Biblically Literate “Laypeople”5 min read
In modern Christianity, we have drawn a supposed line between the clergyman and the layman. If one is to read a theological work, it must be written by a clergyman. If one wishes to seek Biblical advice or information, the clergyman is the first choice, because he is supposed to be the Biblically literate one. But laypeople? The average Christian? They have never been to seminary. They have no theological degree. Therefore they need simplified studies of Scripture, commentaries that are not in-depth, Bible versions that are paraphrased so that one does not need to interpret the text anymore, and study guides, as if the average Christian isn’t capable of being a student of Scripture. Commentaries and study guides have their place, of course, and their information can be invaluable at times. But the point is this: we have lost what it means to be – each one of us – a student of Scripture, and “average Christianity” has been reduced to spoon-fed Bible study in many cases.
Yet God sees all believers as “average Christians” in a sense – average in that we all must give an account of our lives, in that we all are responsible to uphold truth, and in that we all have the ability and duty to study Scripture. God doesn’t see “clergy” and “laity,” but rather “lukewarm” and “hot.” Regardless of our education and speaking abilities we are all accountable to be a people of the Word. Let us not diminish our responsibilities because of a man-made title.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Who is the man of God? It is the average Christian who studies Scripture. This is quite obvious, since verse 15 speaks of Timothy knowing Scripture as a child. It was before Timothy was a so-called “clergyman” that he knew Scriptures, and the same is true of every believer. Your title doesn’t matter: your knowledge of Scripture does, however. This is what defines the man of God. Otherwise, if studying Scripture is only for the clergy, so is the last part of our text: being thoroughly furnished unto all good works. This is obviously not the case.
But it goes further than good works: our passage speaks of doctrine, of reproof, of correction, and of instruction in righteousness. Again, there is no special role that accompanies these things, only whether or not we are men and women of God.
With doctrine, are you fluent in it? If someone asked you to give a brief overview of justification, redemption, propitiation, or sanctification, would you be able to explain to that person what these things mean? When you are faced with heresies, are you able to defend Scripture’s truth? When it comes to Creation, the Fall, sin, the resurrection, Christ’s deity, Christ’s priesthood, the rapture, the assembly, etc., do you know what these doctrines are and why they are integral to Christianity? Every believer is called to uphold Truth; we cannot do that if we do not understand doctrine. Be it far from us to think it unnecessary.
With reproof, or conviction, do you allow Scripture to mold your thoughts, your boundaries, your behaviour, and your morals? You cannot know how to live apart from Scripture. Christianity is not living by clichés; it is living by what we know to be God’s Word.
With correction and instruction in righteousness, do you have a firm grasp regarding what is sin and what is not? Or are you ready to sit back as a “mediocre Christian” to let the world’s morality crumble while you compromise? Are you simply sweeping sin under the rug, as it were? Do you try to candy-coat sin? Do you defend the cause of those living in sin because of the cliché “All sin is the same; so don’t target specific ones”? Are you ready to forsake truth because of “love” rather than share the truth in and because of your love? We must stand up for righteousness – yes, even as laypeople, even as “regular Christians.” This is our Scriptural calling.
At this point, you may be asking “Why?” There are several good reasons to answer this.
- Assemblies are responsible to uphold truth collectively (1 Tim. 3:15), for it is called the Pillar and Ground of the truth. Since each assembly is made up of individuals and is without distinction between laity and clergy, each believer is responsible to be a part of that truth-preserving process.
- Scriptural teaching must always be followed by personal searching of Scripture. Acts 17:11 records the Bereans doing just that, and for this reason they were called “more noble than those of Thessalonica.” So then, average Christianity is personal study of the Word as well as collective teaching in the assemblies.
- We can only withstand coming persecution by wearing the whole armour of God, and our weapon of combating in spiritual warfare is Scripture. This is the teaching of Ephesians 6. So then, for each of us who wants to be godly, Scripture must be an integral part of daily living. Or else, we will never have the strength to stand up for God, and we will be defenseless. Could it be that the reason so many Christians today stand in defeat when the world promotes sin is because many simply do not know Scripture?
- Without God’s Word in our lives, we miss becoming more like and closer to Christ. He is the grand Theme of the Bible, and we must learn by it to seek His face. Is this not the purpose of our salvation: to know Him?
In conclusion, hopefully our hearts have been convicted as to the necessity of personal and deep study of Scripture, regardless of our education, degree, position, or title. In truth, if we all suddenly became public speakers with the duty of a ministry, we should all be competent in Scriptural exhortation. Of course, this could not happen to all of us because of Headship, but the point is this: there should be no such thing as a member in an assembly who is not capable of passing down truth and personally teaching it to others. Let us not be laypeople; let us not be clergy. Let us all be Christians as God meant us to be.