by Al Maxey

Issue #332 ------- January 18, 2008
We cannot be filled unless we are first
emptied, making room for what is to come.

Thomas Merton {1915-1968}

A Sanctuary of the Spirit
Study of the Individual/Corporate
Naos of the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Theodore Roszak (b. 1933), in his noted work The Making of the Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition, made the following astute observation, "Communion with the transcendent powers ... is not a feat that can be achieved by anyone; it is a mystery peculiar to the one elected, and is therefore through and through personal in character." There's truly a quality of intimacy associated with an individual's interaction with deity. In many ways this transcends the limitations of human expression. The apostle Paul spoke of his "third heaven" experience (most likely a vision) as a phenomenon during which he "heard inexpressible words" that could not even be uttered [2 Cor. 12:1-4]. Facts clearly conveyed to us in that account, however, are that his experience, as one elected for such communion, was both greatly mysterious and highly personal, just as Roszak asserted.

I am a firm believer in the personal indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual disciple of Jesus Christ. This highly personal, and, yes, somewhat mysterious, communion with deity can, and should, be experienced by each of us who profess to be the children of God the Father. To deny this intimate indwelling is, in my view, tantamount to spurning the very One who gives us that inner, blessed assurance of sonship [Romans 8]. For further examination of this reality, I would refer the reader to Reflections #204, which has also been printed as a tract: Reflections on the Holy Spirit (see the ad below). Rejecting this personal, intimate communion with the Spirit has led not only to the grieving of His Spirit, but to the restricting of His power to operate in and through us, both individually and collectively. We are, even now, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God. His awesome power is available to us, if we will only accept this gift of His grace. Indeed, the consequences of not accepting it are too horrible to contemplate, and I fear that for too many of my brethren this has been their choice. That needs to change!

When the apostle Paul examined the state of affairs among the brethren in the city of Corinth, one of the things he came to realize rather quickly was that they had failed to perceive a central truth of their Christian experience, and this was a failure evidenced both individually and collectively. That great truth was that they were the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Their attitudes and actions were, in effect, a denial of this foundational truth ... and a rejection of this reality. Those disciples who are truly Spirit-filled and Spirit-led simply do not behave carnally. Part of the solution to their problems, therefore, was to be found in their discovery of who they were ... and Whose they were. Twice within his first epistle to these brethren Paul issues a gentle rebuke by writing, "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?!" [1 Cor. 3:16]. "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?!" [1 Cor. 6:19]. Through the posing of these rather pointed questions, Paul has gone straight to the heart of the problems among the saints in Corinth: their hearts were more filled with a sense of self than a sense of the Spirit. "Brethren, I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to carnal ... For where there is envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" [1 Cor. 3:1, 3].

As we prepare to examine the authorial intent of these two passages in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthian brethren, it is important to point out a few facts that may be lost to those who rely solely upon an English translation of the text. First, in both passages it is not actually the word "temple" (hieron) that is employed by the apostle Paul, but rather "sanctuary" (naos). And, yes, this is an important distinction. As R.C.H. Lenski points out within his commentary on the Corinthian epistles, "We must distinguish this naos, the structure containing the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, from the hieron, which included all the courts and all the structures on the Temple hill" [p. 146]. "Naos is the inner sanctuary itself ... hieron is the outer temple courts" [ibid, p. 269]. "Naos denotes the shrine, where Deity resides; hieron denotes the temple at large, with its precincts" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 2, p. 793]. Thus, the word employed by Paul in these passages "is to be distinguished from hieron, the 'temple area'" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 208]. In these two passages Paul is speaking specifically of that inner part of the temple complex wherein was the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat -- the meeting place of God and man. That dwelling place -- that Holy of Holies -- that sanctuary -- is now His people. That is the point Paul seeks to make. WE are the sanctuary; WE are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God. No longer does our God dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands [Acts 7:48; 17:24], but rather in the divinely formed sanctuary of His people's hearts. "For ye are the temple (naos) of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" [2 Cor. 6:16, KJV].

Individual Indwelling

Let us begin this reflective analysis with the second of these two passages -- 1 Cor. 6:19-20. The apostle Paul writes to the saints in Corinth: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" [NASB]. Contextually, we clearly perceive that Paul is discussing the proper and improper use of one's physical body. As Christians we must realize that our individual behavior reflects the realities of our hearts. Jesus told His disciples, "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man" [Matt. 15:17-20]. With this teaching clearly in mind, Paul admonishes the Corinthian brethren to consider their behavior in the body in light of their union with Christ Jesus. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" [1 Cor. 6:15]. Should one joined with Christ take his body and unite it physically with the body of a prostitute?! [vs. 15-16]. "The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord" [vs. 13]. Therefore, "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body" [vs. 18]. The context, therefore, makes it abundantly obvious that the focus of Paul's teaching in vs. 19-20 is a disciple's physical body, and that the specific misuse of that body he has in view is sexual in nature. Being united with Christ Jesus in a spiritual union, we are not to take this physical naos of His Spirit and unite it with a harlot, thus defiling this sanctuary that has been set apart for holiness and purity.

One of the great realities specified within this powerful passage is that the Holy Spirit indwells our physical bodies!! Although some today deny this fact, they do so in clear opposition to biblical Truth. "Paul talks positively about how the Christian should view his body. First, he should consider that his body, including his whole personality, is the temple (the sacred dwelling place) of God, the Holy Spirit. ... The conclusion of the matter is that the Christian is to glorify God in his body. Since in the context the apostle Paul is writing about individuals, and since the individual Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it is best to understand vs. 19 to mean that each individual Christian's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 225]. The active presence of the Holy Spirit within our physical bodies actually helps enable us, indeed it empowers us, to overcome the desires of the fleshly nature, thereby making physical union with a prostitute something quite inconceivable to those genuinely led by the Spirit. In other words, our minds will not be set upon the desires of the flesh "if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you" [Rom. 8:9].

The great reformer Martin Luther wrote, "What are all the other gifts altogether besides this gift, that the Spirit of God Himself, the eternal God, comes down into our hearts, yea, into our bodies, and lives in us, governs, leads, and conducts us!" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 116]. "Only as being 'within us,' dwelling in us, does the Holy Spirit own our body as His sanctuary. ... For the Spirit dwells in us as persons and makes us one spirit with the Lord, and in this profound way takes possession of our body so that this body actually becomes His sanctuary" [R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of First Corinthians, p. 269]. Since we are in fact the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, we are to present our bodies as "instruments of righteousness to God" [Rom. 6:13]. "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness" [vs. 12-13]. "The one in whom the Spirit dwells is under obligation to live such a life of purity as to reflect glory on God. It implies the necessity of keeping God's commands to love one another, to be crucified to the world, to overcome Satan by using the armor of God, and to flee from fornication which is a sin against the body. In other words, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit calls for a holy life before God" [Dr. T. R. Applebury, Studies in First Corinthians, p. 110-111].

Paul is establishing a very important principle in this passage -- the disciple of Christ is not his or her own person, but is bought, owned, possessed and indwelt by another. Thus, our very bodies are to be given over to our Owner. "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" [1 Cor. 6:20]. This is the practical application of the reality that we are indwelt by the Spirit. True, eating that extra piece of chocolate cake may not be the wisest course of action, and getting more exercise might be sound advice for many, and most would agree that smoking is not a good idea for a number of reasons, nevertheless such concerns are not truly in view in this passage. This is not to suggest we should ignore such sound advice; it is merely to suggest this is not the purpose of this passage. Paul is talking about personal holiness. Because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, because the Holy One lives within us, we should conduct ourselves with holiness and purity, thus avoiding those actions that defile us (such as uniting our bodies with a prostitute, by way of a singular example). Eating too much chocolate cake is not the issue here, although one could make a case against gluttony from other passages of Scripture.

