by Al Maxey
Issue #764 -------
January 22, 2019
The spiritual reality of regeneration and union
with Christ Jesus is not so bound to the external
sacramental sign that it cannot be enjoyed without it.
High sacramentarianism is contrary to the teaching
of Christ. -- Johann Peter Lange [1802-1884]
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), who died just a few weeks after his 37th birthday, was a renowned French poet in the Symbolist movement, and also one of the major influences for what would later come to be known as Surrealism. He lived a rather troubled life, and this struggle often found its way, in poetic style, into his writings. One of his most noted works, written in 1873 when he was only 19, was "Une Saison en Enfer" (A Season in Hell), in which may be found this brief declaration: "Baptism enslaved me!" Another individual who lived only 37 years was the popular English pastor Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853), who was described by Charles Dickens as "one of the greatest masters of elocution I ever knew. To hear Robertson read the church prayers was in itself a liberal education." In one of his sermons, Robertson said, "The baptismal question is this: Whether we are baptized because we are the children of God, or whether we are the children of God because we are baptized." If the reality is the latter, then he asked if "we are to understand thereby that we are made something which we were not before." In other words, he wondered, is one "magically and mysteriously changed" by this act? Or, does this act of being baptized in water merely symbolize or represent in a visible way the reality of this change already accomplished by grace through faith?
Although some may not appreciate hearing this, for it is an "inconvenient truth" to legalistic patternists, it is nevertheless true that when any act is deemed a sacrament, that act is thereby invested with great authority and power, and it can very quickly become a "hard task-master." Little wonder that some, like Rimbaud, felt "enslaved." When you believe that it is baptism that saves you, that it is this act itself that confers God's gracious gift of forgiveness and spiritual healing, and that this act is the precise point one leaves death and darkness to enter life and light, then you have indeed experienced the power associated with elevating an act to the level of a sacrament. Needless to say, the legalistic patternists and religious sacramentalists among us will deny that they are any of these things, yet their actions speak far more convincingly to the contrary. Some have angrily accused me of "making this up." There isn't a single person in Churches of Christ that believes this, they inform me; this is a straw man! Really? A couple of days ago, a university professor, who is living in Japan, made this statement on Facebook in response to a discussion by several people of my previous Reflections article: "I totally disagree with you. Immersion is the precise moment one's sins are washed away, the precise moment one touches the blood of the covenant binding it, the precise moment one died to the Covenant of Natural Moral Law and entered into the New Covenant in Christ through participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. There is nothing more core to the gospel that a believer can do than baptism. Just like a wedding ceremony binds the bride and groom, so immersion binds the believer with Christ. When you say immersion is not the precise point of one's salvation, then you deny its function to forgive sins, revive eternal life, and birth the new child of God. Of course it's the precise point of one's salvation, and it was meant to be!"
Yes, brethren, there are indeed those among us, and in positions of influence, who are elevating the act of baptism in water to a soul-saving sacrament, and by doing so they ignorantly undermine the very Gospel they profess to preach. They are placing law over love; religion over relationship; sacrament over Savior. Like the Pharisees of old, they are making each of their converts "twice as much a son of hell" as they themselves (Matthew 23:15). Jesus didn't pull His punches when sparring with the rigid religionists of His day. Neither should we when dealing with them today! I shared with this professor my study titled: "The Split-Second of Salvation: Is it Imperative for Us to Perceive the Precise Moment of God's Acceptance?" (Reflections #348). As of this writing, I have yet to hear back from him. Since he made mention of "the precise moment one touches the blood," which is a form of the well-known plea of such preachers to come and "contact the blood of Christ" in baptism (which is the only way it can be "contacted," according to this view), I would invite him also to consider my study of this expression and how it has been misused and abused theologically: "Contacting the Blood of Christ: An Examination of an Expedient Expression" (Reflections #608).
It is this twisted thinking that has led to some of the most outrageous, and I would even say blasphemous, theological pronouncements I've ever heard. If it is this act itself that imparts salvation; if this act itself is the "precise point" of receiving that eternal salvation, then if a person fails to reach that precise point, that person is eternally lost, according to this theology! I heard a preacher declare that if a person believed, repented, and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior; if that person had "come forward" to be baptized in water; if that person had stepped into the baptistery, but then died of a massive heart attack just 5 seconds before being immersed, that person would go straight to hell. Why? Because grace, mercy, compassion, love, etc. are all trumped by sacramentalism, legalism, patternism, etc. With these people it is LAW over LOVE every time. I mentioned this preacher's comment on the Internet, and actually had another preacher write to me saying that he would go even farther: he told me if that person in the illustration had actually been lowered into the waters of the baptistery, but then died of a massive heart attack "before his nose broke the surface of the water" as he was being raised up, he would still go straight to hell. Such is the blasphemous affront to God's love and grace found in the theology of sacramentalism! I would invite those of this mindset to consider the reasoned biblical arguments against this doctrine: "Is Baptism A Sacrament? Reflecting on a Doctrinal Devolution from Visible Sign to Vital Sacrament" (Reflections #470) and "Sacrament or Ordinance? Thoughts on a Theological Divide" (Reflections #629).
I have a published debate on this very topic, which was held in the latter part of 2002: The Maxey-Hughes Debate on "Baptism and Grace." The first proposition was: "If a repentant, confessing believer in Jesus Christ has fully committed himself/herself to being obedient to Christ Jesus in baptism, but dies unexpectedly prior to actually complying with that command (due to circumstances beyond his/her control), God's grace will cover that person, and they will receive the gift of eternal salvation, based on the genuine intent of their heart at the time of their death." I affirmed this, Hughes denied it. The second proposition was: "If a repentant, confessing believer in Jesus Christ has fully committed himself/herself to being obedient to Christ Jesus in baptism, but dies unexpectedly prior to actually complying with that command (due to circumstances beyond his/her control), that person will be condemned to eternal punishment in hell." Hughes affirmed this, I denied it. I should also inform the reader that this debate was held over 16 years ago, and some of my own thinking on the place and purpose of baptism has evolved. Thus, some of my understandings today are not reflected in some of my arguments in that debate. For documentation of this evolution of thought, I would urge a reading of my 300 page book: Immersed By One Spirit: "Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." Dr. Barry Perryman, an author and university professor in Nevada, who wrote the Foreword for this book, declared: "Al Maxey has honestly offered a progression of his thoughts on baptism that have been formed, revised, and expanded over the last decade. Seldom do we have a written record that chronologically records one's progression of thought on a single subject that is so core to Christendom. To Al's credit, the scholarship within the individual chapters of this book is impeccable."
The previously mentioned professor in Japan, in a separate post on Facebook, further opined, "Maxey eliminates baptism as part of the steps of salvation. With all of the examples in Acts, and in the teachings of Christ, Peter and Paul, it is inconceivable that baptism was not considered the covenant binding ceremony where the blood of the covenant was touched, washing sins away. Maxey has denied one of the most core doctrines of the New Covenant." The individual on whose Facebook page this professor posted these remarks, responded by saying, "Al doesn't for a moment deny the place and role of baptism. I encourage you to read through more of the body of Al's work to get a more complete picture of his theology." This is always good advice, yet so rarely followed by those determined to judge another's beliefs and motives and even character based on the lifting of a sentence or two here and there from a body of work spanning decades. Anyone who knows even a little about my body of work knows that I most certainly do not deny baptism in water its rightful place and purpose in our faith-response to God's gift of grace through Christ Jesus. What I most certainly DO deny, however, are some of the misguided interpretations, doctrines and practices of mere men as to the place and purpose of this act. Many, in my view, have unfortunately, and perhaps even innocently, failed to perceive the divine intent of that act, and as a result are promoting a theological perspective and practice far removed from what the Lord intended baptism in water to be.
