Issue #624 -------
July 11, 2014
A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest
of lies. A lie which is all a lie may be met
and fought with outright, but a lie which is
part a truth is a harder matter to fight.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
Some have characterized 1 Kings 13 as a narrative of "a thought-provoking episode from the early history of the Northern Kingdom" of Israel [James E. Smith, I & II Kings, p. 296]. I would say that is a bit of an understatement! Dr. Jesse Long, a professor at Lubbock Christian University, describes it as "one of the more unusual stories in all of Scripture" [The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings, p. 169]. It is certainly that! There are many strange accounts in Scripture, but this is one of the oddest, and in many ways one of the most troubling. As Matthew Henry (1662-1714) contemplated the events of this puzzling chapter, he wrote, "What shall we make of this?! The judgments of God are unfathomable!" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Before continuing with this current issue of Reflections, please take a moment to read 1 Kings 13 so you will be familiar with the account.
The people of God had recently divided into two kingdoms: Israel to the north, and Judah to the south. Jeroboam was king of the northern kingdom, while Rehoboam ruled the southern kingdom. Although temple worship was maintained in Judah, Jeroboam set up alternate worship sites in Israel, primarily at Dan and Bethel, where he instituted idol worship. He constructed two golden calves, placing them at these two locations, and then informed the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). "Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made" (vs. 31-32). Jeroboam would become legendary for his wickedness, and would ultimately be destroyed for his sin against God and the people. "This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth" (1 Kings 13:34). However, he would reign for 22 years (1 Kings 14:20), perpetuating his wickedness, before death overcame him. Nevertheless, God sought to warn this king so as to turn him from his evil ways, which is certainly a reflection of His grace and mercy. 1 Kings 13 is the account of one such attempt by a prophet of God; an attempt that failed (1 Kings 13:33).
There is nothing particularly unusual about the first part of this chapter (1 Kings 13:1-10), although it does contain a few miracles. As the chapter begins, we find an unnamed "man of God" from the southern kingdom of Judah being sent by the Lord to confront Jeroboam in Bethel. There has been much speculation as to the identity of this "man of God," with Josephus even declaring his name to be "Jadon." In reality, however, there is simply insufficient data provided in Scripture to make a positive identification. "On the fifteenth day of the eighth month" (1 Kings 12:33), as King Jeroboam "was standing by the altar to make an offering" (1 Kings 13:1), this "man of God" from Judah appeared and cried out against what the king was doing. He prophesied that a man named Josiah would be born (of the house of David) and that he would sacrifice the bones of the false priests upon this very altar, thus defiling it (vs. 2). This would be literally fulfilled by King Josiah (who, at this point, had not even been born), according to 2 Kings 23:15-20. As a sign to Jeroboam that this prophecy was true, a sign would be provided: God would strike the altar that day and split it apart, spilling the ashes of the offerings that were upon it.
Before that sign occurred, however, Jeroboam, who was outraged by the interruption of this prophet, "stretched out his hand from the altar and said, 'Seize him!' But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back" (1 Kings 13:4). It was at this precise point that the altar was split apart, just as the prophet had predicted (vs. 5). Needless to say, the attitude of the king changed dramatically, and very quickly. He pleaded with this unnamed prophet, saying, "Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored" (vs. 6). The "man of God" did so, and God restored the king's hand. "The king said to the man of God, 'Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.' But the man of God answered the king, 'Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: "You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came."' So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel" (1 Kings 13:7-10). "Whether Jeroboam hoped to win such a holy man over to his side, he clearly intended to try both to mollify the prophet's stand and to save face before the multitude" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 119]. "A feeling of gratitude may have prompted the invitation, while the king at the same time was very sensible of the advantages which would accrue to himself if it were accepted" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 285].
Sharing food, in that culture, however, was a significant event. Had this prophet dined with the king, it would have demonstrated some degree of fellowship that could have quickly undermined the whole force of his prophecy. "The acceptance of hospitality and reward would in the eyes of the people imply a condonation of the idolatrous worship, which might well destroy or extenuate the impression made by the prophet's prediction" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 3, p. 64]. "Participation in food is in the East a token of friendship and affinity; a sign of close communion and fellowship. The prophet's refusal to participate was consequently a practical and forcible disclaimer of all fellowship, a virtual excommunication, a public repudiation of the calf-worshippers" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 285]. In 1 Cor. 5:11, the apostle Paul warns us not to associate with those who are idolaters; "with such a one do not even eat." "It is God's will, most emphatically expressed, that His servants should not fellowship with such as teach, or adhere to, false doctrine" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 583]. Up to this point, we certainly admire the conviction and steadfastness of this "man of God" from Judah. He boldly confronted the wicked king and his sin, he fearlessly rejected the king's invitation to dine with him, and rebuffed any notion of a reward, and he did so in forceful words that would have left no doubt in the minds of onlookers as to his disdain for the sins of the northern kingdom. Oh, that the story had ended here! Sadly, it did not.
Beginning in 1 Kings 13:11 the story shifts from Jeroboam and the "man of God" to "a certain old prophet living in Bethel" and his encounter with the "man of God" from Judah. It is here that the account turns tragic. A number of questions come to mind as we contemplate this other nameless prophet. First, was he a prophet of God, or was he one of the prophets of this false religion instituted by Jeroboam? Although the text does not specifically state which, the fact that he still dwells at Bethel may suggest he had chosen, for whatever reason, to remain close to this worship center of one of the golden calves. We know from Scripture that most all of the faithful people of God, including the spiritual leaders, fled the northern kingdom after Jeroboam began promoting his new religion. They migrated in large numbers to the southern kingdom, where they could still worship the Lord God in the manner He had instructed. "The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with Rehoboam (the king of Judah). The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the Lord. And he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made. Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their fathers. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time" (2 Chron. 11:13-17). Yet, we find this old prophet still living in Bethel, along with his sons. Although some speculate he may have stayed to speak out against the false worship and bring repentance and reform, there is nothing in the text to suggest this motivation. Indeed, the Lord had to send a prophet from Judah to rebuke the king, rather than using one already in the same city. If he had once been a faithful spokesman of God, it appears he now no longer was, or at least had grown weary of attempting to challenge the wickedness that was rampant all around him.
Some scholars suggest he may have lived all his life in that area, and thus simply did not want to leave his home (perhaps hoping to "wait out" the reign of this wicked king, thinking better times might lie ahead). James Smith, in his commentary on 1st Kings, says, "his allegiance to his tribe superseded his allegiance to truth" [p. 302]. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) concurs, stating this old, weary prophet "was content to dwell at Bethel ... being devoid of any deep and earnest religious feeling" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Is it possible, some ask, that this man had labored year after year for the Lord, only to see his message ignored and the nation grow increasingly wicked, and thus he simply "gave up" trying? There is no question that seeking to serve God as a spokesman against the darkness that surrounds us can be very wearying, and there is no question that some have become so discouraged that they have "retired" from ministry. Perhaps this was the case with this old prophet. On the other hand, many scholars, like Matthew Henry (1662-1714), see no good in this man at all -- "I cannot but call him a false prophet and a bad man" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].
Whoever, or whatever, this old man may have been, we find that his sons, who were present at the event where the "man of God" from Judah confronted Jeroboam, returned home and informed their father of what had transpired (1 Kings 13:11). The old prophet immediately set out to find this "man of God." Why did he do so? Again, we are not told in the text, which has led to enormous speculation by scholars. The biblical text "leaves a large gap with respect to this man and his motivations. Only enough is said to raise questions ... with answers to these questions apparently not being important to the storyteller" [Dr. Jesse Long, The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings, p. 171]. In time, the older prophet found the younger one sitting under a tree along the road. He asked him, "Are you the man of God who came from Judah?" To this the latter replied, "I am" (1 Kings 13:14). The older prophet then said to him, "Come home with me and eat" (vs. 15). This older prophet surely knew that the prophet from Judah was under a divine ban from eating or drinking anything "in this place" (Bethel) lest he leave the appearance of being in fellowship with or approving of, by this action, the wickedness transpiring there. After all, we are informed in verse 11 that his sons had told him "what he had said to the king." Yet, for some reason, this old prophet issues a similar invitation to that given by Jeroboam. "Come and dine with me!" To the credit of the "man of God" from Judah, he again declined the invitation, saying, "I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place" (vs. 16). He further declared that this command had been conveyed to him "by the word of the Lord" (vs. 17). Thus, he was not free to go against it in any way.