Corporate Indwelling

Personal holiness and purity, in which each of us glorifies God in our physical bodies, is vital to our well-being. But, so also is corporate holiness -- glorifying God as the spiritual Body of Christ (His church). It is this teaching that concerns the apostle Paul in the other passage before us -- 1 Cor. 3:16-17. "Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are" [NASB]. At first glance, and without bothering to examine the context, one might almost assume that Paul is saying pretty much the same thing as in the previous passage. Indeed, I have heard a number of my brethren (including some who are preachers, teachers and elders) declare that this passage also has reference to the physical body, and that such things that "destroy the body" as smoking, over-eating, lack of exercise, etc. are clearly in view. If we abuse our physical bodies, and bring about their destruction, then God will destroy us (i.e., send us to hell). This is not even remotely what Paul is teaching in this passage, however. Indeed, such an interpretation completely misses the point of the vital principle taught in this critical text. Frankly, I believe this passage has been woefully misused and abused by far too many in our brotherhood. It is time to bring its true meaning back to the light of day.

First, take note that the word "body" does not appear in this passage. Why? Because Paul is not talking about the physical body. It is not even in view. What Paul is talking about is the construction of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he characterizes as a "building" [1 Cor. 3:9]. Indeed, over the next several verses, which lead up to our text in vs. 16-17, Paul continues with the concept of building this great spiritual edifice of God. I have done an extensive study of the context of this passage in Reflections #317 -- Take Care How You Build -- which I would urge the reader to examine carefully before continuing with this present study. It will help establish the context for what follows. Thus, in this passage, "Paul challenges the church with the fact that they together (note the plural constructions) are the spiritual temple of God, because the Spirit of God dwells in them" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 208]. What is meant here by "the plural construction" is the fact that the personal pronouns in the passage ("you") appear in the plural, whereas the word for "sanctuary" appears in the singular. In English, "you" can be either singular or plural. Not so in Greek. The forms are entirely different. In this passage, "you" is plural. Thus, Paul says, "Do you (plural) not know that you (plural) are a temple (singular) of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (plural)? ... the temple (singular) of God is holy, and that is what you (plural) are." The disciples of Jesus Christ, collectively, are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. WE, the corporate Body of Christ, the church, are the sanctuary of God's Holy Spirit. Therefore, "His redeemed people, indwelt by the Spirit of God, can be called individually and collectively God's temple" [ibid].

The apostle Peter refers to individual disciples as "living stones," and he declares that we "are being built up as a spiritual house" [1 Peter 2:5]. Paul then elaborates on this fact in Ephesians 2:21-22 -- "In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit" [NIV]. "For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them'" [2 Cor. 6:16]. In other words, not only does the Holy Spirit indwell each individual disciple, but He also indwells the One Body of Christ. In both cases, knowing Who indwells us should motivate us (both individually and collectively) to strive for greater holiness and purity, and to abandon those things which tend to defile us (whether our individual bodies or the Body of Christ -- the church). "There is no inconsistency between the two ways of using the metaphor; both are correct, and each is used in an appropriate context. When the unity and purity of the church are at stake, Paul recalls that the church is the shrine in which the Spirit dwells; when the unity and purity of the moral life of the individual are threatened, he recalls that the Spirit dwells in each Christian, who ought not therefore to defile the Spirit's shrine" [Dr. C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 151]. Paul "reminds the Corinthians of the obligation which is imposed upon them by their sanctity; it urges them to be on a sharp lookout against the defilers of their temple, and not to permit the desecration to take place" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 101].

