by Al Maxey

Issue #441 ------- April 30, 2010
The Gospel said: In that new way of living and
new form of society, which is born of the heart,
and which is called the Kingdom of Heaven,
there are no nations, there are only individuals.

Boris Pasternak {1890-1960}

Whose Spouse Will She Be?
The Eternal Marital State of the
Woman who Outlived 7 Husbands

The public ministry of Jesus Christ had almost reached its conclusion. He had come to Jerusalem for the last time; it was the week of His passion. In just a few days He would be led away to be executed on a cross. Prior to that time of agony, however, He continued to teach the people, and great crowds gathered to hear Him. The religious leaders also sought Him out, but with far less noble purposes. The Pharisees and Herodians "went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words" (Matt. 22:15). They wanted to know His position on paying taxes to Caesar. They believed that no matter what Jesus answered, they could make use of His words to discredit, and ultimately destroy, this "trouble maker." "If Jesus said that they should pay the tax, they could then charge Him with disloyalty to Judaism; if He said no, they could denounce Him to the Romans" [Ryrie Study Bible]. It was not unusual to find the Pharisees hounding Jesus, but in these final days we also find the Sadducees coming after Him. So, who were the Sadducees, and why did they find Jesus so offensive?

The Sadducees

According to tradition, the Sadducees derived their name from Zadok, who was High Priest during the time of King David and King Solomon of Israel. The family of Zadok held on to the high priesthood, and officiated in the Temple, until the time of the exile (a period of several hundred years). This family even formed the chief element of the post-exilic priesthood until the time of the great Maccabean revolt. The Sadducees were a much smaller Jewish sect than the Pharisees, but they had far more political power. They were the politicians, the social elite, the aristocrats of their day. Although the Pharisees had come to see themselves as spiritually superior to other Jews, the Sadducees regarded themselves as socially superior. While just about anybody could become a Pharisee, no matter his status in life (as long as he submitted to the "party line"), membership in the sect of the Sadducees was by birth only: one had to be descended from one of the high-priestly or aristocratic families. No "outsiders" allowed. The Sadducees were, simply stated, "high society" -- much "too good" for the common man.

During the so-called "Intertestamental Period" of Jewish history, this sect embraced the Greek culture and way of life. The Sadducean high priests became the chief negotiators with the various foreign governments in power over the people of Israel. Therefore, they began to acquire (through their pagan alliances) a considerable amount of political clout. As a result of their increasing willingness to compromise with foreign powers, the Sadducees found themselves in increasing conflict with the Pharisees (who were separatists). In 1 Maccabees 1:11-15 the Sadducees are described as traitors to the Jewish people and to the Laws of God. They were not well-liked by the common people, nor did they have an abundance of vocal supporters.

Religiously, the Sadducees were the "liberals," whereas the Pharisees would be considered the "conservatives," of the day. They accepted the Torah, but rejected the prophetic writings of the OT as being in any way authoritative. They also rejected the existence of angels and spirits, the Platonic concept of "immortal soulism," and even denied the hope of a resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:6-10). They also actively mixed their religion in with politics. One scholar stated, "Theirs was a rational religion, placing high value on logic and reason, and they were more preoccupied with matters of current expedient interest than in eternal truths." They felt it only logical to compromise with whomever was in power in order to secure a more favorable position for themselves. By intimately associating their religious sect with the government, however, they set themselves up for destruction --- when the nation finally fell in 70 AD, so also did the Sadducees! "A lesson of history may be learned from the Sadducees. With the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, the Sadducee party disappeared. A compromising, temporizing spirit was unable to withstand the shock of political revolution. The disbanding of the priesthood and the slaughter of the aristocracy in the terrible war spelled their doom!! The religion of these sophisticated few did not have depth enough to endure crisis." It should be noted that only the Pharisees, of all the prominent Jewish sects, survived the fall of the nation!

The Sadducees are not often discussed in the NT writings -- they are only mentioned by name 13 times: 6 in Matthew, 1 in Mark, 1 in Luke, and 5 in Acts. During the early part of Jesus' ministry, the Sadducees largely ignored Him. He was a promoter of "new religious ideas," but not a political threat -- therefore, He was not worthy of their attention. With His triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before His death, however, this perspective began to change rather significantly. They now regarded Him as a threat to their own security, and they began to formulate plans to destroy Him. The Sadducees were not very popular with the common people. This was partly due to the fact that in order to physically maintain the Temple, they heavily taxed the Jews. Thus, in effect, they were draining the people dry of their personal finances in order to maintain their own religious/political institution. Some scholars feel John 18:15-16 may indicate that the apostle John was a member of the sect of the Sadducees. If this is true, then it would mean the two men who made the greatest contribution to the writing of the New Testament documents (Paul and John) came from opposing sects within Judaism. It would also show how in Christ all "party barriers" can indeed come down, and we can all be One Body in Him, regardless of various personal preferences, perceptions or positions.

The Challenge

"That same day (note: several scholars feel this may have been Tuesday of the passion week) the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question" (Matt. 22:23; cf. Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27). It is important to note that the primary focus of the encounter that is about to occur between this sect and the Savior is the doctrine of a future bodily resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees accepted this doctrine, but the Sadducees did not, and the two groups were often found in heated debate and conflict over this teaching (a dramatic example of this can be found in Acts 23:6-10, where Paul took great advantage of this theological divide). "The Pharisees leaned toward a belief in resurrection that owed more to Greek ideas than to the OT" writings [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 1016], which included the paganistic notions of the inherent immortality of the soul, with the physical body being the "soul's temporary prison" (a concept derived from Plato, not Scripture). The Sadducees, on the other hand, felt that all such teaching was sheer nonsense, even rejecting the reality of angels. Understanding their position will help us better understand the purpose of their question, as well as the nature of our Lord's response.

The challenge they posed to Jesus was of a woman who had the unfortunate experience of outliving seven husbands, all of whom happened to be brothers. "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him" (Matt. 22:24). This was known among the people of Israel as the Law of Levirate Marriage. This was not unique to the Israelites, but was truly "a cross-cultural phenomenon whereby the nearest kinsman of a man who dies without sons marries his widow" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 803]. This rather unusual law is described in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 -- "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel." The strange account of Judah, Tamar and Onan clearly demonstrates that this law predated the time of Moses (see: Genesis 38:6-11). Thus, Jesus, and the crowds surrounding Him that day, would have been quite familiar with the theology behind the question of the Sadducees. They would have understood that the primary purpose of this law was "to provide the deceased man with a son to inherit his property and thereby establish his 'name' (i.e., his lineage, his memory). A secondary purpose of the levirate law may have been to provide the deceased's wife with the economic security and social status of marriage and children" [ibid]. This word "levirate," by the way, is derived from the Latin word "levir," which means "brother-in-law" or "husband's brother." Also, "within the Mishnah the first tractate (Yabamot, 'sisters-in-law') of the third order (Nashim, 'women') covers the subject of levirate marriage with considerable detail" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 150].

"Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?" (Matt. 22:25-28; cf. Mark 12:20-23; Luke 20:29-33). "This case is so ludicrous it may have been a well-known Sadducean joke used for poking fun at the Pharisees' doctrine of the Resurrection" [ibid, p. 735]. "There's a levity and a coarseness in the question which is simply revolting" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, pt. 2, p. 362-363]. The Sadducees weren't really interested at all in trying to determine whose wife this woman would be. In fact, "some of the rabbis had already decided the question -- a woman who had been married more than once would, they thought, be the wife of the first husband in the world to come" [ibid, p. 372]. These querists, however, did not believe in a world to come, thus whose wife she would be was irrelevant to them. In their mind, she, as well as her many husbands, would all remain dead in the dust. The Sadducees merely sought to use this question to malign the Lord and to further mock the Pharisees, who were undoubtedly looking on. Or, phrasing it in the words of Dr. Craig Keener, "The Sadducees are interested neither in moral nor in legal questions here, but endeavor to illustrate the impossible dilemmas they believe the doctrine of resurrection creates" [A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 527].

The Rebuke/Response

Jesus began His response to these Sadducees with a rebuke -- "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God" (Matt. 22:29; cf. Mark 12:24 -- Luke omits the rebuke in his account). The Sadducees were a lot like too many disciples of Christ today -- they had read the Scriptures, they had studied them, and perhaps could quote them extensively, but they didn't understand them. Therefore, their perception of God's eternal Truth was limited and/or fallacious, resulting in countless inappropriate applications to one's daily living. The OT writings contained ample teaching about the resurrection of the dead, yet these religious leaders had failed to perceive that Truth. As a result, they denied the very power of God to accomplish that which He declared in Scripture He would do.

Our Lord next makes a statement about the nature of the future existence of the resurrected redeemed. Jesus wasn't really attempting to satisfy our curiosity about the nature of the eternal realm, and our place within it after the resurrection, but was simply seeking to counter the false notions of the Sadducees, who denied both the resurrection and the existence of angels. It was for this reason that Jesus Christ spoke of men being resurrected, after which He stated that they would resemble in some respects the angels of God. Thus, in this one statement, He affirmed both doctrines denied by His questioners. It's important to note that Jesus did not say the resurrected would become angels, but that they would be as or like the angels. In other words, certain qualities and characteristics of angels will be shared by the resurrected redeemed. Perhaps the most important and highly sought after quality (Rom. 2:7) is that we shall be immortal. Immortality is not an inherent quality of mortal man, but is something that we shall "put on" when we are raised on the last day (1 Cor. 15:50-54). Luke, in his account of this exchange of Jesus with the Sadducees, makes this new reality very clear -- "...neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36).

The other statement of Jesus on this occasion, however, has generated centuries of speculation and debate. He said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Matt. 22:30; cf. Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35). The phrase "in the resurrection," which Jesus Christ uses here, does not refer to the act of resurrection itself, but rather refers to the resurrected state. It would be much the same as stating, "Within the resurrection realm." Angels, it appears, neither marry nor are given in marriage, which Jesus indicates is a quality to be shared by the resurrected redeemed. Dr. Charles Ellicott gives voice to our questions on this passage: "Will there, we ask, be no continuance there of the holiest of the ties of earth?! Will the husband and the wife, who have loved each other until death parted them be no more to each other than any others who are counted worthy to obtain that life?! Will there be no individual recognition, no continuance of the love founded upon the memories of the past?!" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 138]. The thought that we will not know one another in that realm, or that our cherished relationships here will no longer exist there, is very troubling to a great many individuals. I would refer you to my study of this in Reflections #235 --- The Doctrine Of Post-Resurrection Recognition. I firmly believe Scripture teaches that we will know one another in that realm, and that we shall retain our memories. "Some have concluded from Jesus' answer that in heaven there will be no memory of earlier existence and its relationships, but this is a gratuitous assumption" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 461].

But, will the nature of our relationships be different? Apparently they will, although there is tremendous uncertainty and great speculation as to the exact nature of these changes. Collectively, we (the resurrected redeemed) shall be the bride of the Lamb, and we shall all be participants in the eternal wedding festivities. Exactly what this means in terms of our activities and relationships is anyone's guess. All we can say with any certainty is that it will be wonderful to experience. I want to be part of it, even though I can't even begin to enumerate the specifics of these eternal blessings! I simply know I don't want to miss out on them!! Will Shelly and I be husband and wife in that realm? It doesn't appear that we will be. Will we be in a close, intimate, loving, everlasting relationship with one another (and all the other redeemed) that will far exceed anything experienced here on earth? It appears absolutely certain that we will be. Does our God and Father have the power to vastly enrich our relationships far beyond anything we've known in this temporal realm? Without doubt. Can I be satisfied with that changed reality in the world to come? You had better believe it!!

