by Al Maxey

Issue #201 ------- July 28, 2005
Listen to the whispers and you
won't have to hear the screams.

A Cherokee Saying

Andronicus & Junias/Junia
A Reflective Analysis of Romans 16:7

"It is not without significance that this, the most abstruse and difficult of all the New Testament Epistles, should have appended to it the longest list of friendly greetings. Doctrine and argument are not necessarily productive of coldness of heart. The apostle was a beautiful example of the blending of the philosopher and the gentleman" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18). Paul was a deep thinker; he had the gift of great insight. Some of his critics were not overly impressed with Paul as a person, or with his speaking skills, but even his enemies could not fault the scope of his scholarship and the power of his pen. "His letters are weighty and powerful, but his physical presence is weak, and his public speaking is despicable" (2 Cor. 10:10). Even his own fellow apostles were at times greatly confused by what he had written to the saints. "Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you ... speaking about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand" (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Nevertheless, Peter refers to this scholar as "our beloved brother Paul" (vs. 15).

Paul was extremely strong in some areas; noticeably weak in others. "Though untrained in public speaking, I am certainly not so in knowledge" (2 Cor. 11:6). Paul was brilliant, and the Lord had gifted him with the ability to express himself well through the written word. Thank God for that skill, for much of our inspired New Covenant documents were penned by this apostle who was admittedly unskilled in other areas of public ministry. Fortunately, God does not call us to possess and display perfection of expertise in all areas of Christian service, but simply calls us to personal faithfulness in those specific areas wherein He has gifted us. Some are hands, some are feet; some are eyes, some are ears; working together, however, they all form a functional body! This, for want of a better expression, is known as Unity in Diversity.

As previously noted by the Pulpit Commentary, Paul, although a scholar and author extraordinaire, did not lose sight of the value of one's interpersonal relationships. He did not consider himself better than others, thus arrogantly distancing himself from them. It is oft declared, and not without merit, sadly, that some men are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. Not so with Paul. He cherished his fellow believers and treasured their companionship. His great learning had not driven him "mad," as Festus, the governor, asserted (Acts 26:24), nor had it driven him away from his beloved brethren.

We discover, therefore, even in his most theological epistle, evidence of the value Paul placed on his relationship with a host of men and women with whom he had served the Lord in the furtherance of the gospel. Romans 16 is filled to overflowing with loving remembrances and tributes to these saints. Some we have come to know well in the course of our biblical studies (such as Priscilla and Aquila); others are lesser known, if known at all. But all were dear to the heart of Paul, and, due to his words of greeting, their names live on throughout the centuries in the sacred writings of the New Covenant. Each name represents a life lived in sacrificial service to the Savior; each name would be well worth examining in much more depth than we often do. In this current issue of my weekly Reflections, however, we will seek to better acquaint ourselves with only two of these persons: Andronicus and Junias (or Junia), who appear in verse 7 of this marvelous chapter in Paul's epistle to the brethren in Rome.

Andronicus --- This is a transliteration of the Greek word Andronikos, which means "man of victory; conqueror of men." His name appears only this one time in all the NT writings. Other than what is contained in this one verse, we know absolutely nothing about him. There are two other men by this name who figure somewhat prominently in the extra-biblical narratives, however.

  1. The first Andronicus we encounter was a high ranking noble in the court of Antiochus Epiphanes during the so-called "Intertestamental Period" of Jewish history. King Antiochus IV, also known as "Epiphanes," was the Seleucid ruler of Palestine from 175 to 163 B.C. It was his slaughter of a pig on the altar of God on December 25, 168 B.C. that led to the Jewish rebellion better known as The Maccabean Revolt. On one occasion, when the king had gone off to another part of the empire to deal with a growing crisis, Andronicus was left in charge of the city of Antioch. As a result of some fascinating manipulation and intrigue by a man named Menelaus, Andronicus murdered Onias in a most under-handed manner. This not only infuriated the Jews, but greatly troubled many of the Greeks as well. When Antiochus returned to Antioch, he "was deeply grieved, and wept as he recalled the prudence and noble conduct of the deceased. Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his other garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment he deserved" (2 Maccabees 4:37-38).

  2. The second Andronicus also served under the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the Commander of the garrison at Gerizim. Antiochus, who the oppressed Jews preferred to call "Epimanes" (the madman), "left governors to harass the nation: at Jerusalem, Philip, a Phrygian by birth, and in character more cruel than the man who appointed him; at Mount Gerizim, Andronicus; and besides these, Menelaus, who lorded it over his fellow citizens even worse than all the others did" (2 Maccabees 5:22-23).

Junias/Junia --- This particular individual known to Paul is also mentioned only here in all of the New Testament writings. "The sum of our knowledge consists in what is here said" (Moses E. Lard, A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans, p. 455). The major debate with regard to this second person mentioned in Rom. 16:7 is over whether this individual is a man or a woman. Scholarship is very much divided on this issue, and the debate has often been extremely heated, primarily because of the implications if this is indeed a female. "As the name occurs in the accusative case, it may be either Junias, a masculine name contracted from Junianus, or Junia, a common feminine name" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 665). "It is impossible, as this name occurs in the accusative case, to determine whether it is masculine or feminine" (ibid, p. 57). "The name may be masculine, 'Junias,' a contraction of Junianus, or feminine, 'Junia.' It is the accusative form that is given" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1165).

  1. The Masculine Theory --- Since there is some evidence to suggest that these two individuals were perhaps apostles, at least in the more general sense of that term (more about this later), some of the more conservative biblical interpreters are adamant that this individual could not be a woman. "Such an apostle would be strange indeed" (R.C.H. Lenski, An Interpretation of Romans, p. 905). Moses E. Lard, in his classic commentary on Romans, wrote, "Junias I take to be masculine, not feminine. The joint descriptions of the two persons named seem to demand this" (p. 455). Lard may be correct in his assumption that this person is a male, but his reasoning is flawed. The fact that both these individuals are described jointly in the passage (both being said to be Paul's "kinsmen" and his "fellow prisoners") in no way demands that the individuals thus characterized must be of the same gender. After all, in verse 3 Priscilla and Aquila are "jointly described" as Paul's "fellow workers," and we all know this was a married couple (and I doubt they were a same sex couple!). The primary "arguments" of the masculine theory, quite frankly, are prejudicially based. The proponents of this theory simply don't like the notion of a female "apostle."

  2. The Feminine Theory --- Most biblical scholars are of the conviction, as am I, that the second named individual in verse 7 is a female. Junia, after all, was a very common feminine name at that time. "All early sources attest Junia as female, especially Jerome (340-420 A.D.) and John Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.). Although the name often appears in masculine forms in English translations, they are unattested in ancient times. Junia is the only woman called an 'apostle' in the NT" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 756). Andronicus and Junia are believed by the vast majority of these biblical scholars to be yet another husband and wife team (like Priscilla and Aquila), or possibly a brother and sister team. "It is surely not at all impossible that St. Paul should include a woman among the apostles in the wider sense of accredited missionaries or messengers, a position to which their seniority in the faith may well have called this pair" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 665).

It was certainly not unusual for God to use women in very prominent roles among His people, and we find this revealed in both OT and NT historical writings. Athaliah, for example, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, reigned as queen over Judah for six years (2 Kings 11:3; 2 Chron. 22:12). Deborah, who was a prophetess of God, served as a judge over Israel for 40 years (Judges 4:4-5). We find several female prophets of God mentioned -- Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), Anna (Luke 2:36), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9). We also see a husband and wife team of prophets -- Isaiah and his wife (Is. 8:3). Joel 2:28-29 even foresaw a time, during the Christian dispensation, when both "your sons and daughters will prophesy ... and even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days." Thus, it should not surprise us too greatly to find a woman deacon (Phoebe -- Rom. 16:1-2), a woman apostle (Junia -- Rom. 16:7), and women prophets (Philip's daughters) in the church. For further reflection on this matter of female function in the Lord's church, I would refer the readers to Reflections #113 -- Women in the Church: Reflecting on the Nature of their Role.

My Kinsmen

In Romans 16:7, the apostle Paul makes four insightful statements regarding this devoted couple. "Three things out of the four said about them create difficulty for the interpreter" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 163). The first of these four statements is that Andronicus and Junia (I shall henceforth refer to this second named individual in the feminine form, since the consensus of scholarship is that she was indeed female) are said to be the "kinsmen" of Paul. The English word "kinsmen" is the translation of several noted versions of the Bible (including the New American Standard Bible, King James Version, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New American Bible, St. Joseph edition, The New Jerusalem Bible, and J.B. Phillips' The NT in Modern English). Other translations of the text read: "fellow countrymen" (Holman Christian Standard Bible, New King James Version, New English Bible, Charles Williams' The NT in the Language of the People) .... "relatives" (Easy-to-Read Version, New International Version, Hugo McCord's NT Translation of the Everlasting Gospel, The Living Bible, The Contemporary English Version, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) .... and "cousins" (The Message).

The Greek word which has been variously translated above is sungenes. Some have tried to point out that this is "kinsMEN" or "countryMEN" and thus suggests both individuals named are MEN. However, this no more proves such a point than saying "huMANity" or "MANkind" proves that only MAN is in view in such terms. The terms in English are generic, and thus refer to either male or female. The Greek word, additionally, is of no help either, for sungenes can be either masculine or feminine in form. Thus, it too may refer to either or both. This Greek word signifies one who is either (1) a blood relative, or (2) a fellow countryman -- a fellow Jew, for example, or (3) a fellow tribesman -- a fellow Benjamite, for example. Thus, there is a great amount of speculation as to the exact nature of the relationship of this couple to the apostle Paul. The three theories are:

  1. Blood Relatives --- Although the English translation "kinsmen" is rather ambiguous, and could easily signify any of the three meanings of sungenes, the versions which opt for "relatives" and "cousins" clearly prefer, and indeed promote, the view that these two persons were blood relatives of Paul. David Lipscomb, in his commentary on Romans, says, "It is most likely that they were members of his family, not merely that they were Jews" (p. 273). Moses Lard says much the same in his commentary, "They were Paul's real kin, according to the flesh, and not kin merely in the loose sense of being of the same tribe or of the same nation" (p. 456). However, in Rom. 16:11 Paul says Herodion is "my kinsman." In Rom. 16:21, Paul says Lucius and Jason and Sosipater are "my kinsmen." Most scholars feel it is unlikely Paul had this many blood relatives floating about that were all disciples of Christ Jesus. The only blood relatives of Paul ever mentioned with certainty in Scripture are his sister and her son (Acts 23:16), neither of whom are named (which has led a few scholars to speculate that maybe Andronicus and Junia are his nephew and sister).

  2. Fellow Jews --- Much more likely is that Paul was referring to those who were his fellow Jews. Paul uses the same Greek word (sungenes), for example, in Romans 9:3 where he speaks of "my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites." Here he specifies the identity of his "kinsmen" -- they are the Israelites. Since Paul had earlier used this word in the context of his epistle to the Romans, declaring in this previous passage the way in which it was to be understood, it is a sound hermeneutical principle to maintain that meaning in a later use of the word in the same epistle unless there is something specific within the later passage that would override that previous meaning. There is nothing in Romans 16:7 that would suggest a vastly different understanding of the term than that given in Romans 9:3, therefore the principles of hermeneutics favor the interpretation that Andronicus and Junia are his fellow Jews (fellow countrymen). This is the view of most scholars and commentators. "The observation is correct that Paul purposely mentions Jewish descent in order to mark the connection of the Roman church with the Jewish source of its faith" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, p. 906).

