PK (preacher's kid), and change doesn't come easily; I worry about these changes and how they will affect my children. That fear is lessening, though. I could never defend a lot of what I believed, but I never questioned it, because it was the basis of our view on authority. I am now ashamed at how arrogant my attitude was. I have begun really reading the NT, and for the first time in my life have begun to see the real power in the Word and from the Holy Spirit. Several of our friends are going through this same process, but it is difficult for us to talk about this with others, because "different opinions" are not encouraged here. I really struggle with this attitude. Anyway, our family is making a trip out west in a few days. We will be going through the Carlsbad Caverns there in New Mexico, and, if our schedule works out, we would love to come worship with you. I have never ventured beyond the Non-Institutional Church of Christ -- very sheltered, I know! I will request to be placed on your mailing list for your Reflections when we return. Thank you for your boldness and excellent work.

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: