by Al Maxey

Issue #515 ------- January 3, 2012
There is no sin and there can be no sin on
all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive
to the truly repentant. Man cannot commit a sin
so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky {1821-1881}
The Brothers Karamazov

Peter's Problem Preposition
Reflecting on "EIS" in Acts 2:38

On the web site of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, Matt Slick, in an article titled "Baptism and Acts 2:38" observed, "Acts 2:38 is one of the more controversial verses in the Bible regarding baptism and whether or not it is the requirement for salvation." Notice that he didn't say "a requirement," but "the requirement." Down through the ages, many within Christendom have conferred upon water baptism the mantle of Sacrament, proclaiming thereby that it is the act through which God bestows forgiveness, justification, divine acceptance and eternal salvation. It is the precise point in time at which one is "born again," becoming a child of God. In short, baptism SAVES you! It is the theology of "Baptismal Remission" and "Baptismal Regeneration." I was raised up in a faith-heritage that largely embraced this view, and proclaimed it so vigorously that they came to be known throughout Christendom as "the church of Acts 2:38." Baptism, along with a semi-sacramental perception of our tradition with respect to the Lord's Supper and a cappella singing, became the marks of our Movement: it was what set us apart as "the one true church" from all the heathen and heretics all around us who were deceived and deluded into thinking they actually had a chance to go to heaven! We were taught that until they got into one of our buildings, they were headed for hell. They didn't sing right, they didn't commune right, and they didn't baptize right. They were lost. End of story!

Yes, Acts 2:38 was the "proof text" proffered from virtually every pulpit by every preacher in Churches of Christ as I was growing up. And, I must admit, I pranced it out Sunday after Sunday in the early years of my own ministry, intent upon getting as many people "into the baptistery" as I could. After all, congregations weren't "hiring" preachers who didn't have a good "track record of baptisms." I pridefully pitied all those "denominationalists" who simply couldn't grasp the "simple truth" of Acts 2:38. Some, I figured, were just stupid; the rest were most likely servants of Satan sent to lead people farther away from the Lord. What arrogance!! What lunacy!! I long ago repented of such godlessness, and am thankful to see more and more within my faith-heritage doing the same. We are becoming a people transformed by the Spirit into a more Jesus-focused, grace-affirming part of the universal One Body of Christ. The sectarian walls we erected to isolate ourselves from others, excluding them from our midst, are coming down, and we are embracing other disciples of Christ as beloved brethren. Thank God for allowing me to live long enough to see this new day dawn!! And yet, although progress is being made, there are still those proclaiming a sectarian sacramentalism among us with respect to the nature and purpose of water baptism, and they are still using Acts 2:38 as one of their primary "proofs."

"One controversial issue concerning salvation has been whether water baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have insisted that water baptism itself is the means of the remission of sins. Evangelical churches, with their roots in the Protestant Reformation, have taught that, though baptism is important as the sign and seal of justification by faith and as the sacrament of initiation into the visible church, it is not the means of remission of sins. Certain cults and even some descendants of Protestantism, however, have embraced the sacerdotal views of Romanism and Orthodoxy and taught that sins cannot be forgiven apart from baptism. ... The most commonly cited biblical 'support' for the latter view is Acts 2:38. ... On the surface, in English, it seems that Peter meant that the purpose of baptism was to effect the remission of sins, which explains why baptismal remissionists so readily appeal to this verse" [E. Calvin Beisner, "Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?," Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. Yes, "on the surface, in English," the words of Peter do indeed seem to promote such a view, but deeper study and reflection show the matter to be a bit more complex than some would have us believe. In reality, "'Acts 2:38 assuredly confronts the interpreter with weighty problems,' says Professor Stonehouse, and the extent and diversity of the theological exegesis of the verse show how right he is" [Dr. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 75]. Dr. A. T. Robertson, one of Christendom's greatest NT Greek scholars, agreed, saying that this verse "is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology" [Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword].

"Peter's answer to the people's anguished cry presents interpreters with a set of complex theological problems that are often looked upon only as grist for differing theological mills" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 283]. Unfortunately, this is absolutely correct. Disciples of Christ have fussed, fought, feuded and fragmented over Acts 2:38 for centuries! Vastly differing theologies have each embraced this passage as the validation of their view, resulting only in greater confusion than clarity. Much of this is a result of a failure to fully perceive both the grammar and structure of the passage as it appears in the Greek text, preferring instead to build a theology around the wording in English as handed down from the old King James Version. Additionally, by lifting a passage from its overall context, one can easily do damage to the original intent of the author, thus abusing the verse to further a tradition, rather than using it to further Truth. "Rarely is doctrine ever made from a single verse" [Matt Slick, "Baptism and Acts 2:38," Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry]. One must examine carefully and prayerfully ALL of what the Bible says with respect to a topic, not just lift a handful of passages out of context to prove a personal or party perception or preference. Sadly, I fear we have done too much of the latter with respect to Acts 2:38.

