Meet Your Friendly Apostate

I learned this morning that once again a loving brother in Christ has lumped yours truly in with other Apostates. The New Mexico preacher/elder Al Maxey emails his publication “Reflections” to hundreds of people each week. His studies and articles are well researched and written. Bro’ Al is one of those damned “change agents” who is speaking truth to our beloved church of Christ people and a few of them are not happy.

One of those people who are less than pleased with Al Maxey is a preacher from Alabama, one Caroll Ray Sutton, who has been the preacher at a small church of Christ for about 50 years. He publishes a paper titled “The Instructor”. In the Feb 2013 issue Mr Sutton has this to say:

“When apostates (and other false teachers) like Edward Fudge, Al Maxey, Max Lucado, Leroy Garrett, Rubel Shelly, Randy Harris, Royce Ogle, Jay Guin, Lynn Anderson, etc. contend that there is no pattern in the New Testament for us to follow in order to please God and thus be saved eternally, I am made to wonder how any honest, truth-seeking person would pay any attention to what they have to say” [p. 2].

What an honor to be named with that group of men. Each is far more able than I as teachers, preachers and writers. This is the second time in the past few months that I have been honored to have been mentioned along with some of these good men. What is it that makes men like Mr Sutton so angry and so quick to damn us to hell?

Each of those men named as “apostates” are guilty of the same infraction. Each of those men preach, teach, and write about the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ for the needs of ungodly sinners. They teach that his worth and work is quite enough to reconcile sinners to God. Not one of them teaches that people are saved because of how good they can be but rather because of the goodness of Jesus our Lord. And, each of them, from time to time, point out the false teaching of  some in the churches of Christ who teach “another gospel” of good works for salvation. Not one of us teaches against good works but that all good works have their source in our union with Christ by the Holy Spirit and that God plans and produces our good deeds. (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13) In the end the good news we preach leaves no room for human boasting. Our boasting is about the Lamb of God alone.

I remember the football player and former Congressman J C Watts saying once, “Dogs don’t chase parked cars“. How true! If the gospel we preach does not make religionists angry maybe we should make an adjustment. The good news (gospel) about Jesus is good news for those who receive it and believe it, and bad news for those who reject it and don’t believe it.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30,31)

The Gospel of John – The Essentials of Christianity

Recently I received preacher Al Maxey’s “Reflections” in my email inbox. A section of this issue caught my attention and caused me to consider some facts about the Gospel of John in the Bible, and it’s importance. These observations did not originate with Al Maxey but I am very thankful that  he chose to include this in the most recent “Reflections”. I quote Al Maxey:

  • The following thoughts come from Virgil Fiske, who lives in the northern part of New Mexico. He says, “I came out of the Church of Christ a few years ago and do house churches now. I preached for theChurch of Christ for over 30 years, but fought the legalism and the arrogance all the way.” I can certainly identify with this frustration. The following is an article he shared with me that he wrote over a year ago, but which came to his mind when he read my last Reflections. I’m pleased to be able to pass it along to each of you.

First principles, the essentials, the basics of Christianity have dominated my mind lately. I was asked which denomination is right, what rules are required to be saved. I had just started a study in John, and it suddenly yelled at me. Since John’s Gospel was written that we might believe and have eternal life (John 20:31), then it can be accepted that the Gospel of John contains everything we need to know and believe. It must also contain every behavior required to gain salvation. Therefore, it could be understood that the rest of the information presented in the NT comes as an illustration of how the basics presented by John play out in the life of the first century church. Should one agree with many scholars that John’s Gospel was the last text written before the canonization of Scripture, then it can be assumed that any emphasis on doctrinal concepts not mentioned is excessive. Since John’s Gospel contains little regarding baptism, Communion, church leadership and attendance, the contribution, worship styles, women’s roles in the church, etc., how can these issues be areas over which we bicker and divide?! If we can recognize the basic principles of love and forgiveness demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice as the foundation of our faith, then all the other behavior of Christ-like people should not divide us. Jews worshiped one way, Gentiles worshiped another, and though the discussion in Acts 15 was heated, the conclusion was that both groups were accepted by God, though radically different.

Many years after the discussion on how to deal with Gentiles, the apostle John penned the Gospel and the letters that carry his name. 1 John 5:13 says that he wrote this small letter to those who believe so that they might know they have eternal life. How much should we add to what John wrote if we really want to know we have eternal life?!

John wrote as a very old Christian who happened to be the last living apostle. He must have felt that the letters written by others over 30 years earlier were important, yet he does not mention them. I started studying John’s Gospel and his letters as if I was living at the end of the first century and they were all that I had. What would my saving faith and my worship actually look like? You might want to try the same. It has really changed my view of all those who believe in Jesus.

Finally, I heard John say that we should be careful not to listen to the other teachers, but instead focus on the “anointing” we have all received (1 John 2:26-27). I have seen firsthand the damage done by following our emotions, but we may have more damage by following only that which is written. For me personally now, the NT is the tool that I use to verify what I sense in my heart as I am led by the Spirit.

At a minimum Virgil Fiske makes some compelling points about the importance of John’s writings, especially the Gospel of John and 1 John. Both were written that we might believe in Jesus Christ and that by believing we should have eternal life.

Most Bible scholars agree that the Gospel of John was probably written between 85 and 95 a.d.. And, there is also general consensus that John was written from the city of Ephesus where John was a leader. There is some disagreement about his title, (elder, bishop, presbyter, etc…) but not that he was an important figure in the Ephesian church.

In my view it is without question that John had read all of the earlier writings that are now the New Testament. It is especially important, and worthy of consideration, that the elderly John was very familiar with the writings of Luke (the Gospel of Luke and Acts), and the letters of Paul, especially Romans and Ephesians.

Considering the fact that John was “the disciple Jesus loved“, one of the disciples of Jesus in the very inner circle during Jesus’ ministry, and having read the writings mentioned above, the Gospel of John does not emphasize some of the things one must do to have eternal life that many people today do.

I have long thought that of all the Bible, the Gospel of John is the principal book on Christology. John has no equal in regard to the person and work of Jesus, his deity, and that salvation is by believing on Him.

I am thankful that Mr. Fiske shared his thoughts on the Gospel of John with Al Maxey and that Al shared it with the readers of his Reflections. By the way, if you are not receiving “Reflections” by Al Maxey you can easily subscribe here . Send an email and ask for Reflections and you will be blessed by this good man’s common sense approach to Scripture and wonderful ability to communicate the truths he finds there.

I am especially interested in your thoughts on this post.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA