Issue #516 -------
January 10, 2012
May all your teeth fall out, save one,
and may it have a permanent tooth ache.
An Old Jewish Curse
I recently received an email from an individual in Florida who was rather perplexed by a statement made by the apostle Paul at the close of the epistle known to us as First Corinthians. He wrote, "What was Paul's intent in authoring the words found in 1 Cor. 16:22? Specifically, why did he use the severest of terms to describe someone not fond of Christ Jesus? I have heard atheists actually use this verse to try and portray the Christian God as a sadistic, egotistic monarch who demands our affection, or else." This disciple's questions are valid, as biblical scholars have long speculated and debated the purpose, and even the wisdom, of Paul's anathema upon those who have no affection for the Lord. Dr. A. T. Robertson, the renowned NT Greek scholar, even acknowledged that this term employed by the apostle "seems a bit harsh to us," although he goes on to defend its use as appropriate when one understands Paul's intent [Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. The passage, for those not familiar with it, is -- "If any man loveth not the Lord, let him be anathema. Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22, American Standard Version).
Some regard this declaration of anathema as "out of character" with a message of divine grace, mercy and love. Does a lack of affection (this is the Greek verb phileo, not agapao) on the part of sinful men really merit such a severe curse from Paul? Did he have someone, or some group, in mind when he wrote this, or is this anathema universal in scope? And just what was the purpose of adding the Aramaic term maranatha? Does it in some way intensify the curse, as some think? Or, does it stand alone as a completely separate thought, as others insist? And just what does that word really signify? If you have read a good number of translations of the text, as well as several commentaries on the text, you will discover very quickly that even highly respected scholars can't agree. They too are somewhat puzzled, although most have cherished theories they are more than willing to share with others.
To truly grasp Paul's intent here, it is vital that we first grasp the significance of the terms he employs. Having done that, it is imperative that we place them (and, indeed, the entire statement) within the context (both immediate and remote) of Paul's epistle to the saints in Corinth, as well as the context of his overall teaching. That will provide a foundation upon which we may be able to construct a conclusion that is at least consistent with what Paul may have been seeking to convey to the Corinthians. Beyond that, as is true with many passages of Scripture, we dare not become dogmatic regarding one disciple's deductions over another's. Such leads only to disputing, which inevitably leads to division, and may just result in the experiencing of that ancient anathema firsthand! Before examining the key terms of Paul's statement, notice the following translations of this passage:
Of course, a good many more translations could be provided, but these few give you an idea of the degree of diversity in several key areas of the passage. You will note that most use the word "love," although the NWT opted for "affection" (which probably conveys the thought more accurately). Most just say "the Lord" (which is what the Greek text actually states), but the KJV, NKJV and Lamsa add the words "Jesus Christ," and The Message translates the term "Master." Some versions use the word "anathema," while others seek to translate it (curse, accursed, outcast) or provide commentary on it (separated from God - lost forever). Some retain the transliterated word "maranatha" without comment; others seek to give its meaning. Some try to break the word down (it is, after all, two words in Aramaic), but don't agree on how: "marana tha" or "maran atha" (with each signifying something different). Thus, some feel that the term signifies the Lord has come (past reality) or the Lord is coming (future reality), while others phrase it as a plea for Him to come. The KJV links "anathema" and "maranatha" together, while all other translations (including the NKJV) separate them into two distinct concepts. So, as you can readily see, there is room for much diversity in how this passage is to be approached, both with respect to its structure and translation, as well as its interpretation and application.
Perhaps the first question we should ask is: what, or who, prompted this pronouncement from Paul? We are informed that it is anyone who "does not love the Lord." As already noted, this is the Greek verb phileo, and it appears in the following form: present active indicative, 3rd person singular (with the present tense tending to suggest this is an ongoing aspect of one's life; attitudes and actions that are habitual in nature). "This is the only passage in which Paul uses phileo with regard to our love to Christ," rather than the more common agapao [R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 786]. The latter term was a deep, self-sacrificial love; phileo, however, denoted a heartfelt devotion; deep affection. One can "love" (agapao) an enemy, but he may not "like" him (phileo). Our Father, and His Son, seek more than just servants willing to sacrifice self; they seek sons (and daughters) who genuinely have affection for them! Peter, in John 21:15-17, affirmed his affection for Jesus, but, in light of his betrayal, was hesitant to affirm his willingness to sacrifice himself for Jesus. What truly grieved him, however, was when Jesus, in His 3rd question, asked if Peter even truly "liked" (phileo) Him [see my study of this passage in Reflections #189].
Phileo "implies affinity, friendship, and fondness" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 201]. Dr. H. A. Ironside writes, "It means affection such as exists between good friends. It is used for the love of one friend to another and for family affection" [Addresses on the Gospel of John, p. 888]. "Phileo is to be distinguished from agapao in this, that the former more nearly represents tender affection" [W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words]. Many people will make personal sacrifices to engage in religious acts, but if they do so without any real affection for the Lord, it is little more than a religious sham. "If we lack even this affection toward Christ, our hearts are cold and dead indeed" [Lenski, p. 786]. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) astutely observed that "many who have His name much in their mouths have no true affection for Him in their hearts" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. What many professing "Christians" fail to perceive is that outward displays of piety are of little worth in God's sight. God searches hearts!! It isn't about religion, it's about relationship ... and that is where affection shines!! "The great idea is that everything in the religion of a professed Christian is determined by his real relationship to Christ" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 56]. If affection is absent, self-sacrifice is abhorrent. Duty can never rise to the level of devotion!
The Pulpit Commentary points out that a deep, personal affection for the Lord Jesus is "the essential of Christian fellowship, and let him who has it not be regarded as apart from the Church" [vol. 19, p. 552]. Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll says that Paul is speaking of those who are "heartless -- human affection to the Master is wanting, to say nothing of higher feeling." In his words, they are "false lovers, ... those who bow the knee to Him with a feigned heart" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 2, p. 952]. "Real Christians would show in the Christian community and in society some outward indications of their affection for and commitment to the Lord. If some, as seemed to be the case, did not, then they were showing by that lack of affection that they did not belong to the Lord. The word agapao would not have brought out so well for Paul an additional emphasis on the necessity of the outward affectionate expression of an inward love for the Lord which he could stress by using phileo" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 297].
Look at this epistle by Paul to the Corinthian brethren -- this was a congregation of disciples in disarray. There was significant squabbling occurring among spiritual siblings, factions were forming, and they couldn't even surround the Lord's Table without a "food fight." They professed a love for the Lord, but were apparently incapable of demonstrating that claim with any degree of affection for one another. And the Lord has repeatedly made it clear that what we do unto others, we do unto Him. If I don't love, or have affection for, my fellow disciples, then how can I claim to have love and affection for my Lord?! Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in his monumental work "Notes on the Bible," rightly observes, "This is a most solemn and affecting close of the whole epistle. It was designed to direct them to the great and essential matter of religion: the love of the Lord Jesus; and was intended, doubtless, to turn away their minds from the subjects which had agitated them, the disputes and dissensions which had rent the church into factions, to the great inquiry whether they truly loved the Savior. It is implied that there was danger, in their disputes and strifes about minor matters, of neglecting the love of the Lord Jesus, or of substituting attachment to a party in the place of that love to the Savior which alone could be connected with eternal life" [e-Sword]. One cannot help but think of our Lord's warning to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 -- "Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love" [see my study of the significance of this statement in Reflections #69 -- A Lordly Lampectomy. I think you will see some important similarities to the message of Paul to the Corinthians].
The Greek word anathema (which some versions simply transliterate, rather than translate) was the rendering in the Greek OT (the Septuagint) for the Hebrew word herem, which signified something set aside specifically for destruction (whether that be a sacrifice unto God, such as a lamb, or the destruction of that which was offensive to God, such as an idol). In time, the more positive aspects of the word faded, and it came to signify almost exclusively: "anything abhorrent devoted to destruction." This word appears in the NT writings only 10 times -- 6 as a noun (Acts 23:14; Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22; Gal. 1:8-9) and 4 as a verb (Mark 14:7; Acts 23:12, 14, 21). Except for the one appearance in Mark's gospel record, it is used exclusively by Paul and Luke. "In common speech it evidently became a strong expression of execration, and the term connoted more than physical destruction; it invariably implied moral worthlessness" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 121]. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the term as signifying "a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction." In the OT, when some person or thing was under the curse of "anathema," that person or thing was to be utterly destroyed. In the NT writings, the term no longer suggests that the person or thing is to be physically destroyed, necessarily, but that a casting out, or complete severing from, is to take place. To pronounce an "anathema" upon someone was, in essence, to "boot them out" of the presence of God's people and turn them over to Satan, as Paul suggested should be done to the immoral individual in Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1-5). Because of that man's egregious behavior, and his obvious lack of love and affection for the Lord and His people, he was "anathema" -- to be given over to destruction. The hope, of course, spiritually speaking, was that such a punishment would ultimately prove to be redemptive (which it may have been if 2 Cor. 2:5f is speaking of the outcome of that previous matter).
This pronouncement by Paul of an anathema upon those who have no affection for the Lord (and, by extension, His cause and church), "is a stern epitome of the whole epistle: If anyone by profligacy, by contentiousness, by covetousness, by idolatry, by arrogance, by heresy, evinces an utter lack of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, he must abide the consequences of his moral status -- there is no outlook in the future for such a man" [David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 2: First Corinthians, p. 260]. The person upon whom an anathema was pronounced (one who was thus cursed) became a "marked" individual among the people of God; he or she was to be turned away from as one accursed in the sight of the Lord. In the early church, the word anathema signified "the exclusion of a sinner from the society of the faithful" [The Catholic Encyclopedia]. "It signifies also to be overwhelmed with maledictions" [ibid]. Those who have no affection or devotion for the Lord, and who thus feel neither for His people, should not expect to be embraced in warm fellowship by either!! Indeed, those who turn away from God can only expect Him to turn away from them at the Judgment. Thus, one who "loveth not the Lord" can only expect one fate: to be given over to destruction. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31).
The "anathema" of Paul also fell upon all those who were seeking to return to rules and regulations for their justification and salvation! Paul uses the word twice in Gal. 1:8-9, saying, "Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema). As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (anathema)." I sincerely hope and pray that the legalists and patternists will pay close attention to this, for they are the very people Paul is cursing in this passage!! For an in-depth analysis of this fact, I would refer the reader to my following two studies: Reflections #202 -- Epistle to the Galatians: Magna Charta of Christian Liberty and Reflections #215 -- Embracing Another Gospel: Analyzing Apostolic Authorial Intent in the Admonition of Galatians 1:6-9.
The final word used by Paul in 1 Cor. 16:22 is maranatha (which occurs only this one time in all the NT) -- a Greek transliteration of "an ancient Palestinian Aramaic expression" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 243]. "Both the meaning of the words and their relation to the context have been subjects of controversy" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 56]. In Aramaic this expression is actually two words, but when transliterated into Greek it was often written as one word, which "poses the problem of separating the Aramaic words" [Lenski, p. 786]. Scholars differ on how to separate this Greek transliteration into its two Aramaic forms, and "the problem is complex" [ISBE, vol. 3, p. 243]. If it is separated this way -- maran atha -- it would be understood as an assertion of fact: "Our Lord has come" or "Our Lord is coming." However, if it is separated this way -- marana tha -- it would be an imperatival plea or prayer: "Our Lord, come!" or "Come, O Lord!" Clearly, which choice one makes will impact one's understanding of the passage, and to complicate the matter: both are linguistically legitimate.
To confuse the matter even more, the translators of the King James Version placed the words anathema and maranatha together, thus suggesting that they conveyed a singular thought. The idea being that the latter served to intensify the meaning of the former. You will find very few scholars who feel this was justified. Dr. A. T. Robertson wrote, "It was a curious blunder in the King James Version that connected Maranatha and Anathema" [Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. Another noted Greek scholar, Dr. Marvin Vincent, concurs, saying that this word "is not to be joined with anathema as one phrase" [Vincent's Word Studies, e-Sword]. "There is no connection between these two words" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 7, p. 356]. "The Authorized Version is mistaken in combining 'anathema maranatha' as though both together mean a curse. 'Maranatha' is a sentence by itself" [Lenski, p. 787]. The confusion of the KJV translators most likely came from the influence of Roman Catholicism, as the phrase "anathema maranatha" had been in use for many hundreds of years as a formulaic expression of excommunication, and was so used repeatedly by the Popes and Councils in their expulsion of "heretics." For example, Pope Silverius (536-538 A.D.) wrote: "If anyone henceforth deceives a bishop in such a manner, let him be anathema maranatha before God and His holy angels." Such condemnations using these two words together were quite common in the Catholic Church, and for an extended period of time. The KJV translators were certainly familiar with them, and were thus most likely influenced by this when making their translation. I know of no other versions of the Bible that make this same error in 1 Cor. 16:22 (not even the New King James Version).
The consensus of most scholars, and I concur with this, is that the separation should be marana tha, thus "the underlying Aramaic was probably an imperatival prayer: 'Our Lord, come!'" [ISBE, vol. 3, p. 243]. This is strongly supported by Rev. 22:20 where we read this closing imperatival prayer of John: "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." Although John did not use the words "marana tha," nevertheless his statement is believed by most scholars to be an expression of that same plea, and seems to show his awareness that this Aramaic expression was to be understood in this way. Thus, I believe we can assume from the context in which we find Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 16:22, that it is "a plea for the parousia of Christ in judgment on those who do not love the Lord. The context is one of cursing and judgment" [ibid]. Just as John prayed at the end of the Revelation, the coming of Christ Jesus will be a day of celebration for those who do love the Lord, but a day of condemnation for those who do not!! Whether that day is one of blessedness or accursedness all depends on whether or not we have a deep devotion to and affection for our Lord. Rules, regulations and rituals will matter little on that day, for redemption will not be for those in the right religion, but for those in a right relationship with the Lord! May God open our eyes to this Truth. Failure to perceive it may result for us in a pronouncement of anathema. And all those who love Him say, "O Lord Jesus, come!!"
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)
From a Reader in Mississippi:
Dear Brother Al, Enclosed is my check for your newest book Immersed By One Spirit. I am excited about this book! As you know from the emails I have sent you, there are questions regarding baptism that I still have, even after hearing zillions of sermons about it from my earliest years on earth. And almost each time a minister from the Church of Christ is on television here, I hear the same thing, including that all others who are immersed are still not saved until the immersion is done "FOR the forgiveness of sins." In attending a Baptist Church, as I have done for the past year or so, I find that they baptize far more individuals than the Church of Christ (locally), but they also put more emphasis on the change of heart than they do the water. The change comes as you accept Jesus into your heart, they say, then you are baptized in obedience to Him. Whichever way is right, whichever way I might eventually end up believing, what just irks me so much, and it always has, is that so many Church of Christ preachers condemn all others who don't think exactly as they do (no matter the subject). I just got too sick of it all to go on. That is why your ministry means so very much to me, and to others like me. Thank you, Al, for making this new book on baptism available to us, and for everything else that you tirelessly do to help others know of God's love and grace! As for your article "Peter's Problem Preposition" -- WOW!! It is amazing!! It is the most clear, concise, fair and non-dogmatic summary of Acts 2:38 that I have ever read. For most Church of Christ ministers I've encountered, "Come, let us reason together" just means: "Listen to me, and believe it the way I say, or else!!" Anyway, I just wanted to THANK YOU for this article! As you know, I (along with so many others) have sweated over these issues as we try to break the chains of legalism. Every time you research, write and send out a Reflections, it helps us to heal (even in those rare times when we may not be in full agreement with you).
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Brother Al, Thank you for the time and effort you put into your article titled "Peter's Problem Preposition." I believe this study will cause many to ponder this topic and further their own study and understanding. Also, I loved this statement of yours from the article: "The latter elevates a sacrament; the former elevates the Savior!!" Well said!!
From a Reader in Alabama:
Brother Al, I want to thank you for writing the book Down, But Not Out. I just finished buying and reading it on Kindle [NOTE: This book, and also my second book, One Bread, One Body, are both now available on Kindle at a new reduced price: only $9.95 -- Al Maxey]. I must say, it was the best book that I have ever read on this subject!! I have never read anything that examined this subject (verse by verse as it appears in the entire Bible) as well as you did!! It was a joy to study this subject without the author inserting pre-conceived ideas into the Scriptures. In other words, it was a joy to read a fair and non-biased presentation of this subject: an approach that looked at biblical history, language and circumstances in such a way as to let the Bible say what it actually says. Sooooo many times we read studies where the author makes the Scriptures say what he has already been taught, or what he already believes. Every church elder, deacon, preacher -- and every Christian, for that matter -- should read and take to heart Chapter 8 of your book!! Whether one agrees with all your conclusions or not is beside the point. When it comes to that chapter of your book, where you speak of the church's role in helping heal those caught up in divorce, everyone should agree with what you have proposed!!
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
Brother Al, I continue to enjoy very much your Reflections. I note that you must be having a big impact, as my brother, who is an elder in a Non-Institutional Church of Christ, recently said to me, "Just don't send me anything written by Al Maxey. He is crazy!!" I could read between the lines of what he said -- the members of his congregation must be reading your work!! Blessings, brother!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Brother Al, Enclosed is a check for your 2011 Reflections CD. Keep up your courage, Al. Your leadership is priceless, and you mean so much to us.
From a Senior Minister in Florida:
Dear Bro. Al, I would like to order the two-CD set of your 2011 MP3 Audio Sermons, and also the MP3 audio CD of your Sunday morning class on 1st Peter: Encouragement for the End Times. My check is enclosed. I have enjoyed your Reflections for a long time!! Great job!! I wish you a long life and God's richest blessings!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Brother Al, You must receive more responses to your articles than you can read or respond to, but I will try to keep this short. I am a 76-year-old former Church of Christ minister, having experienced the painful process of leaving the "non-denominational" denomination in the late 1960s. When my wife and I were struggling with our faith issues, we felt very much alone. We had been freshmen at Freed-Hardeman when Leroy Garrett, now my dear brother, was arrested. At that time, and for several years thereafter, I would say that I was closer to Ira Rice's teachings than Leroy's. I have been invited to tell churches about our recovery from legalism from coast to coast, and in Alaska and Hawaii, and in many other places as well. I am often contacted by people still in the Churches of Christ who are dying for want of freedom from their bondage. These folks are sensing that peer pressure has been a far more powerful influence in their lives than the Holy Spirit. Although we consider the day we left the Churches of Christ to be our Independence Day, we have never counseled anyone to leave. Effective change can be better wrought from within, as you are seeking to do! May God bless you and yours!
The arrest of Leroy Garrett by the officials at Freed-Hardeman was one of the truly dark moments in the history of our Movement. I made reference to this event in Reflections #107 in my review of Dr. Garrett's book "A Lover's Quarrel -- My Pilgrimage of Freedom in Churches of Christ." Notice my following comments from this early issue of my Reflections: "As brother Garrett became increasingly aware of his freedom in Christ, and of how unaware of that freedom many of his brethren seemed to be, he began speaking out boldly wherever he could gain a hearing, challenging his beloved brethren to think. As expected, this did not always find a warm welcome among those uncomfortable with the thought of change. He was frequently vilified by editors, elders and evangelists within Churches of Christ. In January, 1955 he was actually arrested and thrown into jail for showing up at the Freed-Hardeman College lectureships and talking informally with some of the students. When he later asked one of the college officials what his offense was, this official replied, 'Just being here is offense enough!' The President of the college declared him a mental case -- 'We cannot believe he is a normal man' -- and thus had him arrested before hundreds of students, simply because they feared his teaching. What was Leroy Garrett's mental illness? What was his demented teaching that posed such a threat to young, impressionable minds? Simply this -- that we are free in Christ and should be urging unity among brethren, not facilitating factions and promoting partyism. It was not a popular theme among the 'powers that be.' His opponents vocally encouraged him to leave and 'join another church.' This reminds me of a similar experience in my own ministry while I was preaching in Honolulu, Hawaii (where I served for six years). The former President of Freed-Hardeman, who opposed my own teaching regarding freedom in Christ, wrote and demanded that I get out of his church and go start my own!! Refusing to parrot the party line is anathema to factionists. I made the same determination as Dr. Leroy Garrett, however -- leaving my faith-heritage was not an option. I loved them too much. I, like brother Garrett, would remain, and would be a strong voice of reform among my brethren." --- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Maine:
Dear Brother Al, I am a member of the Sokoki band of the Abenaki Indian Nation here in Maine. I'm also a rather new reader of your Reflections. Thank God the Creator of all things that there is finally a voice of reason and common sense among us (through your writings). May God continue to bless you and your efforts, and may His hand of protection surround you and your family.
From a Reader in Hawaii:
Brother Al, May God continue to bless your efforts, dear brother!! Continued thanks for all that you write in these Reflections. I always look forward to reading what you have to say. What a breath of fresh air!
From a Reader in California:
Dear Brother Al, "Peter's Problem Preposition" was excellent. I know of no other who can expose the error of legalism better than you, and you use Truth to expose it. There is a WAR going on, and God has placed you in that ministry! I pray for you in that respect. Love you, brother.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Brother Al, Thanks for your recent Reflections on Acts 2:38. I think you have clearly stated the truth concerning this verse. I used to attend the Church of Christ here in Carlsbad, but so far they have refused to see the truth concerning Acts 2:38, the Lord's Supper, and the music issue. I now attend a Baptist Church. It is very refreshing to me to see what is being done in Alamogordo!! Maybe some day it will happen in Carlsbad.
From a Reader in Louisiana:
Brother Al, Many decades ago, my New Testament professor taught me to treat this often abused text (Acts 2:38) in the very same way you have suggested. The old fellow often mentioned his beloved professor and mentor, Dr. A. T. Robertson, and lauded him not only for being one of the best NT Greek men in the business, but also as a humble man who loved Christ with all his being. The emphasis in Acts 2:38 must be on "repent" to be consistent and complementary not only with the rest of the NT, but also with the rest of Acts. May God's blessing rest on you and your family. I am hopeful that I will get to see you in a couple of months at The 2012 Tulsa Workshop.
From a Minister/Elder in Missouri:
Dear Brother Al, Thanks for the encouragement and good example of how a Christian acts. Your last Reflections on Acts 2:38 was very good, as you challenged us to consider again something we thought we already knew! I love you and respect your studies. Looking forward to seeing you again at The 2012 Tulsa Workshop. God bless you and your family as you continue to seek Him.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Brother Al, I have learned to make a new pot of coffee when your Reflections come in, as it takes time to carefully consider the information that is being presented (especially when dealing with "sacred cows"). After reading "Peter's Problem Preposition," and then going back to the ones on 1 Peter 3:21 (Issues #217 and #497), I'm convinced that the Gospel clearly teaches that our salvation is based upon God's Grace that we accept by Faith. Baptism is a holy moment wherein we publicly commit ourselves to Jesus as Lord. It is indeed a special event, but not as special as the Grace of God extended to us through the suffering and sacrifice of His Son on the cross!! That is a gift we can't earn! All we can do is believe, and only God knows whether that belief is sincere. Thanks, Al. You are indeed a messenger of Good News. Hebrews 11 speaks of one who was sawn in half because of his faith -- let's hope that doesn't happen to you because of your teaching!
Brother, I imagine some are clenching their jaws and sharpening their saws as we speak!! --- Al Maxey
From a Ph.D./Elder/Author in Florida:
Brother Al, "Eis" and the "plural vs. singular" of Acts 2:38, as you described them in your article, are the deathblow to Sacramentalism in its deadly war with those of us who promote Salvation by Grace through Faith apart from any human performance. You can't have it both ways. Either salvation is by what the Lord has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus, or it is salvation by human effort and merit. Obedience to baptism, like the Jewish rite of circumcision, does not bestow or sustain our new life. Both acts are covenant seals confirming covenant identity after one receives new life "from above." It is not that our obedience is nonessential, but only essential as evidence of being endowed with new life in Christ. Our obedience is not the "sperm" that begets divine life as a child of God, but evidence that this life is present by the grace, mercy and power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is all about Him, not about us. God bless you, Al, and may you never yield to Sectarianism or Sacramentalism.
From a New Reader in Kentucky:
Brother Al, I just ran across some of your online writings tonight. I specifically spent time with your article "Is Baptism A Sacrament?" (Reflections #470). I was raised in the Non-Institutional Church of Christ, fell away for many years, and returned about 4 years ago. Right now, I am questioning this group's teaching (or lack of teaching) about the Holy Spirit. However, as far as baptism is concerned, I believe you were basically stating in your article that baptism is a response of faith, with which I wholeheartedly agree. Col. 2:12 says that we "were raised up with Him through faith in the working of God." It's all about having faith in what HE has done, not in what WE do.
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Brother Al, I admire and am amused by, and am also approaching addiction to, your abundant and apropos alliterations! I am a lexophile, and thus a fan of Richard Lederer, as well as other writers, such as you, who have a way with words. The alliteration, however, is not why I keep reading your Reflections. You are giving me a lot to think about. I have also sent your most recent article, "Peter's Problem Preposition," to the deacon who is teaching a class here on baptism. I'll be interested in his response.
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