At this point the old prophet seeks to manipulate this other prophet by the use of deceit. He says, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water'" (vs. 18). However, the inspired writer adds this note in that same verse: "But he was lying to him." The lie worked, though, for "the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house" (vs. 19). Why did the old prophet lie? Or, did he? And why was the prophet from Judah so easily deceived when he had previously been so strong in his resistance? These are indeed difficult questions, and, frankly, there are no easy answers. Was the old prophet an evil man who sought to destroy the credibility of this "man of God" from Judah? Did he hope that by accomplishing what the king could not he might thereby gain some favor with Jeroboam? Or, was he simply a weary old prophet, lonely and discouraged, who just wanted to share the company of a "working prophet," even if for a brief time, and be encouraged thereby? Perhaps he hoped to hear news of how things were with friends and family who had left and gone to Judah to dwell under more favorable spiritual conditions. "The motives of the old prophet are not entirely clear" [James Smith, I & II Kings, p. 303]. "The true character and designs and motives of this 'old prophet' have long been a crux interpretum" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 296]. Drs. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown opine, "If this were a true prophet, he was a bad man" [A Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 260].
Some have speculated that it is possible the old prophet himself may have been the victim of deception as well. In other words, he may really have seen "an angel" who told him to tell the prophet to come dine with him. The only problem was: it may not have been a messenger from God. "I think it very likely that an angel did appear to him on the occasion: an angel of darkness in the garb of an angel of light, who wished to use him as an instrument to bring discredit on the awful transactions which had lately taken place" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 440]. Such would certainly be within the realm of possibility, as Paul explains in 2 Cor. 11:14-15 (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-12). The biblical text, however, seems to stress the fact that the old prophet lied (1 Kings 13:18). Perhaps he did so more for selfish reasons than sinister purposes, yet the result of the lie still ended in tragedy. As for the "man of God" from Judah, his failing here was in being "too easily convinced by the old man's deception. Perhaps a fundamental flaw in his character can herein be detected: his carrying out of God's charge may have been sheerly from command, not conviction" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 119]. Obeying a command out of a sense of duty will never rise to the level of following God's will out of a sense of deep inner conviction. We might more easily set aside a command, given the slightest encouragement, than set aside a personal conviction, regardless of the enticement or inducement. Many feel the "man of God" gave in too quickly and easily, setting aside God's command simply because someone he had never met claimed to have heard something contrary to the original command. With no evidence to support the assertion of the old prophet, the man from Judah nevertheless accepted it. "He gave way to the deceiver without investigating his claims thoroughly" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 584]. The principle is stated well by Paul in 1 Thess. 5:20-21, "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good." The man from Judah failed in this respect, and it would cost him dearly.
"While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back" (1 Kings 13:20). Through this old prophet who lied, God delivered a divine rebuke to the "man of God" from Judah. Some have been troubled by this. "A great clamor has been raised against this part of the history, on account of God's denouncing sentence on the true prophet by the mouth of the false prophet" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 440]. Some, like Josephus, refused this account, saying the rebuke from God was given to the "man of God" directly, and not through the old prophet. The text in the Arabic manuscripts asserts the same. Yet, if the Lord could speak to one of His prophets (Balaam) through a donkey (Numbers 22:21ff), then we should have no difficulty with God speaking through this old prophet. Perhaps it served somewhat to shame this "man of God" to be rebuked through the lips of one who had seemingly not chosen to follow the Lord to the same degree, if at all. The message that day was: "You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where He told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers" (1 Kings 13:21-22).
Nothing is said in the text about how this message affected the "man of God" from Judah, although it must surely have troubled him greatly. We are simply told that after the meal he went on his way and was soon met by a lion which killed him. After killing the prophet, the lion and the donkey the prophet had been riding stood there quietly beside him, which remarkable sight many travelers beheld and quickly reported back to the people of Bethel. The old prophet heard this report and realized the dead man was the "man of God" from Judah. Therefore, he went to the site "and found the body thrown down on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, 'Oh, my brother!' After burying him, he said to his sons, 'When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the message he declared by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true'" (1 Kings 13:28-32).
It is here that the account takes some unexpected turns. The lying old prophet is not punished; instead, it is the one he lied to who is punished by death. We also see an apparent transformation occurring in the heart of the old prophet, which some scholars feel may have been one of the purposes of God: to awaken the fervor of this man so that he would begin speaking out against the sins occurring all around him. Perhaps the death of the man from Judah had served as a strong warning (and wake up call) to the old prophet at Bethel. The death of the "man of God" for transgressing the clear command of the Lord God would also be a warning to the people of Bethel, and to the king himself, that God would also punish them if they did not repent of their many transgressions. Indeed, had the "man of God" from Judah NOT been punished in a very visible manner (for all to see), the people might assume God was not all that concerned about blatant violations of His specific commands, and thus they would be emboldened to continue in their own sin. "The man of God did not die merely or principally because of his sin, but 'that the works of God might be made manifest in him.' His death was necessary in order that his mission might not be altogether invalidated. His miserable end -- as it must have seemed to them -- would surely speak to the inhabitants of Bethel and to all Israel and Judah, for long years to come, as to the sure vengeance awaiting the disobedient, whether king, prophet, priest, or people" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 298].
"The case was indeed very lamentable that so good a man, a prophet so faithful, and so bold in God's cause, should, for one offence, die as a criminal" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Yet, is this not the case with those who live under law?! "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (James 2:10). In Hebrews 10:28 we are informed that those who transgress Law die without mercy! Living under a system of law can be merciless and unforgiving of even the slightest offence. No matter how good one may be, merely one offence makes one guilty and subject to punishment. Yet, as hard as it is to believe, "a legalistic mind-set can see this story as a proof text for being justified by law" [Dr. Jesse Long, The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings, p. 176]. Had this "man of God" obeyed the commands of God, his life would have been preserved, they reason. He disobeyed, thus he deserved to die. Therefore, they declare, our own salvation today is determined by how obedient we are to the laws and patterns given in the NT writings. The apostle Paul had much to say against such a return to law, as such a return to law is in essence a death sentence for all who do so. Dr. Long points out that the legalists "fail to see the grace in the narrative. A careful look at the narrative demonstrates that it is a story of grace, ... for the larger narrative demonstrates the divine patience of Yahweh and His love for Israel. ... Every call for repentance is an expression of grace" [ibid, p. 177]. "The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Yes, the "man of God" had to die; it was necessary under law that the people God was calling to repentance might take seriously His concern for their apostasy. Had this prophet lived, the whole purpose of his mission to Bethel would have been defeated. A message had to be sent, and the Lord did so in a most dramatic manner. Clearly, it impacted the heart of the old prophet of Bethel. Sadly, it did not penetrate the stone cold heart of the king. "Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways" (1 Kings 13:33). Israel would become increasingly wicked, although there would be brief periods of time when they attempted reform. Ultimately, the nation would fall, though this was still hundreds of years in the future. As for the slain prophet, it should be noted that, according to the biblical text, "the punishment went no further than death" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the eternal salvation of this "man of God" was forfeited. Some have suggested a similar scenario with Moses, who was told to go to Mount Nebo, and "there on the mountain that you have climbed you will die ... just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor. This is because both of you broke faith with Me" (Deut. 32:50-51). Moses was punished for his disobedience, something necessary under a system of law, but he clearly did not forfeit his salvation. The same, I firmly believe, is true of this nameless "man of God" from Judah. His temporal punishment was physical death, as well as the fact that he would not be buried in his homeland with his people, which "was considered a great misfortune at that time" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 584]. Remember, Jesus also was buried in another man's tomb, just as this "man of God" was!
The "man of God" died under remarkable, and even miraculous, circumstances so that the people would clearly perceive the hand of God in his death. "The lion, contrary to its nature, had neither consumed the prophet whom it had slain, nor torn in pieces and devoured the ass upon which he rode, but had remained standing by the corpse and by the ass, that the slaying of the prophet might not be regarded as a misfortune that had befallen him by accident, but that the hand of the Lord might be manifest therein, so that passers-by saw this marvel and related it in Bethel" [Drs. Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3, p. 205-206]. Although most were so hardened by sin that they refused to heed this warning, we would like to think the old prophet from Bethel may have awakened from his spiritual apathy and that he became a voice for the Lord in that wicked place. We do know that his wish was carried out later, after his death, and his body was buried with that of the "man of God." In fact, a good many generations later we find that the people were well aware of the location of this tomb; it even seems to have been marked in some way as a tribute to these two men, for when the prophecy against the altar in Bethel was fulfilled, this tomb and the two bodies within it were left undisturbed. "King Josiah asked, 'What is that tombstone I see?' The men of the city said, 'It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.' 'Leave it alone,' the king said. 'Don't let anyone disturb his bones.' So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria" (2 Kings 23:17-18). What a tribute to these two nameless prophets! Their story is a rather strange one, but through it all the grace of God was made manifest. Praise God for His infinite mercies!
Special Note -- I want to take this opportunity to refer you to the recently established blog of a dear friend of mine: Donald Chisholm. Don was my Associate Minister when I first moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico from Honolulu, Hawaii in 1998. His blog is called Freedom Files, and I know you will be blessed by the studies and insights he provides. Don is very Grace-centered and Jesus-focused, and he will make you think.
From a Reader in Malaysia:
I was baptized in one of the Churches of Christ in Kuala Lumpur in 2002, and I have been a member of the Church of Christ until 2013. The more I studied God's Word the more I disagreed with some of their teaching, and I finally left this group. I received a lot of pressure from these members, who really made me feel guilty. But then Bro. ---- introduced me to your Reflections, and also the writings of Edward Fudge. When I first began reading them, I found them hard to understand (due to my previous indoctrination in the Church of Christ). However, in time they have given me a lot of encouragement and support, and they have helped clear up a great many doubts I was having. Thank you for your writings, and for your breadth and depth of understanding. May God bless you as you continue to walk in Him and help others overcome their legalistic thinking.
From a Reader in New Delhi, India:
Thank you for your article "Love Walked Among Us." Very well presented! I can hear the Savior saying, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." We need to understand that statement and imitate Him consciously and conscientiously.
From a Minister in Washington:
Thank you so much for sending me all your CDs and books. I am currently listening to your Study of Galatians class. Wow!! Talk about a paradigm shift. Everything I thought I knew has been swept aside. I am still trying to process some of this. Wow!!
From a Library in Houston, Texas:
We received notice about your new book, From Ruin To Resurrection, from Edward Fudge. He informed us of how to receive a signed copy of the book, so we are enclosing a check. Thank you. We look forward to adding this book to our library collection here at Lanier Theological Library.
From a Reader in North Carolina:
I will be placing a check in the mail to you on Monday for your new book From Ruin To Resurrection. I can't wait to dig into it. I have also really enjoyed the CDs on your Study of Galatians that my lovely wife purchased from you and presented to me for my birthday last December. It was a wonderful surprise, and your CDs have been a blessing! My prayer for you today -- "My Abba in Heaven, Holy is Your name. I ask that You continue to bless Al's ministry, his health, his family, his relationships, and his church family as You continue to use him for Your kingdom. Father, thank You for the many souls who have been brought from bondage to freedom in Christ through Al's writing, teaching, and preaching. Prop him up and embolden him against the attacks of those who labor to damage his reputation and ministry. For all You have done, are doing, and will be doing in Al's life and ministry, I am so grateful. In Jesus' name, Amen."
From a Well-Known Leader/Author:
Al, your article "Love Walked Among Us" reminded me of the "Man or Plan" controversy that raged in the 50s and 60s. The late brother in Christ, K. C. Moser, in his books "The Gist of Romans" and "The Way of Salvation," did an excellent job in lifting up Christ as THE Savior, in contrast to "the plan" devised by men. I wish all of our preaching brethren would read these books! Thanks for the article, Al, and for the reminder. By the way, my wife had Bro. K. C. Moser as a Bible teacher at Lubbock Christian, and I had opportunity to visit with him on numerous occasions. We had him speak on our lectureships when I was at White's Ferry Road in the 70s. What a wise, gentle and informed brother he was. Keep up the great work, my brother. 1 Corinthians 15:58. Truth has nothing to fear, but, sadly, men fear the truth!
See my tribute to "Kenneth Carl Moser: A Powerful Voice for Grace" -- Reflections #392. His daughter is a faithful Reflections reader, and a friend on Facebook, and I deeply appreciate her support of my ministry and personal encouragement to me over the years! -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Someone once condemned me because I preached "the Man is the plan." Jesus never did tell people to come unto a "plan of salvation," but rather to come unto Him. Thanks, Al, for yet another well-written and thought-provoking article. God bless you.
From a Reader in Washington:
My dear Al, thank you for your Spirit-inspired Reflections. I say "Spirit-inspired" because the Holy Spirit must be involved for you to be able to take so much flak from these modern day Pharisees and yet continue your ministry in love for them and others! I will be 72 shortly, and was "born and raised" in the Church of Christ. However, I began to realize, after much study, that Christ is our Savior, NOT the Church of Christ and its traditions! "Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe." There is nothing we can do to attain salvation. It has already been done. All we do now is what He commands in LOVE. I so appreciate you, Al. You and I are both Vietnam combat veterans, which is important this July 4th weekend. People should know, however, that I am not a follower of Al Maxey; I am a follower of Jesus Christ, of whom Al Maxey is one of His Generals. I love ya, brother!
From a Reader in California:
I can't help but wonder how many people are sticking pins in their "Al Maxey doll" because you quoted a pope in your last Reflections! I have a brother-in-law who is an elder in a rural, very conservative church in North Alabama. During a discussion regarding salvation with a man from the community, Jesus was never really the topic of conversation; rather, it was all about "the five steps" to salvation and winning the debate with this man. I am so grateful that I am no longer a part of that mentality! I always enjoy your thoughts, Al. Thanks for sharing them with us, and for taking the hits for teaching Grace. I'm sure you take far more than you ever publish in these Readers' Reflections each week.
From a Minister in New Mexico:
Some years ago we decided to choose a "mission statement." Here it is: "We pledge to demonstrate the love of Christ in our congregation and in our community." ALL of us should make such a pledge!
From a Minister in California:
"Love Walked Among Us" is one of your best pieces yet, Al. Without living Jesus in full view every day, all the sermons, articles, books, debates, periodicals and songs are worthless. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Thanks for reminding us to love the people in our path, as He did. It's so simple ... so clear ... so profound.
From a Reader in Arizona:
"Love Walked Among Us" is surely an ace among aces! The love in Jesus' face and voice compelled Peter, Andrew, James and John to walk away from their boats. It compelled Matthew to walk away from his tax table and money. Many saw that love, and it reshaped their lives. How tragic that "Jesus" has been obscured by our pride: our Bible knowledge too often puffing us up like toads.
From a Reader in Texas:
Your article "Love Walked Among Us" brings to mind the preacher where we currently attend: he mounts the pulpit, adjusting his expensive suit coat, and encourages the congregation to "look like Jesus." Thinking about this, I asked myself the question: How do I look like Jesus? I have come to the opinion that if I am to look like Jesus, then I need the nail prints on my hands and feet; I need a crown of thorns pressed down on my head. How do I do this? Can I do this? Yes, I can, but it requires my life to be a living sacrifice. When others see my life, they must immediately see the Christ on the cross. Putting the King on the throne of my life, I submit as His slave. It is a life of service to Him and others. It all boils down to one thing, am I willing to give my life as a living sacrifice? Am I willing to give up ALL to serve my King? By the way, in 1968 I left a very good job, house and lifestyle, and I loaded up a U-haul. In faith, I left all behind to follow my Lord. With three children, my wife and I took a giant leap of faith to attend a school of preaching. We had no support and little money, but we took God at His promise that He would provide. We gladly gave up all our worldly things for the promise of better things to come. He didn't fail us!!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Thanks for the reminder in your last Reflections that we are indeed "preaching" (by our lives) everywhere we go. I believe it was St. Francis of Assisi who said, "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." I love you, brother, and don't even know how to express my appreciation for all that you've helped me see more clearly.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Remove me from your Reflections mailing list as I no longer wish to read your trash! YOU ARE A DEMON!!
From a Reader in North Carolina:
Brother Al, I thoroughly enjoyed "Love Walked Among Us." However, I felt the need to respond to the "Reader from Indiana" who wrote the following to you: "Your last Reflections is just more of your lies! No one regards salvation as something we must merit. And you know it. You intentionally lie so you can make your opponents appear despicable to your readers -- readers you apparently think are stupid enough to believe something simply because you say it." Below is my response to this "Reader from Indiana." I love you, Bro. Al.
My response to Bro. Al was included in the last "Readers' Reflections" section just below yours. With regard to what you wrote concerning Al's article "Chosen By God's Grace," I only wish that your statement "No one regards salvation as something we must merit" were true. I grew up in the Church of Christ and was a member of this denomination for over 40 years. Unfortunately, many in our CofC faith-heritage, as well as other faith-heritages, still believe and preach: "We must merit" our salvation by our works. They still teach that one cannot be saved unless they do the works necessary for God to look favorably upon them and finish their work in salvation. During my youth and college years, I was taught often and rather forcefully that "we do the work necessary to be saved, but we inevitably fall short. God looks at our works, and if we have done enough to meet His approval, He then makes up the deficit with His grace." I grew up scared to death that I would die without enough good deeds to merit God's favor. I have a beloved 89 year old aunt who is still a faithful member of the CofC. She is terrified of death because, "I have not done enough good things in my life for God to save me. I pray the Lord lets me live long enough to repent of all of my sins and do enough good works before I die so that I might barely make it into Heaven." No amount of teaching her on my part has been successful in giving her the joy, assurance and peace she should have in her salvation in Christ because of what He has already done for her.
Also, Brother Al has not made those who disagree with him "appear despicable" to his readers. In fact, in my observation, he has been much more gracious and godly toward them than they have been toward him. So, don't call Brother Al a liar. Unfortunately, he is very correct in his assessment.
Yours in Christ,
The Reader from North Carolina
From a Reader in Florida:
I've been receiving and reading Reflections for several years, and have also read most of the ones in your Archives before I became a subscriber. Your Debates were especially eye-opening! I've purchased your books and have just ordered your CDs from The 2014 Tulsa Workshop to add to my collection. You and I are also friends on Facebook. I guess you could say I'm a real "Maxey-ite." I've emailed you several times letting you know how grateful I am for your insightful teachings, which enabled me to break the chains of my years-long membership with the Church of Christ. The burden and guilt laid on me by all the rules, along with the lackluster singing and somber attitude of the worship service, was literally suffocating me. It was your writings in Reflections that got me to finally realize that it was okay to get away from that stifling legalistic environment and that I wouldn't "burn in eternal hell" if I did. We've become members at the Calvary Baptist Church and are so inspired by the grace-filled worship service, the music and sermons, plus the small group fellowship that we've found with our new church family. My spiritual rebirth happened over five years ago! Hallelujah!
I don't, however, think I've ever shared with you the "longest, hardest legal requirement" over which I anguished during all those years I spent in the Church of Christ. I was taught, and honestly believed, that the "fruit" I was to bear were the people I could "convert" to the Church of Christ. I even kept a mental count of those people, and always worried over what number of "fruit" (converts) was actually acceptable, and if, in God's sight, I had reached that magic number. I was, therefore, always "after" everyone around me, and I literally badgered these people until I either "won another soul for Christ" (by getting them into THE one, true church) or failed miserably in the attempt. I don't think I lost any real friends, but I do think there were many who felt the urge to run away when they saw me coming! I must have been a real drag to be around! I often wonder if there is anyone else out there who suffered under this same burden that I did.
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