Jesus does not declare in this statement to the Sadducees that there will be no recognition of others in that realm, nor does He declare that our relationships will not be intimate. He's just stating that the custom of a man taking a woman as his wife or of a woman being given away in marriage to a man, will no longer be practiced. The nature of all our relationships with one another will have undergone what might be characterized a "kingdom change." No longer will any soul be subservient to another in any way. As one redeemed people (His bride), we will all (and each) be subservient only to HIM. Spiritually, that is true even now (Gal. 3:28), but it will be true in every aspect of our existence then! Many disciples down through the centuries have sought to bring their earthy perception of marriage to bear upon this passage. Believing the state of marriage to exist solely for the purpose of providing a "legal outlet" for our fleshly passions, and in the process propagate the human race (since death kept reducing our number), they felt that "in heaven" we would all finally "be free" of such worldly lusts. Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann opines, "In heaven, Christ tells them, the resurrected believers will be sexless, like the angels, since there is no longer any need for marriage, both the procreation of children and all the sexual desires of the body being things of the past" [Popular Commentary of the Bible, The NT, vol. 1, p. 125]. Sexless ... like the angels?! Is this what Jesus said? Not even close!! But, such is the assumption of those who view marriage in such a light. As Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll observes, being "as angels" does "not necessarily imply sexlessness, as the Fathers supposed" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 1, p. 276]. Our bodies are raised male and female; we retain our identity; we are simply made immortal (like angels we never die), and our relationships are enhanced and ennobled so that never again will any person ever be over or under another, as is often the case in human relationships (even in marriage). Such pertains to this realm, not "in the resurrection."

Dr. Ellicott may have come closest to capturing the vision of the resurrection realm when he wrote, "The old relations may subsist under new conditions" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 138]. He went on to speculate, "The saintly wife of two saintly husbands may love both with an angelic, and therefore pure and unimpaired, affection" [ibid]. What might seem impossible here, due to our human nature, may well be fully possible there through the transformation of this earthly nature that will take place at the resurrection. To some extent, His Spirit transforms us now, but we still await that FULL transformation. "This difference between our present life and that life to come does not imply that our bodies will be discarded" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 872]. This is correct. The resurrection at the last day is a bodily resurrection. In the eternal realm (in the resurrection) we will not be "spirit beings." Our bodies will be raised, they'll put on immortality, and we shall dwell forever within the new heavens and earth. Life will take on a beauty that we can now only imagine (and that poorly). Relationships we have enjoyed here will be enhanced there. Can I explain every aspect of this new existence? No. Indeed, it would be futile to try. Thus, in the final analysis, all efforts to qualify and to quantify the joys that await us must fail. Instead, we live by faith and await His coming. The apostle John sums it up best: "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed to us what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" [1 John 3:2]. I suppose we shall have to leave it there!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

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Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in Kenya, Africa:

My Dear Brother Al, I am the Principal of a Christian Academy here in Kenya, and I am also the Minister for the little Church of Christ that meets near my rural home. I am a subscriber to Edward Fudge's GracEmail writings, and I got the opportunity to actually meet him at The Tulsa Workshop last month. I also heard you speak, and was much blessed by what you said. In today's issue of his GracEmail, Edward Fudge mentioned you and your ministry! He wrote: "One of many blessings I received at The Tulsa Workshop last month was hearing the sermons by Al Maxey, whose writings I have recommended more than once. God is using Al mightily to help those struggling with legalism through his clear biblical teaching on salvation by grace and on the freedom of the believer. In addition to his written ministry, you can now hear Al's recorded Sunday morning sermons online at no charge." Bro. Al, I have gone to your web site and have been reading your writings there, and they are just wonderful. I'm one of those guys who struggled with legalism for many years! I was brought to the Lord through the World Bible School, and I thank God for this tool of evangelism, however I came to know the blessing of God's GRACE through the teachings of Edward Fudge!! Now I am so excited to learn that you also teach about GRACE!! We, in our congregation here, are praying that, through His grace, God will one day bring you to our country for a few days so that you may be a blessing to us. Give my love to Shelly. May Christ continue to be central in all that you do.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I just finished listening to your sermon Freedom to be Fruitful, which is on your congregation's web site. WOW!! I grew up in the One Cup fellowship and never questioned anything until about three years ago after I had really studied the book of Galatians. After that study I simply couldn't make any sense of what I had been taught all of my life. Al, your sermon answered numerous questions that I had. I have several family members that I plan to share this with. Thank you so much for your wisdom. Also, I always look forward to receiving my copy of your weekly Reflections.

From a New Reader in Ontario, Canada:

Brother Maxey, Please add me to the distribution list for your Reflections. I really appreciate your challenging thoughts. I had been feeling like I was all alone in my thoughts about many things, but now, for the very first time in my life, I feel that my interpretations of the Bible are not just limited to me. Thank you!

From a Minister in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, I have been a subscriber to Edward Fudge's GracEmail for many years. Just now I was reading about you and your material in today's issue of GracEmail. Would you please subscribe me to your weekly Reflections!! I look forward to reading them. I had the privilege of studying at the feet of Bro. K. C. Moser while at Lubbock Christian College back in the 60's. This was where I first began to understand grace!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Maxey, Just this week our congregation had the pleasure of having Dr. Patrick Mead speak to us for four days. What a joy and blessing he is to the church!! I mentioned you to him, and he said that he really enjoyed your talks at The Tulsa Workshop. I am envious that he had the opportunity to hear you speak in person! We are all truly blessed to have such men as you and Patrick taking a strong stand for the church. Thank you for all that you do for the Lord.

From a Missionary in Peru:

Brother Al, Thanks for your exhaustive study on the Nephilim. The phrase "sons of God," in Hebrew, does seem to point to the fallen angel scenario, but I always keep coming back to the plain testimony of the text that says, "then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth." This, to me, seems to put the sin clearly on man rather than on fallen angels. So, without being dogmatic about it, I would personally stick with the less fanciful interpretation. With regard to your last article, I think it is a beautiful thing for a Christian couple to take the Lord's Supper at their wedding ceremony. That would be a good message in itself regarding the Church's union (although not yet consummated) with Christ Jesus. What a testimony to unbelievers who might be present! It is sad that professing Christians will readily go to a worldly wedding and reception, but will quickly criticize a young couple who just want to show the real spiritual meaning of marriage! Whoever that couple is who wrote to you, may they have the courage to tell everybody, in a very loving way, to just mind their own business!! I pray they will not allow anybody to rob them of their joy on that day!

From an Elder in Wyoming:

Dear Bro. Al, I appreciate your honest evaluation of the Scriptures every time I read your Reflections! How refreshing!! I am so tired of the phrase "in the worship service." I am amazed at the folks who use this phrase!! Typically, they are the very ones who think they understand the Scriptures better than anyone else. Never within the NT Scriptures do we find this particular phrase, nor do we even find it being referred to. Our very LIVES are to be "in worship" to our God. To worship is to show adoration toward, and that is what our lives should be reflecting daily. If a wedding is not a time of worship, then why pray? Why read Scripture? Why have anything spiritual in it? People don't have to be overly smart to realize (unless the devil has blinded their eyes) that when we do these things we are engaged in worship. I'm sorry if this seems rather harsh, but I am getting really tired of "right phrases" (which are really wrong). Again, Al, I want to encourage you to keep up the good work you are doing!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Would you please pass along (or place within your Readers' Section) the following to the mother of the bride whose email formed the basis of your last Reflections? I agree with what you wrote to her, and just wanted to pass along my own experience to her. --- Dear Sister in Christ and Mother of the Bride, I have been a wedding photographer (as a side profession) for too many years to count, and was also part of the very conservative side of the Churches of Christ which "did it once a week" (Communion), until I began my own multi-year study on two subjects: gender and Communion. Of course, Al Maxey has not had anything at all to do with my thinking!! Anyway, I have photographed numerous weddings over the years where the Lord's Supper was a part of the wedding service. In fact, our own large congregation had a wedding about four weeks ago that included a Communion service for the couple as a central part of the service, and it was a very beautiful service; a special time for everyone. For thirty years, "denominational" churches I've photographed weddings in have been including Communion in the ceremony. In the Churches of Christ, though, this has been very rare, as we were still too entrenched in legalism and hung up over all of these stupid "issues." Times are changing for the better, however, and serving Communion at a wedding is now becoming more common in our group. Sister, please don't let the legalistic nay-sayers cause you to miss out on a beautiful wedding ceremony experience! It's your daughter's and future son-in-law's wedding, and so it should include what is important to them. Since the Communion is important to them, it would be a shame to allow a few narrow-minded people to cast their legalistic cloud over the whole ceremony.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, It is a crying shame that we are so hung up on stuff like this! We have made up so many rules and regulations that when a beautiful opportunity comes along to insert God into a wedding ceremony, we suppose that we have violated some "universal plan" (as Tevye, the Jewish father in "Fiddler on the Roof," might phrase it).

From a Pastor in Texas:

Dear Brother Maxey, Your answer to this very troubled mother of the bride-to-be was a very constructively written response addressing her concerns!! You more than set her heart at peace, I believe, although I realize that much of your communication in that issue of Reflections dealt with the internal unrest within your Church Heritage brought on by the legalists and their issues. My heart and my prayers go out to you in your efforts to deal with these people. May God the Father through His Son be your guide!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, My granddaughter and her husband included the Communion in their beautiful wedding in the Church of Christ a few years ago. Jesus said, "As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me." What better way to do this than by remembering Him at the beginning of a wedding ceremony in which two lives are joined as "heirs together of the grace of life" [1 Peter 3:7]?!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, I forwarded your Reflections article "Communion at a Union" to several people, one of whom is my daughter, who wrote the book Choosing Happiness After Divorce. She teaches school at an Orthodox Jewish High School in Tennessee. The following is her response that she sent me to send to you: "AMEN, Bro. Al, to this article!! Being a Christian is a way of life, not a doctrine! And what better way to start a life together?! Maybe some within Churches of Christ need to consider that they may be more Jewish than Christian, because their beliefs seem to be more about rules than love. Keep up the good work, brother!!"

From a D.Min. in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Your last Reflections was "spot on," and very much appreciated! I have been a member of the Churches of Christ for over 45 years, and I have had the opportunity of sitting at the feet of some of the best Bible scholars in our brotherhood. I was taught to study the Bible for myself, and not just swallow anything and everything without some serious examination. So, I have been more and more concerned about how we have redacted, codified and legalized to the point that we have little relationship with God or man. We have drawn so many silly little lines of fellowship -- and circles around who is in and who is out -- until only "I" can fit into the saved circle (and then even I am not sure about me). Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all just get back to sharing the glorious "Good News" that "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free ... so, do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" [Gal. 5:1]. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" [Eph. 2:8-9].

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Brother Al, We have had two weddings at ---------- Church of Christ in Albuquerque that included Communion. The roof didn't collapse and we still have all the members of our congregation! I merely mention this in case your interlocutor could use some actual examples of Churches of Christ doing this.

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, Your article "Communion at a Union" is a perfect example of a common sense response to such gnat-straining among many within the Stone-Campbell faith-heritage. I recently got a very shocked response from a brother when I referred to a popular preacher from a different group as a "Christian." This brother was stunned. HOW could I call "that man" a Christian?!! "He teaches error, you know!" So, I pointed out to my friend that this minister had responded to the Gospel in exactly the same way that he had. He was forced to admit, although reluctantly, that this man was indeed a Christian ... "but an erring one!" What Christian isn't?! Al, your following quote from your article was brilliant -- "To surrender our freedom in Christ to the demands of the most narrow-minded among us is a sure way to remain in religious bondage. Paul stated that he would 'not yield in subjection' to such persons 'for even an hour' [Gal. 2:5]. Neither must we!!"

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, My daughter and son-in-law included the Lord's Supper in their wedding ceremony at a Church of Christ building. And this was 16 years ago!! I had just one person question me about this (and it was because he was curious, not critical). I heard NO negative reaction from any of the other 200+ attendees, most of whom were members of various congregations of the Church of Christ in both Texas and Oklahoma. Upon reflection, I would say that their LOVE for the bride and groom covered any discomfort they might have felt. "... and the greatest of these is LOVE."

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, Thank You for your rational, realistic and righteous response to the questioner about the Lord's Supper being taken during a wedding ceremony!! I, for one, would be hard put to think of a more moving, more spiritual act with which to begin a marriage than that of remembering the Church's Spouse: Jesus Christ. I am heartened that young people would feel the desire to remember Jesus Christ in this special way, especially since, as you stated, many other young people these days are secularizing their weddings. It wouldn't take very much effort at all to convince me to remember the Lord Jesus Christ through the elements of the Lord's Supper EVERY DAY. Why wait for Sunday or a wedding?!! Al, I appreciate you and your Reflections very, very much!!

From a Reader in Oregon:

Brother Al, This week's article -- "Communion at a Union" -- has to be one of my favorites!! All those who claim "we've always done it that way" drive me nuts!! Quite often, there needs to be change if we ever hope to move forward. Al, I can hardly wait each week to read your Reflections articles, and also to listen to your sermons on your church's web site. Thank you so much!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank Goodness for your practical advice to this woman whose daughter wanted to observe the Communion at her wedding! What could be lovelier than a young couple sharing Communion at their wedding?! It is much more spiritually meaningful than a unity candle, and, after all, marriage is as much a spiritual union as a physical one. I am so thankful for your writings which bring common sense to so many issues. Keep up the good work. We depend on you!!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I really enjoyed this Reflections. What a blessing for the couple to partake of the Lord's Supper at their wedding. I wish I had done that. When two people get married, they are truly making a covenant not only with each other, but also with God. Three persons are agreeing to this union, not just two. How humbling it would be to eat and sup with Him at this special time. I can only imagine the strong bond a couple would create by doing so. The critics of this practice should be rejoicing at the fact that this couple wants to bring the Lord into their union from the very beginning!! I pray that this young couple will include the Lord's Communion in this most sacred occasion of their lives, because, in the end, it is their covenant with God, not anyone else's!! If partaking of the bread and the wine at their wedding is a strong desire of theirs, then they should not let anyone take it away from them, even if that means they are the only ones who actually show up. The most important person will be there -- our Lord. Thank you for all you do for the Lord in teaching His grace and freedom.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I have "officiated" (I hate that term) at many weddings where the Communion was a part of the ceremony, and, quite honestly, the center of the ceremony in one or two weddings. It was absolutely beautiful, and placed the heart of the Communion in an entirely different context from what most of us have ever thought. I loved your response, Al, as well as your reasonable approach to this question! I roomed with Bro. Harry Robert Fox at Pepperdine a number of years ago, and he told me he had come to realize that any time we eat of the bread and wine (even at a regular meal), we can stop and remember the Cross. He's one of the most open-minded men of his generation that I have ever known, and I am so privileged to have had his friendship and his mentorship (if that is even a word) in my life. I appreciate you, brother.

From a Reader in Colorado:

Brother Al, I heard a new one today while visiting with a brother who grew up in the One Cup fellowship. We were discussing the harps in Revelation 5:8 and 15:2. Like all good Church of Christers, he had been taught that the harps in these passages were used figuratively (mere symbols) and therefore could NOT be used to establish "the pattern" for our worship. When I asked him what he thought the harps represented, he replied, without hesitation, "These harps represent human vocal cords." I had never heard that one before! In my modest library I couldn't find anything that would lend any credibility at all to such an understanding as this. Have you ever heard this one? I don't know of anyone else I could send this question to. Al, you have been a blessing to me, and I'm sure to thousands of others!

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