by Al Maxey

Issue #363 ------- September 11, 2008
Truth will never be discovered if we rest
contented with discoveries already made.

Seneca the Younger {5 B.C. - 65 A.D.}

We Gave No Such Commandment
Reflective Analysis of Acts 15:24 in the KJV
and Legalistic Patternism's Law of Silence

I suppose I shall never cease to be amazed at the extremes to which the legalistic patternists will go in order to try and demonstrate the validity of their theory pertaining to the prohibitive nature of biblical silence. I do indeed understand very well just how critical this "law of silence" is to their rigid religiosity, so it's not all that surprising that they would battle to the death to affirm it. However, in time their efforts become increasingly desperate, and, with this desperation, increasingly bizarre. I suppose, from the point of view of Truth, this is a good thing, for the more they seek to prove their theory, the more that theory is shown to be utterly false. Nevertheless, these people continue to proffer "evidence" that, in their own minds, validates their argument. Then, about the time I think that they must surely have exhausted every possible angle known to man, some legalist comes up with a new one. Such was the case in an email I received on Monday, August 25, 2008. I must admit, he used a passage I had never yet heard applied to the "law of silence" doctrine, but in his mind he is completely convinced that he has at long last found the passage that proves silence is prohibitive. That passage is Acts 15:24.

That passage, in the King James Version, reads, "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment; it seemed good to us..." [Acts 15:24-25a]. The specific phrase which this individual feels to be relevant to the so-called "law of silence" is: "to whom we gave no such commandment." Why was it wrong for these men to be teaching, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you can't be saved" [Acts 15:1]? Notice the words of this person: "It was wrong for one reason only: God 'gave no such commandment.' It was contrary to the pattern for what to do to be saved. They were speaking where God had not spoken. They ignored the silence of God concept." In other words, the ONLY reason it was wrong to teach that one must be circumcised in order to be saved is because James and the other apostles and elders in Jerusalem had said nothing about it. Since they were silent about this, it was thereby prohibited as a doctrine pertaining to salvation. There you have it, folks. The "law of silence" is proven. This teaching that one must be circumcised, that one must observe the custom of Moses, was not commanded by them, thus that silence made it a false teaching. In other words, anything the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem didn't specifically state was thereby (by virtue of their silence) prohibited.

As the reader might well imagine, I believe this individual has misinterpreted this passage, and there are a number of reasons why I am convinced of this. Part of the problem here is that this brother was using the King James Version, in which one finds a notable addition to the text that is most critical to this person's erroneous interpretation. The phrase in question is: "...saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law;..." --- that whole phrase is not found within the original Greek text of the book of Acts. This brief expansion is thought by most Greek textual scholars "to be an addition derived from verses 1 and 5, and inserted here in order to specify in what particulars the Judaizers had sought to trouble the Antiochian Christians. The interpolation then passed into the Textus Receptus" [Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 436]. Most reliable versions and translations of the New Covenant writings have removed this human addition to the text. The New King James Version retains it, but gives a footnote explaining that there's good evidence for the fact that it should not be included.

So, why is it important to make this observation about this addition to the text found in the KJV? The answer is because that addition has directly contributed to the false interpretation that this passage in some way affirms the prohibitive nature of the so-called "law of silence" with respect to the teaching of the Judaizers regarding the necessity of circumcision. Since in the KJV the phrase "to whom we gave no such commandment" immediately follows this addition to the text, the assumption drawn is that the giving of "no such commandment" refers directly to the teaching "Ye must be circumcised and keep the law." And, yes, it is easy to perceive how one could come to that conclusion based on the way the KJV has rendered the text. With the removal of this spurious addition, however, the significance and focus of the phrase "to whom we gave no such commandment" changes considerably. Instead of being a reference per se to the specific teachings of these Judaizers, it is more a reference to the fact that they had acted arbitrarily on their own initiative, and that (despite their apparent claims) they did not speak for the spiritual leaders of the Jerusalem church.

It should not go unnoticed that these legalistic partisans, who sought to return to the requirements of law, represented themselves as having been sent by James (i.e., they claimed to be acting under his authority and his direction). In speaking of this same group of people, Paul wrote, "For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he (Peter) used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision" [Gal. 2:12]. These were legalistic partyists intent upon imposing LAW upon their Gentile brethren. They had come from the congregation in Jerusalem, and they were obviously representing themselves as having come with the authority of James. Such could prove intimidating, as it clearly was to both Peter and Barnabas. Thus, when James and the other apostles and the elders composed the letter that was to be sent forth from the Jerusalem leadership, they made a point of referring to these "troublers" of the brethren and stating emphatically that these people had NOT been sent forth as their representatives, and that they had NOT been instructed to go about and "set the church straight" on these issues. The words of John in 1 John 2:19 somewhat apply here: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us." "What St. James declares is that the teachers had had no commission of any kind from him" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 7, p. 99].

"It looks as if these 'judaizing preachers' only pretended to be sent out by the apostles to preach" [John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-Sword]. "They went, therefore, without authority. Self-constituted and self-sent teachers not infrequently produce disturbance and distress" [Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. These men went forth "without authority or even knowledge of the church at Jerusalem, although they belonged to it, and probably pretended to represent its views." This was "an unauthorized party," whose chief design was "to bring the whole Christian Church under judicial and legal bondage" [Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary, e-Sword]. They were thus operating under a "false commission ... pretending that they had instructions from the apostles and ministers at Jerusalem" [Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. The Greek word employed in Acts 15:24 (the word the KJV translates "commandment") is diastello, which signifies: "to direct, charge, commission." The text basically states that no such commission was given to these men to go forth from Jerusalem presenting themselves as the representatives of these leaders.

"This declaration may be aimed at a pretense on their part that they had been sent forth by the church at Jerusalem" [Dr. Alvah Hovey, An American Commentary on the New Testament, p. 177]. Bro. H. Leo Boles wrote, "Denial is made of their being sent by the church at Jerusalem. Hence, these teachers went of their very own accord and on their own responsibility, and did not represent the church at Jerusalem" [A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 243]. Dr. F. F. Bruce speaks of "the unauthorized activity" of these "Jerusalem visitors to Antioch" [Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 314]. By way of marked contrast, those later sent forth with this explanatory letter from the leaders in Jerusalem were given commission within the text of that letter itself [Acts 15:22-29]. Therefore, these men would carry with them the credentials of authorization ... that which the Judaizers lacked (but which they had apparently pretended to possess). It should further be noted that a great many translations render the passage so as to reflect this very understanding. Notice just a few:

  1. New International Version -- We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.

  2. Contemporary English Version -- We have heard that some people from here have terribly upset you by what they said. But we did not send them!

  3. The Message -- We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn't send them.

  4. New American Standard Bible -- Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, ...

  5. Holman Christian Standard Bible -- Because we have heard that some to whom we gave no authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, ...

  6. Easy-to-Read Version -- We have heard that some men have come to you from our group. the things they said troubled and upset you. But we did not tell them to do this!

  7. English Standard Version -- Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions ...

  8. The Living Bible -- We understand that some believers from here have upset you and questioned your salvation, but they had no such instructions from us.

Although many more examples could easily be given, I believe these are sufficient to make the point. It is true that some of the above renderings state the case more clearly than others, yet they each have removed the text that was added by the KJV and they each have demonstrated that the grammatical construction reflects that the primary concern of the passage is the fact that these Judaizers had misrepresented themselves to those whom they hoped to teach their own perverted doctrines. They had NOT been sent forth by the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and thus their claim to have been commissioned by them was a sham. However, one can see why they chose this approach. If they could present themselves to others as possessing some measure of credibility ("We are from James in Jerusalem"), then they'd be much more likely to be heeded in what they sought to impose and bind upon others. Thus, not only were these teachers false, but so was their teaching. "The very worst affront to Jesus is to substitute letter for spirit, law for love" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, The Book of Acts, part 2, p. 18]. This is precisely what they sought to do, and it is what too many seek to do today as well.

No, brethren, this passage is not even remotely a proof-text for the so-called "law of silence." Far from it. It does demonstrate, however, the lengths some will go to in their attempts to bind humanly devised laws and restrictive regulations upon those who are free in Christ. If necessary, they will even misrepresent themselves, and twist the Truth, so as to enslave people to their legalistic patterns for fellowship and salvation. They may go out from us, but they are certainly not of us. They do not speak for the One Body, and faithful disciples everywhere should do exactly as James and the others did in Acts 15. Inform the world about you, "We didn't send them; they weren't commissioned by us."

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
Reflections on the Holy Spirit
A Published Tract by Al Maxey
Order From: J. Elbert Peters:
The Maxey-Broking Debate
on the Doctrine of Patternism

{This debate is now in progress}
Readers' Reflections

From Darrell Broking in Tennessee:

Al, after reading your material I am genuinely sorrowed that you feel the way you do about God's Word. Are you really sincere in what you believe? I will keep praying for you, Al. I know that you don't believe in a devil's hell, but it is real and I really don't want to see you, or anyone else for that matter, go there. I am so sorry for what you are going to experience if you don't repent and obey the gospel. Al, you so often misjudge my motives and I will leave that between you and God. Don't misjudge this, Al: I am literally at the point of tears over what you teach and how it affects you and those who refuse to accept God's Word. Please change before it is too late!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Brother Al, I just read a good portion of your debate on patternism with that guy from Tennessee. I agree with you perhaps 99% of the time. My question to you is: why bother?! There isn't even a hint of a possibility that this man who trusts in his own personal righteousness for salvation is going to see things your way. Perhaps I am wrong, and I hope that I am. However, have you ever helped one of these men see the light of grace and the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ? Al, I admire your scholarship and faithfulness to the clear teaching of the Bible!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, There is no possible way that you will ever know the full extent of the positive impact that this debate is making on the minds and hearts of the good people who are reading every word. Bless you for not only doing the massive research you have obviously done to increase your own knowledge of Scripture, but also for the patience and perseverance you continually show in sharing that knowledge with us. You have enriched our lives and helped us grow spiritually as you share the Truth with us.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, I love the Reflections that you send out. I find them such a wonderful break from the legalistic Church of Christ that I attend. By the way, one of my best friends (who is a One Cup preacher here), has been sending out your debate on patternism to all the One Cup folks here in California. Some think we are nuts for reading what you say. One guy even went so far as to go to your web site for the purpose of trying to debunk what you had written there. After examining it all, the only thing he had to say is that you must think it is okay to kill, because there is a picture of you with a machine gun in Vietnam. What a NUT!! Crazy!! And to think: I grew up with this guy! Take care, brother, and may God rain His blessings down upon you!

From a New Reader at Harvard:

Bro. Maxey, Thank you so much for your Reflections article on Romans 13:14 [Putting On Jesus Christ -- Issue #362]. If you would, please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections.

From a Reader in Florida:

Hello Bro. Al, Your article "Putting On Jesus Christ" was sooooo good! You are right about some believing water baptism is all that is necessary to get to heaven. That was the first question my current minister asked me when I first started attending where he preached -- had I been baptized? Well, yes, I have been baptized, but until my heart was filled with love by the Holy Spirit -- I was just the same old person. I appreciated your article so much. Thanks!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I too have waded through Darrell Broking's multi-paged "affirmative." What I thought was interesting is that Darrell quoted from the five passages in the NT writings that use the word "sing" or "singing," and yet two of those quotes are taken from the OT writings. Did the word "sing" in those OT passages quoted eliminate as being "sinful" the instruments that accompanied that "singing"? Why would the apostle Paul and the Hebrew writer quote passages from the OT writings with the word "sing" in them without giving a looong explanation as to why the word did not include, but rather excluded, mechanical instruments of music? Using the mentality of our patternistic brethren, it should have been a must. I thought Broking's statement, "However, conditions that are permanent are binding upon the church," lacked a very necessary clarification --- Just who will be our Pope to tell us what the "permanent conditions" ARE? Will it be Darrell Broking?! Bro. Al, Thank You for your work in this debate!! I continue to utter loud "Amen's" at your replies to Darrell. Keep up the great work. Your rebuttals, and also your future affirmatives, may go over the heads of our patternistic brethren (at least for now), but some of them will one day wake up due to your efforts. Thanks!!

From a Minister in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, I've been enjoying your Reflections, and also your debate with Darrell Broking. I especially enjoyed your final rebuttal. I am so thankful that there are brethren like yourself who are willing to stand up and say those things that need to be said.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I thought your fourth rebuttal was simply superb, and I wish to commend you for it. Your statement about God's acceptance of Cornelius is something that many within the Church of Christ try to sweep under a rug. But you are true to the Scriptures and to the universal One Body, and for that I am thankful.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, This past week the best friend I have ever had passed from this life after a long battle with cancer. He was born and raised in Germany and never knew anything but the teaching of Martin Luther. Yet, he "put on Jesus Christ" every day of his adult life, and I have yet to meet any member of our brotherhood who has lived a more loving Christ-like life! I am in full agreement that we have misunderstood baptism and what actually places us in Jesus -- it is a heart of obedience, and not a bath, that does it. As for your debate with Broking, it is exactly as I thought -- they will never publish your side without much editing!! To do so, they would have to admit error on their part, and Ego will forbid that ever happening. The best thing that will come of this debate is that some of their people will perceive their true nature, choose to go to your web site, and thus learn the Truth on their own! Keep up the good work!!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Bro. Al, First, with reference to your debate with Darrell Broking, I agree with your correspondents regarding the mixed-up muddle that was his attempt to affirm his proposition. I did manage to struggle through all 39 pages, but it wasn't easy. On the other hand, your response was a masterpiece of lucid logic. Second, as to your current article ("Putting On Jesus Christ"), it is interesting that just this past Sunday (before your article arrived in my inbox) we were studying Romans 13:14, and the preacher opined that one "puts Jesus on" in baptism. I had to point out that these people were already in Christ, and that they were being instructed by the apostle to put on the character, mind and heart of Jesus. Thanks for the article which confirms my understanding of this passage.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Maxey, Thank you for adding me to your mailing list for Reflections. A friend of mine from Alaska has been forwarding various articles of yours on to me, and I have appreciated them all. I am in my 11th year of preaching, and am one of those who has appreciated your courage in going after the limited view of God that exists in segments of our brotherhood. I grew up in this climate, and have been thankful for the glimmers of grace that kept me pursuing the King. The more I study, the more saddened I am at just how many cling to the tenets of our tradition rather than leaping into the arms of a mighty and loving God. Brother, you have helped me to grow and to look beyond the walls that enslaved me and to find freedom in Christ. Thank you for this, and may God bless you.

From a Missionary in Peru:

Brother Al, The Holy Spirit gives patience ... and you certainly need an abundance of it just to read what Darrell Broking writes!! Of course, he never mentions the character of God in his posts. The lack of a true knowledge of the character and grace of God is the "strength" of legalism. It's the will of men at work without the divine Spirit. If he actually had a knowledge of God's eternal nature he simply couldn't hold to such nonsensical teaching.

From a Minister in Texas:

Bro. Al, If Jesus Christ was right when He described the greatest commandment of all in Matt. 22:27, how would a legalist go about obeying the part that says to love the Lord God with all one's mind, especially relating to one's musical and artistic gifts from God? Doesn't the mind include imagination and creativity. But CENI kills these qualities. CENI says, "Forget being imaginative; forget being creative! Play it safe! Just do as you're told!" In Jesus' parable of the talents, the one talent servant was the only one condemned. His excuse that he had "played it safe" was not accepted by his master. God is repelled by a slavish fear of Him, and by a perception that He is a harsh, unreasonable tyrant. And just how would an advocate of CENI explain God's statement to those who showed innovation in the use of their talents: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord"? Didn't these servants violate "silence" with regard to how these gifts would be employed for the Master?

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I just finished reading your first affirmative in the patternism debate. Excellent job! It was clear, concise and to the point. I liked the trap that you set for Darrell in your fifth T/F question. Keep up the good work, Al.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, Just read your first affirmative. True/False question #6 is priceless!! Good job!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I just read your First Affirmative, and it is excellent. I had been looking forward to it since I had never read anything you wrote of this particular type, and I was not disappointed. Thank you for your work!

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Maxey, Thanks so much for your web site. I've enjoyed studying on it today and will use your resources in the future. Please subscribe me to your Reflections articles. Thanks!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, You have my prayers for your part in the debate with Darrell Broking. I'm praying for the hearts of people who follow the debate also, that the eyes and ears of their hearts will be opened to receive Truth, and that they will come to experience the wonderful joy of freedom in Christ Jesus.

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Dear Brother Al, Your fourth rebuttal in the debate was the best one yet (with each one tightening the noose, so to speak). Also, it was with absolute horror that I read Darrell Broking's reply to your question regarding the person standing in the baptistery and dying before "the act" of immersion was completed. It is so sad and unbelievable that some people in the church today really DO believe that it is the "going under the water and coming up" that saves you, and that one's penitent heart and obedient faith have nothing to do with it. How can any reasonable person call our God loving and merciful and actually believe such things?! Very tragic! How wonderful that you are bringing light to people's eyes! Thank you!

From a New Reader in the Philippines:

Dear Brother Al, God bless you abundantly! May He also give you long life and more fruitful studies of His Word. I have read your studies on the "law of silence," and I am very impressed by all your scholarship and erudition. Your studies are the final nail in the coffin of this bankrupt CENI hermeneutic. Actually, those within the Church of Christ who still advocate this "law of silence" are very inconsistent in their application of it. To keep oneself from becoming intellectually dishonest, one must forgo this CENI hermeneutic and use a sound hermeneutic such as the historical-grammatical approach to interpretation. To blindly embrace CENI is to become an ideologue, and I believe that ideologues are idol worshippers. These people tend to make the Truth of the Christian faith a laughing stock among the ungodly and the unbelievers. Rigid CENI-ists are on very dangerous ground, and I hope and pray that these brethren will see the Light. Let me say, Bro. Al, that you are always in my prayers! Keep up the mighty work that the Savior has assigned you to do! Many thanks, and please add me to the list of regular Reflections subscribers.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, It is so wonderful to witness the Holy Spirit working through you in the rebuttals you have given in this debate, and in your first affirmative. It seems like anyone should be able to understand the explanations you have given, but, as someone has said to me, "It makes no difference how good Al's presentation is. Unless God is drawing that person, he will not be able to 'hear.'" I think that is right. By the way, I wrote to Darrell Broking, informing him of my prayer for him: that the eyes and ears of his heart might be opened, and that he might experience a wonderful explosion of Truth so that he could have the joy of freedom in Christ. What I should have said (but didn't) was that I was referring to freedom from the bondage of legalism. You may have read my letter to him in his 4th affirmative. I really think he knew what I meant, but his answer referred to our freedom from sin.

From a Minister in Texas:

Bro. Al, When I read through Mr. Broking's fourth affirmative I couldn't help but suspect that he was getting outside help with his assignment!! Do you know what I mean?!! It just seemed a little tooooo long, documented, organized, etc. Maybe I'm wrong, but it all just "smells a little funny" to me. Either way, keep up the good work. Keep shining a light for those who may be searching for a way out of their bondage. Soldier On!!

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: