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by Al Maxey

Issue #808 -- October 18, 2020
People feel sure not so much that their opinions are true
as that they should not know what to do without them.

John Stuart Mill {1806-1873}

Factional Feuding Over Frequency
Can We Remember Jesus' Offering Too Often?

When I was still a teen, I remember my parents faithfully watching the news on TV with anchors David Brinkley and Chet Huntley, both of whom are now long deceased. News was much different then than now. More honest; less opinionated. Yes, these reporters and news anchors had their own opinions, and they were often strongly held, but they sought to impartially report the facts. Those days, sadly, are long gone! I can still remember, although somewhat vaguely, the dry humor of David Brinkley (1920-2003), along with his hint of a smile, as he quipped with Chet Huntley during the newscast. In 1996 he wrote a book titled "Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion." I love the title; it was tongue-in-cheek on the author's part, yet there is great insight in that title, for many who hold cherished opinions feel very strongly that their assumptions, deductions, inferences, and opinions constitute absolute Truth itself. They feel compelled, therefore, to impose those opinions upon all others, and they will not hesitate to "go after with a fury" any who dare to oppose or refuse them. I like what Lydian Emerson, the wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote in July, 1841 in her journal: "The only sin which people never forgive in each other is difference of opinion." How true! We all have opinions. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is when we seek to impose them upon others. This always results in division. The Spanish have a saying, "Three Spaniards, Four Opinions!" Perhaps we could add "and a Dozen Factions." Such is especially visible within the realms of politics, religion, and social/cultural change. The more something impacts our daily lives and affects our future, the more such views and opinions become catalysts of conflict, especially when the proponents of one opinion seek to dominate all who hold to a differing one.

Some may be surprised to learn that the Greek word "hairetikos" (English: heretic) appears only one time in the NT writings, and it is used by the apostle Paul in Titus 3:10 - "Reject a factious man after a first and second warning." Paul then characterizes such a one as "perverted, sinful, and self-condemned" (vs. 11). Strong's Concordance defines the term as meaning: "a schismatic." It literally signifies one who is willing to divide over a strongly held opinion. The Greek word "hairesis" (English: heresy) also appears only once, and it again comes from the mouth of the apostle Paul as he spoke to the governor Felix: "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I do serve the God of our fathers" (Acts 24:14). The Jews regarded those who followed Jesus as being part of a "heresy" (i.e., a religious sect formed around strongly held opinions). Thus, a "heretic," by definition, is simply anyone willing to divide the larger body of believers over certain cherished views and practices and opinions. That ought to make each of us pause for a bit of reflection and self-evaluation with regard to our own opinions and preferences. Is it just possible that we, who are condemning and castigating others for their cherished opinions, are the true "heretics" in the eyes of God? Frightening thought!

Mark Twain {Samuel Clemens} once opined that it is not necessarily in man's best interests that all persons think exactly alike; instead, "it is difference of opinion that makes horse races." Differing opinions are the universal norm wherever, however, and whenever those of our species gather together to share and discuss their convictions and actions. Such times can be healthy; they can also be just the opposite when any one person or group deifies their own opinion and seeks to impose it upon all others. Mark Twain wrote, "Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God." Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) tended to agree, although he made it far more personal: "Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion." I think we can all agree that when any one person, or a group of persons, elevates their own conviction about something to the level of divine mandate, division into warring factions is never far behind. We see this not only in secular societies, but also within the society of our Savior (the church/family of God in Christ). We could provide many, many examples of this, but one of the topics that has generated centuries of debate centers around the Lord's Supper and the time/frequency of its observance.

