by Al Maxey

Issue #289 ------- February 20, 2007
What concerns the prophet is the
human event as a divine experience.

Abraham Joshua Heschel {1907-1972}

Prophetic Praise of Simeon
Reflective Analysis of Luke 2:25-35

John Locke (1632-1704), in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, observed, "God, when He makes the prophet, does not unmake the man." I believe that to be a valid statement. Although God certainly spoke through certain men and women throughout the ages, He never, to my knowledge, transformed them into automatons. They invariably remained who and what they were. The voice of the Creator spoke through chosen ones of His creation. Amos, for example, made it clear that he was nothing special -- "I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.' And now hear the word of the Lord" [Amos 7:14-16].

Some disciples of Christ Jesus seem to live under the delusion that the prophets, apostles and early evangelists were somehow superior to us "common folk." Nothing could be farther from the truth. They faced the same struggles and temptations as we do; they had lapses of faith and moments of doubt; they stumbled and fell. They were human. Nevertheless, God called and commissioned them, and accomplished His will through them, leaving their personalities intact. Therefore, in Scripture we behold their strengths as well as their weaknesses. By providing us this often painfully honest view of these men and women, we receive encouragement. If God could use them to accomplish His eternal purposes and to proclaim His life-giving message of grace, then He can also use us. We need not feel inadequate. We need not ever shrink from service to our Savior simply because we are only too aware of our countless failings and shortcomings. God knows us better than we know ourselves. Thus, if I should hear His voice within my heart saying, "Whom shall I send; who will go for Us?," my response should be exactly the same as that of Isaiah the son of Amoz, who had just confessed himself to be "a man of unclean lips" [Isaiah 6:5] -- "Lord, here am I. Send me" [Isaiah 6:8].

There are many well-known ancient, inspired spokesmen for God. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel immediately come to mind. So do men like Hosea, Amos and Joel. There are many others equally well-known, both men and women. Some biblical prophets, however, are lesser known. Indeed, some are mentioned only briefly and then vanish from the pages of both biblical and secular history. Such a man is Simeon, who we encounter for the very first, last and only time in Luke 2:25-35. We know virtually nothing about him, yet his words are among the most perceptive in Scripture with regard to the mission of our Savior. They are also among the most puzzling. Therefore, both this man and his message deserve a closer look. Before we meet this special servant of the Most High, however, we need to set the scene, for context and background are critical to a proper perception of the powerful prophecy of Simeon.

The birth of Jesus had just recently taken place. After the completion of eight days He was circumcised, and "His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb" [Luke 2:21]. The act of circumcision, in keeping with the dictates of the Old Covenant under which this God-man was born, and the pronouncing of the child's name were rites of passage for all newborn males among the people of Israel. Joseph and Mary were careful to keep these customs, as was fitting for those who sought to live acceptably before their God and among His people. The next "official act" for this young family is described in Luke 2:22-24 -- "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: 'a pair of doves or two young pigeons.'"

"According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean on the birth of a child. On the eighth day the child was circumcised, after which the mother was unclean an additional thirty-three days" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 848]. If the child was a female, the time of the mother's uncleanness was doubled [Leviticus 12:1-5]. At the end of this period of time, the mother was to present to the Lord a sacrifice to atone for her ritual uncleanness. The sacrifice was to be "a one year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering" [Lev. 12:6]. If the woman was poor, however, and could not afford a lamb for the offering, "then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean" [Lev. 12:8]. Luke 2:24 indicates Mary's sacrifice was of the birds, rather than the lamb. Thus, we know that they were rather poor at this time. They couldn't afford a lamb, and yet they held in their arms the Lamb of God.

It was also a requirement of the Law of Moses that the firstborn son be presented at this time to God. Thus, "they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord" [Luke 2:22]. "You shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb ... the males belong to the Lord" [Exodus 13:12]. "For all the first-born are Mine" [Numbers 3:13; cf. 8:17; Exodus 13:2]. However, the Lord God, in His infinite mercy to man, made a gracious provision whereby these firstborn sons could be redeemed by their parents. In the place of the firstborn sons, God selected the tribe of Levi to serve Him. "Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine" [Numbers 3:12]. "The firstborn of man you shall surely redeem" [Numbers 18:15]. Joseph and Mary would present their firstborn son to the Lord, and then would redeem Him (buy Him back) with an offering. Thus, they would be able to keep Him and raise Him as their own, rather than turning Him over to the service of the Lord in the temple (much like Hannah had done with Samuel -- 1 Samuel 1:24-28). "There would be paid for Jesus the redemption price of five shekels, that He might be excused from temple service, and might dedicate Himself to the Lord in another capacity" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 59].

While Joseph and Mary, with Jesus in their arms, were in the temple "carrying out for Him the custom of the Law" [Luke 2:27], a man by the name of Simeon, who lived in Jerusalem, "moved by the Spirit, went into the temple courts" [vs. 27]. When he saw Jesus, "he took Him in his arms and praised God" [vs. 28]. We shall examine his words of praise and prophecy in just a moment. First, let's meet the man himself. The totality of our knowledge of this particular man, at least from the inspired biblical record, is fully contained in just two short verses -- "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" [Luke 2:25-26, NIV]. There are several things in these two verses that we need to notice.

The name of this devoted saint was Simeon, which was the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek Simon. This was a rather popular name among the Jews, as some of their great men, their heroes of faith, bore this name. The second son of Jacob and Leah was named Simeon (with Levi and Judah being his full brothers) -- Genesis 35:23. The grandfather of the Hasmonean priest Mattathias and the great-grandfather of Judas Maccabeus was named Simeon [1 Macc. 1:1-5], as was the elder brother of Judas Maccabeus [1 Macc. 2:65]. There was also a Simeon listed in the ancestry of Jesus [Luke 3:30], and Simeon the Niger was one of the prophets and teachers named within the church at Antioch [Acts 13:1-3] who was instrumental in sending forth Paul the apostle on his very first missionary journey. About the Simeon from Jerusalem who took the infant Jesus into his arms, however, we know virtually nothing. It is assumed by most scholars that he was an older man, but the passage in Luke's gospel account offers no real evidence of this. "The idea of the aged Simeon comes from a notice in the apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity, which speaks of him as a hundred and thirteen years old" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 40].

"Many expositors have believed that this Simeon was identical with the son of the famous Hillel, and the father of Gamaliel. This Simeon became president of the Sanhedrin in 13 A.D. Strangely enough, the Mishna, which preserves a record of the sayings and works of the great rabbis, passes by this Simeon. The curious silence of the Mishna here was, perhaps, owing to the hatred which this famous teacher incurred because of his belief in Jesus of Nazareth. Such an identification, although interesting, is, however, very precarious, the name Simeon being so very common among the people" [ibid]. "Another legend has been preserved in the Gospel of Nicodemus, to the effect that Charinus and Leucius, two sons of Simeon, had been raised from the dead, and had been summoned to describe before the Sanhedrin the occurrences they had witnessed while in the underworld at the death of Jesus. Their narrative is said to have been afterwards reported to Pilate, who ordered its incorporation into the official Acts of his procuratorship. Little historical value is ascribed to the story, however, which may be confidently regarded as destitute of any" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 2, p. 628]. Needless to say, the legends abound with regard to this unknown man. Perhaps Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll has stated it best, however -- "The legendary spirit which loves definite particulars about celebrities of Scripture has tried to fill up the blank. ... However, the evangelist is careful to make known what this man was, while giving no indication who he was: just and God-fearing, a saint of the OT type" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 475]. H. Leo Boles observed, "It was not the design of Luke to refer to the worldly standing of Simeon, but only his religious attainments" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke, p. 60]. In the final analysis of any man, this is all that truly matters to our God: who we are spiritually, not who we are socially -- and even more importantly: Whose we are!

Luke says "this man was righteous and devout" [Luke 2:25]. The first term used is the Greek word dikaios, which is an adjective signifying "just, equitable, fair, righteous, upright, pious." Adam Clarke states this word shows us that Simeon "steadily regulated all his conduct by the law of his God" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 374]. The second term is also an adjective -- eulabes -- a word used only by Luke in all of the NT writings. It literally meant "to take hold of well." Thus, the idea of being wary, circumspect, cautious is conveyed. In matters of religion, this would be a very devout person who was extremely careful in his dealings with the commandments of his Lord God. "Hence, Simeon was a person who took hold of things carefully; he was cautious and careful to observe all the ordinances of the law" [H. Leo Boles, p. 60]. "The Greek word expresses the cautious, scrupulous side of the religious life, and is therefore used always in the New Testament (Acts 2:5; 8:2; 22:12) of Jewish devoutness" [Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 255]. "He had fully consecrated himself to God, so that he added a pious heart to a righteous conduct. The original word, eulabes, signifies also a person of good report -- one well received among the people, or one cautious and circumspect in matters of religion. It denotes one who takes anything that is held out to him well and carefully. He so professed and practiced the religion of his fathers that he gave no cause for a friend to mourn on his account, or an enemy to triumph" [Adam Clarke, vol. 5, p. 374].

In addition to these comments about his character, we also find that Simeon was a Spirit-led man. "Observe the frequent reference to the Spirit in connection with Simeon" [Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 475]. Three times in the account it is noted that Simeon was under the influence of, or guided by, the Holy Spirit of God. In Luke 2:25 we are informed: "The Holy Spirit was upon him." The word here translated "was" is the imperfect indicative form of eimi, and thus signifies a continuing abiding of the Spirit upon Simeon from the past to the present. "Moved by the Spirit" [vs. 27] he came to the temple at the precise moment when he would be able to behold the Messiah, an event that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him he would live to see [vs. 26]. Thus, God had made a very special promise to this righteous, devout man, who longed with all his heart to behold with his own eyes, and touch with his own hands, the Anointed One. "It is appropriate that the Spirit who is the Consoler was upon one who awaited the consolation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 849].

Simeon "was waiting for the consolation of Israel" [Luke 2:25], for "it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" [vs. 26]. In other words, he would not see death before he had first seen Life. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" [John 1:4]. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" [John 11:25]. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" [John 14:6]. The apostle Paul declared that Christ "is our life" [Col. 3:4]. Unto the devout Simeon it had been promised: you will behold this Life in the flesh! "And the life was manifested ... what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled" [1 John 1:1-2]. These words were certainly true, quite literally, of the experience of Simeon in the temple that day. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory" [John 1:14].

The phrase "the consolation of Israel," for which Simeon "was waiting," is an interesting one. Many feel it is to be equated with "the hope of Israel" mentioned by the apostle Paul in Acts 28:20. Simply stated, this was a well-known phrase which spoke of the long anticipated coming of the Messiah. Indeed, biblical scholars point out that there was "a common Jewish prayer-formula then in use: 'May I see the consolation of Israel.' It was a prayer for the advent of the Messiah that was in daily use" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 40]. "There was a general feeling among the more earnest Jews at this time that the advent of the Messiah would not be long delayed" [ibid]. Thus, the righteous and devout prayed for this daily. Adam Clarke points out this phrase refers clearly to "the Messiah, who was known among the pious Jews by this character: He was to be the consolation of Israel, because He was to be the redemption of Israel" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 374]. Therefore, Simeon, this righteous, devout Jew of Jerusalem, was "one of the believing remnant of Judaism, looking forward to the Messianic Age in its spiritual aspect" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 849].

