by Al Maxey

Issue #339 ------- March 4, 2008
The greatest grace of a gift, perhaps, is
that it anticipates and admits of no return.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow {1807-1882}

"It is the Gift of God"
Pondering a Precious Present

The renowned Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), in one of her Sonnets from the Portuguese, very wisely observed, "God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame." James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, characterized every gift "coming down from the Father" as being absolutely "perfect" in nature [James 1:17]. That which mere men can only dream of, at best, is brought to vivid reality by God. The magnitude of the gifts bestowed by the Infinite One truly defy description by their finite recipients. Human language simply fails us! More often than not we are left with no other recourse but to echo the heartfelt exclamation of the apostle Paul as he contemplated the awesome nature of our God's blessings: "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" [2 Cor. 9:15].

God's gift (singular) is probably not a fair characterization in any analysis that truly seeks to be comprehensive in its scope. God's gifts (plural) to mankind are much too numerous for any person to enumerate exhaustively, the hymn "count your many blessings, name them one by one" notwithstanding. It is true that many of the blessings bestowed by our heavenly Father are easily perceived, but a great many more most certainly escape our limited perceptive abilities. And yet, they are no less real, and no less gifts of God. The Levites are characterized as "a gift" from the Lord to Aaron and his sons, for example [Num. 8:19; 18:6]. Solomon speaks of men perceiving the worth of their labor as "the gift of God" [Eccl. 3:13; 5:19]. In Acts 2:38 the Holy Spirit is declared to be a gift one receives when they display obedient faith, as was the much more limited outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which was accompanied by a number of miraculous signs [Acts 10:45; 11:17]. There is the "gift of righteousness" [Rom. 5:17] and the "gift of prophecy" [1 Cor. 13:2]. There is that "gift from God" possessed by Paul, one that he genuinely wished all men had [1 Cor. 7:7], the exact nature of which is open to some scholarly speculation. In Rom. 11:29, the apostle Paul declares "the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." In the next chapter we are informed that "we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us" [Rom. 12:6]. Paul then lists several of those gifts from God. We find another listing of rather similar gifts in 1 Cor. 12. And then there are some biblical passages that are so cryptic that scholars are still debating the nature of the "gift of God" within that particular context (for example -- John 4:10; Rom. 5:15-16; Heb. 6:4]. Quite clearly, therefore, our God bestows numerous gifts upon mankind: both the righteous and the unrighteous. "For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" [Matt. 5:45].

Who would dare argue against the assertion, however, that God's greatest gift was bestowed in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son" [John 3:16]. Through that gift came other gifts -- justification, sanctification, salvation. Our very redemption from sin and death is a free gift bestowed through the agency of His greatest gift -- His beloved Son. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" [Rom. 3:23-24]. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" [Rom. 6:23]. "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" [1 John 5:11]. Yes, the gifts of God are many, and each is multi-faceted in its effect. Truly, we are all blessed beyond measure -- indeed, beyond human comprehension -- by the gracious, giving nature of our eternal Father. "If you, therefore, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him" [Matt. 7:11].

As previously noted, however, there are indeed a few passages in which the nature of the gift bestowed by God is not made as clear as many biblical scholars and interpreters would like. As one might imagine, this has led to much theological speculation, and even heated debate. One such passage is Eph. 2:8. Paul says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" [NASB]. This is easily one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. And yet, there is great diversity as to the nature of this "gift of God." What is it?! The debate basically centers around the antecedent of the word "that" within the immediate context, or whether Paul may have had a larger context in mind. Thus, determining authorial intent, as well as some familiarity with Greek grammatical construction, will serve us well in coming to a logical interpretation of the phrase in question.

Just to illustrate the nature of this debate, this past month on a Church of Christ Internet discussion group known as Focus On Truth, David Ferguson, a preacher in Illinois, raised the question, "What is the 'gift of God' in this passage? Is it God's grace? Is it faith?" [Feb. 19, 2008, message #21043]. His view, based on what he believes the antecedent to be, is that the gift is faith. "Faith, then, would seem to be the 'gift of God' in this verse. ... We therefore receive the gift of faith because we either read the written word ourselves or we hear the word of Christ being proclaimed" [ibid]. He quotes Romans 10:17 as justification for this view -- "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" [New Revised Standard]. The owner and founder of this discussion group, Robert Waters from Arkansas, wrote, "David, it seems apparent to me that the gift is not faith or grace, but is salvation" [Feb. 19, 2008, message #21044]. A brother from Germany, Wolfgang Schneider, also denied that faith could be the gift of God, maintaining that faith itself, by nature, is not a gift from God, but rather a response to His grace. By regarding faith as something received from God, this "would be in line with Calvinistic theories of predestination" [Feb. 20, 2008, message #21046]. I think this brother makes an excellent point. If faith is indeed a "gift of God," then the lost perhaps could claim that they didn't have faith for the simple reason that they had never been given faith. Thus, the saved are saved because God gave them saving faith, whereas the lost are lost because God chose not to bestow this faith upon/within them. That does indeed tend to suggest a Calvinistic approach to salvation, which I believe to be fallacious. Other members of this group wrote to suggest both faith and grace, in conjunction with one another, were the "gift of God." Some suggested it was salvation that was the gift -- the bestowal of eternal life. David Ferguson responded, however, "I know that most people in the church would absolutely recoil at the thought that this is referring to faith, for then the knee-jerk accusations will begin to fly that we are teaching Calvinism" [Feb. 21, 2008, message #21061]. David Ferguson, however, persists in regarding "faith" as the logical antecedent, saying, "If there is some reason from the original Greek language that 'faith' can not be the 'gift of God' in this verse, then our English translations seem to be falling short, and it seems to me that they should be changed to reflect better what is intended" [ibid].

Quite clearly, as illustrated by this small, isolated debate, there's considerable diversity of opinion as to the identity of this gift in the Ephesians 2:8 passage, with the choices one makes having a bearing on even greater theological and doctrinal issues (such as the tenets of Calvinism). If, indeed, faith itself is a "gift of God" (in the Calvinistic sense), one is faced with some serious questions in regard to the doctrine of predetermination. Bro. Ferguson makes an effort to circumvent this difficulty in his following observation: "If faith is the 'gift of God' in this verse, then that does not mean that one is teaching Calvinism at all, for we are told exactly how one gets faith, and that comes from hearing the word of Christ. If we did not have the word of God given to us, then no one could have saving, obedient faith. It is only through the grace of God that we have this gift of His written word given to us so that we may obtain eternal life in Him, for His words contain life" [Feb. 21, 2008, message #21061]. This position is wrong on several levels, but perhaps the most obvious is that if one must hear/read and heed the written word to be saved, then the belief that "comes" from that effort to hear and read cannot truly be characterized as a "gift," as our own effort and determination were involved. Paul tells us in this passage that the gift is "not of ourselves," and yet there is clearly an element of self involved in taking up the Scriptures, considering the contents, and coming to a point of conviction on what is read, heard and studied. Very few biblical scholars, therefore, regard "faith" as being God's "gift" in this passage. It is certainly true that God's Spirit may assist us, by various means, in coming to a saving faith, which assistance is certainly to be viewed as a gift of God, but our faith itself arises from within our hearts and is not imposed from an outside force.

When looking at Eph. 2:8, one must carefully examine the Greek (as well as the context) to determine the true interpretation. The second clause -- "and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" [NASB] -- is critical. In this translation the words "it is" appear in italics, which indicates that they have been added to the text. In reality, they do not appear within the Greek text. The word "that" is the Greek word touto, which is a demonstrative pronoun. It appears in the nominative neuter singular form. The word translated "gift" also appears in the "nominative neuter singular" form. Clearly, the two are linked in the clause. "Of God" is placed forward in the second part of the clause which provides emphatic contrast to "of yourselves" in the first part of the clause (indeed, the two are situated back to back). "That gift" is NOT "of you," but "of HIM." In other words, there is nothing you yourself can do to earn or merit whatever the pronoun "that" indicates; it is completely "of God." Thus, it genuinely constitutes a gift, rather than wages earned.