  3. Fellow Benjamites --- Some question why Paul would characterize only a few of the many people in Romans 16 as "kinsmen" (fellow Jews). It is suggested that it may be because most of the rest have non-Jewish names, thus these alone would be his "kinsmen" (fellow Jews). However, what about Mary (vs. 6)? And what about Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2)? For this reason, some interpreters feel Paul may have been singling out these few persons as being his fellow tribesmen (i.e., individuals who were not only Israelites, but from the tribe of Benjamin, as Paul was -- Philp. 3:5). "The pair are described as 'my kinsmen,' by which may be meant fellow-Jews, possibly members of the same tribe, almost certainly not relatives" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57). Drs. Conybeare and Howson suppose "the epithet to denote that the persons mentioned were of the tribe of Benjamin" (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, p. 535).

My Fellow Prisoners

The second of four statements found in Rom. 16:7 about this pair is that they were Paul's "fellow prisoners" (NASB, HCSB, KJV, ASV, RSV, NAB, St. Joseph edition, McCord, Phillips, NJB). Other translations are: "fellow captives" (NWT) ..... "comrades in captivity" (NEB) ..... "in prison with me" (NIV, E-T-RV, LB, Williams) ..... "in jail with me" (CEV) ..... "shared a jail cell" (The Message). The Greek word employed here is sunaichmalotos, which is more literally translated "a fellow prisoner of war." This word appears only two other times in the NT writings, and is used exclusively by the apostle Paul (Col. 4:10; Philemon 23). Bishop Moule perhaps captures the meaning of this word best when he writes that Andronicus and Junia were Paul's "fellow-captives in Christ's war."

There are several possible interpretations here. One meaning is that these two may actually have been physically imprisoned together with Paul on some occasion. Another possibility is that, because of their faith, both Paul and this couple experienced imprisonment. Thus, they could well be "fellow prisoners" for the cause of Christ, but not have been imprisoned at the same time or at the same location. In other words, they shared the experience of having been jailed for their faith. A more remote possibility, though one embraced by a handful of scholars, is that Paul may have been speaking figuratively -- they were fellow "captives" to the cause of Christ Jesus; fellow slaves to His divine will for their lives. Paul was imprisoned a great many times, however, thus "the expression in this case is doubtless intended to be taken literally, even though we are left uninformed as to the circumstances" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 164). At this point in his ministry Paul had experienced several imprisonments (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:23); the number being set at seven according to Clement of Rome (a contemporary of the first century apostles of Christ).

Outstanding Among the Apostles

Without doubt, the area of greatest controversy with regard to these two individuals is whether they are to be identified as "apostles." What truly makes this an area of debate, as noted previously, is that the second named person in this passage is quite likely a woman. Obviously, this does not sit well with the more conservative element of the church. Nevertheless, Paul declares both Andronicus and Junia to be "outstanding among the apostles" (NASB, HCSB, NIV) ..... "of note among the apostles" (ASV, RSV, KJV, NWT) ..... "eminent among the apostles" (NEB) ..... "outstanding apostles" (NJB, NAB, St. Joseph edition) ..... "outstanding leaders" (The Message) ..... "the most important of the people Christ sent out to do His work" (E-T-RV) ..... "outstanding men among the messengers" (Phillips) ..... "respected by the apostles" (LB, CEV) ..... "held in high esteem among the apostles" (Williams).

The Greek word episemos means "eminent, prominent, distinguished, outstanding, renowned." The word is used only twice in all the NT writings. The other occurrence is with reference to Barabbas (Matt. 27:16). Thus, Andronicus and Junia were a very prominent, distinguished couple -- but in what sense?! That is the central question. There are two major theories as to how best to interpret this statement:

  1. They were regarded as outstanding apostles. In other words, they were numbered "among" the apostles, and in that group had distinguished themselves in some way. The primary meaning of the Greek preposition en, which is employed in this phrase, is "within, among" (Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek NT). If indeed this preposition is given its most common meaning, then these two were quite likely of renown within the group of apostles in the early church. In other words, they were "outstanding apostles," which is exactly how some versions of the Bible render this passage, and which was the view held by such renowned scholars and early church fathers as Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Martin Luther, John Calvin, to name just a few.

  2. They were regarded favorably by the apostles. According to this view, Andronicus and Junia were not actually apostles, but were simply highly esteemed by those persons who were apostles. Although a few scholars do indeed advocate this position, it is most definitely the minority view, and is regarded as highly unlikely by most reputable Greek and biblical scholars. "To interpret the statement as meaning that these were outstanding in the estimation of the apostles scarcely does justice to the construction in the Greek" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 164).

Dr. A.T. Robertson observes, "Naturally this means that they are counted among the apostles in the general sense that is true of Barnabas, James, the brother of Christ, Silas, and others" (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1, "Romans in the Greek NT," p. 260). Obviously, they were not among The Twelve, nor even in the same category as Paul. However, there are many individuals in the NT writings characterized as "apostles" (those sent forth with a message) in the more general sense of that term. "Andronicus and Junia are apostles in the wider sense of delegated missionaries" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57). Dr. Hastings notes that what makes this fact "remarkable" is that the second named person is most likely a woman (ibid). In the Didache (aka: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, a mid to late first century Christian document), the term "apostle" is defined as "the traveling evangelists or missionaries who preached the gospel from place to place" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 123). If this is the significance that Paul had in mind in Romans 16:7, then Andronicus and Junia were two "of the most prominent and successful of the traveling missionaries of the early Church" (ibid).

In Christ Before Me

Andronicus and Junia became Christians prior to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Thus, they would have been among the earliest converts to Christ Jesus, as was "Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing" (Acts 21:16). I really appreciate the rendering of the New World Translation here -- "...who have been in union with Christ longer than I have." Long before Paul came to be united with Christ Jesus, these two were already "in union with" the Lord. Thus, while Saul of Tarsus was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), Andronicus and Junia were disciples of the Lord. "Seniority of faith was of importance in the Apostolic Church. It brought honour, and it may have also brought responsibility and obligation to serve on behalf of the community" (Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 57).

Moses Lard, in his classic commentary on Romans, suggests that these two disciples "were not improbably among those 'strangers of Rome' mentioned in Acts 2:10. At that same Pentecost they may have become Christians, and there have formed the acquaintance of the apostles" (p. 456). He also speculates this "may throw no little light on the question: By whom was the gospel first preached in Rome?" (ibid). Other scholars theorize that Andronicus and Junia may have been among the early followers of Jesus during His earthly ministry, or even converts of the 70 disciples that were sent out (Luke 10). The reality, however, is that we simply don't know.


At this point, both biblical and extra-biblical history become silent with respect to these two faithful servants of the Lord. They are never heard from again. The name Andronicus does occur in inscriptions belonging to the Imperial household during the first century, but whether this was the same man is unknown. If it was, then he may well have had some impact upon the household of the emperor himself. Some speculate this might explain Paul's reference in Philp. 4:21-23, a statement he made near the end of his imprisonment in Rome -- "The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." What a tribute to this couple, and to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, if indeed they were able to impact the household of the Roman emperor!

One of the joys to be anticipated and experienced in the new heavens and earth will be the opportunity to meet some of these former disciples of Christ Jesus. There are so many giants of faith that I long to meet, and I pray the Lord gives us that blessing one day. Andronicus and Junia are definitely on my list. How inspiring it will be to one day learn the details of their service to our Father. Won't Heaven be wonderful?!!

Reflections from Readers

From a Reader in Alabama:

Three cheers for Shelly! May God richly bless her ... and you, brother.

From a Reader in Texas:

My dear brother, Congratulations on the anniversary of your wedding date and your ongoing marriage! God IS gracious to us in every way, isn't He?! My wife and I celebrated our 50th anniversary on January 2nd. We know the feeling of gratitude (and amazement!) that you and Shelly are experiencing! Our love and best wishes!