The Nunc Dimittis of Simeon

After being led by the Spirit of God to the location where Joseph and Mary were offering up Jesus to the Lord and redeeming Him through an offering, "Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God" [Luke 2:28]. Some readers of this biblical account have wondered how Simeon recognized the Messiah in the crowded courts of the temple. There may well have been many young couples with children. Although we are not told the details, the Holy Spirit most assuredly identified Jesus in some way. According to the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, Simeon saw Jesus in the arms of His mother "shining like a pillar of light." By whatever means, he recognized the child, took Him in his arms, and uttered a prayer of praise. This profession of praise unto the Lord God, which is preserved for us in Luke 2:29-32, is known as the Nunc Dimittis, and "it has been used constantly in the liturgies of Christian churches for the past fourteen centuries" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 40]. The words of Simeon, as recorded by Luke, actually begin with the phrase "now release/dismiss." In the Latin version this particular phrase is "nunc dimittis" -- thus the title given to this passage of Scripture. The idea of "dismiss" or "release" is that of "now you can let me die." Simeon had lived to see the promised Messiah, thus he says to God, "You may now dismiss your servant in peace" [Luke 2:29].

Why is Simeon so ready now to depart this life? "For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" [Luke 2:30-32]. The righteous Simeon recognized in Jesus the source of salvation, not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. This is quite a remarkable statement in light of the prevalent perception of most Jews that they, and they alone, were the "chosen ones" of God. To admit even the remote possibility, much less to declare the absolute certainty, that God's salvation was for ALL peoples of the earth, was astounding for that period of time, and to declare it within the courts of the temple took tremendous courage of conviction. Such testimony was not for the faint-hearted, which tells us even more about the character of this man. "Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit he recognized Jesus as Israel's Messiah and as the Savior of Gentiles as well as Jews" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 514]. "Zacharias celebrates the triumph of Israel (Luke 1:67-79), and Simeon announces the hope of the Gentiles" [B. W. Johnson, The People's NT, p. 232]. Here we clearly detect "Luke's concern for the universal application of the gospel" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 849].

Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his classic work The Expositor's Greek Testament, points out that "the Gentiles are to be more than spectators" with regard to God's grace; indeed, they are actually destined to become "sharers in the salvation" offered by God through His Son Jesus Christ [vol. 1, p. 476]. "The blessings of the Messiah's reign are promised here conjointly to the Jews and the Gentiles, and although Simeon spoke this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there can be no doubt of the belief of such pious Israelites as Simeon and others who had studied carefully the Messianic prophecies that the Gentiles were to participate in some degree in the same blessings" [H. Leo Boles, p. 63]. "It was, perhaps, the hardest lesson the apostles and first teachers of the faith had to master -- this full, free admission of the vast Gentile world into the kingdom of their God" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 40]. To this very day, too many of God's "chosen ones" tend to harbor within their hearts a spirit of exclusivity. "We are the only ones accepted by God; the only ones going to heaven. We, and we alone, are the one, true church." Our ministry is not about throwing out saints, but bringing in sinners! Frankly, we need a lot more Simeons in the family of God, and a lot fewer sectarians!!

The Painful Prophecy of Simeon

"Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary ..." [Luke 2:34]. Simeon's previous words were a powerful prayer of praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord God. He then turns and blesses "them," which most likely refers to the entire family, although some feel the blessing is only for mother and child, thus excluding Joseph. This is unlikely, however. We don't know the specifics of this blessing, but we do know the nature of the prophecy that follows, for it is recorded for us [vs. 34-35], and in some ways it is a most painful proclamation of what is to come! "Behold, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign which will be spoken against (and a sword will pierce even your own soul), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." These words uttered by the saintly Simeon have perplexed students of the Bible for centuries. For example, just a few days ago one of the members of the Internet group Contending for the Faith wrote to his fellow combatants, "I am interested in your thoughts as to what the last part of Luke 2:35 is in reference to. Is it a reference to the day that Jesus was crucified (it seems to be, because of what precedes it: the pain Mary would feel at witnessing His death), or is it a reference to judgment day, when the hearts of mankind will be revealed?" [Charles Wallace, message #5213, Feb. 10, 2007]. Amidst a vast sea of hundreds and thousands of messages in which the members regularly "contend for the faith" by dismembering and disemboweling those disciples with whom they differ, only one person dared to provide a response to this very legitimate biblical question -- "Surely this speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus. At that event the hypocrisy and envy of the Jewish leaders was revealed" [Roelf Ruffner, message #5214, Feb. 10, 2007]. Although there is certainly far more involved here than just the day this child Jesus would have to face the cruel cross, Mr. Ruffner nevertheless has come close to perceiving the intent, at least in part, of Simeon's prophetic utterance, in my studied opinion.

The Pulpit Commentary has correctly observed that "the gospel is the touchstone of human character" [vol. 16, p. 55]. In other words, Jesus Christ (the message and the man) served to test the genuineness of human character and profession. "As Jesus lived and wrought and spoke, the hearts of men were revealed -- those who were children of wisdom heard His voice (John 18:37), while those who loved darkness rather than light turned away from the revealing Truth. They who are earnest seekers after God, after wisdom, after righteousness, gladly sit at the feet of the great Teacher to learn of Him; but they who live for pleasure, for gain, for the honor that cometh from man only, for this passing world, pass Him by, indifferent or hostile" [ibid]. Through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ would come the revealing of the hearts of men, based upon their reception of Him and His teaching (or the lack thereof). Thus, by means of His life and ministry (which certainly includes His death, burial and resurrection), many would either "rise or fall" [Luke 2:34). He would be opposed by many, embraced by a few; in either case, hearts would be revealed for what they were. And witnessing it all, both the positive and the negative, would be the dear mother of this Christ child, whose inner distress over the treatment of Jesus was being felt long before the day of His crucifixion. That day was certainly one of the worst, but it was not the only time she would experience inner pain over the abuse directed toward the child to whom she gave birth.

"All through His earthly ministry, and even on the cross, He suffered many things and was spoken against by all who refused to believe Him" [H. Leo Boles, p. 64]. "All the manifestations of Jesus before men would have the result of revealing many hearts. ... His presence became a searching test of real character. When Jesus came among men some hailed Him with joy as the One who brought the light of God from heaven to their needy, longing souls; but others hated this light, repelling it, because it rebuked their evil deeds" [ibid, p. 64-65]. "Simeon turned to Mary and foretold the diverse results of the mission of Jesus. A stumbling block and an offence to some, it would be the inspiration of a new life to others; and with her blessedness would mingle anguish unspeakable" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 2, p. 628]. "The days of the public ministry for Mary must have been sad, and her heart full of anxious forebodings, as she watched the growing jealousies, the hatred, and the unbelief on the part of the leading men of her own people. Then came the cross. Verily, the words of Simeon were awfully fulfilled. Christian art has well caught the spirit of her life who was, in spite of her untold suffering, 'blessed among women,' in depicting her so often and so touchingly as the Mater Dolorosa -- the mother of sorrows" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, p. 41].

"The whole history of our Lord's ministry -- in fact, one might almost say, of His whole after-work in the history of Christendom -- is more or less the record of the fulfillment of Simeon's prediction. That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed was conspicuously the result of our Lord's earthly ministry. It brought out latent good, as with publicans and harlots and robbers, rich and poor disciples, and the common people, who heard Him gladly; latent evil, as with Pharisees and scribes and rulers. And what was true of His work then, has been true in greater or lesser measure ever since. Wherever Jesus Christ is preached, there is a manifestation of the thoughts of men's hearts, of their secret yearning after righteousness, and their secret bitterness against it" [Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 256]. "The result of preaching Christ is always to awaken either opposition or obedience" [B. W. Johnson, The People's NT, p. 232].

Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, I believe, has correctly noted that it probably assumes too much to perceive this passage as referring totally to the experience of the cross. "Mary's sorrow is compared vividly to a sword passing through her soul. It is a figure strong enough to cover the bitterest experiences of the Mater Dolorosa, but it does not necessarily imply prevision of the cross. Rather, it must indicate the purpose and result of the whole future career of the child, whereof the mother's sorrow is to be an incidental effect" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 476]. This pain would certainly not be "incidental" to Mary, however. Her great pain, as well as her great joy, over witnessing the effects of her son's ministry, would be intense! "Based on insight into the careers of epoch-making men, it is so more or less always. The blessing of being father or mother of such a child is great, but not unmixed with sorrow. Simeon singles out the mother for a special share in the sorrow connected with the career of one destined to be much spoken against; this pain inevitable because of a mother's intense love" [ibid]. And so it has always been!! Even today, when devout men and women take a stand for Truth; when they speak out boldly against the evils of their day; when they refuse to back down in the face of fierce opposition; their dear mothers and fathers daily feel the piercing of this sorrowful sword, even though they also feel a sense of satisfaction that their offspring are being used powerfully by the Lord. God bless them all; they are special people!!

"After this brief appearance in history, Simeon passes again into obscurity, leaving only a few imperishable words behind him" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 2, p. 628]. And what powerful words they are! They are words of hope and encouragement unto all peoples, both Jew and Gentile. The doors of heaven are open to all who will come to Him in simple, trusting faith. And yet for those who preach such a message of grace, and for the One who came to personify that grace, there is the prospect of suffering and even death. For those who love those who have such courage of conviction there is also heart-piercing pain, as well as the gladness of heart that comes with witnessing one's loved one serving God faithfully ... even unto death. The words of Simeon clearly portray an eternal truth -- the preaching of Truth reveals hearts, doing so through the response (whether positive or negative) of the hearers to that divine message. Simeon himself has gone the way of all flesh; he now rests in the dust of the ground awaiting the resurrection to life eternal. As he does, the Holy Spirit brings his words again and again to life within the hearts and minds of those who read them from the inspired Scriptures. May God bless you in the reading of them!

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Readers' Reflections

Special Request from Paula Harrington:

Hi Al, I hope this finds you well. I am working on an article about my mother and her struggle with depression. Mom passed away in 1990. I hope to gain an insight into the Christian's views and opinions concerning depression, and I plan to submit my article to Christian Woman magazine. I have developed a survey to gather additional information, and I really hope that you can assist me in this effort. This survey is completely anonymous and it only takes a couple of minutes. There is no way anyone, including myself, will know who participated, nor will I have access to anyone's email address. The results of the survey will be posted in April. I would deeply appreciate it if you would inform your Reflections readers about this survey, which may be taken at -- Thank you so much, Al, and feel free to contact me with any questions. Your sister in Christ, Paula

From a Minister in Indiana:

Bro. Al, I have been doing research as our congregational leadership is seriously studying some of the issues facing us regarding the role of women & instrumental music. It seems to me that underlying these questions is the issue of our historic hermeneutic within the Churches of Christ. During my research I came across Dr. Tom Olbricht's article in the Restoration Quarterly [vol. 37, no. 1] titled Hermeneutics in the Churches of Christ, and also your own study -- Suggesting Another Hermeneutic: Inquiry into an Interpretive Methodology -- Reflections #126. Thank you for your article. I found it far more helpful than what F. LaGard Smith wrote on the subject in his book The Cultural Church, and I found it far more practical than what Dr. Olbricht wrote. After further reading your Reflections articles, and investigating your web site, I am encouraged to see that another preacher out there within the Churches of Christ holds similar views to what I have come to believe. As our congregation (which has a reputation for being "progressive," whatever that means) considers questions regarding biblical interpretation, as we seek to reach people in our culture, I am driven to take a public stand on some of these issues like instrumental music and women's roles. In that regard, I really appreciate the Reflections you have posted on your web site, and also the courage with which you share them! It is truly encouraging to find someone such as yourself (serving as both an elder and minister in the Churches of Christ) who is willing to publicly acknowledge the views you do. Thank you.

