Issue #670 -------
August 1, 2015
O that without a lingering groan
I may the welcome word receive;
My body with my charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live!
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
The third stanza of Wesley's hymn:
"Shrinking From the Cold Hand of Death"
"I've Been to the Mountaintop," a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, has been listed by some as one of the top 100 speeches ever delivered by man. The day after he delivered it he would be dead. He seemed almost to know that his day of departure was nigh, and this was reflected in the final words of that speech: "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!" Moving the hands of time, and the pages of history, considerably backward we come to another major speech given to an assembled people on the brink of entering a land of promise; a speech also given by a great leader who, within a day of delivering it, would likewise ascend a mountain, look over to that Promised Land, and then die without entering it with his people. This leader was Moses, and it was to his mountaintop experience that Dr. King referred at the end of his address to a people longing for relief from the oppressive injustice under which they, like the Israelites, had long suffered.
A study of the life of Moses is a most interesting one, and we can profit greatly from a careful examination of his character and his relationship with his people and his God. It was an eventful life, the particulars of which we are all very much aware, as we have heard the accounts over and over from cradle to grave. There are a few events, however, that have always puzzled and even troubled some believers, for on the surface they appear to our finite perspectives to be inconsistent with the nature of the Infinite One, and thus they present themselves as acts of incredible and intense injustice. For example, Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to a rock (Numbers 20), when previously he had been told to speak to it (Exodus 17), so it's not like there wasn't some precedent here, and yet for this he was sentenced to die, never being allowed to enter the very land of promise to which he had led God's people for 40 years at great personal sacrifice. This is just one of many such instances, some suggest, where the sentence imposed by God simply does not fit the "crime" committed by man. Other examples often given are the incineration of Aaron's sons (the nephews of Moses) Nadab and Abihu for their offering of "strange fire" (Reflections #63; while "letting off lightly" the other two sons of Aaron, by the way: Reflections #270), and the execution of Uzzah for reaching out and touching the ark of the covenant in an effort to steady it and keep it from falling to the ground (Reflections #23). Were these such horrible "crimes" that they deserved immediate execution? It is hard for many believers to "get their minds around" such seemingly harsh judgments by our loving, compassionate, gracious and merciful God. And yet each of these acts did indeed have a divine purpose that often eludes us, but which can be perceived if we are willing to view them from His perspective rather than our own.
I have previously dealt with Uzzah and the sons of Aaron (as noted above), but would like to reflect upon the "sin and sentence" of Moses in this current issue of Reflections, for a number of people have asked me over the years, "Why did God kill Moses, refusing to let him enter the Promised Land?" In fact, on July 8, 2015 I received the following email from a reader in California: "Bro. Al, I see you've never written in your Reflections about the lament of Moses (Deut. 3:25f) that he was not to be permitted to cross the Jordan and see the Promised Land up close. For what purpose did God keep Moses out? We have the given cause (Moses struck the rock), but it seems to me there must be some greater divine purpose, because the cause seems kind of petty! Rocks are like mules, after all: before you speak to them, you have to get their attention! Al, you are so good at evaluating different ideas, especially about legalism and faith; I think you would do well with this question. This is a biblical event I don't understand, so if you ever decide to write a Reflections article on this, I'd be really happy!"
First, it is very important to stress that although Moses did indeed experience a temporal punishment, the Scriptures also make it abundantly clear that he did not, and most certainly will not, suffer an eternal punishment. Although Moses experienced death, and did not cross the Jordan into "the good land," he nevertheless did not lose the promise of a more abundant life "over Jordan" in the new heavens and earth! Yes, Moses was laid to rest by God, but he was in no spiritual sense LOST. Indeed, he and Elijah appeared with the Lord Jesus on the mount when the latter was transfigured, and in Rev. 15:3 we are told that the redeemed of all ages "held harps given to them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb." Hebrews 11 declares Moses to be one of the giants of faith, stressing that the events of his life were repeated manifestations of his deep faith in God (vs. 24f), and by that faith "he was looking ahead to his reward" (vs. 26): the reward of a far more lasting Land of Promise (vs. 13-16). No, Moses was not "lost" because of his failings, for he died a man of faith! Was he flawed? Yes! As are we all. Did he suffer certain temporal consequences as a result of these flaws and failings? Yes! But his "forever life" and "forever habitation" were never in question, for he served a God of LOVE and GRACE. As do we all.
It is important to keep the above in mind as we examine the "end of days" of this servant of God. Losing sight of the above truths will taint our understanding of the ultimate purpose of God as He dealt with this man, and it can easily cause us to focus more on the temporal than the eternal, leading to a negative assessment of our Lord's dealings with Moses (which can further lead to an indictment against the character of deity). Yes, Moses paid a price for his sin ("The wages of sin is death" -- Rom. 6:23), but Jesus also paid a price for his sin, and by so doing assured him of the day when he would "cross Jordan" and dwell forever in the Promised Land. Moses himself was NOT "short-changed" by God. Far from it. We must not forget that. Yet, this man of faith did indeed fail to receive certain blessings in this life that he was longing to experience. The question before us is: Why?!
The obvious answer is the one given in Scripture, and it is there we must begin in our quest for understanding. The assessment of Moses himself is that God was angry with him, and that it was not entirely his own fault (we humans are often quite good at trying to "share the blame" with others). Moses told the people, "Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter it, either'" (Deut. 1:37). He expands upon this complaint later, and even pleads with God to reconsider: "At that time I pleaded with the Lord, 'O Sovereign Lord, ... Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan: that fine hill country and Lebanon.' But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. 'That is enough,' the Lord said. 'Do not speak to Me anymore about this matter'" (Deut. 3:23-26). Moses didn't deny his disobedience (striking the rock instead of speaking to it), but sought to suggest instead that he was driven to such a rash act by the frustration he felt over trying to lead a rebellious people. Thus, it was all their fault, and God should have sided with him in the matter. We have probably all felt much the same way at times, even perhaps blaming our own poor behavior on "the much poorer" behavior of others, as if such comparisons and contrasts would result in a more positive outcome for us. God wasn't buying it, however, and basically told Moses to "knock it off and quit whining!" God wasn't bringing Moses to death's door, with no chance to enter the land of promise, because of what the people of Israel had done (He would deal with them separately), but because of what Moses himself had done. Moses wanted to bring others into the equation; he wanted to share the blame: it's their fault. Blaming one's siblings rarely works with a perceptive parent, and it most certainly doesn't work with our heavenly Father. In words reminiscent of a human parent, He tells His child, "That's enough! I don't want to hear anymore about it!"
After Moses presents his take on the matter, God presents His take -- and the Lord always has the last word! God told Moses, "Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with Me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel" (Deut. 32:48-52). When you carefully examine what God is saying here, you will see that striking the rock was not the real cause for this action by God; striking the rock was only symptomatic. The true cause of God's action was that this leader of the people, in the presence of the people, as he represented their God, publicly broke faith with God in such a manner that His holiness was diminished in the sight of Israel. Yes, hitting a rock seems like a minor transgression in the eyes of most men, but this went beyond hitting a rock. Moses treated God (the "Rock" who begot and saved Israel -- Deut. 32:18, 15) as "unholy" in a highly visible manner, and in doing so he "broke faith" with his God. Ironically, when his nephews (Nadab and Abihu) died, Moses told his brother Aaron that the Lord had informed him as to the cause of this action: "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored" (Leviticus 10:3). This was a truth Moses apparently forgot, and it was to prove costly. It also proved costly for Uzzah as well, and for the same reason; it wasn't just touching the ark of the covenant, but rather "the Lord's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverence" (2 Samuel 6:7). In each of these cases, and in others we could cite, God acted as He did because He had not been treated as HOLY! God would not, and indeed could not, permit that to happen, regardless of who was involved or the circumstances. His holiness required that it be addressed. Expressed somewhat poetically and alliteratively, we could say: the Rock struck the rock striker.
Although the future for Moses, with respect to eternal life, was secure, nevertheless the temporal termination of his 120 year journey had to have been disappointing to this man, to say the least. The commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote, "Moses had reason to desire to live a while longer in the world. He was old, it is true, but he had not yet attained to the years of the life of his fathers. And why must Moses, whose life was more serviceable than any of theirs, die at 120, especially since he felt not the decays of age, but was as fit for service as ever? It bore hard upon Moses himself, when he had gone through all the fatigues of the wilderness, to be prevented from enjoying the pleasures of Canaan. ... We may suppose that this was not pleasant" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. This man was declared to be in good health: "Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished" (Deut. 34:7). Matthew Henry further comments: "There was no decay either of the strength of his body or of the vigor and activity of his mind, but he could still speak, and write, and walk as well as ever. 'His visage was not wrinkled,' say some of the Jewish writers; 'he had lost never a tooth,' say others." How many people do you know who at such an advanced age could have climbed Mount Nebo (which rose 4000 feet above the Dead Sea)?! Hardly a feeble, tottering old man! Thus, one could argue, as he apparently tried to do, that he still had much to offer the Lord and His people. Yet God, in His wisdom, determined it was Moses' time to depart, which resulted in a bitter-sweet scene on that mountain. "Did ever exuberance of satisfaction, promise, and victory mix with disappointment and pathos more dramatically?" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 217]. "What drama! What pathos! What inward pain! What sense of accomplishment mixed with disappointment must have been in Moses' mind as he looked over the land the Lord had promised to Israel. Egyptian bondage had gone into history. The painful, difficult, formative years of the new nation's experience in the deserts were past. The Promised Land lay before him -- but his mission was over" [ibid, p. 234].
There is a natural sense of reluctance in most people to admit that they have come to a point in their life-journey where it is the greater part of wisdom to "move on" to bigger and better experiences. Such transition can be painful, but it can also be exciting and refreshing. The ministry of Moses had come to an end. It was not to be his task to lead the people into this new phase of their national identity; that would fall to others. The same was true of David, who had desired to build the temple. It was not to be. In neither case were these men, flawed though they were, despised by God or in a state of eternal damnation. They were saved. But, due to some of their failings, they had to face the consequences of those failings. The holiness and justice of God requires no less. His grace and love, however, soon turn the temporal loss into eternal gain; the disappointment into delight. In a moment of personal weakness, likely born of frustration over the rebellion of the people he worked tirelessly and thanklessly to lead, Moses "beat a boulder." God didn't disown him for this, nor did His love for this man diminish in any way. The problem that had to be addressed, however, was that Moses had done this in the view of His people: a public action that showed great dishonor to God Almighty. God had earlier told Moses (after the death of his two nephews), "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored" (Leviticus 10:3). Moses did just the opposite. Hitting a rock, touching an ark, or switching coals of fire may seem trivial, but it wasn't so much the outward act itself that brought upon these men their deaths -- it was the fact that in their hearts they had "broken faith" with their God in such a public, visible manner that God, to send a message to His people, had to respond firmly with a strong temporal judgment.
Both Moses and Aaron received a similar fate, and for the same reason: they "broke faith" with their God and did not treat Him as holy in the presence of the people. That both were involved is seen in Numbers 20:7-13. "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them" (vs. 12). This came to be known as the incident "at the waters of Meribah" (vs. 13). "By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them, for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses' lips" (Psalm 106:32-33). Like Moses, Aaron was called to ascend a mountain (Mount Hor, in his case) and there he would die, just as Moses later would. "At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against My command at the waters of Meribah" (Numbers 20:23-24). They both "broke faith" with the Lord. The Hebrew word used here is "ma'al," which was used in Num. 5:12 to speak of a wife's "unfaithfulness" to her husband, and of Israel in acts and attitudes of unfaithfulness to their God (Lev. 26:40), and of Achan's unfaithfulness = i.e., acts of "breaking faith" with God (Joshua 22:16, 20).
Breaking faith with God was (and always has been) a serious matter, especially when done by one of His leaders before His assembled people. It could not be ignored, no matter how "slight" the actual act itself may appear to the sight of mere men. God's holiness required a response. It is painful when a father must discipline his beloved child, and yet love for that child demands it (especially if he has other children who may be watching to see if their sibling "gets away with it"). "Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:5-6). And notice especially verse 10: "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness." When we fall short of that holiness, and this is especially true of His leaders (particularly when the falling short is in the sight of His people), then we can expect a response from God. It will be firm, and it may be painful, but it will always be administered IN LOVE. Moses died on the mount and was buried by God (Deut. 34:6), only to appear centuries later on another mount with Elijah and Jesus (Matt. 17:1f; Mark 9:2f). Temporal discipline, even death, at the hands of God does not necessarily signify eternal destruction (Reflections #554: "Chaplain at an Execution"). It certainly didn't in the case of Moses! The new heavens and earth will be a very empty place if we all get exactly what we deserve! Thank God for His GRACE!
A Few Interesting Traditions
There is obviously much more that could be said about this event, and much, much more that could be said about the tremendous impact of the life of Moses on the people of Israel and the disciples of Christ. He is truly one of the central figures in the redemptive thread that runs through Scripture. But, sometimes we can over-analyze a passage or person, and in so doing perhaps miss the point altogether. Thus, we'll cease the analysis here. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that "the end of the great lawgiver was surrounded with legends" [The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 9, p. 57]. Some question, for example, if Moses ever actually died. Part of this may be attributable to Flavius Josephus, who in his version of the account suggests Moses may have written in Deuteronomy (although most scholars feel these parts of this book were written by another) about his "death" in such a way as to deter people from looking for him or assuming that he had been assumed into heaven like Elijah. Thus, Josephus spoke of Moses going up the mountain "to the place where he was to vanish out of their sight," and once he was on the mountain, "a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God" [Antiquities of the Jews, book 4, chapter 8, section 48].
The Jewish apocryphal pseudepigraphical work known as the "Assumption of Moses" (also known as the "Testament of Moses," although some scholars believe these are more properly two separate works), which most likely was written in the early part of the first century A.D., doesn't help matters any, for it portrays rather fancifully both the death and translation or assumption of Moses into heaven. This work is somewhat ahead of its time theologically, which is certainly commendable: "The author shows little affinity with rabbinic legalism, but is thoroughly steeped in the spirit of the OT. While moral responsibility is insisted upon, God's covenant with His people is still seen as based upon His grace and not upon human merit. ... The alliance between the teachings of the Assumption of Moses and those of Jesus is striking" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 296]. Jude, the brother of the Lord Jesus, is thought to refer to one of these legends (although some scholars disagree, saying he may simply have been alluding to an oral tradition) in Jude 9, where he spoke of "the archangel Michael," who "was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses." Dr. Charles Ellicott opined, "I have always believed that the contention between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses (Jude 9) was, in fact, a struggle for his body -- that God intended to raise Moses from the dead, and that Satan sought to resist his resurrection" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2, p. 96]. Just as a side note: this has raised an interesting question among a few disciples of Christ: "Is it a sin to use extra-biblical texts in our preaching and teaching?" I have sought to provide a reasoned response to this question in Reflections #575: "Quoting Non-Canonical Texts."
In Deut. 34:5 we read, "So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord." In Hebrew, that last phrase is literally: "upon the mouth of the Lord," which has led some Jewish interpreters to believe that Moses died "by a kiss" from God. "The rabbins interpret this, 'by a kiss of the Lord,' and Maimonides explains that Moses 'died in a moment of holiest joy in the knowledge and love of God.' The phrase, however, simply means 'by or according to the command of'" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3, p. 567]. Even the writings of Islam have sought to comment on the death of Moses, with their prophet Mohammed stating: "The Angel of Death was sent to Moses. When he arrived, Moses punched him in the eye. The angel returned to his Lord and said, 'You have sent me to a slave who does not want to die.' God said, 'Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox, and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life.' Moses said, 'O Lord! What will happen after that?' God replied, 'then death.' Moses said, 'Let it come now!' Moses then requested God to let him die close to the Holy Land so that he would be at a distance of a stone's throw from it." And finally, with respect to the fact that God buried Moses and, apparently by divine design, "no man knows his burial place to this day" (Deut. 34:6), "this concealment seems to have been owing to a special and wise arrangement of Providence, to prevent its being ranked among 'holy places,' and made the resort of superstitious pilgrims or idolatrous veneration, in after ages" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 166].
From a Minister in New Mexico:
I received the CD from you that I ordered (i.e. your audio recordings of your adult Bible class on The New Covenant Church), and I have listened to the first of the 14 lessons you presented. Brother, that lesson is a "TEN" -- very much needed among our more conservative brothers and sisters in His kingdom!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
[This is the person who wrote the email
to which I responded in Reflections #669]
Dear Al, Thanks for the great article in response to my email concerning water baptism. It has shed some more light on the subject for me with regard to baptism being the evidence of saving faith, much like repentance, confession, and good works. Also, I just finished reading your book "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." It was an excellent and in-depth study that has caused me to reexamine my understanding of the subject. I will keep an open mind as I continue to study the subject, and am thankful for every challenge to my faith, as it has always resulted in a closer relationship with the Father and a deeper understanding of His Word. Thanks again for your thoughtful writings.
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
I appreciate your thoughtful and gracious response in Reflections #669 to the reader from Oklahoma who wrote to you. Let me share my testimony as an affirmation of your thoughts. My parents did not take us to church, but as a child I was "hungry." I asked them why we didn't go like other families. I finally convinced my dad, by about the 3rd grade, to drop me off at Sunday School, and he would then return later to get me in the church's circle drive. I'm not even sure what denomination that was, but I loved Sunday School. That summer I was invited to my first VBS. For the first time I clearly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wept in the pew where I was sitting as I was convicted that it was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. I knew in that moment His love for me, for He died for me! There in my pew was the moment I turned my heart and life over to Him, and was born into His kingdom. They gave an altar call, and, still weeping, I went forward. An adult came and sat by me to pray and give me my first Bible. Some teach that it was the "prayer" that saved me, but I know it was that moment of conviction, faith and repentance. When my mom arrived in the driveway of that church, I burst out in praise and told her what had just happened. I told her that I felt a burden was lifted off of me (like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, although I didn't hear of that book until about 15 years ago). Some months later we started attending that church as a family. No one ever thought to talk to me about baptism in water. I loved going to that church, and I hungrily took notes in the worship (I was only in 4th grade, mind you). By the 5th grade, I loved God's Word so much that I would take my notes (which I took every Sunday) and spend all of Sunday afternoons copying them into a notebook I kept. Some time later, however, my passion began to wane, and this bothered me. I found, or was given, the mailing address for the Billy Graham Association. I wrote them a letter and expressed to them my concerns. They wrote back and suggested I needed to submit to believer's baptism, and they sent me a book about it. After I read it, I told my parents that I needed to speak with our pastor about baptism, and they made an appointment for me. I was baptized a week or two later. I know that I was saved about two years before that baptism in water, and as a part of God's sovereign plan He led me to baptism in His own way, and in His own time, and using the people of His own choosing! Glorious mystery!! Bro. Maxey, I am so grateful that you share your teachings with us pilgrims, removing burdens God never intended for us to carry, helping us walk in greater freedom. Thank you so much, and best regards always!
From a Reader in Nova Scotia:
Brother Maxey, I just wanted to write and let you know that, as a result of your teaching over the years, there is more "light" and I "see" more today than I ever did at any time in the past! May you keep on going as long as God continues to give you the gift.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Thank you for sharing your personal experience with that death row inmate (Reflections #554: "Chaplain at an Execution"). Wow! That had to be hard to do. Thank you for caring, as folks on death row don't have many who do! The stories I could tell from my own work at a federal penitentiary! Brother, you will never know on this earth how much good you did for others incarcerated by helping that inmate the way you did. Don't think that you weren't the talk of the prison! Many prayers were certainly being given there for you by them. It's a different world in there. I appreciate you, brother!!
From an Author in Nevada:
Your answer to the legalistic writer for "The Spiritual Sword" from Tennessee who quoted Hosea 4:17 (the final entry in the "Readers' Reflections" section of your last Reflections: #669) was quite charming!! Your faithful readers also know, like you, where the liquor went (Hosea 4:18a)! That writer more than implies that you have given yourself over to idols! Actually, it is "The Spiritual Sword" people who are given over to conclusions rooted in southern, rural, post-World War II tradition, not Scripture! Everything is "so plain" to these misguided brethren, and they spend far more time defending their special twists and negative slants of Scripture than in teaching good and honest hearts what the Gospel is truly all about.
From an Author in California:
We left on vacation the day your article "Growing in Grace and Knowledge" (Reflections #667) arrived, so I didn't get to read it until today. You expressed my own experiences and thoughts on growing and maturing much better than I could. God did not create us to be stagnant and staid persons, but to enjoy learning and maturing. Those stuck in legalism miss a delight of life in the Spirit.
From a Reader in New Zealand:
Al, I want to thank you for your web site and your Reflections. They must truly be a lifeline to a lot of people, and I am so glad that we live in the "golden age" of the Internet. I also like the fact that your Reflections are an "open forum" for your readers to express their comments. It is encouraging and enlightening to hear from these people what is really going on in the churches. Regarding baptism (the water kind), one of the problems we have had in the "Churches of Christ" is that we have sometimes been obsessed with it, thinking that almost every passage is a reference to water baptism. However, many Christian writers (e.g. Merrill Unger) believe that it is the Holy Spirit who immerses (baptizes) us into Christ (as in 1 Cor. 12:13, which you also teach: Reflections #353 and #362). Are "we" falling into a trap by considering every occurrence of the expression "baptized into Christ" as a reference to water?!
From a Reader in Texas:
Thanks for another very good, helpful Reflections ("I Just Don't See The Point" -- Reflections #669)! It always amazes me how you articulate many of my own beliefs so plainly, and how you make them so easily understood. Be blessed, brother.
From a Reader in Nevada:
Long time no contact, Al, but I continue to enjoy your writings. I really appreciate how you plow the rough ground and unsettle us in our satisfied ignorance or encourage us in our walk with Him.
From a Reader in Mississippi:
Brother Al, I am from Mississippi and was raised in an Independent Fundamentalist Missionary Baptist Church (and yes, ALL those words were felt to be "necessary"). In grade school, many of my friends attended "Church of Christ" congregations. Of course, we were taught that they were not going to heaven (just like everyone else outside our group). As these friends of mine and I grew older, we began discussing these beliefs we had been taught. They believed (and had been told by their group) that I only prayed "the sinner's prayer" to be saved, and that my baptism "didn't count." I believed (and had been told by my group) that they had only been baptized to be saved (that this was all that "counted"). Somewhere along the way, I stopped focusing on what "they" believed and what "we" believed, and I began studying the Scriptures for myself. Today, I attend a Christian Church. Not because they are better, but because it's a church that preaches Jesus Christ above anything or anyone else!! And that, Al, is why I appreciate your ministry so much! You simply preach Jesus. Thank you, brother, for all that you do for Christ and His church!
From a Reader in Georgia:
I finished reading "I Just Don't See The Point." It's so refreshing to see two sides with differing opinions be able to exchange their convictions with dignity and respect for the other person and position. It's also refreshing to see people actually ASK what the other person's thoughts are regarding the subject in question. I'm thinking that many have forgotten to listen, and instead insist on delivering lengthy diatribes (monologues usually accompanied by various forms of condemnation) which only end up falling on deaf ears. Regardless of subject matter, I would encourage everybody to take a deep breath and try to see our differences as opportunities to lift one another up, realizing that none of us are worthy to stand justified before God based on our own imperfect knowledge or performance. Blessings, brother!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
"I Just Don't See The Point" was a GREAT article, Al. You've articulated a far more reasoned position on baptism than the sacramental "five step plan of salvation" approach that places the emphasis on man's actions rather than God's grace as offered in the finished work of Jesus. While it is very important and even required to provide instruction regarding man's response to what God has done, we should not allow that response to become the focal point. We should instead emphasize what GOD accomplished, so that men and women will be eagerly asking what their response should be to what has already been done for them!
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