Articles Archive -- Topical Index -- Textual Index

by Al Maxey

Issue #807 -- October 1, 2020
The artist must imitate that which is within
the thing, that which is active through form
and figure, and discourses to us by symbols.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge {1772-1834}

The Seven Spirits of God
Reflecting on a Puzzling Symbol

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), an English poet, philosopher, and theologian, wrote, "An idea, in the highest sense of that word, cannot be conveyed but by a symbol." In this quote, and in the one at the top of this present study, Coleridge shows his awareness of the great value of employing symbols to convey greater truths to mankind. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American essayist, lecturer, and philosopher, concurred: "A good symbol is the best argument, and is a missionary to persuade thousands." Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), an English poet and theologian, later canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church, penned his own epitaph: "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" ("From Shadows and Symbols into Truth"). These well-known and highly influential men, each in his own way, have emphasized the place and purpose of the use of symbols to help facilitate the opening of hearts and minds to a greater understanding, appreciation, and application of divine realities in one's daily interactions with others.

Symbolism within the Scriptures, and the many diverse symbols employed therein, can be rather problematic, however, for they require sound interpretation, and that is not always an easy task for those who live in far different times, places, and cultures. Understanding a symbol's original intent, therefore, may not always be possible, as biblical scholars have had to humbly and reluctantly acknowledge. A good example of a sacred text within which we find such difficult symbolism is the final book in the New Testament canon: Revelation. Although the symbols employed throughout may well have been easily understood by the beleaguered disciples of the late first century, their meaning and application are far less understood 2000 years later by Christians in far different cultures. We could select any number of symbols in Revelation to illustrate this, and many of them I have dealt with in previous issues of my Reflections, but in this current issue let's notice just one, a symbol which appears four times in the early chapters of that NT book:

  1. Revelation 1:4-5a - "John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth."

  2. Revelation 3:1 - "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.'"

  3. Revelation 4:5 - "And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God."

  4. Revelation 5:6 - "And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth."

Compounding our sense of exegetical confusion is the fact that we find in these four passages symbols having symbols: the seven Spirits (some translations use the upper case "S" here, some use the lower case "s") are said to be "seven lamps of fire" and "seven horns and seven eyes." Over the centuries there have been countless attempts by scholars to interpret this symbol (and its attendant symbols). Theories and speculations abound, as do acknowledgements of defeat. The American theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) wrote, "After all that has been written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to determine with certainty its meaning" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Some have called it "a puzzling conception whose roots have been traced in various directions" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 5, p. 337]. The noted Greek scholar Dr. A.T. Robertson (1863-1934) simply stated that this was "a difficult symbolic representation" [Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword].

As we read these four passages from Revelation, it is obvious that there is something significant about the number seven. There are seven churches, seven Spirits, seven stars, seven lamps of fire, seven horns and seven eyes. In the remainder of the Revelation one will find seven seals, seven thunders, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven plagues; there is a great red dragon with seven heads and seven diadems; there is a beast that comes from out of the sea having seven heads; etc. "Among every ancient people, especially in the East, a religious significance attaches to numbers. The number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number ... and it also occurs as a sacred number in the New Testament: seven beatitudes, seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer, seven parables in Matthew 13, seven statements by Jesus on the cross, seven 'deacons,' etc." [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 410-411]. The number seven itself was used by these ancient writers to depict not only completeness, fullness, and perfection, but also diversity. Most scholars feel that it was the Holy Spirit that was in view in these four texts, and that the phrase "seven Spirits" was not suggesting there was more than one Holy Spirit, but rather the Spirit operated at the will of God in the lives of mankind fully and perfectly, and even in a wide variety of ways.

Joseph Benson (1749-1821), one of the early English leaders of Methodism during the time of John Wesley, observed, "He is called 'the seven Spirits' not with regard to His essence, which is one, but with regard to His manifold operations" [Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, e-Sword]. Another English pastor and theologian, John Gill (1697-1771), stated much the same several years prior to Benson: "By these seven Spirits are intended the Holy Spirit of God, who is one in His person, but His gifts and graces are various; and therefore He is signified by this number, because of the fullness and perfection of them" [Exposition of the Bible, e-Sword]. This view is clearly the one favored by the majority of biblical scholars over the centuries. "The mystical number seven being identical with unity, though unity unfolded in diversity, and denoting Him in His completeness and fullness" [A Popular Commentary on the NT, e-Sword]. "It is not seven in number, nor in nature, but the infinite perfect Spirit of God, in whom there is a diversity of gifts and operations" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "The Holy Spirit is called 'the seven Spirits' - the perfect, mystical number seven indicating unity through diversity" [Dr. Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 413]. Dr. Vincent suggests Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 12:4 may shed light on this: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit."

The one Spirit of God is perfect and complete in His being and operation, and He operates in and among us in a wide variety of ways. "It is true that the Holy Spirit as a person is one (Ephesians 4:4), but symbolically He may be referred to as 'seven Spirits' to indicate the fullness of His work; one personality, but diverse manifestations of power, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4" [Dr. John T. Hinds, A Commentary on the Book of Revelation, p. 20]. Homer Hailey agrees: "The 'seven' should be thought of symbolically and not literally; 'the seven Spirits' symbolize the sevenfold perfection, completeness, and universality of the Spirit's working" [The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 99]. "The expression 'the seven Spirits' refers to the Holy Spirit in the fullness of His operations and influences in the world and in the church" [William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, p. 67]. I could list many other statements by many other scholars, both past and present, but you get the idea. Very few reputable scholars differ with this understanding of "the seven Spirits."

This phrase, "the seven Spirits," appears four times in Revelation; it appears nowhere else in the New Covenant writings. In the first occurrence it stands alone ("the seven Spirits"), but in the other three occurrences it is modified: "the seven Spirits of God." In each of the four passages we find a bit of additional insight provided into the nature and work of the Holy Spirit. The first text (Revelation 1:4-5) may well be the most controversial, for in it we have one of the classic representations of "the three Persons" of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit, with each of the three being introduced by the same prepositional phrase. "Here the three 'apo' phrases introduce the Trinity. The 'seven Spirits' denote the Third Person: the Holy Spirit" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Revelation, p. 40]. "There is an invariable sequence in the coming of life or power from the Persons in the Trinity, and a corresponding one in the upgoing of devotion from us to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Blessings are from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Our access is by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. The Energizer in each case is the Holy Ghost. His energy is infinite, both in variety and measure. It is absolutely full, complete, and boundless" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22 - Revelation, p. 188]. "Here in John's greeting, the Father and Jesus Christ and also the Spirit are the fount of grace and peace for the church" [Lenski, p. 41]. "The source of blessing is described by employing an elaborate triadic formula for the Trinity" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 420]. This same source speaks glowingly of "the symmetry of the Trinitarian address in Revelation 1:4-5" [ibid, p. 421]. Indeed, it is the very obvious symmetry of this "elaborate triadic formula" that has convinced the vast majority of scholars that the "seven Spirits" can be none other than the one Holy Spirit, for to propose any other identity for the "seven Spirits" would destroy the symmetry of the divine greeting and blessing.

In Revelation 3:1 we find that "the seven Spirits of God" are in the possession of the Son, as are "the seven stars." In Revelation 1:16 we read that the risen Jesus held in His right hand "the seven stars," which He identifies in verse 20 as the seven "angels" (messengers) of the seven churches to whom the seven letters are addressed. Now, in chapter 3:1, we see Jesus, as He speaks to the "angel/messenger" of Sardis, adds that He also has in His possession "the seven Spirits of God." Jesus told His close disciples that when He returned to the Father, at that point He would send to them the Helper (John 15:26). "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). In Revelation 4:5 we read of "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." Not only does the risen Savior "have" the Spirit to send forth to fulfill His will among His people, but so also does the Spirit stand before the Throne of God to do the bidding of the Father. "The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, with His sevenfold gifts, is indicated by these symbols of illumination" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22 - Revelation, p. 165].

Then finally, in Revelation 5:6, we see the symbol of a slain Lamb (Jesus) "having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth." Horns are symbols of power, might, strength; eyes signify "all-seeing; perfect awareness." "The prototype of John's expression is found in the vision of the prophet Zechariah, where the Messiah is prefigured as a stone with seven eyes in Zechariah 3:9" [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 413]. "These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:10). "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). We find here a comforting symbol of the powerful, watchful nature of the Spirit of God, representing both Father and Son, as He guards, guides, and protects the redeemed. Thus, "John notices that the Lamb who bears the marks of death is also the ruler who bears the signs of the fullness of divine omnipotence, dominion, and omniscience" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 468]. "The seven horns of the Lamb symbolize the fullness and perfection of His power (omnipotence), and the seven eyes symbolize full and perfect knowledge (omniscience). ... And so as the Lamb is omnipotent, having seven horns, and omniscient, having seven eyes, He is also omnipresent through His 'seven Spirits' - the Holy Spirit - whom He sent forth" [Homer Hailey, The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 178-179].

Although the above understanding is the preferred interpretation of "the seven Spirits of God" by the vast majority of biblical scholars down through the ages, there are nevertheless a few who hold to other views, a couple of which we'll note briefly in closing. Some, for example, understand "the seven Spirits of God" as more of a depiction of God's character, rather than a symbol of "the Third Person of the Trinity." They appeal to a text in the writings of the prophet Isaiah as their justification for this view. "It isn't that there are seven different Spirits of God, rather the Lord has these characteristics, and He has them all in fullness and perfection" [David Guzik, Enduring Word Commentary, e-Sword]. Those "seven aspects" of our Lord are seen, according to this view, in Isaiah 11:2 (although most translations list only six). Another understanding of "the seven Spirits" is that it is a reference to a high order of specialized angels who stand before the Throne of God, ever ready, willing, and able to carry out His will, whatever that will may be. Adam Clarke (1760-1832), the British Methodist theologian, declared, "That seven angels are here meant, and not the Holy Spirit, is most evident" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 970]. There were ancient Jewish scholars who seemed to agree with this view. "The ancient Jews, who represented the throne of God as the throne of an eastern monarch, supposed that there were seven ministering angels before this throne, as there were seven ministers attendant on the throne of a Persian monarch" [ibid]. In Tobit 12:15, one of the Jewish apocryphal writings, we read, "I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in attendance on the Lord and enter His glorious presence." Although it is an interesting theory, very few people accept this interpretation.


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Hawaii:

Al, I would like to purchase a copy of your first book "Down, But Not Out: A Study of Divorce and Remarriage in Light of God's Healing Grace." I'm sending a check to cover the price of the book, plus I've added some extra for postage. Keep the change. Aloha!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Al Maxey, Would you please send me your two-CD set titled "The Book of Revelation: An In-Depth Reflective Study." Please find enclosed my check to cover the cost of these materials and your shipping expenses. Thank you!

From a Reader in Texas:

I must say that your last article, "Two Old Authors on a Bench: Reflective Response to Robert's Review of My Insights on Interpretive Methodology" (Reflections #806), is one that I had to read three times in order to get a better understanding of "CENI" and "hermeneutics." I have been associated with "Churches of Christ" all my life, yet had never heard either of those terms before. I have, however, seen the results of that way of thinking. Now I have a better understanding, thanks to your writings. I like your statement: "You don't have to be my twin to be my brother." Unfortunately, many of our brothers and sisters think and act differently. I witnessed not long ago a new couple to the church get baptized, and their family was so excited that they clapped. The next Sunday one of the elders gave a stern lecture from the pulpit about the sinfulness of clapping. That new couple never came back again! I think this CENI approach has caused some legalistic groups to lose sight of what genuine unity really is! I don't see the Bible as a rule book, but rather as a book about faith overflowing with grace. It is a relief to hear what you say about music in the church! I thought I was the only one with that view. Another "issue" that I'm sure you have probably written about, but I haven't yet found it, is the issue of a Christian drinking some wine or beer. I've always heard that any church member who "drinks" is a sinner. When I bring up this issue with most members, they will tell you that Jesus only drank unfermented grape juice. That is not my understanding of the text. I also wish that the "Church of Christ" would change its attitude about being the one and only "true church." I get some ugly looks when I ask which of our many splits is the real one!! Is it the one that has music, or the one that uses multiple cups, or the one that doesn't have Sunday School, or ...? Al, I love what you write, and I pray that you stay healthy and keep writing! I look forward to your next Reflections, and also want to thank you for your service to our country!

From a Reader in Georgia:

I pretty much thought CENI was dead. If it were a scientific theory, it would have been rejected long ago due to its inherent inconsistencies!

From a Reader in California:

Al, I always love your writings, and, being a former computer programmer, I am up for complicated logic. But, I'll have to say, it took me several sittings, and even at my freshest periods, to get through this issue of your Reflections ("Two Old Authors on a Bench"). So long-winded by both Robert Waters and you. But, I did finish both of your articles, and I agree the most with you (though I thought the issue of "authority" could be an interesting separate topic, if it could be said briefly). Nevertheless, too much debate and searching for authority can harden a person, I think. Thanks again, Al, for your Reflections ministry.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, I admire you more than you can imagine! That you love people enough to tell them the truth (as you have done with Robert Waters in your new Reflections) is a very rare quality. Your scholarship has benefited me and thousands more, and I love you for it. I place you on the same level of high esteem as my great friend Edward Fudge.

From a Reader in Texas:

I have subscribed to your Reflections for years. Although I am not in the Churches of Christ, I have been intrigued by your heart and your thoughts in your studies. I just ordered through PayPal your master CD: Reflections: The Complete Collection (which has all of your articles from December 2002 to the present). I have a question: While reading your article "The New International Version: A Critical Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses" (Reflections #86), I came across your following statement on the New International Version's translation of Romans 1:17 - "The NIV reads, 'For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.' There was such a public outcry over this rendering that the translators felt compelled to put the more literal 'from faith to faith' in a footnote in their later editions." I know you are undoubtedly swamped with emails, and that you may not have time to respond, but I don't understand why this change in the wording of Romans 1:17 needed to be made. Thanks.

From a Reader in Canada:

Al, what you have written about CENI and other methodologies is outside my purview. Sola Scriptura is my only guide. I adhere to the creed of Jesus as outlined in Mark 12:28-33. From my perspective, that is the simplicity of the Lord Jesus. What He says in those verses is our foundation; all else in the NT is commentary about how to love God with my whole being and my neighbor as myself. If any man's commentary pulls me in any way from this creed of Jesus, then I set that commentary aside. Al, I find 99% of what you write both enlightening and inspiring, but any articles that fall outside of Scripture are not my bag. Keep up all you do for the Lord Jesus and Jehovah. As we are entering into troubled times in this end time, we need ministers like yourself who speak Truth to all regardless of the negative feedback. We know that all those who proclaim the words of the Lord Jesus will pay the price of being persecuted. In spite of that, brother Al, keep on speaking out loudly and clearly what the Lord Jesus guides you to proclaim by His Spirit. I want you to know that I deeply appreciate all you do, brother!

From Robert Waters in Arkansas:

Al, when I opened up your web site and looked at the listing of your published works, I see that you debated Dr. Thomas Thrasher on the eternal fate of the wicked: The Maxey-Thrasher Debate. I look forward to reading it. This has been a subject that has bothered me, and one that I would not even think of debating at this point. By the way, I too have had a debate with Thrasher, but it was on MDR. That debate is on my Web Site.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I have just finished reading about the "Two Old Authors on a Bench." Of late, I have seen some of Robert Waters' articles in Academia, but I have not taken the time to read them. His main thrust is on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Since my wife and I have enjoyed 61 years of marriage, I didn't think I needed any info on divorcing a spouse. Someone once asked my wife if she ever thought about divorce. Her answer was, "Divorce? No. Murder? Yes." I really have to watch my step! Al, I appreciate your articles, and I am so glad that I can go to your Internet site at any time and pick out one of your articles to read and to study up on just about any subject which is needed at the time to reply to some issue in the brotherhood. Whether we agree 100% or not isn't important. Brother Gus Nichols voiced his concern once in a preachers' meeting I was involved in, criticizing Guy N. Woods' position on some current "issue" back in the '70s. Another preacher, James Boyd, and I discussed it with Gus after the meeting was over. It remained "up in the air." Yet, a few months later, at the Freed-Hardeman College (now University) Lectureship, during the "Open Forum," the subject or issue was brought up by someone in the audience. Guy made his comments, then he called upon Gus to come up and give his. Gus did. He still disagreed with Guy on the issue. However, he turned to Guy, shook hands with him, and said, "We be brethren!" That is how it should be, but the church is not good about following what is good or better. In our city we have six "Church of Christ" congregations, and less than half are in fellowship with one another. What a sad commentary on the "Churches of Christ" in this city, which from time to time even preach on "unity."

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I haven't read all of your Reflections articles on CENI, so you might have already covered this, but just in case you haven't, there is another piece of the CENI puzzle besides the "law of silence," and that is the "law of expediency." Do you have any thoughts or insights on this?

From a Reader in Tennessee:
(This was posted on a Facebook church group)

Some of our more restrictive brothers and sisters approach Scripture as if it were true that "what is recorded is required." And so, in our brotherhood, we now have 26 sects within the Churches of Christ. For example, we have 26 ways to do the Lord's Supper. Which is correct? Are they all? Are none of them? Must we use one cup, or is it that one cup is permitted? Must we partake only in an upper room, or is it that an elevated room is okay? Keep on adding all of these details (and countless others) and you start to see the difficulties of CENI. In the Middle Ages, some churches said you had to take the Lord's Supper seated at a table (and thus they had to have a fellowship hall). Why do we not require that? So, I often use our practice of the Lord's Supper to help us learn what Scripture actually teaches and what the early church actually practiced. And it was not CENI. I love that I have several brothers in the Churches of Christ who truly have a heart for church unity -- like Al Maxey! May our God increase his tribe!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, I just went through your dissertation about the "Two Old Authors on a Bench." Of course, you know that I am one of those old "CENIers." Here are some questions for you. Some years ago, I baptized a young woman who had been a member of the Methodist Church. She informed me that for the Lord's Supper they used Coke and crackers. That was more common and easier to obtain than the other, especially unleavened bread. Now, since all we have is the example of what Jesus used, what argument would you make against that? As to instruments of music, it is obvious that the Jews had used musical instruments for centuries. Why? Because God commanded it (2 Chronicles 29:25). Obviously, they had "authority" for the use of these instruments. Please show me in the NT where we have something similar. Furthermore, history tells us that the early church did not use instruments for centuries. Who were the first converts? Jews, and they were well-accustomed to worshipping with instruments. Why didn't they just continue, seeing as they were worshipping the same God who previously commanded them? Research indicates that it was Pope Vitalian who introduced an organ into worship in the 7th century. I look forward to hearing from you. I hope you are doing well and washing your hands often -- What a mess China has given to the world!

From a Reader in Texas:

I just read your biography of Austin McGary titled "'The Texas Heresy' of Austin McGary: The Gun-Slingin' Sheriff of Madison County who Impacted Church of Christ Doctrine on Baptism" (Reflections #697). I had never heard of this man before. How sad that one man could do so much damage! My Dad was a wild and wooly cowboy in his youth, but finally repented after marrying Mama (who was a Baptist) and became a staunch defender of the Church of Christ, preaching to everybody he met that they were all going to hell unless they believed exactly like he did. I don't know of a single person he converted. People dreaded to see him coming. Years later I learned that his Dad (my Grandfather) had travelled with David Lipscomb on his preaching circuit in his younger days. Thanks again, Al, for all the loving work you do in helping us to think for ourselves!

From a Minister in New Zealand:

I have just been reading your second article regarding your discussion with Robert Waters ("Revisiting the Park Bench: Final Attempt to Reason with Robert" - Reflections #806a). With reference to the Lord's Supper, we have just had some "issues" here regarding plastic cups versus glass cups and the "correct" washing procedures for these cups. I never realized that the Communion could become so complicated! I have to wonder what Jesus thinks about all this?! As for the use of the phrase (in English) "as often as," it is interesting that this same Greek word is used in Revelation 11:6 - "These have the power to shut up the sky, in order that rain may not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire" (NASB). Enough said! Have a great day, and God bless you!

From a Reader in Texas:

I was talking to my cousin about the fact that Jesus partook of an element (wine) that was added to the Passover meal (which, according to CENI, would make it an "unauthorized" innovation), to which he responded, "Well, something to drink while you are eating kind of goes without saying." His exact words! So, I guess from this that we establish "authority" in the face of biblical "silence" if what we like "goes without saying"?! Well then, it seems equally natural to most people to have instrumental music accompanying singing. Wouldn't that too "go without saying"? Frankly, legalistic "thinking" would almost be laughable if it weren't so sad and twisted.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Al, I just read your second response to Robert Waters ("Revisiting the Park Bench"). You show far more grace than most of our legalistic brethren. Your comments to Robert at the end prove this to be true! I personally am not convinced that our legalistic brethren will all be in heaven, and I am certain that they won't warmly greet us, but will probably file a protest: "Why is he here?!" Paul condemned those who promote law over grace. Any system of law violates grace. I do admire Robert for his willingness to put his views in print, as most legalistic brethren back away when challenged.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Thanks for your article "Revisiting the Park Bench." It was wonderfully, convincingly, and lovingly stated. God bless!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, Excellent rebuttal ("Revisiting the Park Bench"). I appreciate your writings, and also the way you handle yourself. Nehemiah had several obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish his rebuilding in Jerusalem, but his biggest obstacle was the objections of the local folk.

From an Author in Nevada:

Nice response to a stubborn individual. So sad to see Robert Waters captivated by carnal hermeneutics! On another note, what is your one best issue of Reflections on "the party spirit"?

From a Reader in Georgia:

I guess there are "brick walls" that one attempts to speak to, and then there are "steel fortresses." It's difficult to understand how one could read the Bible I read and come up with a plan to get to heaven by one's own performance rather than by depending entirely upon the grace so freely offered to us by faith in the One who paid all our debts. Keep stomping out ignorance, Al.

From a Reader in Texas:

As always, Al, I sincerely appreciate your defense of the Faith. Every legalist who tries to enforce man-made laws for the church rejects the all-sufficiency of Christ and His work for sinners and saints. I will never forget the pain and sadness I felt when I once posed this question on a very popular Church of Christ blog site: "Is the person and work of Jesus enough to save us?" The answer from some of those Church of Christ preachers was a flat out "NO." Your friend Robert Waters is not just in error, he is also leading others to not trust in Christ Jesus alone for justification and eternal life. That is a sad state of affairs! Not knowing much about the "Restoration Movement" (I was not brought up in "the Lord's church"), I set out to read everything I could about the history of this movement, and to learn why some things seemed to be so important to most Church of Christ people. Well, as you yourself know, I discovered that this movement was infested with legalists, and these people quickly contaminated what was originally a pure expression on earth of the Family of God. I think converting an atheist might be easier than converting a legalist. Al, may God continue to use you for His glory for many years into the future!

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Al, thanks for your "Park Bench" series (Reflections #806 and #806a). I have to admit that I used to be a CENI Christian, but I have long since left those views. I am so happy that legalism within the Churches of Christ is on the way out! Our congregation uses musical instruments, and we also use women in the service. And yes, both are very Scriptural. We all need to accept that we are all Christians. We may worship differently, we may use different study methods, but as long as we are preaching Christ, God is happy with us. Keep up your outstanding work, Al. We will never all agree this side of Heaven, but that is okay. Have a great day, brother!

From a Reader in Ottawa, Canada:

Al, as for the Eucharist (the Lord's Supper), it seems that if Troas is to be our example, there are things that have been left out. It needs to be in an upper room, for one, and if we are to agree with Jesus' example, it must be in the evening. Having someone fall out of an upper window would simply be "window dressing." There is no dictum whatsoever that stipulates a once weekly standard. The Greek record by the NT authors makes things very clear. Even in English, Jesus is heard to say, "As often as you drink it..." Paul is even more specific with Christ's words. The Greek word "hosakis" is defined in the lexicons: "as often as; with no restrictions on time or frequency." It is literally, "as often as you desire." In my experience, there are frequent occasions in the Churches of Christ when the desire to follow a pattern seems to get in the way of obeying Jesus' direct commands. But the Scriptures are not our pattern; Jesus came to earth to show us who God is -- HE is our pattern. Not a pattern neatly written down in words, but an uncomfortable pattern of imitation, eschewing greed, forgoing the enrichening of ourselves, of deep servanthood, of serving when we aren't ready to, and of accommodating many cultures, rather than expecting they will conform to ours. The Apostolic Fathers held up the example of the Sermon on the Mount, with the expectation that the early Christians lived like that. What a stupendous pattern that would be for these times! Thank you, Al, for your ongoing effort to help us think independently, and for enriching our lives with your wisdom.

From a Reader in California:

Robert Waters had gained a little of my respect with his first paper, but in the one which you reviewed in "Revisiting the Park Bench," it just seemed that he was going for the cheap shot with his mischaracterizations. He seems to misuse the term "lawless," and he makes inappropriate inferences. Acts 20:7, for example. I'm surprised Waters doesn't establish as "law" that a congregation must stay awake until midnight every Saturday night, and that the pastor should, as "law," leave on a long journey every Sunday morning.

From a Reader in Virginia:

Al, this has nothing to do with the wonderful resources you provide for us, or how much I appreciate you and your work. It is just a fun memory from long ago. I don't even remember which of your Reflections it was that triggered this memory, but it was one in which you mentioned Yater Tant and J. D. Tant, and perhaps other members of the Tant family. Anyway, my husband and I have been married for 63 years, and I still remember that the first person we had over for dinner after we got married was one of the Tants (I don't even remember which one). I was a novice cook, this was my "first company," I had a tiny kitchen in the married student apartments in Georgia. His comment on my biscuits, laughing, was, "I always did like burned biscuits." Enough said. Incidentally, I discovered just a couple of weeks ago that the minister I had been wishing I had the courage to steer toward you and your writings was already a reader of your work!! God bless you for all the good that you do.

From a Reader in Hawaii:

In 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:6 Paul discusses the elder's one wife. The following questions came up in our Wednesday evening Bible class: (1) If a man who wants to be an elder, and his one and only wife dies prior to him becoming an elder, can he still be an elder? (2) If an elder's one and only wife dies while he is serving as an elder, must he step down? How would you answer these? Thanks, Al.

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