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Bro. Al, My family has been attending either Baptist or Evangelical churches since 2000. However, one thing I cannot seem to do is reconcile the "once saved, always saved" doctrine with the Scriptures. Although I've studied and studied, there are just too many passages that can't be explained away. I believe the "once saved, always saved" doctrine of today has almost become the equivalent of the practice of selling indulgences by the Catholic Church during Martin Luther's time. I certainly don't want to harp on this issue, trying to make people constantly doubt their salvation, and by so doing allow Satan to lead them right back into legalism and law over grace, yet it is still a fact that in too many churches today there is no "fear of the Lord." If I am deliberately sinning, I should not feel comfortable about it simply because "I can't ever be lost." I certainly don't want this preached against every Sunday, but from time to time the passages that teach against this doctrine must be read, rather than avoided.

From a New Reader in Virginia:

Bro. Al, Please add me to your mailing list for your Reflections. I was introduced to your writings when a member of our congregation recently gave me a copy of your article Congregational Outreach -- Reflections #277. Thank you!

From a New Reader in South Dakota:

Bro. Al, I very much appreciated what you had to say in response to John Waddey's article "Two Kinds of Churches of Christ" -- Reflections #243. Please add me to your regular mailing list. Thanks!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I continue to be amazed at all the life-giving Reflections you send us! Your last article -- "Conjoined to Bear Fruit" -- was right on! Thank you.

From an Elder in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, Last night at our prayer meeting one of the members asked me how to subscribe to your weekly essay Reflections. This brother, and several other folks here, have discovered what a wonderful resource you are for building up positive attitudes and standing up to those who would tear us down. If you ever have an occasion to travel out this way, I hope you'll remember to let your many "fans" know!!

From a New Reader in Mississippi:

Bro. Al, I was recently given the link to your article from September 10, 2003 -- Reflections #68 -- Message of the Munching Maggot: Understanding the Undying Worm. I've been having some very serious discussions with a good friend of mine, who is a minister for a Church of Christ in California, about a series of sermons he has been doing on "Death, Dying & Destiny." I find your messages on this to be very helpful to my studies. I've always had a lot of questions about death and the afterlife, and have always thought that most people I know, including most Christians, have a pretty shaky base from which they spout their beliefs. Please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. I would like to read them on a regular basis, based upon what I've read thus far. By the way, I grew up in west Texas near Lubbock, and my dad was one of the founders of the original Sunset School of Preaching many years ago. Godspeed to you in your work!

From a Reader in Virginia:

Brother Al, In my experience it seems many Christians are not prepared to handle the concept of freedom. In some cases I think we don't even understand what we are freed from. I also think part of our problem in properly understanding and handling this concept of freedom is how our society has defined freedom (often meaning: "no rules"), and in part it is that human nature tends to want rules. I recognize that there is a great risk in teaching this idea that we are under the Law of Christ. I understand, and agree, that keeping the Law of Christ with the wrong attitude (one that thinks good works merit salvation or maintain salvation) misses the teaching of the Scriptures. And yet, we are taught that if a person is baptized and then does not "live the Christian life" they will be lost. So, my question is: While we are free from the old law, are we not bound to a new law? The Law of Christ? Do we not claim a new Lord and Master? I recognize legalism is a great risk in this approach, but I see so many Christians misunderstanding the nature of their freedom in Christ. They fail to acknowledge or recognize their responsibility to work in order to develop a Christ-like nature, and Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:10, that we are "created in Christ Jesus to do good works," seems to be interpreted as an option: something that is completely a matter of personal choice. Often I see no evidence that they are aware that as Christians they are to be about their Father's business. I hope I've made some sense here, and that these thoughts are not too disjointed. Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work with your Reflections.

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