I also need to address the oft paraded analogy between the rite of baptism in water and the wedding ceremony. This has been used repeatedly as though it forever settles the matter that one is not really united with the Lord until the ceremony is completed. Set aside for a moment the fact that few cultures in our world, both modern and ancient, have the same traditions when it comes to the marriage ceremony. This introduces countless variables. But, looking at our own model, at precisely what point is the couple joined in marriage? At what precise point are they now "husband and wife"? Is it when the pastor "pronounces" them? Is it when they kiss? Is it (as some cultures teach) when they consummate this union in the "marriage bed"? I had a county clerk once inform me that they are not "legally married" until she receives the signed marriage license and records it in the official records. Here is a question for you to think about: Is marriage (in the eyes of God, where it truly matters) a contract or a covenant?! Is it a union governed by LAW or LOVE? Yes, there are civil laws and customs in place in the societies in which we live, and we should honor those. But my union with my wife is not defined by laws and customs; my union with my wife is a covenant she and I entered into with one another, and with our God as our witness. This covenant was not entered into at the precise moment the preacher "pronounced" us, nor at the precise moment the county clerk entered our license into the official record. The ceremony was a planned event, in front of invited guests and loved ones, in which we affirmed that covenant we had made with one another. Such a ceremony may satisfy the contractual legalities of our union in the eyes of the society and culture in which we live, and thus we comply with these societal expectations, but it was/is our covenant that truly defines and determines this union. Shelly and I had solemnly pledged ourselves to one another in our hearts and minds, with God as witness, long before we dressed up and stood in front of a preacher on July 21, 1973. On that day, in the middle of the afternoon, we affirmed, according to the customs of our society, that covenant we had previously made. The contract which satisfied MEN was signed on that day; the covenant which satisfied GOD predated that July afternoon. Does the latter make the former unnecessary or unimportant? Of course not! Neither does such compliance with contractual law negate the greater reality of our covenant with one another. It is the latter that truly defines us and our union. Covenant trumps contract every time in the eyes of God, just as LOVE always trumps LAW. Contracts restrict and restrain one's actions to the confining parameters of established and imposed rules and regulations; covenants release the legalistic shackles that bind us, allowing for, and even encouraging, greater creativity in the manifestation of each party's love for the other. In short, there are no legal limits to genuine LOVE (see: Reflections #36).
The rite of baptism in water is an affirmation of a covenant entered into by grace through faith. It is an important event, for it is a public proclamation of our love and devotion to Him (our Bridegroom). It is an acknowledgement to those around us (a testimony or witness, if you will) of our faith. It is a visible validation of covenant. This rite itself is not the act that initiates that union with the Lord (that was done by turning to Him in faith; accepting by faith His gracious gift), it is not the precise split-second we enter into covenant with Him. It is commanded by Him, and understandably so, as a testimony for all to see that we proudly affirm this union and pledge to live faithfully to Him. Similarly, circumcision, under the old covenant, was a visible sign and testimony of that covenant, but it was not an act that, in and of itself, brought one into that covenant. Some have called it, whether rightly or wrongly, "the OT parallel to NT baptism." The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that circumcision was expected of those who were the Father's covenant people; it was a command. Nevertheless, that covenant was not based on the act of circumcision; rather, it was affirmed by such. In Romans 4, we find the powerful example of Abraham (the father of the faithful). Paul tells us that Abraham was reckoned as righteous by God prior to his circumcision. Was circumcision important? Absolutely! It was vital as a testimony of faith. But, it was by faith that Abraham was reckoned as righteous, NOT by this commanded act of faith. "We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised" (Romans 4:9-11, ESV). Abraham was already in covenant with God, and God had already reckoned him as righteous. Circumcision affirmed that truth of a spiritual reality that was secured by faith. I believe baptism in water does the same for those in covenant with the Father through the Son: a covenant offered by grace and entered by faith; a covenant relationship affirmed and manifested to all by baptism (and a host of other expected and even commanded attributes and actions we display willingly in our daily walk with Him in the light: such as benevolence, compassion, encouragement, and the like -- none of which are done in order to BE in covenant with Him, but which are done because we already ARE in covenant with Him).
A well-known and beloved leader among those denominated "Churches of Christ," who lives in Georgia, and who is the son and grandson of two very famous past leaders within the Stone-Campbell Movement (you would recognize the name immediately), and with whom I have enjoyed a good relationship over the years, even though he and I differ quite significantly on some matters, wrote me a gracious email a few days ago after reading my latest Reflections (for the record, he has always been loving and gracious, although firm at times, in our correspondence). In this email he challenged some of my thinking and comments in my last issue of Reflections. He began, "Al, I must admit I am a bit puzzled about your treatise on baptism, which seems to relegate it to the idea that it is important, but not essential to our salvation." Frankly, I strongly believe baptism in water is both important and essential, but important and essential to what?! With regard to our eternal salvation, baptism in water is vital to our affirmation of our salvation, as a sign or symbol, and even a testimony, of that salvation, but it is not vital to our acquisition of salvation (which is a gift acquired by grace through faith). This brother, at the very beginning of his email, points me to Romans 6, and asks how I reconcile my understanding with what Paul writes there about baptism. I deal with that text, and how it relates to the topic of baptism, quite thoroughly in my following study: "Reenacting Our Redemptive Reality: Significant Symbol vs. Salvific Sacrament" (Reflections #617), and I would urge this brother to consider my analysis very carefully, and then show me specifically where I have "erred from Truth" in my conclusions and applications of Paul's intent in that text and context.