When Jesus instituted this memorial during His observance of that last Passover meal with His disciples, did He issue any command that specified the day, time of day, and frequency of this event for all future generations until the end of time? The answer, of course, is that He did not. No such command was ever given. Some seek to fill that legislative void with a singular example: the gathering that occurred in the city of Troas (Acts 20:7-12). From this text has come the opinion that this one example is forever regulative with regard to the day of observance (i.e., Sunday). There are problems with this view, however, as my following study demonstrates: "The Great Time Debate: Were the Events in Acts 20:7-12 Reckoned in Jewish or Roman Time?" (Reflections #173). Some students of the Word suggest that no single example, with no foundation of divine command to support it, should ever rise to the level of LAW for the church. Some scholars will point to the example of the early church as perceived in the history of the Lord's church in the centuries that followed its establishment. They point out the fact that almost from the beginning there was great variety in just how and when this event was observed. Should this example be deified as well?! I have traced the history of the Lord's Supper through the centuries, including the issue of frequency, in my following study: "The Lord's Supper: A Brief Historical Overview" (Reflections #114). I also dealt in great depth with the whole matter of "frequency" itself as it pertains to this memorial meal: "The Lord's Supper: Focusing on Frequency" (Reflections #30).

The fact of the matter is: the Lord Jesus uttered NO command whatsoever that would rigidly regulate this very special, spiritual event. Indeed, if one truly grasps the intent of this event, one will quickly realize that any church law which limits this commemoration in any way would be entirely contrary to that original divine intent. Sadly, most legalistic patternists don't bother to think beyond their own preference and practice. Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ did issue a command when He instituted this memorial meal, but that command had nothing to do with regulating the logistics or mechanics of the event itself. Rather, it had to do with the hearts of those who observe it, and where the focus of their hearts should be as they partake of the elements of this meal. What was that command? - "DO THIS in remembrance of Me!" I would strongly encourage the reader to spend a bit of time in prayerful reflection on this, as I sought to do in my article titled "The Meaning of 'Do This': Seeking the Significance of Christ's Command During the Last Supper" (Reflections #553). The Lord simply commanded, "DO IT," and whenever and wherever you and/or I may choose to do it, He has simply requested of us, "Remember Me!" He Himself provided zero rules and regulations beyond this! Again, when you and I grasp the purpose of this event, we can quickly discern why no such legal legislation is imposed. Please consider carefully and prayerfully the following purposes of this meal: "The Lord's Supper: Perceiving its Purpose" (Reflections #55) and "Breaking Bread: Meal or Memorial?" (Reflections #168).

All four of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) make mention of Jesus using the "Last Supper" to institute what we characterize as the "Lord's Supper" (although that phrase is found only 1 time in the entire Bible - 1 Corinthians 11:20). Luke, however, is the only one of these four gospel writers to use the phrase, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). The apostle Paul affirms this statement in the first of his two preserved epistles to the disciples in the city of Corinth. "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). In this passage one will find a particular phrase used twice: "as often as." This is the Greek adverb "hosakis." It appears only one other time in the New Covenant writings: in a passage where we find the following being said about "the two witnesses" - "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" (Revelation 11:6).

"Hosakis" is a relative adverb of time/frequency which almost all scholars and translators render "as often as" (with a few translating it "as many times as" or "whenever"). This adverb "is only used with the notion of indefinite repetition" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 973]. Dr. Robertson makes a very important point here. The action of the verbs ("eat" and "drink") is not in any way legislated with respect to frequency. Indeed, just the opposite. The matter of frequency is left to the one eating and drinking the elements of this memorial meal. Such is understood in this particular adverb, and that is especially noted in the Revelation 11:6 passage where the two witnesses engage in their acts "as often as they desire." What many rigid religionists have seemingly forgotten in their quest to bind their own understanding and practice upon others is that Jesus has already spoken to the matter of frequency with regard to the observance of the Lord's Supper. We do not have to resort to examples for our authority, for the authority lies in the words of the Master Himself (which are then echoed by an inspired apostle). Some patternists will say that in the absence of "command" (i.e. "silence") we must go to an approved "example." The old CENI fallacy. Yet, the Lord has spoken on the matter; "silence" is not an issue here. The matter of frequency has forever been addressed in the phrase "as often as."

Neither Jesus nor any of the NT writers regulate or restrict the observance of the Lord's Supper with respect to time or frequency. It is left completely in the realm of "whenever." The relative adverb "hosakis," translated "whenever" or "as often as," is nonspecific (indefinite) with regard to time. Daily, weekly, monthly are ALL equally in accord with the statement by both Jesus and Paul. Thus, we must raise once again the vital hermeneutical question: Which has the greater weight when it comes to determining our own practice today with regard to frequency of observance of the Lord's Supper? A specific declaration of Jesus Christ, repeated by an inspired apostle? Or, a singular example about which fallible men have made countless assumptions? Unto which of these will we give "authority" to determine our practice? Was the practice of Troas, as best as we understand it, in accord with the teaching of Jesus and Paul? Of course it was! Even if the disciples in Troas did observe the Lord's Supper every first day of the week, and only on the first day of the week (though there is NO evidence for either in the biblical text), that would still be in complete compliance with the directive of Jesus and Paul -- "as often as" you do it. "Whenever" you do it. Of course, a daily observance would also be in compliance. So also would a monthly observance, or a bi-weekly observance. ALL would fall under the gracious umbrella of "as often as," and NONE would rise to the level of universal law.

There is another "adverb of time" used in the NT writings that we should mention; an adverb used 18 times. It is the Greek word "pollakis," which means "often, frequently, many times, time after time." These are the locations of this word's usage in the New Covenant scriptures: Matthew 17:15 (twice); Mark 5:4; 9:22; John 18:2; Acts 26:11; Romans 1:13; 2 Corinthians 8:22; 11:23, 26, 27 (twice); Philippians 3:18; 2 Timothy 1:16; Hebrews 6:7; 9:25, 26; 10:11. If you would, please pause here and go read every one of those 18 occurrences of this adverb. Now, assuming you have done so, answer the following questions, and please be specific with your numerical response: How many times did the son of a man who approached Jesus fall into the fire and water? How many times had the demon-possessed man been bound with shackles and chains? How many times did Jesus meet with His disciples in the garden across the Kidron? How many times had Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians, trying to force them to blaspheme? How many times had Paul sought to travel to Rome to meet the brethren there? How many times did Paul test one of his traveling companions? How many times did Paul go without food? How many times was he in danger of death? How many times had Paul warned people about the enemies of Christ? How many times had Onesiphorus "refreshed" Paul? How many times has the rain fallen upon the ground? How many times would Jesus have had to offer Himself up if He were compelled to do so under a Levitical system? How many times, over the hundreds of years that system was in place, did the priests offer up sacrifices for the sins of the people? The answer in every single case is: OFTEN. It is the same with the usage of the other adverb of time/frequency!! OFTEN.

Did any of you come up with a specific number as you answered the above questions?! Of course not. And why is that so? Because these two Greek adverbs of time/frequency are "only used with the notion of indefinite repetition" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 973]. These adverbs are not about strict specificity, they are about "indefinite repetition." Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord's Supper, and to remember Him as often as we do so. There was no rigidly set pattern in the early church for doing this. Indeed, had there been, that specificity would have utterly negated the lack of specificity in our Lord's directive (a directive repeated by one of His apostles). Can you imagine our Father sending someone to Hell for the "abomination" of remembering His Son's cruel death on the cross more than once a week?!! Seriously?!! If I observe the Lord's Supper on Sunday, but then observe it again on a Wednesday night, will God set me ablaze forever and ever and ever?! If that is how you truly feel, then I pity you! Your perception of God is fatally flawed; in fact, it is worse than that: it is blasphemous!

I was recently asked the following by a beloved minister in New Zealand: "In studying the Scriptures, I have noticed two different Greek words being used to depict 'often' ('hosakis' and 'pollakis'), and I wondered: what is your understanding of the distinction between the two? This could be significant." I have done some research into this, but I have found nothing thus far that would indicate any great spiritual significance to one over the other. They both indicate the idea of indefinite repetition, and both have been similarly translated into English over the centuries. The only thing that stands out in my own mind, as I looked at each of the occurrences of both words, is that "hosakis" (which is used only 3 times in the NT) seems, at least to me, to point to personal choice with respect to frequency. Just as it was up to the two witnesses to determine the extent of their acts ("as often as they desire"), so it seems to me that the Lord has left our act of remembrance via the Lord's Supper up to us, which would certainly reflect far better the level of devotion and love in our hearts. Loving expression, and loving remembrance of His loving act on our behalf at the cross, should never fall under a restrictive LAW - "ONLY on Sunday."

If His people choose to remember Him on other days and times, or even more frequently than Sunday, then that choice is a reflection of their love for Him. To praise a person for remembering Jesus ONCE a week, yet teaching that God will damn that person to Hell for doing so TWICE a week, is not only heresy but blasphemy against God. In contrast, "pollakis," at least in most of the New Testament occurrences, seems to suggest less of a personal choice. For example, we don't choose how often the rain falls, or how often a demon may cast one into the water or fire, or how often we may suffer at the hands of those who would persecute us. There are many things that occur "often" in our world and in our lives; things over which we really have little, if any, choice or control. Not so with our acts of service to and remembrance of the Lord. It is here that we reveal our hearts, and I believe the Lord took a "hands off" approach to such areas with regard to rigid regulation for this very reason. For more on this, please check out my article titled "Against Such There Is No Law" (Reflections #36), which is the phrase that appears in Galatians 5:23 right after Paul's listing of the particulars of the fruit of the Spirit. I believe the principle there is the same as the principle here with respect to our freewill choice when it comes to remembering our Lord, whether through our evidencing of the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives or our remembrance of Him whenever (as often as) we choose to partake of the elements of the Lord's Supper.

Let me close with the following powerful insight on the phrase "as often as" when used in connection with the Lord's Supper, an insight with which I fully agree, from the pen of Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870), an American theologian, commentator, and pastor: "As oft as - Not prescribing any time; and not even specifying the frequency with which it was to be done; but leaving it to themselves to determine how often they would partake of it. The time of the Passover had been fixed by positive statute; the more mild and gentle system of Christianity left it to the followers of the Redeemer themselves to determine how often they would celebrate His death. It was commanded them to do it; it was presumed that their love to Him would be so strong as to secure a frequent observance" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Our greatest and most appreciated sacrifices unto God and services rendered unto our fellow man are those offered freely, fully, and frequently from the overflow of a loving heart, rather than under compulsion to some rigid religious regulation. Lord, help us to perceive this eternal principle as often as we come to the Table in remembrance of You!


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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, in reading your readers' comments in your last Reflections (Issue #807), I was drawn to the comment from the preacher in Tennessee asking about the command for instruments. From my understanding of the comments made in my text book from college, A History of Western Music, Revised Edition (1973), by Donald Jay Grout, I look at this from an entirely different perspective. The author seems to indicate that it would have been absolutely normal for the early Jewish Christians to continue in their basic worship styles, even using instruments. I also believe this to be the case, and I fully believe that the apostle Paul would have encountered this practice during his travels. If so, and if such practice was wrong, it seems he would have confronted the practice much as he did with the circumcision issue. Yet, he didn't tell them, "You must stop using instruments!" In the Corinthian letter, Paul uses the argument: how would they know the pitch from an instrument or the trumpet call to an army, suggesting that he and his audience were all familiar with the use of instruments when Christians gather.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Al, your service for the Lord has impacted the world for good, and it is my prayer that it may continue to do so!

From a Reader in Maine:

Thanks for your treatise on "The Seven Spirits of God: Reflecting on a Puzzling Symbol" (Reflections #807). So enlightening! Also, thanks for the extensive Readers' Reflections section in that issue. Your reader in Texas was certainly correct in reminding us of the "law of expediency." But there are at least three other exceptions to CENI that have been added over the years by the patternists in order to try to make the CENI hermeneutic work. These are described in Appendix B of my 2010 book, which you were kind enough to recommend to your readers in Reflections #440 and #805. I would be happy to send that section to any fellow readers of your Reflections at no cost as a Word attachment. In short, the expanded formula might be written this way: CENI + S (Silence) + EX (Expediency) + XC (Culture) + XI (Incidentals of Circumstance) + XB (Beneficiality) = PATTERN. Also, comments about the Lord's Supper reminded me of what David H. Stern wrote in his fascinating Jewish New Testament Commentary about "breaking bread." He wrote, "To say that the early Messianic Jews broke bread is to say neither more nor less than that they ate together." A bulletin insert I prepared years ago containing that and other quotes from Stern can be sent along to your readers as well. Blessings, brother. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Virginia:

Al, I was just browsing through the hundreds of articles and notes I've accumulated over the years, and I came across my notes on your article "Ponderings & Puzzlements: Reflective Responses to Readers" (Reflections #302) in which you answered a question from a reader in Oklahoma about the sacred/secular dichotomy. What you wrote happened to fit with something that has come to mind recently. I've been "picked" by a Jehovah's Witness who "won't give up on me." One of the things that caught my attention was their view, which you and I agree with, that the "church" isn't the building with the "right" name on the sign out front, and that we don't "go to" church, but are the church. That's why their meeting places are called "Kingdom Halls." These people are most certainly persistent daily witnesses. I also respect their dedication to the principle of everyone teaching his neighbor, and of going into all the world. I read somewhere that all faithful Jehovah's Witnesses commit to at least 15 hours a week in talking to and teaching others. This woman knocked on my door months ago, and because I was polite to her she keeps emailing and calling me, whether I return her calls and emails or not. Al, I just wanted to say that I appreciate your work so much, and I hope you're thriving in the midst of all this mess, and that you will continue to work for many years to come! Best wishes, brother!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Just read "The Seven Spirits of God." Well done! I don't know how you find the means to make complicated studies easy to understand. It's truly a gift. I was looking at the many responses from your readers: interesting comment by the one old CENI guy who wanted to know where in the NT do we find authorization from God to use instruments. I feel sad for people who think heartfelt worship of God is about LAW. I would have asked that guy where God rescinded His preference for instruments! Keep stomping out ignorance, brother!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, I hope you are doing well. I read your Reflections, and I appreciate your hard work in producing them. They are so helpful to so many of us in our effort to get God's message to others. I use them every day!

From a Reader in California:

Elder Maxey, your study titled "The Seven Spirits of God" is a GREAT article! I so much admire you for taking on these very difficult passages of Scripture and for coming out the other side with very comprehensive, very sensible, very plausible, very encouraging, and very edifying insights. This, again, is truly a great article. Did I say that already?! The whole article was great, but this statement of yours really speaks to me: "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 Spirit. His energy is infinite, both in variety and measure." Sir, this is masterful work. Thank you for this article and for all you do. As I've told you before, I used to think that I knew the Bible relatively well, but then I started reading your Reflections!! I now realize that I know very little. I know enough to be saved, but the parts I don't know that you so wonderfully illuminate really enhances my walk with Jesus. One more thing: as for those who complain that your articles are "too long," I could not disagree more! Sir, I view your articles as well-researched, well-written pieces of biblical literature. I love your writings! Please keep to the track you're on; don't change a thing, for your studies are valuable to serious Bible students!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, I was discussing with someone recently about how if a person asks Al Maxey what time it is, he'll tell you how to make a watch. But I then added, "And it's a fantastic watch that keeps perfect time!" I hope that you and yours are doing well and staying safe.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Al, I was writing a book about 15 years ago and sent you part of what I had written up to that point. I was unsure that what I was writing was useful. You provided encouragement which I needed very much. Thank you! Well, here it is about 15 years later, and I have finally published the book. I am sending you a copy as an appreciation for your encouragement.

From a Reader in Florida:

Al, after reading your article on "The Seven Spirits of God," please add to your list of "sevens" the seven gifts in Romans 12:6-8. Those gifts are prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, contributing, leading, and acts of mercy.

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