REFLECTIONS
by Al Maxey

Issue #357 ------- July 24, 2008
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Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling
block in the way of action, we think it to be an
indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.

Pericles {495-429 B.C.}

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Salted With Fire
A Study of Mark 9:49

In Mark 9:49 Jesus made a statement that has puzzled disciples for many hundreds of years. While in the city of Capernaum, and in the privacy of a house, surrounded by the Twelve, He entered into a dialogue with them about several matters of importance. Near the end of this discourse He stated, "For everyone will be salted with fire." A small handful of versions, the KJV primary among them, expands the verse to read -- "For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (more about this expansion later). Needless to say, there has been much scholarly speculation as to the meaning and significance of our Lord's declaration to the Twelve. Dr. Albert Barnes, in his classic work Notes on the Bible, observes, "Perhaps no passage in the New Testament has given more perplexity to commentators than this, and it may be impossible now to fix its precise meaning" [e-Sword]. In his noted Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry strongly concurs, stating that these "verses are somewhat difficult, and interpreters agree not in the sense of them" [e-Sword]. The scholarly team of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their commentary, declare: "A difficult verse, on which much has been written -- some of it to little purpose" [e-Sword]. Dr. Charles Ellicott has written, "The verse presents considerable difficulties, both as regards the reading and the interpretation" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 215]. "Vs. 49 is a crux interpretum, and has given rise to great diversity of interpretation" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 407]. "This is admittedly one of the most difficult verses in Mark. Over a dozen different interpretations are found in the various commentaries" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 709]. "These verses have been the subject of much controversy. They are obscure and difficult" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, Mark: part 1, p. 27]. As one can very quickly perceive, about the only thing most biblical scholars will agree upon with respect to this verse is that it is extremely difficult to interpret.

The key, however, which is true with almost all difficult passages, is to be found in properly discerning the immediate context within which the perplexing statement is contained. Generally, though not always, this will prove to be enlightening. Lifting a phrase, sentence or paragraph from its context, and seeking to interpret it as it stands alone, separate from its surrounding statements, is an irresponsible, though not uncommon, practice of too many readers of Scripture. It leads very quickly to what has come to be known as "proof-texting," which has been the bane of responsible biblical interpretation for centuries. This practice, sad to say, is especially popular among the legalistic patternists of our own faith-heritage, and the pathetic feuding among scores of factions is the pitiful outcome of such. As is noted within the Pulpit Commentary, this verse is rather "obscure and difficult, but the context is of great assistance" [p. 27]. Thus, to aid us in our interpretation of Mark 9:49 we must seek to ascertain the doctrinal context within which this statement by our Lord is contained.

First, it is important to point out that only in the gospel of Mark is this statement of Jesus to be found. The other writers do not mention it, therefore we are unable to turn to them for any clarification. Thus, in seeking an understanding of the context, we are limited to what Mark writes in this particular location. However, much is revealed to us. We know, for example, that Jesus had sought some relief from the pressing multitudes so that He could provide more intimate counsel to His closest disciples. "They went out and began to go through Galilee, and Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because He was teaching His disciples" [Mark 9:30-31a]. They came to the city of Capernaum, and then entered a house. "Sitting down, He called the Twelve to Himself" [vs. 35] and began a dialogue with them which included some dire warnings about some of the attitudes and actions they had been recently displaying. For example, we are informed that these apostles had been "discussing with one another which of them was the greatest" [vs. 34]. Our Lord, therefore, had to set them straight rather quickly on what constituted genuine greatness in the sight of God, and in so doing emphasized the importance of being a servant to all. Such squabbling regarding who is over who also is not conducive to unity, harmony and oneness, thus for the sake of peace these men needed to refocus. Indeed, Jesus' final statement to them in this chapter was, "Be at peace with one another" [vs. 50]. Conflict among the inner circle would have been detrimental to the mission that lay ahead of them. Unity of the Spirit among all of our Lord's disciples was essential ... something that must be kept in mind as we seek to interpret His statement to them in vs. 49.

In addition to the debate among the Twelve over who was the greatest, we also find John saying to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us" [vs. 38; cf. Luke 9:49-50]. Once again the context reveals that the disciples were leaning toward an exclusionary, isolationist theology, and the Lord dispels this fallacy quickly. Not only were they individually seeking to elevate themselves over one another, but they perceived their group to be far above all others. "If you are not walking along with us ... in our little band of disciples ... then you have no part in Him." Sound familiar?! We tend to do the same thing today. If you are not in our group, then you are not really a Christian. Not only that, but we'll do all in our power to hinder your service to the Lord (since, in our view, you're not really serving Him anyway, but the devil). Jesus rebukes John, though kindly, informing him that one does not have to "walk along with John" in order to be in union and sweet fellowship with Jesus. "He who is not against us is for us" [vs. 40]. This is a lesson we need today just as much as John needed it then.

In their heated argument with one another over who was actually the greatest, and in their recent hindering of those disciples who were not "of their group," Jesus perceived the seeds of sectarianism, schism and isolationism. There were problems developing within this body of believers that needed to be addressed, and very quickly and boldly. They needed to realize that if these threats to the body were not met and defeated, that the cause of Christ would be in great jeopardy from the very beginning, and that they themselves were in danger of being lost. This was a critical moment, and Jesus took them aside and issued some dire warnings. If there was anything in the body (hands, feet, eyes -- speaking figuratively -- vs. 43-48) that was a potential threat to the life of that body, it needed to be dealt with ... and with great firmness. To cause another believer to falter or fall was no light offense [vs. 42]. They were to be a positive influence in the world about them. However, if their light became hidden or went out ... if, as the salt of the earth, they became "unsalty," then they would lose their effectiveness [vs. 50]. All would be lost unless steps were taken immediately to alter their self-destructive course. This, then, is the immediate context within which we find our difficult statement by Jesus to these close companions who would soon play such a vital role in the establishment and expansion of His cause on earth. Unto them Jesus says, "Everyone will be salted with fire" [vs. 49].

The Perpetual Torture Theory

As was previously noted in this study, there are a great many speculative theories proposed as to the possible meaning of our Lord's words in this verse. Some are so far out and ridiculous that they really do not merit much consideration, and very few scholars even give them a second glance. To quote once again the words of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown in their commentary, this is "a difficult verse, on which much has been written -- some of it to little purpose." Thus, we shall not waste any time on them in this current issue of my weekly Reflections. However, there are three major interpretations that really do need to be examined, as each of them has a significant number of supporters among biblical scholars. The first of these theories, and the one with which the reader may possibly be the most familiar, as it is a rather common interpretation among religious traditionalists, is the view that Jesus is speaking of the perpetual torture in fire of those who are cast into hell. Let me state at the very outset of this study that I completely and vehemently reject this view, as do a good many other biblical scholars.

Yes, Jesus did talk about the consequences that would befall those who caused stumbling to other believers. "It would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea" [vs. 42]. Yes, there would be consequences to be faced if one did not gain control over those things that might cause harm to the cause of Christ. He spoke of "unquenchable fire" and "undying worms." It would not be pleasant. The message, then, is purify yourselves, present yourselves as acceptable sacrifices before your God, otherwise you would be cast away and destroyed. Some, therefore, see the fire in Mark 9:49 to be related in some way to the fires of hell. Since salt has a preserving quality, they believe the expression "salted with fire" to speak of preserving the body in hell so that the fire can inflict everlasting, unending suffering without that body ever being utterly consumed. Thus, the word "everyone" refers only to the lost, and the "salting with fire" suggests that God will preserve the lost alive in the fires of hell so that their torment might never end.

John Wesley (1703-1791), in his Explanatory Notes on this particular passage, wrote that the damned will be cast into hell, and they "shall be, as it were, salted with fire, preserved, not consumed thereby." John Gill (1697-1771), a staunch Calvinist, in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, declared, "as salt keeps flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so the fire of hell, as it will burn, torture, and distress rebellious sinners, it will preserve them in their beings; they shall not be consumed by it, but continued in it ... the soul in torment shall never die ... they shall be preserved in their beings in the fire, just as flesh is preserved by salt." Matthew Henry (1662-1714), in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, wrote, "in hell they shall be salted with fire; coals of fire shall be scattered upon them ... that by the power of God it shall be made to last always." In more recent times, commentators state: "Their being salted with fire imports and implies that as to their beings they shall be preserved even as salt preserves things from corruption so that they may be the objects of the eternal wrath of God ... kept perpetually in a state of the severest pain ... perpetually permeated by fire" [C. E. W. Dorris, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Mark, p. 224]. This, then, is the interpretation of those who believe God is a perpetual torturer of the lost; that He intentionally keeps them alive for the purpose of inflicting as much suffering upon them as possible, and that this unimaginable torture never, ever ends. I believe I have successfully refuted each of the arguments for this fallacious and, I truly believe blasphemous, doctrine in a great many studies I have done over the years. I would invite those readers who might still embrace this false doctrine to carefully and prayerfully read all 17 of my articles under the heading "The Nature of Man and Final Punishment" on my Topical Index web page. I deal with such matters as the worm that does not die, the unquenchable fire, the idea of being tormented day and night without rest, and all the other aspects of this dogma. I would also invite the reader to examine The Maxey-Thrasher Debate, which is a published debate on whether the Scriptures teach Perpetual Torment or Ultimate Extinction. It is my conviction that the Word of God clearly declares the latter.

By the way, I am far from being alone in my total rejection of this first interpretation of Mark 9:49. Other scholars find it equally reprehensible. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, for example, in their commentary, describe this view as "a farfetched, as well as harsh, interpretation" [e-Sword]. They assert that this theory "is equally contrary to the symbolical sense of salt and the Scripture representations of future torment." Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in his Notes on the Bible, states that "this meaning is not quite satisfactory." That's putting it rather mildly! A good many other commentaries and biblical resources (such as theological dictionaries and encyclopedias) simply refuse to even list or consider this theory, not regarding it as even worthy of space in their scholarly examinations. I would concur. Dr. Paul Kretzmann asserts, "Jesus does not refer, in this instance, to the fire of hell" [Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT: vol. 1, p. 217]. One subscriber to these Reflections emailed me recently to inform me that his preacher had recently presented a sermon in which he used Mark 9:49 to teach that "a person in hell has fire salted down on him to intensify the agony." Like rubbing salt in a wound, I suppose. Thus, we portray our loving God as some kind of Cosmic Monster who finds some strange satisfaction in raining down endless misery and suffering upon those who use multiple cups in the Communion, or who eat in a church building, or who attend a Sunday School, or who sing with instrumental accompaniment, etc. What nonsense! What blasphemy!!

The Fiery Ordeal Theory

Some scholars believe the Lord, in this context, was preparing His closest disciples for the persecution and affliction that would soon be unleashed upon them as a result of their faith in Him. In Mark 9:31 He informed them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." The next verse states, "They did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him" [vs. 32]. There is nothing else in the remainder of the chapter, however, that would indicate this theme was being further developed by Jesus. No question, on other occasions He made it clear that they would be suffering affliction for their faith. Indeed, several decades later the apostle Peter would write, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing" [1 Peter 4:12-13]. This fiery ordeal coming down upon them is seen to be a similar thought to being "salted with fire," thus it is thought to signify the disciples would have to undergo persecution. Those who endured would be saved, those who forfeited their faith to preserve their lives would be lost. Matthew 24 is brought into the argument -- "They will deliver you to tribulation" [vs. 9] ... "but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved" [vs. 13]. "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" [John 16:33].

The Pulpit Commentary strongly suggests that "This was their 'salting with fire'" [p. 9]. Everyone who confesses the name of Jesus Christ will be salted with fire: i.e., they will experience severe tribulation in this world for their faith. Some feel that since Mark was primarily writing to the saints in Rome, it was only natural that he would mention this statement by the Lord Jesus when no other gospel author did so. Why? Because the Christians in Rome would be the victims of a great deal of fiery persecution, being easily accessible to the wicked governing authorities of the day. "Another interpretation sees in the fire the trials and persecutions of the disciples of Jesus. ... as salt always accompanied the temple sacrifices, so fire -- i.e., persecution, trials, and suffering -- will accompany the true disciple's sacrifice" of themselves in service to their Lord [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 709]. Thus, the saints in Rome needed to "understand that the purifying fires of persecution were not to be thought of as foreign to their vocation as Christians, because 'everyone will be salted with fire'" [ibid].

Dr. Albert Barnes makes this observation --- "The passage has no reference at all to future punishment. ... The word 'fire' here denotes self-denials, sacrifices, and trials." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, in commenting on this difficult verse, states, "perhaps the saying refers to the future persecutions in which Jesus' disciples will become sacrifices for God" [vol. 4, p. 386]. Dr. B. W. Johnson, in the People's New Testament with Explanatory Notes, says the statement "denotes suffering, persecution, trial and distress of any kind" [vol. 1, p. 195]. And the apostle Peter wrote, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" [1 Peter 1:6-7]. Although this is indeed a very attractive theory in some ways, and is certainly preferable to the previous position, and although it is certainly true that disciples of Christ will undergo the "fiery ordeal" of affliction in this life, nevertheless there is really nothing within the immediate context surrounding Mark 9:49 that would suggest this was what Jesus intended in His statement. Therefore, I must also reject this theory as a viable interpretation for this passage.

The Holy Spirit Theory

I am personally convinced, as are the vast majority of biblical scholars, that Jesus, when He said to His close companions, "Everyone shall be salted with fire," had Leviticus 2:13 in mind --- "Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt." This was also true of blood sacrifices (bulls and rams) --- "And you shall present them (the bulls and rams) before the Lord, and the priests shall throw salt on them, and they shall offer them up as a burnt offering to the Lord" [Ezekiel 43:24]. ALL offerings to the Lord were to be salted ... and, in figurative language, this even applied to the offering up of ourselves unto the Lord. For example, in Isaiah 66:20 we read, "They shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord ... just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord." As we have already noted, the grain offering was to be salted/seasoned (sprinkled) with salt. Thus, at least symbolically and figuratively, so also would the "grain offering" of these "your brethren." The apostle Paul wrote, "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" [Rom. 12:1-2].

Sacrifices being offered up unto God must be purified. Under the Old Covenant this was symbolized by the pouring out of salt upon the sacrifice. Under the New Covenant, we are salted from above with a different purifying Agent -- the Holy Spirit. This "fire" falls upon us to effect a transformation from that which is old and impure, to that which is new and sanctified. As we present ourselves unto Him, He pours out Himself upon us!! We thus become a sweet smelling offering unto our God. Dr. Paul Kretzmann writes, "As every sacrifice of the Old Testament had to be salted, so every disciple, every believer, must be salted with fire. Jesus does not refer, in this instance, to the fire of hell, but to the purifying fire of His rule and leading. It is the discipline of the Word and of the Spirit of God which gradually cleanses the believers of sin, and kills the works and desires of the flesh" [vol. 1, p. 218]. "Here our Lord speaks of the spiritual sacrifice which each man offers of his body, soul and spirit (Rom. 12:1), and declares that 'salt,' the purifying grace of the Eternal Spirit, is needed that it may be acceptable" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, vol. 6, p. 216]. Thus, "the idea of purification is prominent in Mark 9:49" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 5, p. 220]. "The whole emphasis of the passage is thus in favor of Christian purification" [The Pulpit Commentary, p. 27].

By the way, the King James Version actually tends to strengthen this particular interpretation by the textual addition incorporated into its reading of Mark 9:49. The KJV reads -- "For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." That last phrase is missing from most reputable manuscripts, therefore you will not find it in more modern versions of the Bible (and you won't find it in most ancient versions either, for that matter). Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, in his fabulous, monumental work "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament," explained this addition: "The history of the text seems to have been as follows. At a very early period a scribe, having found in Lev. 2:13 a clue to the meaning of Jesus' enigmatic statement, wrote the Old Testament passage in the margin of his copy of Mark. In subsequent copyings the marginal gloss was added to the words of the text," thus creating the reading we find in the KJV [p. 103]. The scholars who produced The Expositor's Bible Commentary agree, stating that "a copyist finding Lev. 2:13 a clue to the understanding of this difficult saying noted the OT passage in the margin; subsequently his marginal gloss was added" to the text [vol. 8, p. 709]. "The sacrificial salt is a symbol of the covenant relationship which the children of Israel had with God. For every disciple of Jesus, the salt of the covenant is the Divine Fire 'which purifies, preserves and consummates the sacrifice.' The fire is the Holy Spirit" [ibid]. Adam Clarke, in his commentary, points out that a good many scholars take this passage "as referring to the influence of the Spirit of God in the hearts of believers" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 320]. Dr. James Hastings informs the reader that Dr. Swete, in his study of the gospel record of Mark, "interprets the fire of the Christian life as the Holy Spirit" [Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 2, p. 552].

If one looks at the overall context of this passage in Mark 9, one will again note that the primary problems that elicited our Lord's comments were (1) the apostles debating among themselves as to who was the greatest, and (2) their effort to hinder and exclude those who did not "follow along" with them. These were men who needed a lesson on acceptance of their fellow spiritual siblings in the One Body that Jesus would bring about with His sacrifice. Those things which stood in the way of such unity and harmony could prove eternally costly. Yet, there was a power that could transform them and unite them. If they were to give themselves as sweet smelling offerings to their God, they would need to be "salted" with that which would sanctify them ... and in so doing serve to awaken them to the unity that should typify the Family of God. That power from on high that would transform and unite them ... that with which they would be "salted" ... was the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the figure of "fire." As the apostle Paul, for example, went out to bring the Gentiles into this One Body, he stated he was called to be "a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" [Rom. 15:16]. Notice the wording here, as it clearly looks back to the Lev. 2:13 passage. He is ministering "as a priest," his "offering" is the Gentiles, and they are "sanctified" by the Holy Spirit (the salting process) that they might "become acceptable" to God.

Rather than excluding others, and seeking to elevate themselves above others, these men within the inner circle of Christ Jesus needed to realize that He had come to offer up EVERYONE as a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Father --- "Everyone will be salted with fire." By virtue of the outpouring of the Spirit, both Jews and Gentiles would be brought before the Father as One Body. In Joel 2:28 we're told, "And it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh." On the day of Pentecost the Spirit was poured out, just as Joel prophesied. "And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them" [Acts 2:3]. In the very same way, says Peter, the Gentiles (represented by Cornelius and his household; just as the 120 in the upper room were representative of the Jews ... Jew and Gentile = "all flesh" from the Jewish perspective) "have received the Holy Spirit just as we did" [Acts 10:47; cf. Acts 11:15f]. The apostles that day, as Jesus spoke to them, needed to hear the same message we today need to hear, due to our tendency also to disunite with one another in the One Body --- "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling" [Eph. 4:2-4]. In short, everyone ... ALL of us ... need to be salted with fire from above; we need to be indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and thereby transformed. When this happens, barriers that divide us will come down. No longer will disciples seek to determine who is the greatest; no longer will they seek to hinder others who do not "walk along with them." Instead, sanctified by His Spirit, they will "pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another" [Rom. 14:19]. This is the "peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" that characterizes "the kingdom of God" [Rom. 14:17].

Notice the following fabulous, astute comment by Dr. Albert Barnes in his commentary regarding this powerful statement by Jesus: "The main scope of the passage was not to discourse on future punishment. The chief object of the passage was to teach the apostles that 'other men,' those not 'with them,' just might also be true Christians," and that "they ought to be disposed to look favorably upon" these others, whether they are "walking about" with them or not. It is my conviction that we in the church today desperately need this very same insight, and it is my conviction that it can and will come by the very same means -- being salted with fire as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. That is: we are being filled and sanctified and transformed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our innermost being! May God open our eyes that we may open our hearts to Him. Oh, the joys and blessings that will be ours when we do!!

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

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
www.zianet.com/maxey/mdrbook.htm
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Reflections on the Holy Spirit
A Published Tract by Al Maxey
Order From: J. Elbert Peters: jepeters65@knology.net
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The Maxey-Broking Debate
on the Doctrine of Patternism

{This debate is now in progress}
www.zianet.com/maxey/pattern.htm
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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, Well done! Your last Reflections was an excellent treatment of most, if not all, of the biblical figures of speech and thought. I will use this for a permanent reference. May God bless you.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Great study on many of the multitude of figures of speech and thought in God's Word. Understanding them certainly helps us understand the message God has given us. Keep it up!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Bro. Al, I am excited about your debate with Darrell Broking on patternism, and I'm pleased that it is being published on your web site. I am among the multitude praying for a special blessing on this particular effort you have undertaken!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I just received the book you spoke of by Sheila Gibson. I've only covered 60 pages thus far, but I can see myself in her. How sad that many of us in the Churches of Christ have been so far away from the very One whose name we so arrogantly feature on our church signs. We knew how to paint it, but not how to receive Him or His Spirit into our lives. We lived in fear of breaking our legal code rather than finding that assuring peace taught by Paul, which should have ruled us. We allowed that code to discourage us, divide us, mold us into warring, unloving camps, and leave us wondering why we were so empty. May Sheila's number become legion! I also read Broking's first affirmative. Sadly, there was not very much meat there. When I read your first rebuttal, however, I was overwhelmed. I used to think that if I could become a debater, my star would rise in Israel. Although I tried to treat my opponents with respect and courtesy, I still had that "air" that most debaters had, and it very often showed to those on the other side of the fence. Although yours is a written debate, I can see no such "air" within your writings. May God bless this debate you are having, and may He help all to see that Darrell Broking, and others who believe as he does, are the true perpetrators of much of the division among us. May God use this information to draw those to Jesus who have previously been driven away from Him.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you for recommending Sheila Gibson's book "Diary of a Believer." I ordered it from Amazon.com, and it came in yesterday ... and I read it yesterday afternoon! So, I guess you can truthfully say that I thought it was a good book. Again, thanks for recommending this book. Also, I just finished reading the first exchange between you and Darrell Broking in your debate. I just wanted to tell you that you did an excellent job. Your rebuttal was well-written and so very clear. Thanks for all the work you do in spreading God's Word.

From an Elder in Florida:

Bro. Al, I am very well-pleased with the way you are defining and applying "the will of God in Christ" for Christian disciples. I would wish that every conscientious member of the Body of Christ would visit your web page and follow along in your debate with Darrell Broking on "Patternism," as you examine this central core of Church of Christ theology. In my own judgment, this could very well be the most significant debate of the 21st century among the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement. No matter how "rigid" or how "flexible" one might personally feel themselves to be in their approach to discovering and following God's will, this debate is worth following carefully as it unfolds over the next months.

From a Missionary in Peru:

Brother Al, Your current debate certainly makes for some very sad reading, because Darrell Broking is certainly out of his depth. One can only pray that the Lord will take away the scales from his eyes so that he may see the glory of Christ and rejoice in His finished work. He is really no different from the legalist Saul before Christ revealed Himself to him on the road to Damascus. He is following a legalistic pattern on earth, whereas the true believer sees and knows himself to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places outside the claims of law or manmade commandments. They cannot see that their man-created pattern is an abomination before God, because they seek to justify themselves by works. They cannot see that by their preaching they are leading others away from Christ, and there can be no greater darkness or sin than that. I also agree with you totally concerning the nature and purpose of the New Covenant. I must say that I also enjoyed your good use of "sarcasm" which exposed the utter stupidity of Broking's teaching. Hopefully, this will be helpful to your readers. The Lord certainly chooses our place of service to fit our gifts. May the Lord be pleased to use you and your gifts to open the eyes of those deluded by legalism.

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Dear Brother Al, I have been enjoying your writings very much. Our Lord has truly blessed you with an ability to cover so many topics so well. I have used many of the exact same arguments and ideas as appear in your Reflections to try and convert my brethren. When I was first driven out of the Non-Institutional Church of Christ church, I was quite bitter. I still love most of those folks, however, although I have to continually ask God's help to love some of them. I sincerely appreciate your writings, Al, and love your love for our Messiah. May He bless you richly.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, You haven't heard from me in a while, but I just had to take a moment and thank you for telling your readers about Sheila Gibson's book "The Diary of a Believer." I devoured it ... and I am about to read it again!! I could have written such a book from my own similar experiences. Anyway, I just wanted you to know how her words resonated with some of us. I have already recommended it to several people!!

From a New Reader in Nevada:

Brother Al, I was just recently introduced to your Reflections, and I'm greatly pleased with them! Over the past several years my wife and I have struggled in two different congregations with respect to all this "law of silence" nonsense. So, please keep up the good fight ... I am impressed!! Sometimes it gets very lonely trying to get one's brothers and sisters to actually study their Bibles. They can also be quite vindictive at times. Brother Al, I will become a regular reader of your weekly Reflections ... they are a breath of fresh air!!

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