From a Minister in California:

Al, Congratulations on both your 32 years with a wonderful woman and the 200th issue of Reflections. The "Shelly" in my life and I celebrated 30 years together this May. I can't imagine where I would be in life, or in my walk with the Lord, without her. Your Shelly and I have something in common: we are blessed by having you in our lives!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

I am very happy for your blessed marital state, and I react from knowledge. My wife and I have been together 52 years now. She is in serious condition, does not have the usual energetic and dynamic characteristics of younger people, but I still enjoy having her in my life. I always appreciate the work you are doing. Your Reflections are encouraging to those of us who have left that legalistic approach to our faith. God bless you and Shelly. I hope you have at least another 20 years like us.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Al, Thanks once again for your insights into the seemingly never-ending legalism that befalls our fellowship. I am always rather amazed that you seem to touch upon issues that have been troubling me, and that almost every time you say so much of what I have already been thinking myself. Thanks for continuing to fight the good fight and for standing up for Truth!!!

From an Elder in Missouri:

Al, We too will be celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary this year (Christmas day), and have made the choice long ago together to always speak from our convictions rather than any concept of "political correctness." There have been hurts, and loss of positions and friends as a result. But, I serve the Lord; I am not a hireling! In my past I was much like your friend from Alabama in my outlook, and unfortunately also in my teaching. To that end I actually made a concerted effort to "search the Scriptures" and glean all the "commands" that are there. I used the wonderful study tools in Greek that I had at my disposal and developed a listing of all the Greek imperatives in the New Testament, thinking, just like your friend, that we needed to obey all these commands in order to be pleasing. I came to the conclusion that such an exercise served absolutely no true purpose and threw the list away (and, no, I do not want to even try to duplicate it today). I still believe that we must obey the Lord in order to please Him, but I now temper that with the realization that this is because I am saved, not in order to be saved.

A few months ago I taught an adult class in which I asked the simple question: What are the identifying marks of a Christian? In other words how can we know that we are a Christian or that someone else is for that matter? The result of our discussion was alarming to many members of the class: Anyone who has faith in God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, and demonstrates that faith by changing their focus and direction of life (repentance), and demonstrates that faith further by openly confessing their faith (in word and in deed), and then further demonstrates that faith by being immersed, is a Christian. Anyone/everyone who does these things is a Christian! It rather kicked in the head the assumptions of many that one had to be baptized by a "Church of Christ" preacher, meet in a "Church of Christ" building, etc, etc. We must conclude from this that there ARE Christians in many different groups. The conclusion, of course, is so simple that we tend to overlook it: Our unity is based not on the things we believe, nor on the things we do or practice, nor on the name we wear, nor on any number of things that might be enumerated ad infinitum -- our unity is in the one Lord and based on our relationship with Him. May the Lord continue to bless you in your efforts, Al.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, your last Reflections got me to thinking. I have heard the term "worship service" slung around a lot, and have even used it myself. After some reflection, I wondered -- where in the NT is the term "worship service" ever used? I keep thinking of Jesus' answer in John 4:21-24 to the Samaritan woman's question on where we should worship. From His answer given it would seem that since we worship in "spirit and truth," our worship is not tied to a locality in space and time. I am only speculating, but maybe there is no such thing as a "worship service." Shouldn't we be in a state of worship all the time, and not just in some time slot on Sunday morning?

From a Well-Known Author/Church Leader:

Al, your most recent Reflections article on "Unity or Uniformity" was a great message. It should definitely cause the brother in Alabama and all his compatriots to do a lot of restudy!! You showed a wonderful attitude in your writing. He has forwarded lots of stuff to me also, but I never bother to respond to him. I guess I have let the devil influence me too much in thinking of him as a self-appointed "Mouth of the South!" Maybe you can get him to at least list all the laws related to eating in the church building!! God bless you, Al.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, I read your latest Reflections and, even though it is 107 degrees here, I felt a chill go through me after reading some of the Alabama brother's statements. I think I may have had a "revelation" that explains this patternistic way of thinking. These folks actually worship the Bible. I use this man's own words to prove it -- "The Scriptures are able to save your soul in Christ Jesus." Jesus Christ saves. The words on the paper of the Bible will perish just like everything else when Christ comes back. The only thing that will last is the eternal Word, which is Christ Himself. I will indeed pray for this man. He needs God's grace.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, let me help the man from Alabama out by making a list of the things he and other believers must agree on in order to be included in God's ekklesia: (1) Jesus died for our sins, and (2) He was buried, then raised from the dead.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, I enjoy reading your Reflections. This last issue illustrates why I could not find a church "home" when I moved to Alabama 15 years ago after visiting every Church of Christ congregation in the area (and there were plenty to choose from). At our first visit to the largest "mainstream" church, after introducing ourselves as new members, we were interrogated in the lobby on our beliefs. Great way to make new people feel welcome! I felt far more welcome at the Methodist Church. Sadly, my experience is similar to many people I know who have moved to Alabama.

From a Preacher in North Carolina:

Al, Another excellent article. I've been preaching this for years. Many of these people really do have a list, they are just afraid to reveal it for fear of being labeled as a "creed-maker." Their list consists of about 30-40-50 "big ticket" items (in their mind). If they carried out their theology in a consistent manner, they would have one-person churches -- but they are not consistent. A few years ago, a brother who preaches in Non-Institutional circles DID make a list -- Ron Halbrook. I don't know if you are familiar with this list. It started out as 28 questions that would determine if one was "walking in the old paths," and was to be used by churches/elders in determining which preachers they should support. Thankfully, many brethren took this brother to task for his "creed." Congratulations on your 32nd wedding anniversary. We celebrated our 20th last August.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, "Unity or Uniformity" is an excellent piece of work! It gets to core issues with regard to folk who cannot distinguish between "unity" and "homogeneity." It's like iced tea and a chocolate milkshake. Ice and tea are unified; a chocolate milkshake is homogenized. I think God wants us to be like ice and tea, while legalists want us to be like a milkshake.

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Al, The older I get -- the smarter you become. No telling how far your potential will take you -- if I live long enough!!

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Al, I agree with you about the impossibility of everyone agreeing on every detail of an imagined pattern for the church. I think our concept of and emphasis on "restoration" as a human endeavor is the fertile soil out of which the legalistic mindset among brethren has grown. As you pointed out, the legalists say, "If it can't be regulated, it can't be right." I think this is the crux of the matter. With those in "power" control is the real issue. If they were to allow people the freedom to think for themselves they would lose control.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, Once again you have hit the mark. I attend a congregation which is large enough to have a good mix of "liberals" and "conservatives" (whatever that means). When I hear comments like the ones you have described from the brother in Alabama, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. I have asked many brethren, and in fact have posed to classes I have taught, the following question: "Do you feel that you have a PERFECT, INFALLIBLE, COMPLETELY ACCURATE, almost GOD-LIKE understanding of God's Word?" I have yet to speak to anyone who is arrogant enough to actually insist that they have it all RIGHT. And yet, to PERFECTLY obey, you must PERFECTLY understand. In fact, the same legalists freely admit that they have often changed their views on things as they grow more spiritually mature. Does that mean they were going to hell before, and they became saved only when they "learned it right"? It's really scary, isn't it? If our salvation depends on perfect obedience to the Word, it also must depend on our perfect understanding of it. Thank God for the blood of Christ, the One who really saves. Thank God that He can put up with my imperfect understandings, my misreading, and my weak character. And thank God for knowing my heart and my desire to serve Him faithfully. Good work, Al.

From a Reader in Washington:

Thank you so much, Al, for your insight into the purpose of an elder (Reflections #186). At our congregation last night a 23 year old man was appointed as an elder by the other seven elders, and by our minister, who is his father-in-law. Many of the members were not even made aware of this until the church business meeting. Many have questions about this, and a number are confused and leaving. This youth will now take the role of marriage leadership, ministering to couples in trouble. I am afraid for these couples and their families, as well as the testimony of the church, whose actions now seem to conflict with the Word of God. Again, thank you for opening the Word of God on this matter!

From a Reader in Texas:

What an assembly we would have if every person who subscribed to the "list of essentials" you shared would come out of his/her sect, denomination, group, church, etc., and all be one! It would be a long step toward answering our Lord's John 17 prayer. And we might do a better job of convincing the world that we are indeed His children if we kept the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Thank you again for a crystal clear delineation of what it means to be a follower of Christ. May God grant you many years of proclaiming the powerful message of love.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, I just wanted to take a few moments to thank you for your efforts in putting out your Reflections. Your "List of Essentials" just arrived and I felt compelled to let you know how much I appreciate your words on that subject. It is my deep conviction that we, in the Church of Christ, have for far too long made up our own "Disciples' Creed," with its long list of "Must Do's" & "Must Believes" in order for one to be considered "in fellowship." Of course, that list varies not only from local congregation to local congregation, but also from preacher to preacher, etc. God bless you, brother, and may we continue to hold up Jesus Christ (whom I have been preaching for 45 years) to a lost and dying world. I hope to be able to come by and meet you on one of my road trips.

From a Reader in Michigan:

Dear Al, (the following is with tongue firmly planted in cheek) -- Now just how are we supposed to create our own little factions with such a puny list of essentials?! You ought to be ashamed. Why, with your list we'd have no choice but to be united in Christ -- oh, wait, that's the point, isn't it?!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Very well spoken. Thank you. We may not always reach the same conclusions, but I always appreciate the fact that (1) you reference the Scriptures, not your own opinions, and (2) your writing is well thought out, not merely a quick reaction to which you hit "Send." As I read your list of the essentials, I thought your closing points were very enlightening -- I was reminded of Marshall Keeble's five fingered plan of salvation: believe, repent, confess, be baptized, and live a faithful life. I think too often the patternists are terrified that we are going to change the message. We aren't. We may use different language, and there is certainly a different approach to the message, but it is still the gospel. Language may change, approaches may change, but doctrine, true doctrine, can never change. I appreciate your well thought out addendum to the latest Reflections. Thank you for your ministry to those of us who need your periodic moments to stop and reflect on what we believe and practice, and to be reminded of the grace and mercy our Father has shown us all. May God bless you and all of us in His service.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, You are such a blessing to me. Someone asks you to make a list of the things that are essential for unity in Christ, and BAM there it is. Someone asked Jesus a "trick" question about what the greatest commandment was, hoping to corner Him. He not only gave the greatest, but He gave number two as well. The gospel message is all about your relationships: (1) with God, and (2) with your fellow man.

From a Minister in India:

Dear Brother, Reflections #200a -- "List of Essentials" -- was a simple, straight and scholarly dissertation. I forwarded your article to several brethren here in India. Thank you and God bless you.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Al, I have read the last two Reflections with interest. I appreciate the way you handled yourself and the information given. I remember back in the early 80's that I attempted to help a young preacher. Perhaps I made the mistake of thinking I could help a young preacher! Anyway, he informed me that if a preacher was guilty of "fatal error," fellowship with him could not exist. I asked him for a list of things which constitute "fatal error." That has been almost 25 years ago ... and I'm still waiting!!

From a Reader in Oregon:

Al, You hit dead zero in the bull's eye with your article "List of Essentials" -- keep shooting those tight groups!

From a Minister in Texas:

Al, Beautiful work on unity/uniformity and the essentials. I think it is great that you pointed out how fragmented we are as a brotherhood in our thinking. We have grown up believing we had to be "right," and this is bad theology. You mentioned your only "creed" was Christ, and I fully think that is what Paul was saying also. By the way, I'm sure you will let us know if you ever get that list from the man in Alabama ... but I am not going to hold my breath that you will!

From a Reader in Texas:

A big "Amen," Al. I have been wanting to write on this very subject, but you beat me to the punch. Far better to be beat to the punch by an expert than an everyday "Joe." I thank God from the bottom of my soul for you and your work!!

From an Elder in Indiana:

With regard to your "List of Essentials" --- Attaboy!

From a Minister in Virginia:

Brother Maxey, Please add me to your Reflections mailing list. I look forward to reading your thoughts and insights from the Word of God. God bless you!

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