Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Should "Average Joe" Believers Read the Word? YES, But...

This is a comment that I posted relating to this article: http://sharperiron.org/article/should-laymen-be-allowed-to-read-bible-part-1. I do not argue against the article. I just throw out some clarifications that I believe are important.


I have no problem with people reading or studying the Bible on their own. I encourage our assembly to read through the Bible each year, and many do. What I would suggest are the following clarifications or guidelines:
  1. God gave pastors and teachers to equip the saints (Eph 4:11-16). If these were not necessary, they wouldn't exist. There is no indication that we can disciple ourselves (at least in any full fashion) without being taught. Reading the Bible is great, but understanding it accurately requires instruction.
  2. God gave pastors to protect the flock of God from external and internal wolves (Acts 20:28-31). This indicates that it is easy to be misled by wrong teaching or wrong teachers. There is no indication that anyone is self-protected from error or error teachers. This is further illustrated in 2 Tim 4:1-4 where apparent believers are led away from the truth listening to teachers (many books and many teachers do not necessarily add up to spirituality or accuracy. In fact, I believe it almost always undermines what is directed in Eph 4:11-16).
  3. God prohibits many from being teachers (James 3:1). Studying is one thing; teaching is another, which requires proper depth, study, and understanding before one should ever teach (there goes SS curriculum...). This is also addressed in 1 Tim 1:7, where some "desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm" are to be forbidden to teach by Timothy. You have to thoroughly know what you are talking about, not just have the ability to read a teacher's manual. This also seems to be addressed by the "few" who should teach in the qualifications of a pastor. "Apt to teach" or being able to "exhort and convince the gainsayers" is evidence of a base of understanding of the Word of God and a working knowledge of it.
  4. It is very clear that rightly dividing the Word of God is hard, tedious work. Paul commands Timothy, after 20 years of mutual ministry, to work hard at showing himself approved to God by rightly dividing the Word (2 Tim 2:15). It is very tempting as a pastor to be lazy or rely upon someone else's efforts without doing the study. Reading the Word is not studying the Word. The latter takes learned skill and instruction (2 Tim 2:2) and much time and much effort. (1 Tim 5:17-18).
I would (and do) encourage every believer to read the Word of God in its entirety regularly. I also warn every believer to be very, very careful of books, teachers, etc. I teach people to understand the "what" and the "why" of the Word of God. (Kudos to Dr. Myron Houghton, who's goal in class was to encourage us to understand why he said what he did!) God's plan and program is for the local shepherds to equip and protect the sheep. That cannot be discouraged or weakened apart from hurting or endangering the flock of God. ~ KES