by Al Maxey

Issue #270 ------- October 18, 2006
Search others for their Virtues,
and thyself for thy Vices.

Thomas Fuller {1654-1734}

Eleazar and Ithamar
An In-Depth Reflective Analysis

Within the pages of the Old Covenant writings one will find approximately 26 different genealogical lists. Some are rather brief, others fairly extensive. Genealogies can be either terribly dry and dull, or they can be fascinating. They are the latter when we bother to get to know the persons involved. The genealogy of Jesus, for example, is filled with tremendous instruction and encouragement, as I sought to convey in Reflections #231. But, let's focus our attention upon a family who lived a good many centuries before our Savior came to earth. Let's consider the sons of Aaron. "Aaron took to himself Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Nahshon, as wife; and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar" [Exodus 6:23].

Aaron, of course, as even our young children know, was the brother of Moses. "Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father's sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses" [Exodus 6:20]. These two brothers would become key figures in the deliverance of the people of Israel from their Egyptian bondage, and vital leaders of the Lord's people for decades thereafter. The Pentateuch is filled with accounts of their exploits, as well as their strengths and weaknesses; their successes and failures. Aaron initially served as the spokesman of Moses unto Pharaoh {Exodus 7:1-2], but would later become the High Priest of God for His beloved people, assisted by his four sons. "Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar" [Exodus 28:1]. "So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest" [vs. 4]. In Leviticus 8 we find the consecration ceremony for Aaron and his sons. "Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him" [Leviticus 8:30]. At the end of seven days, the time of their consecration [vs. 33], this brother of Moses and his sons became the spiritual representatives of God to His people, and the representatives of the people to their God. This was an awesome responsibility for these men, and one, if they were wise, they would never take lightly.

Unfortunately, as is too often the case in the course of human affairs, it didn't take long for things to go horribly wrong within this privileged family. The two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, as a result of a series of horrendous affronts to the holiness of their God, were struck dead [Leviticus 10:1-2]. At this point I would encourage the reader to review the nature of their fatal error, as discussed in Reflections #63. Understanding the true nature of their offense is extremely critical to our perceiving the significance of the Lord's dealings with their two younger brothers later during that same period of time. What many disciples of Christ have seemingly overlooked, or perhaps they simply never knew, is that there were additional failures evidenced on that occasion; failures to fully comply with the directives of God. The two younger brothers, Eleazar and Ithamar, and very likely Aaron as well, deliberately set aside God's will ... and yet they were not struck down. Indeed, they were not even declared guilty. Further, God blessed their lives and their descendants. Why?! Two brothers died; two brothers lived ... and these latter brothers even prospered. Yet both sets of brothers had clearly transgressed the will of their God. Why were the older two cursed and the younger two blessed? This is a question that has deeply troubled scholars for centuries!

As one can quickly perceive, there are some rather serious theological matters associated with the divine adjudication of the transgressions of these four brothers. Two perished, two prospered. What is the explanation? We shall seek to provide some insight into that disparity in the course of this brief study. First, however, we need to set the scene and present to view the main players (to use the terminology of the live theater). Historically, we find the people of Israel freed from their Egyptian captivity. They are in the wilderness, where, sadly, they are destined to remain for 40 years. Spiritually, they have entered into a covenant with their God, which occurred at Mt. Sinai [Exodus 19]. They have received the Law of God through Moses; the priesthood has been established in Aaron and his sons; various sacrifices have been ordained, with specific instructions as to how, when, where, why and by whom they are to be carried out. As previously noted, it didn't take long for two of Aaron's sons to violate that divine specificity, and they paid for this affront to the holiness of God with their very lives. Again, if you have not yet read my above mentioned Reflections in which I outline the various aspects of that transgression, I would plead with you to do so before continuing. Understanding why God manifested such severity toward Nadab and Abihu, and then later displayed such leniency toward Eleazar and Ithamar, hinges on the nature of the two transgressions and what was in the hearts and minds of these four sons of Aaron when they departed from God's specificity. More about this in a moment. First, let's get to know the third and fourth born sons of Aaron and Elisheba.


Eleazar is a name meaning "God helps." He was the third son to be born among the four brothers [Num. 3:2]. We know that Nadab and Abihu "had no children" [Num. 3:4], so it was through Eleazar and Ithamar that "the line of priestly descent from Aaron is traced" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 389]. Eleazar, as the older of the two surviving sons, was given the seniority in matters of priestly responsibility over his younger brother, and succeeded to the high priestly office after his father's death [Num. 20:23-29; Deut. 10:6]. Prior to that, however, he was "the chief of the leaders of Levi, and had the oversight of those who perform the duties of the sanctuary" [Num. 3:32]. He was further responsible for "all the tabernacle and of all that is in it, with the sanctuary and its furnishings" [Num. 4:16]. It was in the presence of Eleazar that Joshua was commissioned by Moses as the new leader of the people of Israel -- "And Moses did just as the Lord commanded him: he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him" [Num. 27:22-23]. After entering the promised land, "Eleazar and Joshua, according to Joshua 14:1 [see also: Num. 34:17], were the key figures in the distribution of Canaanite territories among the Israelite tribes" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 407].


The fourth and youngest son of Aaron and Elisheba was Ithamar, a name whose meaning is not certain, but "island of palms" or "where is Tamar?" have both been suggested. Although he never rose to the same level of prominence as Eleazar, nevertheless Ithamar had a great deal of leadership responsibility as a priest of God. "Ithamar was made the treasurer of the offerings for the tabernacle (Exodus 38:21), and superintendent of the Gershonites and Merarites in the service of the tabernacle, according to Numbers 4:28, 33" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 939]. He was the founder of the priestly line to which Eli belonged, and his lineage continued through a man named Daniel even after the return from the Babylonian captivity [Ezra 8:2]. Although most of the chief positions in the Levitical priesthood were held by the descendants of Eleazar, "for some unknown reason the descendants of Ithamar seem to have held the chief position among the priests from Eli until the accession of Solomon" [ISBE, vol. 2, p. 54]. Little else is known about this youngest son of Aaron.

Man's Transgression

After God struck down Nadab and Abihu for their flagrant irreverence, Moses called two of their close relatives, "Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron's uncle Uzziel, and he said to them, 'Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp.' So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said" [Lev. 10:4-5]. Moses then informed Aaron and his two remaining sons [vs. 6-7] that they were not to display any visible signs of mourning over what had just happened. The people could mourn the transgression of their priests which had resulted in such a stunning display of God's wrath, but God's representatives, the high priest and priests, must NOT show any sign of disapproval of God's action (which mourning might be interpreted by some of the people as being). Indeed, Moses informs them that they are not even to go out of the doorway of the tent of meeting. In other words, they were to carry on with their duties within the tabernacle, finishing the offerings unto God that had been initiated, but which had been interrupted by the incident that had just occurred. The instructions as to what remained to be done are mentioned in verses 12-15.

"Consternation or resentment might have led Aaron and 'his sons that were left' to leave the remainder of their sacred duties undischarged. This must not be. The sin of the two sons must not interrupt the service of the Most High. His worship must not cease because two men have erred" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2, p. 167]. Dr. Paul Kretzmann observes, "To mourn in this particular case would have been equivalent to expressing dissatisfaction with the judgments of the Lord." Aaron and his two remaining sons were not "to join the funeral procession or in any way to permit an intermission to take place in the priestly functions" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The OT, vol. 1, p. 202]. The penalty that would befall them if they failed to heed this instruction was death [Lev. 10:7]. Therefore, Aaron and his sons continued with their duties before the Lord while Nadab and Abihu were carried away. This seems an almost super-human effort on their part, and yet, to their credit, they sought to comply.

The problem? Instead of eating the meat of this goat in the sanctuary of the tabernacle, as had been commanded, Eleazar and Ithamar had burned it up on the altar. "Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! So he was angry with Aaron's surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar" [vs. 16]. He confronted his two nephews, saying, "Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place? ... Behold, since its blood had not been brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the sanctuary, just as I commanded" [vs. 17-18]. Moses may well have feared that another two deaths were about to occur. The fact that there is no record of these two sons of Aaron making any response to the angry accusation of Moses could also perhaps be attributed to the fact that they may well have been speechless with fear. Would they now be consumed by fire from above?! This was a tense moment; much was hanging in the balance ... including the very future of the Aaronic priesthood.

Into the midst of this momentous moment steps Aaron, the high priest of God. He has already witnessed the deaths of two sons, and it appears he is about to witness the deaths of his two remaining ones. His statement is a brief one, but it spoke volumes from the depths of his heart. Addressing Moses, Aaron spoke on behalf of himself and his sons, saying, "Look, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, and such things have befallen me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord?" [vs. 19, NKJV]. The NASB reads, "When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the Lord?" The NIV has rendered Aaron's final question this way: "Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?" In essence, we have before us the age-old question of the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. Yes, they should have eaten the meat of the goat in the sanctuary as commanded. They chose not to, burning it up on the altar instead. As with Nadab and Abihu, specific instructions had been intentionally violated; that which was commanded had been set aside. Yet, we are told, "When Moses heard this, it seemed good in his sight" [vs. 20, NASB]. The NIV declares, "he was satisfied." The KJV says, "he was content."

God's Grace

"Behold then the kindness and severity of God" [Rom. 11:22]. We certainly behold both on this occasion, don't we?! So, exactly what made the difference? Why did two sons die and two sons live, when both had committed transgression of that which had been commanded? What was it that called forth God's severity in the one case, but His kindness in the other? Dear brethren, the distinction lies in the heart. As Aaron pointed out to his brother Moses, Eleazar and Ithamar had indeed continued their responsibilities before the Lord, even in the face of the sudden, horrific deaths of their older brothers. Aaron too had not shown any visible outpouring of grief, but had continued his priestly responsibilities, lest any such display be perceived as an admission of displeasure over God's judgment. Aaron pointed out to Moses that this was no small feat in light of what had occurred. It showed a dedication to and great reverence for God Almighty. Although outwardly they presented a brave face to the people, yet inwardly their hearts were broken! The people saw their outward actions ... God knew their hearts! They simply couldn't bring themselves to eat when so overcome with sorrow [as per the example of Hannah in 1 Sam. 1:7-8], and so they trusted that they served a gracious Father who would understand and show mercy.

And He Did!! ... And He Does!!

"Aaron replied that though he was forbidden to mourn, he could not eat in good conscience that day. With that Moses was content; for Aaron had acted, not in negligence nor mechanically, but in responsible sincerity. It is noteworthy that in the OT, also, the heart attitude is more important than the mechanics of all the sacrifices" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 567]. You may remember those who observed the Passover "otherwise than prescribed" during the days of Hezekiah, and yet God accepted their worship because even though they had transgressed the rules, they had focused their hearts upon Him [2 Chron. 30]. Aaron trusted God to place sincerity of a heart totally devoted to Him above preciseness of practice under such special circumstances, and Aaron was not disappointed. "The irregularity was not careless, nor was it a violation of the spirit of the law. Aaron was forbidden to desecrate his office by the ordinary signs of mourning, such as rending garments, cutting hair, etc. But to fast on this day of his grief was proper enough. And Moses was satisfied that the Lord's law had not been further broken" [ibid, p 568]. Yes, Moses "spake nothing at all" about Aaron and his two remaining sons fasting on this occasion. But God accepted it because it came from a sincere heart devoted to Him. Even though such an expression broke a particular of a command, yet it was done to a noble end, rather than an ignoble one (as with Nadab and Abihu). Nadab and Abihu failed to show any consideration for either God, His people, or their family, and this under very privileged circumstances; Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, in marked contrast, had shown nothing but love and devotion for them all, and this under some extremely difficult circumstances. Thus, God overlooked the deviation of law in favor of the devotion of love!

"The law of love is the highest law and supersedes all others. It was so in the Old Testament, just as it is in the New, that God desired mercy rather than sacrifice" [Dr. Kretzmann, p. 203]. The spirit of the law will always supersede the letter of it; the legitimate needs of God's children come before rules! "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?" [Matt. 12:3-4]. Jesus Christ then points out that in this special circumstance the letter of the law was set aside in favor of the spirit of it. "But if you had known what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless" [vs. 7]. The account of Eleazar and Ithamar, among others, "shows that it is proper to break the Law in the letter, when to do so is necessary to its observance in the spirit" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2, p. 166].

Aaron "summoned himself and his sons to continue in the service of the Lord, and only stopped at the point where overcoming sorrow laid its arresting hand upon him. When a spirit of obedience is thus in our hearts, God does not exact a strict measure of work to be accomplished by our hands" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2, p. 168]. There is a deeper law at work, one that transcends the letter of it ... it is the law of the Spirit; the law of love! The paraphrase of Lev. 10:20 in the ancient Palestine Chaldee Version provides an interesting insight into this deeper law of God --- "And when Moses heard it, he approved of this explanation. Whereupon he sent a herald through the whole camp of Israel, saying, 'It is I from whom the law had been hid, and my brother Aaron brought it to my remembrance.'" Indeed, Jewish tradition to this day ascribes the "error" on that day to Moses, rather than to Aaron or his two surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar. Thus, with Aaron's heartfelt statement "Moses was satisfied, and God, who knew his situation, took no notice of the irregularity which had taken place in the solemn service ... and evidenced no kind of displeasure at this irregularity, which was, in a measure at least, justified by the present necessity" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 539]. "It was true that the letter of the Law had been broken, but there was a sufficient cause for it" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2, p. 161].

"For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" [Hosea 6:6]. Aaron and his two youngest sons were the epitome of loyalty unto the Lord God, evidencing a strength of character in service to Him that most men could not have accomplished, given the circumstances. However, they were also mere flesh and blood, and they grieved the loss of sons and brothers. God saw their hearts and overlooked their transgression. After all, it is our hearts the heavenly Father truly desires! "Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousands rivers of oil? ... He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" [Micah 6:7-8]. Nadab and Abihu had failed to walk humbly with their God, showing Him great irreverence in their attitudes and actions. Eleazar and Ithamar, along with Aaron their father, were loyal, humble and devoted ... and, yes, flawed. Like Nadab and Abihu, they too failed to comply with the instructions of their Lord. But, far more than the preciseness of the actions or inactions of these two sets of brothers, God judged the hearts of these men, and at the end of the day we beheld both the severity and kindness of our great God. It is no less true today. Lord, help us to give our hearts fully unto Thee, and show forth Thy grace and mercy when our hands, our feet, and our tongues too frequently fail us in our service to Thy cause. Thank you, Father, for being such an awesome God!

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Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Maxey, I am a recovering legalist. I just joined your Reflections mailing list the other day, but my familiarity with you goes back much further. Over a decade ago, when I was a student at one of our Schools of Preaching, I somehow came across your online version of your book Down, But Not Out. I wrote and got your permission to print it out from your web site. At the time, I wanted your work NOT to read it with an open mind and Bible, but as a reference so that I could refer to it if I ever wanted to see what a "heretic" taught on this subject [I have since repented of this attitude]. I entered full-time preaching after graduation within the ultra-conservative wing of the Churches of Christ. In time my thinking has gradually become liberated as I discovered doctrines such as grace, and as I saw the hypocrisy into which a legalistic theology forces people. I was eventually fired. This led me into a period where I am now reexamining all my positions in light of God's grace. Which led me back to my bookshelf to dust off the printed out copy of your book. I am now reading it through with an open mind for the very first time, and find it very interesting. I say all of this to tell you that I appreciate the materials that you make available on your web site. You never know who is reading them, or how long they may sit on a shelf before someone is actually impacted by them (like me). Al, I apologize to you for condemning you in my mind so many years ago, and I thank you now for the part your writings have played in helping me to have a more complete understanding of Christ and His will.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I really enjoy reading what you write. You are a continual blessing to me. I wanted to share the following with you -- my wife is in a class on Sunday morning at our congregation and the teacher was once very legalistic. The difference with him, as opposed to others, is his heart -- his goal is to discover more and more of Christ in his life. His son was someone I began showing your Reflections to some time back, and then he began sharing them with his dad. Now, more than a year later, this person is regularly reading your work and teaching a message much different from the one he taught just a few years ago!! You are making a big difference, brother! One man at a time!

From a NI Minister on MarsList:

Al, I have given this a little more thought. I have no idea where you are located, but I would certainly be willing to come there and debate you on this issue of CENI and Silence. The proposition I would affirm is as follows: "The popularly described 'law of silence,' biblically described as 'no instruction,' is part of the doctrine of Christ as taught by the apostles and prophets."

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Al, Thanks for your article on the "law of silence." Right up until the end of your letter to Phil Sanders, I had never understood the difference between the "law of silence" and the "law of specificity" (and I think I have read all of your previous Reflections articles on this particular issue). However, as I now understand it, the "law of silence" would prohibit instrumental music while one is singing praises to God because the New Testament does not mention it. The "law of specificity" would allow it, IF it would not interfere with or replace the singing and making melody within one's heart. Do I finally get it? If not, please let me know. Thanks.

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Excellent, as always, Al. I read through that issue of The Spiritual Sword and tossed it where it belongs -- in the garbage can. The teaching about this "law of silence" was created by men, divides men, drives men to condemn each other, and needs to be classified as a "doctrine of men." Any congregation that owns property cannot talk about the "law of silence" with any credibility. Thanks, brother Al, for being so clear and so kind to these brothers who produced this most recent edition of The Spiritual Sword. You are an excellent role model in so many ways!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Bro. Al, Having just read your latest issue of Reflections on "silence," I have come to the conclusion that your wit, wisdom and logic is a combination of Mark Twain, Will Rogers and an astute biblical scholar. That article was GREAT.

From a Minister in Connecticut:

Bro. Maxey, Do you allow your Reflections to be printed for Bible study? Can they be used on other web sites? Would you give me permission to use them as long as they are not altered and as long as I give you proper credit? I would really like to use them when appropriate. May God continue to bless your ministry of the Word. I have been blessed by your writings over the years.

From an Elder in California:

Dear Brother Al, I became a Christian in my teens, and until about five years ago I subscribed to the mindset that we in the Church of Christ, and we alone, would be welcomed into God's heaven. But after attending a particular workshop overseas about five years ago, I began to read God's Word again, and, I must say, it was as if I was reading much of it for the very first time. I opened the Word and began to read Paul's letter to the Galatians, and once I had removed my firmly affixed legalistic blinders, I was astounded at the message! When I arrived at Galatians 5, I read again that one who attempts to be justified by law has "fallen from grace." It began to sink in. Why had I not seen that before? If I could answer that question, then perhaps I could better help others turn from the deadly legalism that is gradually destroying the church from within. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that your writings are very helpful for those of us who are now looking at God's Word from an entirely different perspective. Your web site is a valuable resource to so many of us.

From a Minister in India:

Dear Brother Al Maxey, Greetings to all the saints at the Cuba Avenue Church of Christ, and to your fellow elders. I thank God very much that He allows me to correspond with you, and I thank you for your great lessons from your Reflections. We deeply appreciate you for your zeal for the Lord's work in the USA and the entire world. Your lessons from your Reflections touch every heart and inspire people to learn God's Word more and more. We continue our prayer for all your efforts, and we remember you, sister Shelly Maxey, and your family in all our daily prayers. We think it is good to translate your lessons into our regional language, then more and more people can read your lessons. It will be most useful. Please pray for us.

From a Reader in West Virginia:

Mr. Maxey, I do not want a response from you, as your track record shows that you will never convert to the Truth. I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I recently left liberalism, and after reading your recent article on "Delineation of Diversity," I am convinced more than ever that I made the right choice. Thanks for the corroboration.

From a Reader in West Virginia:

Bro. Al, Thanks so much for your recent Reflections article on the "Law of Silence." You have done us all a great service in your articles on legalism, patternism and exclusivism. The truth on these matters is much needed in our day because they are barriers to unity, and they also stand in opposition to the fellowship of all Christians. I am convinced that Truth will prevail. Keep up the good work, brother!

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, Once again you have thoroughly refuted the so-called "law of silence." I really appreciate the fact that you provide an intellectual underpinning to what most reasonable people already know so well: the difference between silence and specificity. I think a good rule of thumb is that we must be silent where God speaks! Where God is silent we have some discretion to have an opinion. Thank you for all you do. It truly brightens my day when I see your emails hit my inbox!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I was "raised in the church," baptized out of fear when I was six, then was baptized seven years later for the remission of my sins, and I have attended a very conservative, legalistic Church of Christ all of my life. However, it never made sense to me that WE were the only ones with the Truth. I have come to my own personal belief that my job is to teach the love of Jesus and try to love like He loved. It is not my job to judge anyone (whether they are saved or not); I will simply let them know how much Jesus loves them. Bro. Al, each of your Reflections are eagerly read with thankfulness that there is a Church of Christ preacher out there that speaks in such a non-judgmental way. Thank you for your writings, and for making them available for others to read and share. Please keep studying and writing, for you are making a difference in the spiritual walk of a great many people.

From a Minister in Texas:

Bro. Al, I appreciated your review of The Spiritual Sword. You got the same answer from Phil Sanders that I have gotten from previous questions of their articles. So, I have "dusted off my feet," as it were, from these men. I too wanted to write them about some of their statements, but decided it was no use. I wanted to ask them where in the NT Scriptures is the command located that "authorizes" congregational singing in the first place. There is no such Scripture, and to me this settles the music question explicitly. Music of any kind is nothing more nor less than an expedient and an opinion. To divide over an expedient or an opinion is a sin. Thus, all the men who have had a part in this division, and who continue to have a part, have some serious sin to repent of -- i.e.: division.

From a New Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Maxey, I am a minister working on the Cherokee Indian reservation. The church work here is very much a mission effort among desperate and destitute people. Their poverty is both material and spiritual. Please keep us in your prayers, as we will your work. I have received several of your articles from a brother in another part of North Carolina who has shown a great interest in our work here. I would like to be included in your Reflections ministry as it is helpful to me in many ways.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Al, I just read Phil's response to your "cups of wine" question. Interesting. I have received much the same answer when I ask folks about Jesus' celebration of Hanukkah (John 10:22). "Well, He didn't really celebrate it; He was just there because that is where the people were." Oh, really?! Al, you write a lot about legalism, and I preach a lot about legalism. But does everybody understand what is meant when the terms "legalist" and "legalism" are used? I am sadly convinced that we have people who are sitting in our pews every Sunday who believe they are somehow "earning points" toward their own salvation by their worship attendance, singing, giving, and communing. Even though each one of these activities is a God-approved activity, they become legalistic if done to earn God's favor and one's salvation.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, Argumentum ad hominem is a most unfortunate and overly used tactic of legalists. When they run out of proof-texts from Scripture (passages generally taken out of context, no less) they resort to such tactics (which they quickly condemn when such tactics are used against them). There is nothing new under the sun. The Pharisees are still among us.

From a Reader in Florida:

Bro. Al, Being a part of an Ultra-Conservative, Non-Institutional, "Zealot" congregation, there is absolutely no hope of any compromise where I attend. Although there is a small, but growing, cell of grace-centered Christians here, I don't believe any changes will take place congregationally. We are tied much too closely to Florida College for that to ever happen. However, it helps so much to know I am not alone; thus, I can learn to "wait on the Lord" and "walk in the Spirit." May the Lord bless your work, Al. You have helped me so much.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I have really enjoyed the dialogue between you and Phil Sanders. You always amaze me with the depth of your articles and the sheer logic that escapes so many. I know that many of our brethren are finally seeing the light as a result of your work. It is so wonderful that you are able to put into writing that which many of us have believed our entire adult lives, but were unable to express convincingly. May God continue to bless your efforts to unite us.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, Sounds like checkmate to me!!! I've re-read your initial question to Bro. Sanders, and then I read his reply (although I don't understand why he didn't direct his reply to you). Afterwards, I read your response to his reply. As I have said to you before, Al, you are a breath of fresh air for the Body of Christ. I love your diligence to study, and that you are so well-read in so many subjects. I really don't see how you do it. You've opened my eyes to so many wonderful truths in Christ, and I have now been released from the shackles of legalism. I thank God for you and all that you do!