This brother queried, "How do we account for the fact that in 11 cases of conversion, 10 mention baptism?" That's easy! Baptism is a commanded, and therefore expected, act of faith in which we reenact the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a visible affirmation of our acceptance of that gift. It is an important symbol, but it is not a sacrament. The same holds true of the Lord's Supper. It is a command, so we comply. However, it is NOT a sacrament (although it is viewed as such by many). These are both acts expected of us as His children, not acts required of us to become His children. Their purpose is affirmational, not acquisitional. By confusing the two concepts we have created a false theology with respect to our salvation, and have invested a symbolic act with a power and authority it was never intended by God to possess. The leader in Georgia continued: "If we are 'baptized into Christ' (Galatians 3:27), then how did those in Acts 3 become a part of the Body if they were not baptized?" First, we don't know if they were baptized or not. The text doesn't say. I believe it is safe to assume that if they did indeed repent and seek counsel from Peter, he likely explained to them the place and purpose of this affirmational act of faith. The working assumption of this brother here is that baptism in water is what places one "into Christ." He cites Galatians 3:27 as proof for this view. I believe he is wrong about Paul's intent in that passage. I think it can be shown quite conclusively that baptism in water is NOT what Paul is focusing on when he makes that statement. I have sought to provide evidence for this from the Scriptures in the following studies: "Immersed by One Spirit: Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 12:13" (Reflections #353) and "Putting On Jesus Christ: An Examination of Romans 13:14 & Galatians 3:27" (Reflections #362). Again, I would invite this brother, or anyone else, to please show me, specifically, where my analysis is flawed and my conclusions are false.
This church leader in Georgia also queried me about Peter's statement in 1 Peter 3:21, where he stated, "Baptism now saves you." That certainly sounds like the act is viewed as a sacrament, doesn't it? However, is Peter really suggesting that, or have we failed once again to rightly perceive authorial intent? I believe it is the latter, and have provided extensive biblical analysis to show why I believe this to be so. That analysis is found in these studies: "Salvation by Immersion: A Reflective Analysis of 1 Peter 3:21" (Reflections #217), "A Critical Question on 1 Peter 3:21: Pondering the True Meaning of the 'Pledge' of a Good Conscience as it Relates to Baptism" (Reflections #497), and "The Filth of the Flesh: Pondering a Petrine Phrase" (Reflections #613). I know this is a lot of information, and much of it is very in-depth analysis of the biblical text and context, but if one genuinely wants to know what Al Maxey thinks, and why he thinks the way he does, then this is where he/she can find it. If one only wants to criticize and condemn and castigate, however, then they will refuse to even consider this information, or to refute it with equally intense study and evaluation of the Word. They will simply be content to revile the messenger without making the effort to refute the message.
Acts 22:16 is another popular proof-text, and this brother asked me about it as well. "Saul of Tarsus got his sins 'washed away' (Acts 22:16). If we are not baptized, what is the procedure for getting our sins 'washed away'?" Yes, in my body of work, I have dealt in quite some depth with this text as well. "Wash Away Your Sins: A Reflective Study of Acts 22:16" (Reflections #507). In connection with this, I would also strongly urge a reading of my study: "Holy Spirit Home Remodeling: The Washing of Renovation and Renewal by the Holy Spirit - A Study of Titus 3:5" (Reflections #609). The following might also prove helpful: "Set Free By His Blood: Reflecting on Revelation 1:5" (Reflections #618). This brother also wrote, at the end of his email, "When we consider Ephesians 4:4-6, are we to suppose that six of the seven things mentioned are essential, but the sixth thing mentioned (baptism) is not as necessary as the others?" Yes, I have dealt with that one also! "There Is One Baptism: Reflecting on Ephesians 4:5" (Reflections #505).