In the first clause, both "grace" and "faith" are feminine singular in form. Therefore, grammatically, we would be hard-pressed to make a case for either being the logical antecedent of "that," since this pronoun is a neuter singular. They are simply not gender compatible --- a rather significant issue grammatically. The brilliant Greek scholar, Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, in his classic Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, notes: "The word 'that' is touto, a demonstrative pronoun in the neuter gender. The Greek word 'faith' is feminine in gender and therefore touto could not refer to 'faith'" [vol. 1, p. 70]. Dr. Albert Barnes concurs, stating: "As a matter of grammar, this opinion (that the word 'that' refers to 'faith') is certainly doubtful, if not untenable" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, from e-Sword]. The same argument, of course, would apply to the term "grace" in the first clause, which is also feminine in gender. Dr. B. W. Johnson, in The People's New Testament with Explanatory Notes, declares, "The grammatical construction of the Greek does not allow us to make 'faith' the subject of the last clause" [vol. 2, p. 192]. "Touto, which is in the neuter gender, cannot stand for 'faith,' which is in the feminine" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 439]. Dr. A. T. Robertson, in his invaluable Word Pictures from the Greek NT, agrees, stating that neither "faith" nor "grace" are suitable antecedents due to the grammatical problem of differing gender. And the list of biblical scholars who concur goes on and on.

Since this leaves no noun in the immediate context of this clause to serve as the antecedent to touto, what exactly does Paul have in view when he speaks of "that" which is the "gift of God"? Most Greek and biblical scholars feel that in the absence of any compatible noun, the interpretive focus must shift to the overall concept of the passage itself, which is the fact that our salvation is "of God" rather than "of ourselves." Thus, the "gift of God" would be our eternal salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." In other words, our salvation is a gift, not anything we can secure by works. Indeed, the very next verse suggests this very fact: "not as a result of works, that no one should boast" [Eph. 2:9]. If salvation is "of me" (by my own effort), then I have something of which to boast; if it is "of God," then all cause for boasting in self is gone! This is precisely the point the apostle Paul seeks to make in this whole passage, and in much of his teaching. We were "dead" (vs. 1), and the dead can't raise themselves up to life -- God did it [vs. 4-6] to demonstrate His love, grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Therefore, your salvation from death unto everlasting life, declares Paul, is "not of yourselves" (i.e., not by works), but is "the gift of God." Must one respond to the offer of a free gift? Must one reach out and take hold of it? Absolutely. And that is what faith accomplishes. Faith does not merit the gift of salvation, it merely receives it. The gift itself is given by grace, but is received by faith. It therefore retains its nature as a true gift, rather than merely what one is due as a result of works performed.

Dr. Albert Barnes notes, "The word 'that,' therefore, does not refer particularly to faith, as being the gift of God, but to 'salvation by grace,' of which he had been speaking. This is the interpretation of the passage which is the most obvious, and which is now generally conceded to be the true one" [Barnes' Notes, taken from e-Sword]. Dr. Barnes goes on to declare that "it accords better with the obvious grammatical construction, and with the design of the passage, to understand the word 'that' as referring not to 'faith,' but to 'salvation by grace.' So Calvin understands it, and so it is understood by others." The Pulpit Commentary says, "Our salvation is the gift of God. And believing is just taking it as a divine gift; taking it as that for which we have given nothing. Christ paid the full price for it; He has paid the uttermost farthing, and so we can receive it as a free gift" [vol. 20, p. 90]. "Which of the two things is meant -- salvation or faith? The grammatical structure and the analogy of the passage favor the former view. ... It is a gift, not a purchase; a free gift, which would never have been yours, but for the great generosity of God" [ibid, p. 63]. Dr. Kenneth Wuest states, "The word 'that' (touto) refers to the general idea of salvation in the immediate context. That is, salvation is a gift of God. It does not find its source in man. It is not produced by man nor earned by him. It is a gift from God with no strings tied to it" [Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1, p. 70]. I would differ with Wuest's last statement only to the degree that it should be made clear that a gift must be received before it truly becomes one's own. The gift is offered, but if it goes unclaimed, then that gift is of no benefit to the intended recipient. We each claim this free gift by faith. Faith doesn't earn salvation, it merely embraces it.

Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his monumental work The Expositor's Greek Testament, states, "Salvation is the main idea in the preceding statement, and it seems best to understand touto as referring to that salvation in its entire compass, and not merely to one element in it. ... Salvation is not an achievement but a gift, and a gift from none other than God. ... That salvation belongs wholly to God and in no degree to man, and it has been so planned and so effected as to take from us all ground for boasting" [vol. 3, p. 289]. "Grace is the moving cause of salvation; faith only the instrument by which it is laid hold of" [Dr. Charles J. Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 26]. "With typically Pauline firmness, he excludes every possibility of self-achieved salvation. As if it were insufficient that he should have insisted in vs. 8 'and this not from yourselves,' he adds, 'not by works.' The apostle does not specify these 'works' as related to the Law, since he is not thinking only of Jewish Christians. Any kind of human self-effort is comprehensively ruled out by this terse expression. The reason is immediately attached. It is to prevent even the slightest self-congratulation. If salvation is by the sheer unmerited favor of God, boasting is altogether out of place" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 36].

The apostle Paul is perhaps Christendom's greatest advocate of freedom in Christ from the heavy burden of seeking salvation through meritorious works of some rigid regulatory code. He fought against it fiercely throughout his ministry ... and so must we. When we begin to impose humanly devised and discerned conditions upon God's gift of salvation by grace through faith, we nullify the gift and promote it as nothing more than wages due. In the first century, there were several who were seeking to add conditions to God's gift of salvation. Circumcision, for example, was being declared to be essential for salvation. "And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved'" [Acts 15:1]. This led to "great dissension and debate" between these legalists and Paul and Barnabas [vs. 2]. It eventually brought about the Jerusalem Council around 50 A.D. Peter declared to the group that no such legal burden should be imposed upon mankind, whether Jew or Gentile, "for we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus" [vs. 11]. In other words, if salvation is a gift of grace, adding conditions only serves to nullify both. Therefore, Paul declares that if one accepts circumcision as a condition of salvation, then "Christ will be of no benefit to you ... and you are under obligation to keep the whole law" [Gal. 5:2-3]. Why? Because you have spurned God's gift in favor of self-effort through law-keeping. Thus, "you have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" [vs. 4].

Brethren, please listen to me carefully -- many among us are doing the very same today!! We are making personal and party preferences, perceptions and practices into precepts of God as conditions of salvation. When the use of musical instruments is elevated to a "salvation issue" ... when eating in a building, number of cups, fellowship halls, worship styles, and a thousand other particulars of some "party pattern" perceived in biblical "silence" are elevated to "salvation issues" ... we have essentially spurned God's GIFT, and declared our intent to EARN our salvation. Good luck ... you'll need it!! My heart breaks for those among us who have been misled by the legalistic patternists into believing that preciseness in practice somehow equates to eternal salvation. "Agree with us and you're saved; differ and you're damned!" Such misguided thinking has led to such malicious acts as the recent paid ad in The Daily Oklahoman, where fine brethren were viciously maligned for daring to differ with some tedious tenet of traditionalism. This has led to countless feuding factions in the family of God, endless sectarian squabbling, and dogmatic disciples huddled in buildings within sight of one another, but refusing to even speak to one another. This is shameful, and it must cease! When the children of God finally come to realize that salvation (and its attendant fellowship with Him and one another) is a GIFT, and not a condition of some legal code, we will finally have taken a giant leap toward the realization of the prayer of Jesus in John 17. That blessed reality will continue to elude us, however, as long as we are more focused on debating "points of law." Brethren, let's lay aside law and lay hold of that wondrous free gift. The blessings that follow in the wake of such a determination will truly prompt us to exclaim in the spirit of Paul, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" [2 Cor. 9:15].

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

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Order Your Copy Today
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Reflections on the Holy Spirit
A Published Tract by Al Maxey
Order Copies From:
J. Elbert Peters
1701 Jeannette Circle, NW
Huntsville, Alabama 35816
(256) 859-3186
Readers' Reflections

From a Pastor in California:

Brother Al, I deeply admire your Reflections ministry, but I must admit that until now I had not fully understood exactly why you subjected yourself to the vicious hostility you receive from those you consider to be "a lost cause." Your last issue of Reflections, however - "Legalism's Liberated Lady" - opened my eyes! I now see how much you care for the victims of these legalistic patternists. Having never experienced such invective in the instrumental Christian Churches, it has taken me a while to understand just how evil, vicious and far removed from God these demented demagogues really are! But now I get it -- it's not them, but rather their victims that compel you. Wow!! The Lord has truly laid a great ministry upon your soul, and you have embraced it with a passion. Many rescued victims will rise up and call you blessed! Thanks for doing what you do to lead these innocent victims out of legalistic darkness and into the brilliant light of God's grace!