The real problem being addressed in this particular passage [1 Cor. 3:16-17] is the potential for some to seek to defile the church of our Lord Jesus Christ by their godless, self-serving actions and attitudes. Paul makes it clear that whoever seeks to "destroy" this sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (the church), God will "destroy" him. Obviously, the Lord's church cannot be utterly "destroyed" by any one man or group of men. They may do it great damage, but they can't "bring it to naught." Jesus Himself said that He would build His church, "and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it" [Matt. 16:18]. The Greek word actually utilized by Paul in our text is phtheiro, which may be translated "to spoil, corrupt, defile, ruin." Basically, Paul is suggesting that if any person seeks to defile this sanctuary of the Spirit, God will bring that person to ultimate ruination. Those who would defile the Holy Spirit's dwelling are themselves completely defiled in the sight of God, and thus fit only for eternal banishment from the immortality promised to those who dwell in Him, and who have Him indwelling them. The people of Israel were warned that if anyone defiled the tabernacle, their fate would be death [Lev. 15:31]. Acts 21:27-31a recounts an incident that demonstrates just how seriously the Jews took this charge. Paul is applying that same intensity and zealousness for holiness and purity to the Lord's church.

What specifically is this threat to the Lord's One Body? What behavior is so vile that it would defile the church of our Lord Jesus Christ? By examining both the immediate and remote contexts of this passage, the threat becomes clear. It is a sectarian spirit that fosters strife and separation among spiritual siblings! "There is jealousy and strife among you" [1 Cor. 3:3]. They were rallying around mere men, rather than the Lord Jesus. Some were claiming to be of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas [1 Cor. 3:4f; cf. 1 Cor. 1:12-13]. There were quarrels among them [1 Cor. 1:11], which were threatening to lead to schisms, factions and godless divisions [vs. 10]. Such dividing asunder of this spiritual house would constitute a spoiling, corruption and defilement. Those responsible would answer to God, and the punishment for defiling His sanctuary had always been death. The apostle Paul pronounces "the judgment of God upon all who would defile His house by their carnal divisions" [Dr. B. W. Johnson, The People's New Testament, vol. 2, p. 84]. Dr. Paul Kretzmann refers to such persons, who are obviously devoid of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, as "agitators ... inciting wrangling and strife" [p. 101]. "How dare they seek to destroy that temple with their jealousy and quarreling!!" [Gary T. Cage, The Holy Spirit: A Sourcebook with Commentary, p. 540]. Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his classic work The Expositor's Greek Testament, identifies these defilers of the sanctuary as those promoting "party schisms" [vol. 2, p. 793].

Similarly, Dr. C. K. Barrett, who was a professor of theology at the University of Durham, sees the threat as being "factious behavior" and "an attempt to import legalism wholesale," which is "an undesirable and unnecessary addition to Christian faith and practice" [A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 91]. "If a man wrecks the relation of the church with God (e.g., by substituting legalism for grace), this can only mean that he has rejected grace for himself; he has denied his own relation with God" [ibid, p. 92]. This professor, and rightly so, holds out no hope for such a person. Thus, the legalist who seeks to defile the church by his imposition of legalism, is himself defiled -- he is severed from Christ and fallen from grace [Galatians 5]. Dr. T. R. Applebury, professor of NT studies at Pacific Christian College in California, states, "This should make the promoters of division stop and think" [Studies in First Corinthians, p. 59]. "The sin of division dishonors Christ, the head of the church; it dims the glory of the church, the bride of Christ; it tends to neutralize the message of the church, the gospel of Christ; it weakens the believers who are members of the Body of Christ" [ibid, p. 58]. "This rebuke is probably the strongest blow the apostle strikes against the sin of division!" [ibid, p. 57].