From a Reader in Indiana:

Al, your approach to discussing this issue in your latest Reflections is like a breath of spring.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Brother Maxey, I was once a student of the Nashville School of Preaching, where Phil Sanders teaches, and I even had him as a teacher. The school has come a long way since the old days, and I respect it highly. Nevertheless, I believe that you are no doubt the one who is right about this issue. The days of legalism are past; the dawn of a new generation of Churches of Christ is upon us. Instead of being so focused on "getting everything right," we are now looking to the grace of God. May our God continue to bless you in your ministry!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, on your advice, I went to Phil's blog and read his reply to your article. Then I read your response to him. However, even before I read your response, I could not help but notice several holes in his argumentation, which you covered in a masterful way. I have known Phil for perhaps 15 to 20 years, and have always held him in high esteem. I still do. But, I feel he, like so many, has fallen captive to a system of interpretation (CENI and the "law of silence") that has splintered the church, and by that divisiveness has destroyed the influence of it, making it every bit as sectarian as any denomination we have criticized. Bro. Al, thank you for your scholarship, your attitude, and your persistence in dealing with internal problems which so many gloss over.

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Your concluding remarks [the final 3 sentences in your response to Phil Sanders] were to the point exactly. Your exegesis this week (both historical and biblical) regarding the fallacious "law of silence" should be circulated far and wide among our "restoration brethren," as well as among other sincere Bible believing disciples. Al, as our dear brother Leroy Garrett says, "Soldier On."

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Bro. Al, In his blog post, Phil Sanders declared you were "sold on getting the instrument into the church." I just had to make a comment about this. An old preacher I knew, who was a well-known debater around the Ark-MO state line, was hit with that very same assertion one time back in the 50's. Although he was a preacher for a cappella congregations, he, like you, did not believe instruments to be against God's will. His response to the above assertion was this: -- the only way that one can get an instrument "into the church" is for a Christian to swallow a jews'-harp!

From a Reader in Oregon:

Bro. Al, Those were very good articles on the "law of silence." I tend to agree that the loyalty to this interpretative tool by the "patternists" is partly responsible for many of the divisions among our brethren. Also, I have been observing the same type of elementary debate tactics on MarsList that were utilized by Phil Sanders. Some of these individuals simply kill the messenger, misquote, inaccurately paraphrase the positions of others, dance around the real topic, and never answer the questions that are asked of them. Even when the question is broken down to bits and pieces that a grade school student could easily understand, they still will NOT answer the question. It is frustrating to the one asking the question, and it also stifles any open and free discussion that might benefit participants as well as observers. Fortunately, as you indicated, many can see through these types of tactics. Interestingly, one of the topics on MarsList right now is "The Greatest Danger Facing God's People." While I don't believe we can narrow it down to any one danger, this man-made "law of silence" would certainly be in the running. Thanks again for a great study.

From a Noted CofC Leader/Lecturer/Author:

Dear Bro. Al, I commend you for the current Reflections article "Response to Phil Sanders." The Spiritual Sword element has always had a policy of allowing ONLY their side of an issue to be heard. I have been misrepresented, ostracized, and, in fact, blacklisted brotherhood-wide by them, and then provided no outlet through which to reply. They only engage in debate when it appears to them that they have a great advantage. They are a malignant blight upon the Lord's church, and the sooner all brethren recognize that fact the healthier the church will become. I especially liked your final statement to Phil Sanders. After saying correctly that the "law of silence" is unbiblical and false and needs to be discarded, you said, "Our family unity depends on it." I agree. I believe that this error (the "law of silence") must not be arbitrarily dismissed without being confronted, as many are trying to do. It must be challenged and shown by the Scriptures to be incorrect, just as you have done so very well in your previous Reflections and in this response to Phil Sanders.

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Bro. Al, I applaud your objectivity, directness and clarity in presenting your case (with which many of us agree). You speak well for a growing number who are disgusted with the legalistic and sectarian stances that take so much focus off of what God truly wants us to do and be before a watching world that is confused and searching. After severely rebuking the teachers and Pharisees with His strongest language ever, Jesus still longed to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and I see that same spirit in your writings. I long for the day when we can have that kind of unity and security. May God equip us to that end.

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