From a Reader in Kansas:

Brother Al, You did a great job in your last two issues of Reflections of presenting a comprehensive perspective on the sad state of pulpit pounding patternism in Oklahoma. Soldier on!

From an Elder in Oklahoma City:

Bro. Al, Thank you for dealing with this whole matter so thoroughly! I have not heard any more criticism about the Quail Springs Church of Christ from anyone in the Oklahoma City area.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, Many, many tears have been shed over that ad in the newspaper here, and your response to it in your Reflections has been one of the best things to come of it so far. My greatest prayer is that those who saw the ad will visit Quail Springs, even if just out of curiosity. May God continue to bless you and your ministry. I look forward to your articles.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, With reference to those brethren who had the ad placed in the Oklahoma paper ... a friend and I were discussing this very thing lately, and he asked me a question to which I must finally answer "Yes." The question? -- Can one's view of religion and scripture, along with a spirit of judgmentalism, place one outside the boundaries of God's grace? Both of us were thinking of the same kind of spirit that was manifested by those misguided brethren in Oklahoma. I honestly believe that they have placed themselves outside the boundaries of grace just as much as did those of whom Paul spoke in Galatians 1:6-9.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Good Evening, Brother Al. Your last two Reflections have made a roller-coaster out of my emotions! I was livid over the ad in The Daily Oklahoman, and just sick to my stomach at what Mark Henderson and the good brethren at Quail Springs must be going through because of such. And then I read the testimony of this good sister's journey out of legalism, and I just can't stop smiling!! I've forwarded both articles on to my brethren and family who are still blinded by legalism, and have yet to hear any response from them, which is no surprise. But, I will continue to pass along these great articles in hopes that perhaps maybe one person may shed the shackles of legalism and embrace the grace of God. Keep the faith, my brother!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, I feel so blessed to be a member of a Church of Christ congregation where the elders and preacher feel that the lost are far more important than our own individual comfort zones. We are breaking free of the "slavery to tradition" that has bound us for so long, and I am so thankful to finally be a part of such a phenomenal congregation. Thank you so much for your Reflections ministry. These writings are a breath of fresh air to all of us who read them!

From a Student at Oklahoma Christian University:

Brother Maxey, I would like to take just a second to say that you are a wise man, and I respect your insight into the many spiritual matters about which you have written. I recommend your writings to as many people as I think will get anything out of them (and even a few who probably won't, as they need to get out of their bubbles). Thank you for all the effort you put into your weekly Reflections.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, Thank you for showing us in your last Reflections the letter that was written by the sister in the Midwest. It is truly great to see how other Christians have come to perceive the grace of God, and how it is becoming an important part of their lives. I truly wish them all the best in their journey. Brother Al, please keep up the great work you are doing. You are truly making great progress in helping misinformed brothers and sisters come to realize that there is nothing we humans can ever do to earn our salvation.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Maxey, I just read your Reflections titled "Legalism's Liberated Lady." It was indeed a blessing to me since I too have struggled for years under the legalism of the Church of Christ. For years I was taught, and even believed, that the "Church of Christ" church was the ONLY church. Now, I feel God has led me to a point in my life where I have begun to actually read the Bible and think for myself. It is very true that when you grow up with this legalistic patternism all your life it is just like brain-washing. I haven't been on my journey toward Truth very long, but I'm learning more and more every day with God's help. I feel that He has led me to your Reflections, for they are such a blessing to me. Thank you for these writings! You continue to be such a great blessing to all of us in our journey to be free in Christ Jesus.

From a Reader in Missouri:

Bro. Al, Keep up the good work! It is very encouraging to me to know that there are leaders in the Churches of Christ like you. It confirms that I am in the right place, and not just part of some angry mob of legalists.

From a Reader in California:

WOW, Brother Al ... what an amazing testimony from that lady in your last Reflections. AMEN!! Glory to God in the highest! This was my life!! I lived in fear of going to hell over the least little thing. Please thank this lady for sharing with us that testimony. It made me cry for all of those whom I know to be still in the bonds of legalism. I even cried for me ... for living all those years the way I did. I used to look down my nose at others, thinking I was right and they were not, and that they were all going to hell. Let us all pray for those who are not yet in the light, that God will open their eyes as He did for me.

