Issue #599 -------
November 22, 2013
Evil is the brute motive force of fragmentary
purpose, disregarding the eternal vision.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
If you are around the legalistic patternists, hardened sectarians and warring factionists long enough you will come to realize that they tend to believe that there is a godless heretic hiding behind every tree and crouching beneath every bush. Anyone who dares to differ with them is ipso facto a "false teacher" and is to be publicly marked and mauled. They typically cannot discern the distinction between false teaching and a false teacher. The working assumption is that if you teach anything that is false (which usually means: "If you teach anything different from what I myself teach"), you are thereby a false teacher. The reality is, however, that no man alive has perfect perception of all truth, thus each of us is undoubtedly teaching things that are false. If one is a "false teacher" because he is less than perfect in his understanding and application and proclamation of ultimate Truth as revealed in Scripture, then we ALL fall under that condemnation. We need to realize that "false" modifies the "teacher" himself (his nature, character, motivation and behavior), rather than his "teaching" (which may indeed be indicative of an evil character, but which may also simply be reflective of the fact that one is still growing and maturing in his/her understanding, and is thereby less than perfect). I have dealt with this distinction in Reflections #123 -- "Focusing on False Teachers: Scriptural Fact vs. Sectarian Fallacy." Tragically, there is quite often a spirit of arrogance that accompanies ignorance, and this can turn vicious very quickly. Thus, the more rigid men become in the belief that their way is the only way, and that their perceptions and their practices are the only divinely acceptable ones, the more the public will witness both the written and verbal evisceration of those persons these "enlightened ones" deem spiritually and intellectually inferior to themselves. Such is a sad testimony to the destructive power of a sectarian spirit, yet we witness it daily, especially given the fact that communication these days is virtually instant and global.
Whenever the topic of false teachers comes up, one can be certain that a number of names will begin appearing in the ensuing attacks. Perhaps chief among these names are Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander, which have almost become synonymous with "liberal" or "apostate" or "false teacher." Over the years I have been "written up" a good many times, and invariably at some point I will be lumped in with these three individuals. For example, twenty years ago (next month) I was attacked, along with Dr. Don Givens (a dear friend and fellow minister; he and I were both preaching in Hawaii at the time), in the publication Guardian of Truth in an article by Harry Osborne (a preacher who at that time was located in Alvin, Texas). This particular magazine was a publication of the Non-Institutional ("anti") Churches of Christ (and is still in publication under the new title Truth Magazine). Don had begun preaching for a congregation that was not affiliated with the NI faction, and he was viciously attacked for this "defection." Don "has gone so far into apostasy" that Mr. Osborne was amazed that anyone would ever consider "endorsing one preaching at a liberal church" [Guardian of Truth, Dec. 16, 1993, p. 11]. Indeed, my friend made the "fatal error" of daring to list me as one of his references in a letter requesting support for his work on the island of Maui (I was the preacher during this time -- 1992 to 1998 -- at the Honolulu Church of Christ). This really got Harry Osborne upset, who declared in the article, "It is interesting to note that Al Maxey has not only endorsed the error of institutionalism, but is among the ultra-liberal element calling for a 'New Hermeneutic' and decrying the evils of 'Patternism.' Imagine the apostle Paul writing for support and giving Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander as his references" [ibid, p. 12].
Twenty years later I am still being lumped in with these three ancient figures. On Thursday, November 7, I posted a picture on my Facebook page of Billy Graham praying, a picture which had the words "Happy 95th Birthday" written along one side. I then made this comment to my "friends" on my own personal Facebook page: "Happy Birthday to a great servant of God. I wish we had more like him. May God bless this brother-in-Christ." Oh my goodness!! The legalists lurking on my page flew out of their caves foaming at the mouth; they absolutely went crazy! Literally scores and scores of people wrote to condemn me to hell for this, and a preacher in Tennessee even called our church office on November 12th and chewed on my secretary (until she got fed up and let him have it). When I got back to the office, and found out from Maria what had happened (she was still shaking), I called him back and had a "come to Jesus" talk with him! Another man wrote to inform me that he intended to make it his mission to expose me to the world for my "sin" of wishing Billy Graham a happy birthday and daring to call him a "brother." He then sent this message out to numerous people and church groups on Facebook -- "I was not previously familiar with Al Maxey, who preaches for the Cuba Avenue Church of Christ. He was a friend of mine on Facebook. I was shocked tonight to see his post praising Billy Graham. Upon further investigation, I found that Maxey teaches error on numerous topics. Please be warned that he is a dangerous man. Billy Graham is a false teacher and will be responsible for many people losing their souls eternally. I am severely disappointed to see a man who professes to be a preacher in the Lord's Church praising his error."
Following this public "marking," others quickly joined the attack. A man from North Carolina wrote me, "I am hoping you will repent for what you posted a few days ago. You posted a picture wishing Billy Graham a happy birthday. Sir, you may wear the title 'Church of Christ,' but according to the Bible you are in error, and you need to repent for that comment. You are bidding 'Godspeed' to someone who is a false teacher. I mark you, and I ask that you would do the right thing and come out and repent. Don't be a jelly-backed preacher who is afraid to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. Have a backbone and teach the truth. I wonder what the elders and members of the congregation where you preach had to say about this? I am especially concerned if they didn't say anything, or if they share your view. Please repent and come back to God before it is too late and you are lost forever." A man in Pennsylvania placed on Facebook (on one of the Church of Christ forums) a number of posts condemning and "marking" me, saying in part, "We must stop the mouths of false teachers. The principle of public rebuke of public sin is well-established in the New Testament. Demas, Hymenaeus and Alexander, Philetus and Diotrephes are all called out publicly as false teachers and unfaithful brethren. Not on Facebook, but for all eternity in the pages of Scripture. So, what I have done is in accordance with Scripture. Al Maxey has been known by many of us for what he is for some time. Wishing 'happy birthday' to Billy Graham is like saying to the devil that you love him."
Let me provide just one more example, in addition to the above two. This past Sunday evening (Nov. 17, 2013) I received an email from a preacher in Athens, Alabama. He wrote to inform me that the previous Sunday (Nov. 10) at 8:00 a.m. "the Seven Mile Post Road Church of Christ (which is in our area) played the tape of one of your sermons on their 30 minute radio program on WVNN. I believe they played it all. I do not know where they got the audio of your sermon, but I wanted to let you know that on our congregation's radio program on WVNN this morning (Nov. 17) I spent the time reviewing your sermon. The title of my lesson was 'Is Love All That Matters?' I didn't record my lesson this morning, but I pretty much read from the text that I am sending you." I'm not entirely sure which sermon of mine was played on that radio station, or even how that congregation got a copy, but I have no problem with a congregation doing this (as long as they play it all, and don't edit it). My sermons (both the audio and the accompanying PowerPoint presentations) for the past several years are offered on CD to any who would like to obtain them (Click Here), and I have made it clear to people for years that both my written articles and audio lessons are designed to be used, not hidden away. I also don't mind if those who hear them decide to critique them (either positively or negatively) in a public setting. In this particular case, the review was indeed negative in nature. His major objection with my sermon apparently was that I had really stressed the importance of LOVE in our Christian walk, which he characterized as "Maxey's 'love is all that matters' mantra." He went on: "Maxey read Matthew 22:37-40 and said this meant religious issues like instrumental music in worship and the number of containers in Communion don't matter; all that matters is love." This man's point is that I should have been stressing the need for obedience to "doctrine and commandments." He then said, "Do doctrinal matters affect our soul's eternal destiny? Evidently the apostle Paul thought so" ... and he then quotes the passage in 2 Tim. 2:17-18 that talks about Hymenaeus and Philetus.
Well, you get the idea. When you rattle the cages of "the defenders of truth" who are within "the one true church," you can expect a flurry of furious and frenzied and fanatical rantings. It would almost be comical, if it were not so tragic. These people seriously believe that anyone who differs with them in even the most insignificant way is going to be tortured forever by God in the fires of hell. Those outside the walls of their sect or faction will one day be "hopping from brick to brick" in torment. Too many cups in the Communion tray? God will scorch you for a zillion years. Eat inside a church building? It's into the frying pan with you! Use an instrument? Into the incinerator with you and all your fellow apostates! And, of course, we all shudder to think of the special torments that await that devil-loving dog who dares to speak well of the likes of Billy Graham or Mother Teresa! My goodness ... Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander are "saints around the Throne" compared to such a wretch!
So, who are these three men who have become over the years the "figureheads of falsehood"? The answer is: we don't really know! Very little is said about them in the NT writings (in fact, they are only mentioned by Paul in passing in his two epistles to Timothy). As to any personal information about them (how old, marital status, accomplishments, etc.) we know nothing at all, except Paul mentions them by name as a source of deep concern to the church (and especially those disciples in Ephesus, where Timothy was located). Indeed, "their sole importance to the student lies in the nature of their doctrine" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 589], and in the deadly threat of this doctrine to the people of God. And yet, "they have gained an undesirable immortality, destined to be known to the end of time only as the advocates of error" [Dr. Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. "It is a solemn thought that the Spirit of inspiration has given an immortality of infamy to these names" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21: 2nd Timothy, p. 30].
Philetus -- He is mentioned only one time in the Bible (2 Tim. 2:17), and only in connection with Hymenaeus. They were both charged with the same fallacy of doctrine and character (which will be examined below). The wording of Paul in this passage, however, indicates that these two were notable examples of, and perhaps even the leaders of, a group of misinformed, misguided and even militantly malicious disciples who were denying fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Thus, they were singled out by Paul for special censure. The NT Greek scholar, Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his classic work The Expositor's Greek Testament, classifies all three men (Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander) as "ring leaders" and "the more conspicuous members of a class of false teachers" [vol. 4, p. 101 & p. 166]. David Lipscomb characterized them as "fearless leaders, most likely, in their cheerless, destructive school of doctrine" [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 5, p. 219].
Hymenaeus -- He is mentioned only twice (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17), once with Philetus and once with Alexander. His name comes from "Hymen, the god of marriage in classical mythology" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 788]. There were two other people in later history that bore this same name: the Bishop of Alexandria in the 2nd century and the Bishop of Jerusalem in the 3rd century. The Hymenaeus under examination in this current study was actually "handed over to Satan" at one point (1 Tim. 1:20), along with Alexander, as a strong form of discipline (see my in-depth study of this early church practice in Reflections #522 -- "Deliver Them Unto Satan"). This disciplinary action apparently was not overly effective in this case, for "after his excommunication he seems to have been readmitted into the church and again to have troubled it," since Paul was forced to deal with him again in the second epistle to Timothy [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1377].
Alexander -- "Two Alexanders are spoken of in connection with Ephesus" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 356]. The first was a Jew (Acts 19:33-34), and very few scholars identify him as the person in view in Paul's epistles to Timothy. The other man named Alexander is found in 1 Tim. 1:20, and is linked with Hymenaeus. Most scholars believe he is also the Alexander mentioned in 2 Tim. 4:14-15: "Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message."
Okay, we can probably all agree at this point that these three men were not viewed very favorably by the apostle Paul. Indeed, they are clearly presented as active threats to the cause of Christ (especially in Ephesus). But, what specifically was their error? What was it they were doing or saying that caused Paul to oppose them so forcefully? And to do so by name? I believe that as we examine the three passages in Paul's two epistles to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14-15) we can discern five distinct areas of concern to the apostle, each of which alone was certainly serious, but taken together they constitute a portrait of persons who had abandoned the faith and were seeking to draw others away also. Notice those five areas:
In 1 Tim. 1:20, Paul handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan "to be taught not to blaspheme." Apparently, therefore, they had been guilty of this. The word "blasphemy" is simply a transliteration of the Greek word blasphemia, which is derived from two different Greek words: (1) blapto = "to injure, harm; hinder," and (2) pheme = "to speak; a saying; a rumor." Thus, the concept of blasphemy is simply to engage in any kind of "injurious speaking." When one says something with the intent to hurt, harm or hinder another; when one defames and slanders another; when one spreads destructive rumors and malicious whisperings, and speaks in such a way as to bring great, perhaps irreversible, injury to another --- that is "blasphemy." In addition to the noun form above, it also appears in Scripture as a verb (blasphemeo = "blaspheme") and an adjective (blasphemos = "blasphemous"). Each of these terms depict one whose intent is to injure others with what is declared against them. Such intent is blasphemous, by definition of the Greek term.
Are there individuals guilty of blasphemy today (just like Hymenaeus and Alexander)? Absolutely! The world abounds with them. Sadly, so also does the church! Paul told Timothy that he had delivered a couple of men "over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme" (1 Tim. 1:20). One of these men, Alexander, he later said, "did me a great deal of harm" (2 Tim. 4:14). Undoubtedly, the great harm or injury done unto the apostle Paul, at least in part, was through the wicked declarations made against him by this individual (and also by Hymenaeus). How many brethren in Christ today are similarly harmed or hindered by the many godless statements and accusations made against them? Paul instructed the Colossian brethren, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col. 3:8-10). Speaking so as to injure another is unfitting for those who profess to be Christ-like. "Let your speech always be with grace" (Col. 4:6). Good advice!
In 2 Tim. 4:15, Paul warns Timothy to "be on guard against" Alexander, "because he strongly opposed our message." This was an active hostility toward the teaching of this Spirit-led apostle of Christ Jesus. We are not told the exact nature of this opposition, but in light of the charge of blasphemy, we can certainly assume that a part of that opposition took the form of verbal assaults against both the message and messenger. It is even possible, and very probable, that he sought to incite others against this teacher and teaching, and perhaps even sought to have Paul physically assaulted or arrested or even assassinated (we know from the NT writings that there were those persons who attempted each of these against him), thus seeking to hinder his teaching and thus deny him opportunity to proclaim the message of God's grace. In this particular text, however, we see that the emphasis is on opposition to the message itself, although such men quite often seek to subvert the message by simply silencing the messenger (especially if they can't effectively refute the message), as was the case with those who viciously opposed the Spirit-filled and -led Stephen in Acts 6-7. Quite often, those who don't understand another's message (or who perhaps DO understand, but who don't like that message, for it is inconsistent with their own opinions) will attack that message with a fury. Alexander stands forever as the fanatical face and figurehead of such factional, fratricidal fury.
Paul, in 1 Tim. 1:19, declares that Hymenaeus and Alexander suffered the shipwreck of their faith by failing to "hold on to faith and a good conscience." Indeed, Paul says they have "rejected these," which suggests it was a willful, conscious act (making it all the worse). R. C. H. Lenski, in his commentary on Paul's epistles to Timothy, writes that these men "are notorious by having progressed entirely out of the faith" [p. 800]. In both heart and mind ... in both faith and conscience ... they had become corrupt. Perhaps seeking personal gain or fame, they had compromised their convictions, rejecting both the moral and spiritual "checks and balances" that would have helped them to maintain their course on their spiritual voyage. Instead of safely sailing the seas to the safe harbor, they had suffered a devastating shipwreck of faith and conscience instead.
In 2 Tim. 2:14 Paul tells Timothy, "Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." Then, in vs. 16-17 he writes, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus." A "heretic" is, by definition of the Greek term, one who is willing to push a personal opinion to the point of division. Such is too often the case with those who fuss and fight over their views, and who condemn all who dare to differ with them. The legalistic patternists, who are convinced that they, and they only, have all truth in their possession, and understand it and practice it perfectly, are only too willing to castigate and condemn anyone who has a different perception or practice. Since they alone are right in all matters of faith, all others are ipso facto godless apostates. Thus, they wrangle and quarrel and chatter over things of no eternal value, although in their minds these matters are the very basis of salvation itself. Such persons ruin those who hear them, and their graceless "gospel" spreads like gangrene in the Body of Christ. One commentator paraphrases Paul's warning this way: "To all these irreligious and frivolous hair-splittings give a wide berth" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 402]. Such wrangling over human perceptions, preferences, practices and precepts is a disease -- gangraina (a medical term used only here in the NT writings; referring to a sore that eats away at the body, and which in that day was incurable, the only recourse being amputation of the affected area).
The primary false teaching being proclaimed by these early church heretics, and which Paul declared must be dealt with boldly, was the denial of the resurrection of the dead, which is one of the foundational truths upon which our Christian faith and hope are based. To discount this teaching is to destroy faith. "The error (the denial of the resurrection of the physical body) had its origin in the Greek philosophy which regarded matter as essentially evil, and therefore unworthy to share in the ultimate glorification of the redeemed" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21: 2nd Timothy, p. 31]. This was the early beginnings of the heresy of Gnosticism. The denial of the very teaching Paul proclaimed in 1 Cor. 15 to be essential to the Christian faith "came from the masters of Gnosticism" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 589]. We detect, therefore, that "the beginnings of the subsequent Gnostic heresy already existed" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1377]. "The same denial of a bodily resurrection was a characteristic of the more important of the widely-spread Gnostic systems of the second and third centuries" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 229].
Not believing in the value of the physical, and only in the spiritual, these individuals had "reasoned away" any hope of a future bodily resurrection of the dead, thus undermining the very basis of our hope. They twisted truth to accommodate their false doctrine, thereby suggesting that the resurrection was a spiritual event rather than a physical one, and that it perhaps had already occurred. Some, by the way, teach the same doctrine even today, thus falling under the same condemnation as these "figureheads of falsehood." Many scholars feel that "they were evidently explaining the resurrection in a spiritual sense, equating it with regeneration, or the new birth. First Corinthians 15 is Paul's extended answer to this false teaching, which was also propagated by some in the church at Corinth" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 402]. "The apostle had largely disproved this error in 1 Cor. 15, and therefore does not here enter into the arguments against it. The resurrection of the dead is one of the great doctrines of Christ," yet these individuals were saying "that what Christ spoke concerning the resurrection was to be understood mystically and by way of allegory, that it must be meant of a spiritual resurrection only. It is true, there is a spiritual resurrection, but to infer thence that there will not be a true and real resurrection of the body at the last day is to dash one truth of Christ in pieces against another" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Dr. Charles Ellicott stated, "In attacking, with their thinly-veiled skepticism, the great doctrine of the resurrection of the body, in pushing aside this glorious hope, they touched with their impious hands the cornerstone of all Christian belief" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 229].
"In spiritualizing the resurrection, Philetus and Hymenaeus may have taught that it occurred at baptism" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 832]. "Gnostic teaching conceived of resurrection allegorically, as referring to acquaintance with truth and as occurring at baptism" [Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1863]. "They declared the resurrection already to have occurred, namely in baptism and conversion" [R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy, p. 801]. "They may have taught that 'raised with Him' in baptism was the true resurrection and thus came to the conclusion that the resurrection was already past. In reaching such a conclusion, they made a fatal mistake, for the resurrection of the body, grounded upon the Lord's own words, is one of the cardinal doctrines of the gospel" [David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 5, p. 219]. "They had erred in one of the fundamental doctrines. By some manner of foolish reasoning they had come to the conclusion that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place, probably by arguing that the Lord had only conversion, the resurrection of men's souls from spiritual death, in mind when He used the term" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT: vol. 2, p. 407].
Why did Paul take the time to warn Timothy about these men? The answer lies in the fact that they were attacking one of the greatest and most important truths of the Christian faith, and thus they needed to be confronted. "All our hopes of future glory rest on the literal reality of the bodily resurrection. To believe it past is to destroy it in its true sense" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1377]. Paul's concern was not generated over the fact that these men held opinions about non-essential matters that differed with his own. This was not about worship style or how to spend the funds in a church treasury or what could or couldn't be done in a church building. This wasn't about instruments or cups or classes. We can differ on these matters all day long without any eternal consequence. But, when a basic truth is attacked we must rise to defend that truth and oppose those who attack it. Although many employ these men's names in their assault against people who may wish someone "happy birthday," or who employ a praise team on Sunday morning, or who have multiple cups in a Communion tray, the real significance of Paul's "marking" is when those marked are willfully seeking to subvert a foundational eternal Truth. Those who are wise will discern this distinction; those who are not will continue to squabble over their "irreligious and frivolous hair-splittings." May God give us the boldness, like the apostle Paul, to confront such sectarian insanity whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head among us!
From a Minister in New York:
Twenty-one years ago I made a decision that was life-altering. I was baptized into Christ and abandoned my Catholic understanding of God. Seven years ago I made another life-altering decision. I mostly left my association with the Churches of Christ. Largely, this was due to their focus on their tradition, as well as the legalistic and sectarian nature of those I had to deal with on a regular basis in this group. I have to wonder as to the philosophy behind why you continue to maintain such a close affiliation with this denomination. Do you feel that the label "Church of Christ" best describes what you believe? Would you be willing to share why this connection to the Churches of Christ remains important to you?
As my understanding of the truths contained in God's inspired revelation has grown, and as I have come to a far better appreciation of the universal and non-sectarian nature of the One Body, I have personally abandoned the factional focus of many within my faith-heritage. My loyalty is to a Person, not any particular religious party. A number of years ago I came to the point in my spiritual journey where I had to make a decision. Do I leave my heritage (the Stone-Campbell Movement), or do I remain? Exchanging one set of traditions for another seemed rather pointless to me. Most groups within Christendom had good points and bad points: areas of doctrine and practice with which I both agreed and disagreed. Heritage hopping, therefore, seemed a rather fruitless exercise. Therefore, I chose to simply "bloom where planted." I would continue my association with the group within which I was raised, BUT I would seek to be a "missionary to my movement" to bring as many as I could to a better appreciation of God's grace and the universal nature of the church. My goal would be to help tear down the walls of sectarian and factional exclusion that have divided brethren far too long. This, of course, has greatly angered the legalists and sectarians within my heritage, but I believe God has used my efforts these past few decades to bring about some significant change. There is still much work to do, however. A fuller documentation of my thinking on this may be found in Reflections #20 -- "Why Do You Stay?: A Rationale for Continued Association." Along the same lines, I would encourage a reading of Reflections #107 -- "A Lover's Quarrel: A Reflective Review of a Recent Reformer's Retrospection," in which I discuss Dr. Leroy Garrett's decision to do the same thing I have. Clearly, continued association and affiliation with a religious group whose traditions and theology one has grown beyond spiritually is not for everyone, but for some of us, who have been called by God to stay and seek to facilitate change from within, it seems to be the right choice. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Canada:
I have a copy of an unpublished manuscript written by J. D. Bales on marriage and divorce. I talked to him around 1980, I believe, on this subject and he asked me to read his manuscript. To my knowledge, he never published this material. I still believe he had quite a good insight on the subject, especially when you consider the way our movement was thinking at the time. I was wondering if you would like to have this manuscript. I need to downsize my library, and I felt this might be of interest to you considering you have also written a book on MDR (Down, But Not Out). This manuscript is mostly typed, although there are some notes in his own handwriting. If you want it, I will send it to you at your residential address.
Needless to say, I accepted this gracious offer! What an honor to be chosen to receive this work from a noted figure within the Stone-Campbell Movement (James David Bales lived from 1915-1995 and was an author, preacher and professor at Harding University). Thus, this work by him is a piece of our history. I sincerely thank this brother in Canada for this gift. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alabama:
Please send me your two CD audio set titled An In-Depth Study of the Epistle to the Galatians. My check is enclosed. Your Reflections have been, and are, a great benefit for me. Thank you for your excellent work, and for sharing it with others.
From a Reader in Texas:
Just read your article "Earning Salvation by Obedience" -- Great work!! Please keep 'em coming! While growing up, we moved around the oil fields a lot, and we always attended at a Church of Christ wherever we lived. In a nut shell, my answer to the question written by the brother who asked if this (one is saved by obedience to commandments) is typical Church of Christ teaching is: Yes, Most Definitely!! I finally came to the realization that we were being taught that Jesus did not do enough; that in order to be saved and stay saved we basically had to do whatever the Elders told us to do! We had to work hard, strive to be perfect, etc., etc. I believe that this flies in the face of the teaching and sacrifice of Jesus.
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Thank you very much for your latest Reflections article "Earning Salvation by Obedience." I like the way you express yourself, and those expressions have helped me. In the late 1950's (I was converted in 1957), the preacher who baptized me preached a sermon about the last judgment. He painted a picture of each one of us standing before Jesus telling Him what we had done. Like so many others, I taught (and was taught) the 50/50 doctrine. God gave us Jesus, Jesus died for our sins, and the Holy Spirit inspired the NT writings. After "the day of miracles," all three of them left us with the NT "law." Our 50% of the equation was to then obey that law as perfectly as possible, which would be our ticket to heaven. In other words, we earn (work for) our salvation by doing as close to 100% in our 50% category as possible. Thankfully, the preacher who baptized me "woke up" in the 1980's and began his journey into GRACE (and remained on that path until he died). My own journey into GRACE began after reading a book by a West Virginia brother on the subject. After reading it, I wrote to him asking: If we could be wrong in some doctrinal areas and still be right in God's sight due to His grace, why couldn't our religious neighbors receive that same grace?! Thanks again, and keep up the good work.
From a Reader in Louisiana:
We are co-workers with God in salvation. A man who DOES nothing to get right with God, will never be right with God. Christ provides the forgiveness and grace, but receiving those blessings requires some EFFORT on man's part -- that human effort thus participates with God in the giving of salvation. We are co-workers with God. For what? Amway? Cooking dinner? No. For life, rescue, salvation.
From a Minister in California:
Two words, Al -- just two words to describe your article "Earning Salvation by Obedience" -- SPOT ON!!
From a Reader in California:
Excellent, as always! For more than two decades, as a member of a legalistic Church of Christ congregation, I obeyed God out of fear, guilt and obligation. Now, I obey out of a genuine love for Him, and to honor Him. In fact, I now want to actually do more for Him than I ever have. Al, your Reflections were a turning point in my life, and they continue to be a touchstone of strength, courage and knowledge for me. Thank you.
From a Reader in Florida:
I continue to enjoy your Reflections articles. They are very challenging and informative. We are studying the miracles of Jesus in our adult Bible class, and the author of the lesson book we are using goes to great lengths to try and prove that the wine Jesus made (John 2) was non-intoxicating (or non-alcoholic). I believe he is absolutely in error on this. One of the arguments he makes is utterly ridiculous: he said that if Jesus turned the water into an alcoholic drink, then "Jesus could not serve as an elder in His own church." Wow!! What nonsense people will resort to in order to try and prove an erroneous doctrine! At any rate, I would love to have your thoughts on this topic.
I shared a couple of my articles on this subject with this reader which I believe will prove helpful in refuting the teaching of that author: Reflections #134 ("Behold, A Winebibber: May A Christian Drink Wine?") and Reflections #563 ("Leaders and Libations: May Shepherds and Servants Consume Alcoholic Beverages?"). -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Al, you hit the nail on the head with your recent article titled "Earning Salvation by Obedience." I don't know how many times I have heard some of "our" preachers say that we cannot earn salvation, and then in the very next breath contradict themselves!! Misplaced emphasis on human obedience has caused many to believe that it is what they do that saves them, instead of it being faith in what Jesus did. The more we understand grace, the more we will gladly submit to our Savior, as Paul did (1 Cor. 15:10). Again, thanks for helping people see the biblical reason Christ's disciples obey Him!
From a Minister in Arkansas:
"Earning Salvation by Obedience" was a very good article, Al. You have, in my humble opinion, placed obedience in its proper biblical context. I agree completely that understanding the total redemptive picture takes the matter entirely out of the realm of legalism. Thank you for this study!
From a D.Min. in Oklahoma:
Al, thanks again for all your studies, and for your love for God and His people. You are a sterling example of maturity and thoughtfulness. If there is ever anything I can do for you, or to help you in any way, please let me know!
From a Reader in Canada:
You have done it again: Great article; down-to-earth and to-the-point. If Jesus is my all, then to be like Him is my goal. I am bought with a price: the precious blood of my Savior. And because of that, I am willing to be His bond-servant forever, knowing that He will always do what is right for me.
From a Reader in Georgia:
I just don't know how anybody could read Romans 4 and then speak about earning their salvation! God gives you everything He has, at no cost, if only you will accept it. He pays no wages; He just gives freely of Himself. What more could one wish to "earn" that God hasn't already freely given to us?!
From a Reader in West Virginia:
I have been getting your weekly Reflections articles for about a month or so, and I really enjoy them! My husband is the minister at the ------- Church of Christ, and both of us grew up in this fellowship. Best wishes!
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