The reality of God's inspired revelation, and this is perceived throughout, is that we are saved by grace through faith, not by virtue of anything we have done or ever could do; rather, it is a gift of God because of His great love and mercy. If this is true, and I believe with all my heart that it is, then we must repent of proclaiming a performance-based and knowledge-based salvation!! Redemption is not to be found in getting religious rituals right; it is found in the redemptive act of our Redeemer!! Salvation is a GIFT, and it is received by FAITH. Yes, genuine faith will show itself in our daily lives in countless loving manifestations, but none of these evidentiary acts, in and of themselves, constitute the precise point of salvation (as some sacramentalists assert). Thus, passages like Acts 2:38 must be understood in view of the truth that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). With that foundational truth in mind, how are we to understand what Peter told the people in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost following our Lord's death, burial, resurrection and ascension? Peter's message in his sermon was essentially: Jesus is the Messiah ... and you killed Him ... Repent of this, and embrace Him! Dr. F. F. Bruce correctly points out that in Acts 2:38 "the call to repentance is Peter's basic and primary demand" [Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 75]. When we teach baptism as the primary demand of this verse we have missed Peter's point. Peter's purpose was to turn the hearts of his hearers to faith in Jesus as their Redeemer, who, by virtue of His shed blood, would cleanse them of their sins! This basic emphasis is especially seen in Peter's sermon in Solomon's Colonnade where he says nothing about baptism, but instead declares to the people, "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out" (Acts 3:19). "This shows that for Luke at least, and probably also for Peter, while baptism with water was the expected symbol for conversion, it was not an indispensable criterion for salvation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 284]. Peter's clear emphasis is repentance, which "is not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 66].

The "Baptismal Remissionists," however, insist that the word "for" in Acts 2:38 proves otherwise! Yes, the people were to repent, but forgiveness of sins came at the point of baptism, they declare. After all, Peter said to be baptized "FOR the forgiveness of your sins." Thus, sins are forgiven AT baptism! Right?! Again, "on the surface, in English," this wording does seem to promote such a view ... until one begins to look a bit deeper and to ask some vital questions. For example, what do the rest of the NT writings have to say about forgiveness of sins and how such forgiveness is acquired? Paul makes the case, in Romans 4, that Abraham's transgressions were forgiven and his sins covered by faith, and that it was a gift of God's grace prior to his circumcision. Was circumcision an outward rite to which this man was required by God to submit? Yes, it was. But, as Paul notes, his forgiveness and justification were not due to this outward act, but rather based upon his faith. Paul goes farther here and informs us that this principle is true for us under this new covenant. Forgiveness, justification, salvation are not based on our acts of faith, but upon faith itself. The various acts (of which baptism is one) are merely evidentiary in nature: they show faith (James 2). They are essential (no one is denying that fact), but they themselves are not redemptive (as some claim). Thus, baptism does not remit sins, but evidences one's faith in and acceptance of the One who does!!

However, we are still faced with that little word "for" in Acts 2:38. Because of that word, some will vehemently assert that everything I have just said is "false teaching," and thus "Al Maxey is a heretic who denies baptism." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Water baptism is an act commanded by our Lord. Thus, we must comply. I have baptized many people during the years of my ministry, and I anticipate baptizing a great many more. I preach and teach the importance of water baptism, and I practice it. What has changed for me, however, is my previous perception that water baptism is the specific act by which, and the precise point in time at which, one is forgiven, justified, redeemed, saved, etc. I will no longer proclaim baptism as a sacrament, but rather as a required manifestation of one's faith. Forgiveness comes to those who turn from sin and in faith turn to the Lord. Such persons then demonstrate that inner faith and repentance by a number of visible acts that will occur throughout their lives (one of which is baptism). But, can one justify this view that forgiveness comes to those who by faith have turned to the Lord, or does the word "for" suggest it is baptism that brings the blessing? I believe one can make a strong case, from the structure and grammar of the Greek, for the former. And furthermore, if such an understanding of the text is at least a legitimate one textually and exegetically, then that fact would forever remove Acts 2:38 as a proof-text for baptismal remissionists. "A Bible verse proves a doctrine only if that doctrine is the only interpretation the grammar and word definitions permit. If there are other plausible interpretations, the verse might be used as evidence in a cumulative case for the doctrine, but its evidential value rises or falls in inverse proportion to the plausibility of the other options" [E. Calvin Beisner, "Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?," Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. So, let's take off our sectarian spectacles and seek to view this passage with fresh spiritual sight.

First, we need to realize that the word "for" in Acts 2:38 is not the actual word used in the Greek text (more about that word later). Nevertheless, even the English word "for" has quite a wide variety of meaning and usage. In Webster's New International Dictionary, for example, there are eleven definitions of the preposition "for" given, and baptismal remissionists have assumed that only one of those definitions can apply in this passage: that it denotes purpose, and signifies "in order to obtain." Although other legitimate definitions of "for" make equal sense, they are nevertheless discarded. Why? Because they don't support their theology! For example: "for" may also mean motive, thus signifying "because of." Would this definition of "for" in Acts 2:38 make sense? Would it be consistent with NT teaching? Of course it would. So, why is one chosen dogmatically over the other? I think we all know the answer to that. Is this other usage of "for" found in the NT writings? Yes, it is. In Matt. 3:11, just to give one instance, we find John the Baptist saying, "I baptize you with water for repentance." Okay, are they baptized "in order to obtain" repentance? That doesn't make sense. But, being baptized "because of" their repentance makes sense (and, by the way, this is the Greek preposition "eis" here, just as it is in Acts 2:38). When words have a variety of meaning and usage, we must allow the context in which the word appears, as well as the overall teaching of Scripture, to dictate which usage best fits. And where several may fit, one dare NOT become dogmatic over his interpretive choice. "The plausibility of these alternative understandings of 'for' reduces the evidential value of Acts 2:38 for the doctrine of baptismal remission of sins" [E. Calvin Beisner, "Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?," Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2].

The English word "for," however, is just a translation of the Greek preposition "eis," but, like the former, the latter also has a wide variety of meaning and usage, including the two mentioned above. "The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the NT and the Koine generally" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. Therefore, there are times when the Greek preposition eis (which appears some 1774 times in the NT writings) refers to purpose, and there are times when it refers to motive (and times when it refers to something else entirely). Again, one must allow the context, as well as comparative study of NT teaching on the topic in question, to guide one's understanding of the preposition in any given passage. Yes, baptism for/eis (purpose) the remission of sin is a valid rendering of the phrase, but is it a valid teaching in light of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. I do not believe it is. On the other hand, baptism for/eis (motive) the remission of sin, which is also a valid understanding of the phrase (and is the view taken by such Greek scholars as A. T. Robertson and J. R. Mantey, just to name a couple), IS consistent with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. We are washed clean of our sins by the precious blood of the Lamb, and we reflect the reality of that spiritual washing in the symbolic rite of baptism, which is a testimony and affirmation not only to ourselves, but also to others (much like our partaking of the elements of the Lord's Supper, by which we participate emblematically with the reality itself). Thus, we are baptized because of our forgiveness, not in order to obtain forgiveness. The latter elevates a sacrament; the former elevates the Savior!!

Baptism in water is "the visible seal of that remission" of our sins [Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "Water baptism is the external symbol by which those who believed the gospel, repented of their sins, and acknowledged Jesus as their Lord publicly bore witness to their new life" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 284]. Most Christians recognize that "there is nothing in baptism itself that can wash away sin. That can be done only by the pardoning mercy of God through the atonement of Christ" [Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. The renowned NT Greek scholar, Dr. A. T. Robertson, in his classic work "Word Pictures in the New Testament," declared, "My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or anyone in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received." Dr. F. F. Bruce agrees, characterizing "baptism as the visible token of repentance" [Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 77].

But, is there anything else in the text of Acts 2:38, either grammatically or structurally, that might perhaps bring additional light, and which might help us in our understanding of Peter's intent? Well, as it so happens, yes there is. There is a very significant break in the passage structurally that is not carried over into the English. "There is a change of number from plural to singular and of person from second to third. This change marks a break in the thought here that the English translation does not preserve" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. "In Peter's command, the verb repent is second-person plural. The verb be baptized is third-person singular. In the phrase for the forgiveness of your sins, the word your is second-person plural again. Imagine the implications of ignoring this switch from second-person plural to third-person singular and back again!!" [E. Calvin Beisner, "Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?," Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. This interpretation views "for/eis" as signifying purpose more than motive, but it links it with repentance rather than baptism. In other words, Peter is telling the people that they need to turn away from their present course and turn toward the Lord in order that they might receive the forgiveness of their sins. Each one doing so was then to be baptized in the name of Jesus the Christ, the very one they had previously rejected, but were now declaring to be Lord and Savior. That act of faith (baptism) would affirm their faith and bear witness to their new allegiance! It is not the turning itself that forgives sins, but rather the One to whom they turn: Jesus!! HE washes clean those who in fullness of faith turn to Him. Such persons then evidence that faith throughout the remainder of their lives (one of the first evidentiary acts being baptism).

Dr. Beisner wrote, "In short, the most precise English translation of the relevant clauses, arranging them to reflect the switches in person and number of the verbs, would be, 'You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).' When I showed this translation to the late Dr. Julius Mantey, one of the foremost Greek grammarians of the twentieth century and the co-author of 'A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament,' he approved and even signed his name next to it in the margin of my Greek New Testament" [ibid]. Let me repeat this principle of biblical hermeneutics: "A Bible verse proves a doctrine only if that doctrine is the only interpretation the grammar and word definitions permit. If there are other plausible interpretations, the verse might be used as evidence in a cumulative case for the doctrine, but its evidential value rises or falls in inverse proportion to the plausibility of the other options" [ibid]. There are clearly a number of ways to understand Acts 2:38, each of which are grammatically legitimate, which fact demands we not become dogmatic with respect to our interpretations. I have my personal convictions as to what Peter sought to convey to the people of Jerusalem that day, and I believe they are textually and contextually and conceptually sound. However, I don't pretend to be infallible in my insights (and I doubt seriously any of you are either), thus I pray we can continue to love and accept one another as brethren to the glory of our God, even when we honestly differ.

Special CD Offers
There are some very special
CD offers
for readers in 2012.

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

(A 193 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution & Extremism

(A 230 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

Immersed By One Spirit
Rethinking the Purpose and Place of
Baptism in NT Theology and Practice

(A 304 page book by Al Maxey)

Readers' Reflections

NOTICE: -- My first two books ("Down, But Not Out" and "One Bread, One Body") have been available on KINDLE for quite some time now, but the price they were asking was very high (about $25 per book). I had contacted them and complained about the high price (since most Kindle books are at reduced prices). My efforts have finally met with success. Both of these books are now reduced in price -- only $9.95 each. I hope all of you with Kindles will now consider acquiring them. My third book ("Immersed By One Spirit"), which has just been released by the publisher, will be available through Kindle in the next few months.

SPECIAL: Reflections in New Wineskins -- If you are not familiar with the publication New Wineskins, then you are missing out on some wonderfully challenging and refreshing material by a number of leading writers and thinkers within the One Body of Christ. The online site has undergone a major renovation; I think you'll like it. As part of that renovation, the editor, Keith Brenton, has created a section on the page where he will feature and follow the writings of three "Special Correspondents" -- Rubel Shelly, Edward Fudge and Al Maxey. Each of our photos are placed in that section, and under each picture one will find a link (along with a brief excerpt) to the latest edition of either Rubel's Fax of Life or Edward's GracEmail or my own Reflections. I want to thank Keith for including me (and my writings) in the company of such men as Rubel and Edward, whose work I have admired for many years. I am honored. Also, I would urge you to follow the work of Keith on his own Blog Site. You will be greatly edified by his insights!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Brother Al, My wife and I really enjoy the Truth we believe you teach in your Reflections and in the several debates you took part in. I am the brother of one of the members where you preach, and through her I have been introduced to your work. Your teaching about the soul, spirit and body, and when we actually become immortal, has been the most eye-opening teaching I have ever heard from anyone!! My favorite single sermon from you, which I heard you preach several years ago, was "Raising Our Ebenezer." I am enclosing a check for $30, and would like a copy of your two CD set MP3 Audio Sermons for 2010, plus the bonus CD that has your PowerPoint slides for those sermons. I am also planning to purchase, a little later on, your new audio CD of your adult Sunday morning Bible class on 1st Peter -- Encouragement for the End Times. Thank you again for the impact you have made on my life through your work!!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, I am writing to request a copy of your audio CD on 1st Peter titled Encouragement for the End Times. I've enclosed a check to cover the cost. Thank you, brother, for all your study, and also for your willingness to share your classes at your congregation with others through these audio CDs. May God bless you!

From a Reader in California:

Dear Bro. Al, I bought three copies of your first book Down, But Not Out, and put two of them in our church library (and I didn't ask permission either; I just knew your book belonged there). I would like a signed copy of your second book One Bread, One Body, and then a second copy so that I can place it in our library. Also, if I send you my copy of "Down, But Not Out," would you kindly sign it for me?! I have an especially deep interest in this book, since it feels like it was written just for me!! Thank you!

From a Reader in Virginia:

Dear Brother Al, I have been studying (for the 2nd time) your book Down, But Not Out. This time I am really absorbing the material. You have done an admirable job on this topic of divorce and remarriage. I feel confident and convinced by your sound and practical study of the Scriptures, which is helping in my own study and understanding. In all of my years of "hearing" and "reading" what others have said on the topic of MDR, very few if any have taught from the OT. Understanding those passages is key to properly interpreting those in the NT. I am free in Christ, yet I know that He expects me to love my wife and to accomplish His IDEAL. This IDEAL is not only for my marriage, but also in my walk as a Christian (and our "marriage" as the church to Christ). These principles that you have taught in your book are so consistent with what God expects from us as Christians. I had been running a marathon with so much baggage, and that baggage was keeping me from enjoying what God has done and prepared for me. Thank you, brother, and we hope to see you at the 2012 Tulsa Workshop (we are hoping to bring another couple from church with us). Also, I'm sending you a $100 check for several of your Special CD Offers. Thank you for offering these!!

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, THANK YOU!!! for Reflections #510 -- "Progressive Christianity: Major Markers of a Movement." I was so absorbed in reading your absolutely incredible message that I literally forgot to breathe, and I found I was holding my breath as every word reached my brain! What a powerful message you wrote!! Thanks to you, now when I hear that others are calling my husband and me "progressives" behind our backs, I won't feel like we've been "bad Christians" just because we don't worship at their building. We tried to stay at that small Church of Christ we used to attend, but their legalism and exclusivism was crushing our spirits! Their rigidity to "rules" had become laughable. For example: all the men were requested to attend a series of Saturday morning workshops on "Conducting the Lord's Supper Properly," which was taught by an elder from another congregation. They also refused to let a prominent Christian woman speak at our annual Ladies' Day at the church building because she was "not a member of a Church of Christ," although we could invite her to be our speaker if she spoke somewhere other than at our building! WHAT?!! Further, "The Men" (we had no elders) of the congregation called an "emergency meeting" after our preacher said, during his Sunday sermon, that we might be surprised to learn that not all of our brothers in Christ were sitting in a Church of Christ building that morning! He was so thoroughly blasted in that meeting for his "liberal views and divisive preaching" that he finally just resigned and left the meeting. That was over two years ago, and that little congregation is really little now!! Thanks to your above article, Al, I now no longer feel even one little twinge of guilt for leaving, yet I continue my prayers for those poor, misguided, miserable, graceless brothers and sisters. As you said in your article, "Progressives are more interested in loving their neighbor, than in lambasting their brother." I love you, brother!! You can't possibly have any idea of the positive influence you have had on this old lady's spiritual growth!! Thanks, and keep on keeping on!

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Every church leader that is breathing should read and digest, and ponder over time, your article "Makeover For A Movement: Can We Save the Church of Christ?" (Reflections #514). At 63 years of age, and having spent 40 of those years preaching (but now looking on from the pew), Leroy Garrett's observations, and yours, are right on, and this antiquated mindset you both discuss in that article is my greatest frustration. It should also be mandated for everyone to read Frank Viola's book "Pagan Christianity."

From a Reader in Alaska:

Dearest Brother Al, Yes, the Churches of Christ have strayed from their historical roots, like so many other groups have departed from their founders' intentions. How long their institutional inertia will carry them is a question I don't care to try and answer. I'm too busy in my own spiritual growth process trying to overcome past retardation. The older you get, the slower it goes. If God grants me life, I intend to develop my thoughts on such matters. You'll be asked to be a sounding board. I hope sufficient light comes about through the heat generated by your article "Makeover For A Movement." May others show you grace, mercy, and peace in your ministry.

From an Instructor at Abilene Christian University:

Brother Al, Thanks for your insightful treatment of an insightful book in Reflections #514. You should be eagerly awaiting Dr. Douglas Foster's in-progress manuscript of a new "World History of the Stone-Campbell Movement," of which he is one of the principal authors. This book presents our movement as much broader and larger than I'd ever dreamed, with African and other streams growing like wildfire, even as the U.S. Churches of Christ wither. It does make one thoughtful. Al, I'm attaching a brief paper I prepared a couple of weeks ago, which includes my thoughts on the future of the Churches of Christ. I thought it might interest you!

From a Reader in Nevada:

Brother Al, Yes! Yes! Yes! "Makeover For A Movement: Can We Save the Church of Christ?" is one of your very best articles!! A friend of mine in California, whom you know, sent me a copy of Bro. Leroy Garrett's book (which you discuss in your article) just last week. He sent it as a Christmas present. It is truly a great book! Thank you again for this latest Reflections.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, Your comments in this latest Reflections regarding the survival of our fellowship ("Makeover For A Movement") should be spoken from every Church of Christ pulpit in the land!! Dr. Leroy Garrett is right -- "Churches of Christ are dying for change." And, without change, we will die as a movement. Both you and Leroy show tremendous insight!! Thanks again for challenging the status quo with a vital message! Merry Christmas to you and Shelly.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, I'm so glad you mentioned Leroy Garrett's book in your Reflections, and as always you did a fantastic job of summing up an emotionally difficult book. I'm really glad you have such a thick skin, though! You're gonna need it, brother!! (LOL) I'll bet you never knew your military combat training would come to such good use!!! Blessings on you and your family during these wonderful days of reminder of His coming into this world to save us ... from ourselves.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, WOW!! Great stuff!! I'll bet some of your readers (who watch you carefully, looking for any "misstep," so they can attack) are loving this one!! "Makeover For A Movement" is a sad, but very true, statement about the state of our heritage! Thanks for writing it!!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Al, I want you to know that as long as you continue to speak error, I will continue to oppose error. You and Leroy Garrett need to repent for teaching false doctrines. The Way is lost to those such as you who have no regard for God. We have crossed paths before, and we will always cross paths in disagreement as long as you speak out loud where God has not. You made a broad brush of ignorant and false statements concerning the Lord's church in "Makeover For A Movement." I am sure that you are uncomfortable reading this, but give what I say some careful consideration.

From an Author/Cartoonist in North Carolina:

Brother Al, "Makeover For A Movement" is another great article!! Thank you for letting our Lord use you in this way to draw His people closer to Him, to each other, and to other members of His Body. Theophilus says "Amen!!"

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, That was another excellent article!! Thanks for challenging, as well as affirming, my beliefs. I too am part of that One Body of Christ Jesus. Blessings to you, my friend.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, My wife and I are planning to attend the 2012 Tulsa Workshop, and I will bring our copy of your first book Down, But Not Out so that we can hopefully get your autograph in it. Have a great holiday season with your family. See you in Tulsa in March!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Brother Al, Thanks for this Reflections. As Leroy says, "Soldier on!!"

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Right on! Thanks so much for speaking out on what the "Church" needs to hear. We're "losing" precious souls, but "saving" our ideologies. That must stop! We need to be more concerned with "saving souls" than "saving face." Another excellent Reflections. Thanks for suggesting Dr. Garrett's new book.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you for this wonderful article, and I can't wait to have Leroy Garrett's book for myself. I have been regularly saying that we need to publicly repent of what we have done in the heritage I grew up in. In many respects, our heritage has been just as guilty of "slaughtering" each other as those who literally killed non-Christians in the name of Christ.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Bro. Al, Your Reflections titled "Makeover For A Movement" is your BEST!! I will bet that a few will crucify you for what you wrote, but you are right on track. Oh, if only more people had your ability to think, and to present their thoughts to others, and not be afraid of the consequences from others, the Churches of Christ would be so much more successful, instead of such a failure. Please send a copy of this article to each of my three daughters (their email addresses are in the Cc space). I pray that they will read this and study this and take it to heart. So often I have been sorry that I raised them in the Churches of Christ. I want them to understand what you are saying about the Churches of Christ. I also hope their husbands and children will read what you write and learn the deep meaning of what you say. That would be far more meaningful for them than what they got at college. What you are saying is much too important for me not to call their attention to it, and I pray they will get it.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, Your article "Makeover For A Movement" has really stimulated some good discussion among the ministers here in our area!! Thanks for making us think and study!! Blessings to you.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Brother Al, For 200 years, we have attempted to restore the wrong thing. The real thrust of the "Restoration Movement" was, and should be, restoration of freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1). Too often, our congregations have attempted to restore conformity to an illusive religious "pattern." But, that's the very kind of thing God nailed to the cross: rules made up by humans, too often thought to be more important than our God-given Prime Directives summed up by Jesus as love of God and love of neighbor!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, Your Reflections on saving the Churches of Christ has to be one of your very best!! When I read my Bible, I don't see the kind of division I see in our world today. Thank you for being courageous enough to tell the TRUTH. May you and Shelly have a Merry Christmas.

From a Missionary in Honduras:

Brother Al, Thanks for the work and study that you do to uplift the Kingdom and provoke us to think. Since leaving the States four and a half years ago, and moving to work in the little country of Honduras, we have pretty much stopped asking what "brand name" the people we work with are associated with. We choose to work with people who simply love Jesus, and we will stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with any believer to work with them. As a result, we have been blessed to become partners in some amazing ministries. God's church lives!!

From a Minister in Nigeria, Africa:

Dear Bro. Maxey, It is a great experience to read your Reflections. It has added value to my life and ministry. I will keep on reading your articles. God bless you!

From a New Reader in Alabama:

Brother Al, I was born and raised in the Church of Christ and left in my teens. I never thought I would darken the door of a Church of Christ building again. At the age of 59, however, I met a wonderful couple, Henry and JoAnn Fudge (Henry is Edward Fudge's brother), who shine with the love of Jesus. I started attending the congregation where he preaches. Today he sent me your Reflections article on what the Church of Christ must do to be saved. I was very impressed with what you and Bro. Leroy Garrett had to say, and I would like to sign up for your Reflections. Thank you! May you grow ever more joyful in your relationship with Jesus!

From a New Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, Thank you for making this subscription opportunity available! I would very much like to subscribe to your Reflections. I am a high school principal in -------, Texas, and I have spent my entire life in the Churches of Christ (even went to ACU for college). I have been enjoying your web site for some time now, and I just listened to a recording of your sermon about drawing our circle of fellowship too small (Overcoming Narrow Fellowship). God bless you!! I have been struggling in recent years, realizing that I have spent most of my life agonizing over the "issues" that separate us from other believers, and relegating so many of them to the "outside" (in our minds, anyway). I don't feel even remotely blessed by those agonies. Brother, your words have been an encouragement to me without your evening knowing me, and for that I sincerely thank you. Blessings to you, and a Merry Christmas!

From a Minister in Montana:

Brother Al, I have been on your distribution list for about a year now, and I read your articles with interest. I have been especially moved by two recent articles: Progressive Christianity: Major Markers of a Movement (Issue #510) and Makeover For A Movement: Can We Save the Church of Christ? (Issue #514). You have very clearly articulated some of the thoughts that have been developing within me for some time. Over the past dozen years my faith and beliefs have been shaped by studies at Harding Graduate School of Theology, by my own personal study, writing and reflection, and by regular interaction (through our Ministerial Alliance) with the other ministers serving in our small town. Along the way I have moved from being a hardliner to something much like what you have described in these two articles. And yes, just as you pointed out, that journey has indeed been very costly. Thus, I had been experiencing some fear and doubt lately about the direction I am taking, unsure whether this is God's leading or just my own ideas. However, these two Reflections articles have been very encouraging to me, and very affirming of my conviction that unless we change, we are dead! I am still not convinced that the necessary changes can ever be made within existing congregations of Churches of Christ, unless they have some truly exceptional leadership, but what I am seeing here in my own town does give me some hope. I'm afraid that many of our visionaries have left our fellowship out of frustration, and I know that you have taken many "hits" in your own faith-journey of discovery, and that the many lies and rumors spread by our "brothers" about you can be very painful to endure. So, brother, I encourage you to keep up what you are doing, and I pray that God will bless you in this ministry.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, I noticed your latest Reflections in my inbox the other day, and took a quick look to see what you had for us this week. I didn't have time to read it all, but got the gist right away. I knew it was going to be good! The next day, before I got back to my email, I was reading Patrick Mead's Tentpegs. Then, I thought I would check out Jay Guin's One In Jesus blog site. Do you coordinate your subjects with Jay?! He also had a thread going on about saving the Churches of Christ. I was reading just a bit of some of his post before I came across a link he posted for Leroy Garrett's new book (he had a link for the Kindle version, which I immediately downloaded for only 99 cents ... what a deal). I then went back to your Reflections ("Makeover For A Movement") and read it in its entirety. It was nice to have Leroy's book right there, since you quoted him quite a bit. You covered just about every issue my wife and I have with the conservative branch of the Church of Christ. We were baptized into this group 2 1/2 years ago, but it didn't take long before we knew there were some things we were being told that didn't seem right to us (their view of instrumental music being the first, which, consequently, led me to your Reflections). We are now attending a Baptist Church. It's sad that you, Leroy Garrett, Jay Guin, Patrick Mead, and other leaders are so vilified, for we believe, along with you, that the Churches of Christ have much they could add to the Body of Christ if they could just get past that sectarian, legalistic mindset. Thanks again, Al, for all that you do to try and bring this needed change. You are appreciated and loved by many. To use a quote from Bro. Garrett, "Soldier On!!"

From a Leader with Eastern European Mission:

Brother Al, Your article reminded me of an incident that occurred several years ago. I was talking with a very conservative elder, and I said to him, "I believe that my opinions are the very best in the world." He looked at me as if I had gone crazy, or was being extremely arrogant, or both. I paused for a bit, then added, "Because when someone convinces me he has a better one, I adopt it." What's more, all of us do this all of the time. It's just that some, who believe that their opinions are equivalent to the Voice of God, put themselves in a position where it is almost impossible to convince them of a better understanding than their current one. Sadly, many of them have held the same opinions since they were in their teens or twenties, thus they are still in the throes of youthful certitude of conviction without benefit of mature reflection and growth. In those early years of my life, I looked at Bible study as a means of finding out how to defend what I already believed. Now I see it as opening myself up to what God is actually saying, which brings a great difference in perspective and approach. Also, thank you for your link in your last Reflections to the article in Christian Chronicle on the work of Eastern European Mission.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I can't wait to read Bro. Garrett's new book. I have longed for someone in our "brotherhood" to step up and say what he and you are saying without mincing words! It's going to take a lot of nerve for preachers to say these same things from the pulpits of most Churches of Christ, and I don't expect to live long enough to see that happen in too many places. Some preachers I know have simply chosen to leave. May God have mercy on our dear people who have been so brainwashed for so many generations to believe in the legalistic approach. One of our long time elders, now deceased, was asked if he felt secure in his salvation. His answer was, "Well, I don't know. I'm still working on some things." How very sad!! My love and respect to you and your wife. I know so very well what the persecution the legalists heap on a preacher can do to his wife and family!

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Thanks for a clear, concise and prophetic message once again! I find it interesting that just last week Tim Spivey had a short reflection on his blog site about this thought as well. He said the one singular thing that had to change to save our churches was our dysfunctional leadership. One thing that concerns me, however, is that when a group (any group, not just a church) finally begins to discuss how to overcome dying, it is usually too late!!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, If these are the things that are required for the "salvation" of the Church of Christ today, then they are doomed!! Or, maybe I should say, the legalistic branch of that movement is doomed. There is just NO way ... and I truly believe that ... NO WAY they will ever admit to being wrong about baptism, grace, worship, the role of women, etc., etc., etc. It just won't happen!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, Since discovering grace, I have wondered if the Churches of Christ are not outside of that beautiful concept, and therefore not part of the church we read about in the NT. Since the 1930's, our movement has departed farther and farther from grace, and more and more into a cultish discipline. Sad to say, the blinders we have developed for ourselves keep us in the dark. May God forgive us. Hopefully, we will finally come to embrace His grace, and embrace others who have done the same. Soldier on!!

From a Minister in North Carolina:

Brother Al, I really appreciate the work that you do, and have written to you in the past asking permission to repost some of your articles. My wife and I subscribe to your Reflections, as do many of the members of our congregation. I know you must read thousands of email messages, so I will get right to my point. I would like to have all the members of our congregation begin reading your writings so that we could truly begin to have a real open dialogue about the Churches of Christ and how we have twisted the simple message of Christ. We are so focused on the "pattern" that we have forgotten what Grace is!! Where would be a good place to begin this study in your writings? Any thoughts you might lend on this would be most appreciated.

From a Reader in Kansas:

Brother Al, After 33 years in the One Cup Church of Christ, we have decided to leave that group, and we now attend the Independent Christian Church. We have been here three months now and love it. These brethren, unlike the One Cup group, are open to fellowship with all segments of the Stone-Campbell Movement. This congregation has about 800 members, and they are active in the community as well as in mission work. In the One Cup church we had no interaction with the "Cups" brethren, and preached that we were the only ones saved. After three generations, I was the last family member left in the One Cup group, which now keeps getting smaller and smaller, as the OPA power brokers become more and more radical. So, I have no regrets about leaving that group, and we are enjoying the peace at the Independent Christian Church. By the way, many who called me "friend," no longer have any interest in me at all since I left the One Cup group. I had hoped it would be different, but it isn't!

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, In regard to Reflections #512 ("Grumblings and Rumblings: 'Go Away, Kid; Ya Bother Me!'"), for every negative letter that you receive, there are countless more brethren who love you and appreciate your ministry!! You have made such a positive impact on my life that I wanted to cheer you at this time. Don't ever let the legalists get you down or cause you to abandon your valuable ministry. I pray for you, Shelly, your efforts, health, and that you will have the strength to withstand all of the attacks.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you for all you've shared with us this year. Our lives have been enriched beyond measure by your wise and relevant words. May God bless you and Shelly this Christmas, and may you have a wonderful 2012. I am looking forward to your coming back in 2012 with more of your Reflections.

From a Ph.D. in Kentucky:

Dear Bro. Al, I can't tell you how much I have grown from reading your Reflections over the years! I marvel at your ability to deal with issues that are often complex and emotionally charged in such a direct, simple and respectful way. Simply stated, I am a huge fan and an appreciative student of yours!!

Special Note --- A reader in Texas wrote to inform me that a member of the Internet discussion group Church of Christ (which has a membership of 2249 persons) posted a link to my Reflections article "Makeover For A Movement" (as well as a snippet from that article), and said that he wanted to share with them an "interesting article by Al Maxey concerning the future of the Church of Christ" [Dec. 12, message #121,669]. This generated some interesting discussion, including the observation by one reader that I "went a little overboard" in describing the judgmentalism of the legalistic patternists, who he suggests are far more loving and fair-minded than depicted. I would love to respond to his post, but the owners and moderators of this Internet group have (for several years now) blocked all my email addresses and banned me from ever being a part of their group (as have a number of other "loving and fair-minded" ultra-conservative Church of Christ Internet groups; indeed, two of those groups have threatened to remove any member who even mentions my name). I guess their understanding of "loving and fair-minded" differs from mine. Anyway, this reader from Texas sent me one post by a brother who was positively impacted by my article, and who dared to say so (which has already generated some criticism against him). That individual wrote:

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