If one is really interested in what I believe, and is willing to invest some time, I have shared my understandings extensively over the years, and have made no effort to hide them away from "prying eyes and enquiring minds." This body of work will not only provide ample evidence and explanation of my beliefs, but will also document the evolution of my thinking and teaching, all arrived at through serious study of and reflection upon the Word of God. In fact, on my Topical Index page you will find 52 in-depth studies under the heading "Baptism." All are there for you to read in their entirety, to print out and share with others, to use in classes, etc. I don't even mind you emailing me to ask questions or to clarify some point. Thus, rather than criticize and condemn me for what you may think or suspect or even have heard that I believe and teach, why not go examine my teaching itself at the source?! You just might come away with a different perception of these biblical passages ... and, just maybe, even of that "horrid apostate" Al Maxey! One thing I can say with absolute confidence, however, and this is based on decades of dealing with both mindsets, is that (1) those with a Thessalonican spirit (Acts 17:1-9, 13) will not examine any of this evidence I (and others) have provided, but instead will intensify their attacks and increase their criticisms, and (2) those who possess a Berean spirit (Acts 17:10-12) will "examine the Scriptures to see whether these things are so" ("A Berean Spirit: Thugs vs. Thinkers" - Reflections #163). It is my prayer that those who read this present study will fall into the latter category, and that they will prayerfully examine the evidence provided with an open Bible before them to determine if these things be so! May God bless you and guide you in your studies, and may He give you the courage to change, if that is where your studies lead you!
From a Reader in California:
[NOTE: the following two sentences were posted by this individual on his Facebook page as he shared with his friends the link to my last Reflections article titled "Questioning a Pentecost Query"]: Al Maxey is one of the Restoration Movement's great thinkers of the last half-century! If you are not following him on Facebook, you should! [NOTE: I thanked this brother for his kind words of encouragement, and he then posted this response]: Al, even when I'm not sure I agree with you on something, I love it that you make me rethink those things that I had "put to rest." It's in those things that I end up getting closer to understanding God. The "Men of Israel" taking the oath-ratifying commitment of baptism also sent a message that salvation is through the Messiah (whom they killed), and no longer by birthright. "What shall we do?!" indeed!! [NOTE: One of my readers from Nova Scotia then posted this response on this person's Facebook page]: I agree! Al Maxey's teachings have opened far more doors of understanding than any other person in our brotherhood. He is a deep thinker!
From a Reader in Colorado:
This core Church of Christ doctrine that you exposed in your article "Questioning a Pentecost Query: Rethinking the Spiritual Significance of the Question Posed to Peter in Acts 2:37" (Reflections #763) will not go down easily. But, a person has to be indoctrinated (at one of their schools of preaching) to actually see Acts 2 in the Church of Christ way.
As most of my readers know, I was not trained or educated in a Church of Christ school of preaching. In fact, none of my training was affiliated with any religious organization or group. My degrees (undergraduate and graduate) were all earned at a state university. My BS degree was actually in the sciences. I believe this has helped me to be a bit more objective and analytical in my research, and also more independent in my conclusions. I was not expected to parrot any "party line," but to think for myself. and then to defend my views with rational arguments. I've always appreciated that training. I believe it has served me well, although it has not always made me very popular in certain circles! -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Barbados:
"Questioning a Pentecost Query" was tremendous!! May God continue to inspire you, Al, so that you may continue to illuminate these precious truths for us, so that we may be their eternal beneficiaries. Blessings galore in 2019, brother!!
From a Reader in Florida:
Dear Brother Maxey, As a result of interest generated from reading your Reflections, I would like to order the following two books you have written: "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice" and "One Bread, One Body: An Examination of Eucharistic Expectation, Evolution and Extremism." I would also really appreciate it if you would sign them for me. My check is enclosed. Lastly, I just want to say that I have learned so much from your writings, and I know that many, many others have benefited from them more than you will ever know!! I attend an ultra-conservative congregation here, and some of their traditions leave me shaking my head. However, I have no intention of leaving, because I realize that if I do, then there would be no people left here to try and influence this group to be more open-minded.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Al, please send me your two-CD audio recordings of your Adult Bible Class on "The Nature of Man and His Eternal Destiny." I'm sending a check to cover the cost. Thank you!!