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Maxey, That was an outstanding article. I came very close to falling into the grasp of legalistic patternism, but was awakened by the Word of God: specifically, by a study of Colossians. I agree with you, Al ... this is a very dangerous road to travel. If not repented of, it will lead to the same fate all iniquity leads to: the second death. I hope those who practice such legalism will come to repentance. Keep up the good work, Brother Maxey. I think you do a wonderful job, and I can see that the Holy Spirit guides you in your Reflections ministry. May He continue to bless you.

From a New Reader in Alaska:

Brother Al, Your Internet site was recommended by the minister for the Turn Again Church in Anchorage, Alaska. I have looked at your archives and appreciate the many Reflections that I have read so far. I was especially impressed with your published introductory comments about always being "willing to accept legitimate challenges to (my) convictions and willing to embrace responsible change." This is also my goal and desire -- to understand and obey God's will, not as I have been told to believe it, but as my belief matures through continued study. I plan to read all of your articles on baptism first, as I have started a focused study on this topic. Thank you for making your web site available to us.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Maxey, Your last two Reflections were forwarded to me, and I really appreciate your courage and conviction on the subject of legalism. I was "raised in the church," but have now enjoyed the freedom we have in Christ Jesus for many years. Cecil Hook's writings had a great impact on me, and I suspect that you're having that same influence on many as well. Would you please include me on your Reflections mailing list? Thank you, and may our Lord continue to bless your ministry!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, The last time that I felt so utterly embarrassed to be a member of the Church of Christ was about 20 years ago when the elders of the congregation in Collinsville publicly "withdrew fellowship" from a sister they deemed to be "living in sin." She sued and won a sizeable judgment against them. Their poorly handled expulsion generated lots of negative publicity on national newscasts, putting our wonderful faith-heritage in a bad light, for which there is never an effective counter measure. I was heartsick then, and I am heartsick now with this ad in The Daily Oklahoman. I had hoped and prayed that we had seen the last of what I call the "hurtful practices of our legalistic traditions." Please continue your good work, brother. I will continue to pray that the blessings you bring to others will be multiplied back to you.

From a Reader in Florida:

Bro. Al, You may be interested in knowing what two things finally pushed me to leave the Non-Institutional Church of Christ theology, and, as a result, my paid ministry position among this group. (1) As a young preacher, I was encouraged to read debates on authority issues. The demeanor of most, if not all, of the debate participants was lousy. Belittling each other was a staple, and several became nothing more than exchanges in subtle, and not-so-subtle, jabs. Was this how a man of God should express a difference of opinion? (2) I was sitting in my office looking through educational resources and tracts that I was thinking of ordering for our congregation. As I was browsing through the categories in these catalogs, I noticed 3-5 pages worth of tracts on authority related issues. At that time I think I had just finished reading Philip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace," so I decided to see how many tracts there were on the grace of God. I found about five. I was stunned. I showed my wife, and she was equally disgusted. Well, there were several other minor issues, but these two experiences prompted me to leave the ministry among the Churches of Christ. We now work and worship with a Christian Church. Grace to you, Bro. Al.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, What a wonderful story! What a wonderful journey! What faith it takes to tell of that budding, growing faith and of the journey that follows. I am jumping for joy!! One more out of the clutches of legalism and into the glorious light of Jesus Christ. Every word in the Legalism's Liberated Lady's testimony revealed memories in my own journey. I am so thankful that she has had the courage to put pen to paper and write. Undoubtedly, she will have more to write about as time goes by. I hope so. My oldest daughter wrote (after she read the testimony of this wonderful women) saying, "After reading this woman's testimony, I realize that I have never 'perfected' my own testimony. I don't have down, in concise form, exactly how I went from point A to wherever I happen to be at this time. I must work on that!" Indeed, we all must get a grip ... and get brave ... and tell our own Damascus Road experiences. We must begin to tell others how we came to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel was the Lord Jesus and not the headlights of an oncoming train, as some predicted. God bless this woman in the Midwest, and God bless you, Al, for the part you are playing in liberating those bound in chains and lost in the tunnel.

From a Reader in Illinois:

Brother Al, I hope you are having a great birthday. You are a wonderful example of a godly servant, and I pray that God will give us all many more years with you so that we can continue to learn from you and change God's church to what it is supposed to be in God's eyes. You are a great inspiration to me!

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: