by Al Maxey

Issue #369 ------- October 16, 2008
He does not believe, who does
not live according to his belief.

Thomas Fuller {1654-1734}

The Assurance of Faith
How Do I Know I'm Saved?

There is a dear brother in Christ from the state of Missouri, who serves as a respected leader in the Independent Christian Church wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement, and who is also quite a good author, who recently rebuked me for proclaiming salvation by "faith only." This individual has long been a vocal supporter of my writing ministry, and has even referred my Reflections articles on to others with whom he has contact and influence, so I took his challenge very seriously. I wrote him explaining that this was not my position, but he wrote back stating that regardless of what I said, that was my position. This is another example of what I have faced time and again over the years: people who believed they knew much better than I the true nature of my personal beliefs. I must admit, it is somewhat frustrating to go to great lengths to try and explain one's convictions, only to be informed by another that this is not what one believes, but that one actually believes the opposite. So, let me state clearly and unequivocally once more -- Al Maxey does not preach or teach that one's eternal salvation is by "Faith Only."

Having emphatically stated this fact once again, let me add that I do indeed understand why some people have come to believe this about me. I am a firm believer in the supremacy and primacy of faith with respect to man's response to the free gift of salvation, offered in love by God's grace through the sacrifice of His Son to atone for our sins, redeem us from death, and restore us to relationship with Him and His other children. Salvation is not works-based or knowledge-based, it is faith-based. In other words, I can never, ever do enough or know enough to merit my salvation. I will always fall far short. But, by faith I may receive this free gift of grace. I will then grow in my knowledge and appreciation of this gift, as well as in my daily expressions of gratitude and praise for His love and mercy. On the surface, this does indeed sound like one is teaching salvation by "faith only." However, when one looks at this teaching more carefully, one will perceive some vital points of distinction.

Faith only (the doctrine: Sola Fide), as I understand that doctrine, is a deep conviction that absolutely NO response is required of man whatsoever to God's offer of salvation. In fact, some feel that even one's saving faith is a gift of God, and that God instills this faith in the hearts of some (i.e., the elect) and yet withholds it from others (those not "chosen" from the foundation of the world for salvation). It is presumed that one will engage in "good works" throughout one's life, but these deeds are not viewed as being in any way essential or even necessary. If one has been given faith, then one has been given salvation. You are saved by faith alone. In essence, He chose you; you didn't choose Him. According to the Canons of Dordt ("1st Head of Doctrine" -- Article 7), "Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace." Article 15 reads, "It is the express testimony of Scripture that not all, but only some, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion."

Be it known to one and all that Al Maxey does not believe in the Calvinistic doctrines of "irresistible grace" and "unconditional election" (two of the major tenets of the so-called TULIP theology). Nor do I believe that saving faith is imposed/instilled within some, but not others. It is my conviction, based on my study of God's Word, that faith in Him is an exercise of man's free will. Further, one's faith alone is insufficient to bring one into a state of acceptance by one's God, and thus faith alone is insufficient unto eternal salvation. THIS is what Al Maxey believes. For one's faith to be efficacious, that faith must be evidenced. That means it has to be demonstrated by divinely specified attitudes and actions. For one's faith to be a saving faith, it must be visible. The only place in Scripture where the phrase "faith alone" appears ... it is condemned. James declared that man is "not justified by faith alone" [James 2:24]. Therefore, why would Al Maxey teach such a doctrine?!! BUT, James does declare that for faith to be salvific, it must be evidenced. "Are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" [vs. 20]. "Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" [vs. 17]. Therefore, James declares, "I will show you my faith by my works" [vs. 18], for "faith without works is dead" [vs. 26]. I don't know how it could be stated any clearer or any more powerfully that faith must be shown in order for it to be truly salvific. Thus, it should be obvious to one and all that "faith alone" (i.e., an undemonstrated faith) is worthless.

Yes, it is faith that saves, and not any particular or isolated demonstration of that faith. And yet it should be noted that one who adamantly refuses to demonstrate his/her faith as specified by the Lord within the Scriptures cannot claim his/her faith, apart from that demonstration, to be sufficient unto salvation. Please note that I stressed one's absolute and willful refusal to evidence an "obedience of faith" [as Paul termed it in Rom. 1:5]. Clearly there may be times when one might desire with all of one's heart to evidence one's faith as specified, and as best he/she may understand it, but be unable, for reasons beyond their control, to do so. In such cases, it is my firm belief that our God judges the intent of one's heart and the depth of sincerity of one's faith as sufficient unto salvation. The account of Abraham's offering of Isaac as a burnt offering unto God is a powerful precedent here, and reflective of the focus of our God. The reality is: Abraham did not fully carry out the command of our God; events transpired that prevented the completion of the act. In his heart, that sacrifice had already been made. God perceived the depth of his faith, and it was judged sufficient. God did the same with Cornelius, judging his faith, and his intent to evidence that faith, to be of such quality that he poured out His Spirit upon him prior to his baptism (which was a visible demonstration of faith required by the Lord, and with which Cornelius readily complied shortly thereafter). If, however, the points of evidence themselves are fully salvific, then both these biblical accounts would read much differently in our Bibles. God would have had to wait for the precise split-second for each of the evidentiary acts to be precisely performed before counting anyone justified, accepted and saved. Such was not the case, however. Why? "For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" [1 Sam. 16:7].

Focusing on the outward demonstration, however, as the legalistic patternists do, will lead to the outrageous assertions of people like Darrell Broking, who has boldly declared in the current debate I am having with him that if a person has a deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and has confessed His name before others, and has genuinely repented of his sins, and has been lowered beneath the waters of the baptistery, but dies suddenly of a massive brain aneurysm a split-second before his nose breaks the surface of the water, then that person will be tortured by God for zillions and zillions and zillions and zillions of years in the fires of hell. Brethren, this is not only false doctrine, this is blasphemy. And yet, such doctrines are the inevitable outcome of the legalistic, patternistic approach to biblical interpretation, and of a mindset of law over grace, works over faith. It matters little what is in the heart, it's all about timing -- or so say these legalistic patternists. Your heart may indeed have been filled with faith, you may indeed have been truly penitent, you may indeed have loved the Lord with every element of your being, you may indeed have been truly intent upon being immersed just as quickly as you could, but ... oh well ... you missed eternal life by a mere 3 centimeters and 1/1000th of a second. "Sad, sad, that bitter wail ... almost, but lost."

Sorry, folks, but I just ain't buying it ... not for a second! This is not the portrait of God I find painted for us within His inspired Word. Not even close! Of course, the cry will immediately go up from the ultra-conservatives that Al Maxey doesn't believe it is essential to be baptized, and that Al Maxey believes in the doctrine of faith only. These absurd charges have been cast at me for years, so I'm used to them. Sadly, there will be some out there who will believe it, and, even more sadly, I am somewhat powerless to prevent it. Therefore, all I can do is simply keep proclaiming God's matchless grace, the loving sacrifice of His Son, and our reception of this wondrous gift by the "obedience of faith" -- i.e., a faith that willingly evidences itself to the best of its ability, opportunity and understanding. That is the Good News, as I perceive it, and I shall proclaim it steadfastly as long as I have breath! "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" [Eph. 2:8-9].

My teaching on this, however, has led some to wonder if there is any certainty as to one's salvation. If, for example, we can't pinpoint the exact nanosecond one is declared saved by God [I would refer the reader to my article -- "The Split-Second of Salvation: Is it Imperative for Us to Perceive the Precise Moment of God's Acceptance?" -- Reflections #348], then how do we know at any given point in our journey of faith if we have truly passed from out of death and into life? A very dear brother in Christ, who hails from the beautiful state of Oklahoma, wrote asking, "If I have stated your position correctly, then how can one answer the question with confidence, 'Are you saved'? It seems to me only fair that one should be able to determine when, and also if, he is pleasing enough to God to enter heaven should he suddenly die." Let me ask a question of my own -- When will I ever truly be "pleasing enough" in the sight of a holy God to merit eternal life? The answer is: Never. The question really reflects our misunderstanding. If salvation is truly about "pleasing" God by our attitudes and actions, then we are all doomed. At best, our righteousness is, in His sight, little better than "filthy rags" [Zech. 3:3]. "There's no one righteous, not even one, there's no one who understands ... there is no one who does good, not even one" [Rom. 3:10-12]. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" [vs. 23]. That is why Jesus was sent to this world to be our propitiation -- our covering -- so that when we stand before our Father we are covered over by Him, and thus found "pleasing" in His sight. There will never, ever be a point in my journey of faith when I can declare that I, in and of myself, am "pleasing" in His sight. However, in relationship with my Lord Jesus, my filthy rags are removed and I am dressed in festal robes of purest white. Thus, in Him I am always "pleasing" in my Father's sight. This has nothing to do with preciseness of patternistic practice in points of time, but everything to do with position in a Person.

Humans are looking for clear, concise moments/events in time, stamped documents and certificates, checked lists of accomplishments, and the like. God is looking for relationship. Humans want a birth certificate; dated and signed ... God wants a son or daughter! Shelly and I have three precious sons. Honestly, I couldn't care less about the time listed on that piece of paper; I care about the time I get to spend with these children of mine (now grown men). If I actually have to look at that legal document to determine the precise day, hour and minute these boys became my sons (and to prove they are my sons), then I've completely missed the point. They were my sons long before they took their first breath, and we loved them and even talked to them before any birth certificate was ever typed up and handed to us. Do such documents have a legitimate place within our present society? Of course they do. Was it important that these three boys actually go through the birth process and take that first breath? It sure was. But, they were loved as our sons before they did; it is just that our relationship grew and developed through each of the successive stages of life. Again, some will immediately declare that Al Maxey teaches it is not essential for a fetus to be born and draw a breath. I can only hope that most of you have been blessed with sufficient insight to see through this malicious misdirection.

But, back to this question from the dear brother in Oklahoma. If, as I believe, we should not be obsessing with split-seconds in time with regard to our acceptance by the Lord, then how may I know that I am presently saved? Wherein is my assurance to be found?! I believe we must again come back to the blessed assurance of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" [Heb. 11:1]. By faith I am saved, and by faith I may know that I'm saved. And it is the very same kind of faith in both cases -- a visible, evidenced faith. Read Hebrews 11. Time and time again we find that "by faith" a person acted in a certain way. They made journeys, they suffered affliction, they chose certain associations over others, etc. In short, they acted upon their faith, and, as a result, that faith became evident through those attitudes and actions. The chapter closes by informing us that these men and women "gained approval (or: "obtained a testimony that they were approved") through their faith" [vs. 39]. What kind of faith was it? Visible. Demonstrated. Active. Were these various demonstrations themselves the source of their approval by God? No. And yet, had these men and women refused to demonstrate their "obedience of faith," this would have been evidence that they did not possess saving faith, but rather a useless faith that stood alone ... passive, unevidenced. Thus, faith without works (the accompanying evidence of that faith) is dead, being alone.

Rather than pointing to the precise nanosecond our nose broke the surface of the water as our "assurance" of salvation, why not point to the visible evidences of our faith?! I am fully convicted that this is precisely what the apostle John had in mind when he wrote, "These things I have written to you who believe (have faith) in the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" [1 John 5:13]. What constitutes "these things" in this context? Well, I can tell you what does not make his list -- baptism. Does that mean it isn't important? Of course not. It simply means that when John wanted believers to know that they were in possession of eternal salvation, this specific event in their lives (important though it was) was not what John sought to impress upon them as being of primary spiritual significance. So, what was stressed as being the most essential element of this blessed assurance of being in possession of eternal salvation? That's right -- LOVE. Time and time again in this first epistle, shining forth from virtually every passage, is the primacy of LOVE as the substantive, objective evidence of our relationship with the Father. Do you have faith? Yes? Then show it. How? Love God and love one another. Are you doing this, brother? Are you evidencing your faith through love? Then, you are "born of God" [1 John 4:7], and you may know that you are saved. Thus, this active faith is truly the assurance of things hoped for. John didn't tell these people to go check their baptismal certificates if they wanted to know if they were saved. He told them to go check their hearts!! Will hearts devoted in love to the Savior seek to obey His will in their daily lives? Absolutely. Will those who have faith demonstrate that faith by repentance and immersion? Absolutely. But what is truly our assurance of that for which we hope? FAITH. And how do we evidence this faith in our daily lives? LOVE. Again, brother, if you see this manifested in your daily walk, you can know you are saved.

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 Daniel Denham in Virginia:

Al, Your foolish doctrines were brought up in my lessons (during the recent meeting held in Pensacola, Florida) because they provided easy targets to show just how dumb some brethren are in what they have swallowed, and also in what they have expected others to swallow, from their post-modernistic nonsense. Your goofy ideas and teachings are perfect illustrations of ignorance gone to seed -- and sprouted! Thus, they made perfect illustrations as to what not to believe and teach if one seeks to avoid the very fires of hell, which you, in your blind arrogance, deny.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

I am praying for you, Brother Al, as it appears you are under attack by our Enemy, who is using humans that are supposed to be your brothers. Hang in there, Al, and soldier on!!

From a Minister in Florida:

Brother Al, I just cannot for the life of me understand how men can be so closed-minded, and yet still think that they are God's gift to proper biblical understanding. I thank God for men like Dr. Dallas Burdette, who is like a father to me, and for Al Maxey, both of whom have a gift for working within the cultish confines of the Church of Christ. God be praised forever for your diligence and patience and ability to stomach the putrid stench of legalism, patternism, cultism and hypocritical, dogmatic Phariseeism. Brother, please keep up the good work, because I know that our God is proud to have you working for Him! I am very proud to know that there are men like you who are gifted by God, and are not wasting those gifts, though at times it may seem so when you have to deal with some of the brain-dead people in the Stone-Campbell Movement. I know there must be tremendous satisfaction in your work when you are able to finally reach one of these people and pull them into the Light. Keep pulling as long as you can, and I'll keep praying for you on this end.

From a Minister in Florida:

Dear Bro. Al, I have recently been introduced to your writings, and am working my way through all of your archived Reflections. I just read Issue #325 in which you comment on how some legalists have used Col. 3:17 to condemn fellowship halls, etc. I was reminded of what we Sunset School of Preaching boys call an "Abeism" (referring to the sayings of Bro. "Abe" Lincoln, a long-time teacher in that school). He used to say, "According to some, it is okay to meet in the eating place, but it is not okay to eat in the meeting place!" Seriously, I'm really enjoying your articles, as well as the comments from the readers. I view your Reflections as a graduate level seminar in biblical hermeneutics!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Brother Al, Your insightful and loving use of Scripture is amazing; a real lifeline for the many people drowning in factionist dogma! Having been involved with trying to help abused wives who refuse to leave their horrible situations, I applaud your answer to your latest critics on the marriage/slavery issue. It is so sad to see how many women keep volunteering for this kind of treatment, and all because they truly believe it is God's will. I was once scolded by a preacher for calling the cops and practically dragging a friend away from the "husband" who had repeatedly tortured her mentally and physically for three years. Brother Al, I'm sharing your web site whenever and wherever I can!! Thanks, and may God bless you!

From a Missionary in Peru:

Hi Brother Al, I am in complete agreement with all your recent Reflections on the abuses within marriage. I read a book recently called "Hitler's Cross" by Erwin Lutzer. It spoke of how false interpretations of Scripture can involve professing Christians in joining hands with the vilest of evil. One man stated that trains carrying Jews to the death camps passed right behind their church building. He said they just sang their hymns all the louder to drown out the sound so they wouldn't have to think about it. And all of this came from the perverted notion that one should obey government authority. In that atmosphere, truth is -- you either save your life and lose it, or you lose your life and find it. The only godly reaction in that kind of climate is to be willing to stand up and even die for the Truth of the Word of God, and to stand with those who are suffering. The alternative is to just keep playing church and promoting the party line. John the Baptist stood up against a wicked ruler, and he lost his head for it. Christianity today, though, is spineless and silent in the face of evil, whether that be an abusive marriage or abuses on the part of a wicked government.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, I just have to say thank you for your last two issues of Reflections!! My previous marriage was very abusive, and my children were also abused. However, I received "counsel" from the church "leadership" to submit to my husband. I have to admit, however, that there were other wonderful spiritual leaders, like yourself, who advised me to divorce him, and who told me that this would not be wrong in the sight of God. THANK YOU!!!!!!!! A thousand times over I thank you for understanding and for showing the grace and mercy of God to us, and for being a great example of how a husband should treat his wife. Thank you also to your wife as well. Blessings to you!!

From an Author in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, You are a real soldier, and an inspiration. I don't write you often because the amount of email you must have to sift through on a daily basis has to be enormous! However, I want to commend you for your following simple, yet amazing, statement: "I'm simply stating that if we are determined to place God first in all things, then our lives must reflect that commitment, and when men ... compel us to act in a way that we believe to be blatantly opposed to God's will, then we should refuse to comply." Well-said, brother! Any arguments against placing His will above man's only further illuminates the idiocy that many already love to shine about as if it were true, spiritual light.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you once again for taking the high road and addressing the elephant in the living room. Our allegiance is to Christ first, in every thing and in every circumstance. I have recently been very troubled by some within the Body of Christ who think that their political party comes first, regardless of whether that political party espouses the principles of Christ or not. I am a Christian first, before political party, or country, or anything else.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, It never ceases to amaze me just how low some will stoop to prove their twisted versions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The latest arguments by some on women and submission just go to show how blatantly ignorant of Scripture and God's design for the family unit some people are! I thank God for you almost every day, brother. Keep teaching us and challenging us toward a fuller faith in our loving, gracious Lord.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Retelling some of your personal experiences (in your last Reflections), the likes of which most of us will never have a chance to experience, just makes me appreciate you even more. You not only stand up for what is right, but also for the abused, the oppressed and the suppressed. I think this is why I love you so much, brother!!

From a Reader in California:

My Dear Brother Al, I doubt if you will ever know how much of a privilege ... and a joy ... it is for me to be able to just sit down at my computer and communicate with you -- someone I've never met before, but feel I know so well through your amazing Reflections. Oh, the things I have learned, and the depth of feelings from being validated by your rich, wise thoughts! Thank you so much for your article "Reporting for Marriage, Sir." I am absolutely thrilled that you have shed light on the timelessness of Jesus Christ's and the apostle Paul's true intent on the subject of marriage, and that you've courageously come to the defense of women when they are in relationships that are destructive, humiliating and lacking in respect, especially when so-called "Christian" men cannot seem to fathom how God wants them to regard their wives. On another note, I just hope that Darrell Broking is being inundated with emails from people who are trying to help him "see the light." I sent him one in which I said that I will be praying that he will be able to swallow his pride and shed his fear. I see these two factors have been mentioned more than once in the letters you present at the end of each of your weekly Reflections. I also told him that true faith is like jumping off a cliff and knowing that God is not going to let you "crash and burn" at the bottom. Instead, one learns that one is given the ability to fly spiritually. Now that's freedom!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, I have read your last two Reflections on marriage. I agree with you that it is a total perversion of the Scriptures, and of the Lord's intention for marriage, to expect a wife to submit to her husband no matter what. In the very beginning, our God wanted to create a suitable helper/mate for the man. This is, to my way of thinking, a clear indication that we were intended to be companions, not slaves under masters. The Lord intended this to be a partnership. Each member of this partnership has a different role, but they are still partners nonetheless. Ephesians mentions love due to the wife, just as the Lord loved the church and gave Himself for her. What a different picture from the abusive husband who holds a knife to his wife's throat and demands that she does whatever he commands. Marriage is not a 50/50 partnership, but rather a 100/100 partnership. My wife and I will have been married 35 years this coming December. I consider her my best friend, and this is how our relationship began almost 38 years ago in high school. We quite often defer (submit) to one another (Eph. 5:21) when skills or abilities clearly indicate the wisdom of doing so. After these many years we still actually LIKE one another (which often amazes our friends, many of whom are having difficulty). This could not happen if the respect and honor were just one-sided. Just because we are married, share a bed, live under one roof, and have the same last name, does not give us the right to ignore the common decency and respect deserved by any other person, and especially deserved by a fellow servant of the Lord.

From an Elder in Wyoming:

Dear Brother Maxey, Do you send your Reflections articles, that appear on your web page, out by email? If so, then I'd be very interested in receiving them. I have read a few of them and I really appreciate the fact that there is someone like you in the brotherhood who is willing to look at the Scriptures for what they really say, rather than just trying to prove what he already believes. Traditionalists pull verses out of context and misapply them constantly, yet claim they are only teaching "the Truth." In reality, they are only teaching falsehood and the traditions of men, which Jesus Himself condemned. I serve as an elder here in -------, Wyoming, and it sometimes gets very discouraging trying to get Christians to study the Scriptures simply to find the Truth. While we may be pointed to as "liberals," I think we need to become more like Jesus every day, and Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders because His teachings were different than what they were used to. The same will happen to us today. Keep up the good work, brother. We need it!!

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