"No doubt St. Paul had chiefly in mind to warn all those teachers who were likely so to teach as to split the Church into divisions; for, in his thought, the Church is one great whole, and strife and party feeling are the very things that most seriously defile it" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19, p. 130]. This same source goes on to note: "Eastern peoples are extremely jealous about the sanctity of their temples. The Christian system transfers the sanctity from these buildings to the body of believers, and even to the individual believer" [ibid]. "It is a capital crime against Christ and the Church ... to disunite these living stones, striking the pick-axes of dissension into the temple wall" [ibid, p. 125]. There are few sins that compare with the sin of sectarianism that rends the One Body of Christ into countless feuding factions. Such people as promote such division will be dealt with rather decisively by our God. Frankly, they're on a par with Antiochus Epiphanes, who was guilty of some of the most horrendous and heinous atrocities against the temple of God in Jerusalem [see: 1 Maccabees 1:1-64]. God Himself declares that He hates the "one who spreads strife among brothers" [Prov. 6:19]. It is time that some in the church began to take this all a bit more seriously!! If you're promoting separation among brethren, you are a defiler of the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, and the penalty for this is death.

The apostle Paul has a solution, though ... not only for the brethren in Corinth, but for us as well. "The solution to the problem of division in Corinth begins with the correct view of the church as God's temple" [Dr. Applebury, p. 57]. We are the Holy of Holies of the Holy Spirit. If we truly come to perceive this fact, it would take a very hardened schismatic and sectarian indeed to promote self over the Spirit. Yes, such hardened partyists exist, and they must be exposed and opposed. However, for those of us whose hearts are not yet petrified, and whose consciences are not yet seared over, let us celebrate our oneness, our unity in diversity, and let us all, who are in Him, "worship together with joy, helping and exhorting each other, working together for the glory of God and the good of man, and partaking together of the same bread and the same cup, not as partisans, but as members of One Body, guided by one Spirit, and cheered by one hope of our calling" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 19, p. 124-125]. Amen ... Dear Lord, may it be so!!

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Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, I have just now come across your Reflections articles, and I started crying!! This is exactly what my sister and I have been looking for, knowing that the church we were going to was just not right, that some teachings were far too legalistic, and feeling that some there were nothing more than law-binding Pharisees. Anyway, your articles have helped us soooooo much!! Thank You!! Please add us to your mailing list.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, Please sign me up to receive your Reflections. I discovered you after several people had mentioned your writings to me. So far I agree with what I have read. Your simple approach and trueness to the biblical text is astounding, and it can only result in greater unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

From a Pastor in California:

Brother Al, Thanks for sharing the amazing Spafford story. In 1982 I was privileged to take a two week class under Dr. James Fleming at the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies. It still ranks as one of the top highlights of my 59 years! The Center was located at that time on the third floor of a 3-story building built into the Jerusalem city wall between Damascus Gate and Herod's Gate. The flat roof of the third floor was the site where General Allenby received the surrender of the Turkish general in WWI. Directly to the north, and just across the street, was the famous Garden Tomb and Gordon's Calvary -- so close you could almost reach out and touch them! More interestingly, the first floor of that same building houses the Spafford Children's Hospital, which is one of the continuing ministries of the Spafford family. While passing the Spafford clinic daily, we could see young Jewish children, as well as young Arab boys and girls, being treated there with the love of Jesus. What a thrill to have known the Spafford story then, and to be reminded of it again today in Reflections #331. Thanks!

From a Reader in Washington:

Bro. Al, Thank you for posting that article about the Spaffords. Now, please hand me that box of Kleenex. It was beautiful. I have that story in a book, but it isn't nearly as emotional as what you wrote. May God bless you and yours!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, I've often led this beautiful song, and almost without fail it nearly brought me to tears every time I led it. I had heard a little of the story of its composition, but I didn't know the full story of the Spafford family. Thank you for giving us this beautiful reflection into the lives of such a powerful family of God! Would that we all could sing this song when faced with tragedy in our lives today.

From a Minister in Arizona:

Hello Brother Al, Congratulations! Today you have sent forth an article that will bless all who read it, and it will be of service to the church when she assembles to praise God. Have a happy New Year!

From a Minister in North Carolina:

Al, Can you honestly say that "it is well" with the souls of people like the Spaffords who have not obeyed the gospel? My, my, how far away from the Truth you have gone!! Just continue to tell people what they want to hear, and you will become more and more popular. I do not wish to get your false teaching any longer, however. So, please remove me from your mailing list. I shall use your article in my Church of Christ class to prove that people can get so emotional they lose sight of Truth and begin saying the pattern is not important.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, You seem like a good man, and I don't want to argue with you, but I guess I'm a little different. You spoke of Horatio G. Spafford as if he were a man who loved God, and as if he were a man of God. Yes, it is a sad story of how he lost his four daughters, but if he was really a devoted student of the Word of God, then how could he be a Presbyterian?!! I just want to be a member of the Church of Christ and wear no other name except the name "Christian."

From a Reader in Canada:

Brother Al, Thanks for the article on Horatio G. Spafford, Jr. It was an uplifting and heart-rending read. What an example of faith and trust in God in spite of terrific tragedy; an example for us all. It's no wonder that "It Is Well With My Soul" is one of my favorite hymns. Again, thanks so much for the article. We appreciate all that you do!

From a Reader in Arizona:

Good grief, Al ... if you keep writing like this I won't be able to read your Reflections at work anymore!! It was all I could do to keep the tears from flowing freely throughout the reading of your article on the Spaffords. I had read about the shipwreck tragedy before, but I did not know about their later move to Jerusalem and their legacy of love that continues there. What a great story of tragedy and hope. What great examples they are of Christian steadfastness!!

From a Minister in the Philippines:

Thanks for yet another inspiring article, Brother Al. I have Osbeck's 365 Hymns in my library in which he made some notes on the circumstances surrounding the composition of "It Is Well With My Soul," but I find your latest study a lot more informative than that one! Also, your Reflections on "The One Cup Fellowship" was superb! I have shared it with several brethren here, and I know they will be blessed by it. This petty issue is still "hot" among some here, as is true with regard to some other points of contention we have imported from the USA. How I wish many of our preachers here in the Philippines had displayed the same irenic spirit you have shown in how you dealt with these issues. Had that been the case, the Churches of Christ in the Philippines could have sustained their initial evangelistic gains. But now, our empty pews silently testify to the withering result of years of head-butting, muck-raking and mud-slinging over these issues. I find it so ridiculous for some American missionaries and missions financiers to think of themselves as "White Apos" (White Lords/Masters) who are divinely tasked with the "Manifest Destiny" of spreading among their "Unenlightened" brown brothers in the Philippines the saving "gospel" of "One Cup-ism, MDR-ism, Anti-ism, Contra-Personal Indwelling-ism," etc. ad infinitum & ad nauseam. And it is equally ridiculous and pathetic how some Filipino preachers have, at the instigation of their American financial supporters, also taken upon themselves the task of dividing our small congregations in the name of "Doctrinal Purity." It is all quite frustrating for a young Christian like me, Bro. Al, to still see so many of my own brethren making "micro-tradition" a litmus test for Christian faithfulness. They are adhering to a spiritually crippling patternistic religious system -- one which will eventually disillusion many of their converts who will have to struggle with a theology that fails to square with day-to-day realities. I don't know how much longer I will remain within our fellowship, dear brother, but what I do know, as I have told you before, is that during these past three years I have breathed in the refreshing breeze of freedom and carry on my shoulders the surprisingly light "yoke" of Christ Jesus. I know that you understand!! Thank you, brother!

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I guess we have all used the "short" version of this story in a sermon or a song service, but you have given us all so much more. Thanks for your research. Now, I'm off to be "edified" by dear brother Brian!! BTW: Brian Yeager's comment about you before his entire congregation -- calling you "Al Maxi-Pads" -- was completely uncalled for, and about as insensitive to women as anything I have ever heard! Grace to you, my brother.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I know I shouldn't be shocked, but I listened to the El Paso preacher's tirade, and his reference to you as a feminine hygiene product. How disgusting. Such verbal violence I have seen time and time again in the Non-Institutional camp, as well as the anti-anti camps (having been labeled and libeled myself over the years). What a disgrace to the cause of Jesus. Have such people never read: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt"? The vogue of legalists seems to be: "Let your speech be vindictive and derogatory, seasoned with violence." But such verbal noise proves nothing, for "often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she has laid an asteroid." The only tool this kind of person has is a hammer, and they treat everyone else as if they are nails. God have mercy!!

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, Another excellent job. Thank you so much for the insight on the Spaffords. As for that "minister" who is throwing mud at you, how can he call himself a preacher?! He is nothing but a stumbling stone. His comment was not funny in any way. I will pray that God will rebuke him, and that he will come unto repentance. I love you brother, remember that ... and always let the Holy Spirit guide you. He'll show you what to say to, and how to deal with, people like Brian Yeager. Thank you, Bro. Al, for fighting to keep us free in Christ, and also thank you again for your wonderful Reflections ministry.

From an Elder's Wife in New Mexico:

Good Morning Bro. Al, I seldom respond to articles, but for some reason this morning I felt it necessary to send a quick note to Brian Yeager. I guess his "Al Maxi-Pad" remark, in his view, was "all to the glory of God"?!! I only listened to a few minutes of his rant, and during that time I learned more about Brian Yeager and the condition of his heart than I ever wanted to know! In our Ladies Bible Class we are studying "Conversation Peace," and so many of the Scriptures we had just read came to my mind, such as, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." We appreciate you, Al.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Dear Bro. Al, I really enjoyed the story of the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul." I have always loved the song and especially the words. I had heard an abbreviated version of the story before, but your article gave me new insight into what the author was really feeling as he wrote the words. It is so easy for us to have faith and trust when things are going well. The true test is when we face life's challenges and walk the valleys. I sing on the Praise and Worship Team with the Alamogordo Church, and we are singing this very song this coming Sunday. We practiced it last evening. I don't believe in coincidences -- just God's plan -- but I had to smile when this latest article of yours popped up in my email. It just made me say out loud, "Okay, God, I hear you!" Al, I always look forward to your articles. I've got several friends who are members of your church family there at Cuba Avenue, and they tell me often what a wonderful teacher and speaker you are. I don't get out to other churches much because of my commitment to the worship team here, but I do hope sometime to get to hear you in person. If you ever have an opportunity to visit with us at the Alamogordo Church, we would love to have you and your wife as our guests. Thank you again for all of the many Reflections articles that you write. It is a ministry in itself, and such a blessing to so many of us. My prayer for you is that it opens minds and softens hearts so that His grace can reach all of His children. Be blessed always, and I wish you and your family a healthy and wonderful New Year!

From an Elder in Texas:

Bro. Al, Is it superfluous to say that I really enjoy reading your insights?! I wanted to thank you for including in your last Reflections a link to Aaron Goodman's essay. Bro. Aaron's work brought to mind an excellent book titled "Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire" by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. It is divided into three sections. The first two are basically a much greater in-depth study of modern, postmodern, and truth epistemologies with the book of Colossians and the history of Colossians as the foundational territory for the exploration of these ideas. Unfortunately, at least for me, the third section (Praxis Remixed) delves into a litany based on environmentalism. One has to winnow the good points and empirical applications -- a sometimes tedious task. I do not know if Aaron or you have read this book, but it sounds like something Aaron would find validating (the first two sections, at least) and substantive in relation to the ideas put forth in his essay. On a different note, I was simply blessed in my visit to your congregation this past October! Al, I feel that your work is very important. The words you write and the Truth you offer is greatly needed. I feel that too many of us in our journey do not really want to know Truth because it then becomes the agent that pierces our hearts. We would rather settle for the platitude -- the spear in the side. May God overwhelmingly grant to you great wisdom -- thus, that His glory is ever-most before you, and so, through you, before us!!

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