From an Author in Nevada:
At the Pepperdine Lectures in May, 2018, one of the presenters (who had a PhD degree) was bold enough to say that Acts 2:38 applied only to the apostolic era. I thought that was great, although a few people were definitely squirming in their seats. Yet, this lecturer had laid a proper foundation for that statement. Then you have now tied in Acts 3 with Peter's speech in Acts 2. Despite their gross sin, their covenant status with God had not been annulled. Although the 3000 Jews at Pentecost were pierced in their hearts for their part in the murder of Jesus, and repented and were baptized, their immersion was NOT to acquire eternal salvation, for they were already the "pick of the crop" of covenant Jews from all over the empire. God was in a salvific covenant with them, and they were even characterized as "devout" men of Israel (a term which always points to saved people). Thus, your analysis is correct. I especially liked your following statement in your article: "Peter's focus was on that generation; the one in which these people lived; these descendants of Israelites who, like them, had repeatedly spurned the grace and mercy of God. The word translated 'perverse' is the Greek word 'skolios,' which means 'crooked, curved, twisted.' From this word comes the medical term 'scoliosis,' which refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine. We've all heard the Mother Goose nursery rhyme: 'There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, ...' The generation of Jews who were assembled before the apostle Peter that day were devout 'men of Israel' who were nevertheless walking a twisted path, spiritually speaking, rather than the 'straight path' that would have led them to the Light and Life of men. It is in this sense that they were characterized as a 'perverse generation.'" Soldier on, Al.
From a ThD & Author in Kentucky:
Al, what an excellent analysis of the conclusion to Peter's Pentecost speech! I have come to the understanding that Peter's concluding point of the exaltation and coronation of Jesus as Lord and King is the fourth "fact" of the Gospel. Usually it is preached that the essential facts of the Gospel are the death, burial and resurrection, which is based on 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. But, there Paul is arguing the resurrection of the dead, not the Lordship of Jesus. This is what leads (at least in part) to the "What must I do to be saved so I can go to heaven when I die?" mentality. Jesus gets short-changed in this kind of preaching, and the Gospel becomes all about us. The point on Pentecost was the identity of Jesus as the long-awaited King, and the Jews' rejection of Him. There is also the fact that from the outset of Jesus' ministry, and that of John the Baptist before Him, the nearness of the kingdom was the message. In Acts 1, at the scene of Jesus' ascension, the disciples were still asking about the kingdom. All this is pulled together in the Pentecost announcement. You are right, Al, about the importance of the Pentecost message being more than the forgiveness of individual sins, as we have made it. For the Jews, it went to the very core of their being both individually and as a nation. To understand that, we must put ourselves in the place of the Jews who were hearing Peter that day!
From an Author in Texas:
Al, I just read your latest Reflections ("Questioning a Pentecost Query") and I think, as you pointed out, there is something many overlook here: the Jewish context. The Jews came for Pentecost, and these Jews were either around when Jesus died on the cross and agreed with His sentence, or they had heard about the events that occurred. Peter didn't preach to save them, but to convict them of and turn them to the truth: Jesus. Their response was, "What must we do?" NOT: "What must we do to be saved?" (which we too often like to add). These Jews were in need of salvation, to be sure, but far more than that, they were in need of a Savior -- the very one they crucified. Thus, they were in need of reconciling with God, the Father. They were not "lost," but guilty of rejecting their promised Messiah. The Jews were used to performing certain actions to restore their purity, like ceremonial washings, and it was these things they might DO that were probably more on their mind that day. They were most likely Law-minded: sacrifice over mercy. But Peter had a more Graceful fix: To come back to the Father you must accept His Son. God bless you, brother!
From a New Reader in Louisiana:
Brother Maxey, I really enjoyed your last article! Would you please add me to your mailing list for Reflections. Thank you!
From an Elder in New Mexico:
Dear Al, What a novel idea: to study Peter's sermons in context!! It is my contention that the Churches of Christ have largely studied the entire New Testament writings out of context, just as you correctly assert has been done with respect to Peter's sermons in Acts 2 & 3. This has resulted in countless misunderstandings, the worst of which may have been reading the NT as "New Law" by which all believers will be judged. This bad hermeneutic allows us to beat people over the head with countless violations of this so-called "New Law," and it turns salvation into a very iffy thing indeed. I hope our brethren can wake up from the slow death of legalism to enjoy the abundant life we are offered in Christ. Thanks for your ongoing efforts to open closed minds!
From a Minister in New Zealand:
Excellent article, Al. You have excelled yourself (is that possible?!) with "Questioning a Pentecost Query." Yes, how many of us have thought that their question to Peter that day was: "What must we do to be saved?" Yet, it wasn't. So many things here: like failing to read things in context. We love to think we can simplify things, improve upon things (e.g., the Restoration Movement), only to further frustration, confusion and ignorance. I can only add that I think the baptism of Acts 2:38 was purely a "baptism of confession" (i.e., an acknowledgment that Jesus, whom they had rejected, was indeed the Messiah). This took great courage on their part (c.f., John 12:42-43).
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Dear Brother Al, WOW!! What an EYE-OPENER this article ("Questioning a Pentecost Query") is for me!! Thank you so very much!!
From a Reader in Louisiana:
Al, I am seeing slow growth in some of my dear brothers (I don't even feel comfortable saying that, because many of them are far better disciples than I), but they are still clinging to tradition in the matter of water baptism. God is at work in them, however, as He is also at work in me, both to will and to do His good pleasure. Our congregation has come a long way. Each of our elders know what I believe and why, and yet they love me anyway. But, I have been careful to not be divisive. I find that when I just teach the Bible without mentioning the familiar "catch phrases," my teaching is well received. Thank you, brother, for your labor of love. There is no doubt that many have been set free because of your love and tenacity for the gospel of Jesus.
From a Reader in Louisiana:
Thank you, Al, for your insight as to what Peter was saying to the Jewish community in his sermon on Pentecost. Sometimes someone just needs to open the curtain a little to let some light in. That's what your writings have done for me, as they have challenged and often supported my thinking about many things where I have strayed from religious heritage to discover new concepts often preached against by us. If a preacher in the Churches of Christ said it, well it must be right! Right?! I have certainly been wrong about this!! They/we have just perpetuated a teaching on baptism handed down to us from generation to generation without questioning it. Thank God for someone willing to open our eyes so that we may SEE, and your insights here are just that: eye-opening! May God continue to bless you with wisdom and insight, and may He grant you many more years of service in the kingdom. You bless us with each of your Reflections.
From a Reader in Florida:
Al, I just read "Questioning a Pentecost Query." This is a light that has been burnt out among "us" all of my life. I had always wondered why those "men and brethren" (Acts 2) didn't ask the question (vs. 37) the way "we" intended for them to ask it! I'm not sure I have it all down yet, but it is more clear to me now that this sermon by Peter was a situational and specific indictment, not a blanket declaration of lostness and how to "get saved." Parenthetically, if you take this legislation on baptism away from us, we might just have to revert to "faith in Jesus" for our salvation. What a radical thought!! Be careful, Al - you know what they tried to do to Martin Luther.
From a Reader in Alabama:
I LOVE this Reflections, Al ("Questioning a Pentecost Query")! I also went back and read your article on Acts 3:19 (Reflections #758 - "Peter's Colonnade Sermon: Reflecting on an Apostolic Revision: Pentecost Sermon 2.0 and Acts 2:38"). GREAT information, and a lot to think about. Thank you so much, Al.
From a Reader in Georgia:
I totally LOVE this. It brings clarity to the message of Peter on Pentecost. Not dissimilar from John the Baptist speaking of repentance and ceremonial cleansing.
From a Reader in California:
Thank you very much for sending me both your articles on "coverings" -- "Head Coverings for Women: Local Custom or Universal Command?" (Reflections #216) and "Trim Not Thy Tresses: The Snipped Hair Hairesy" (Reflections #276). You really do a LOT of in-depth, very erudite research, and it is reflected in your writings. The information and perspective you presented is very thought-provoking. As you pointed out, this is a very difficult topic, but your presentation, to me, is very much "on point." Thank you for everything you do, brother!
If you would like to be added to or removed from this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: