Editorial: Laity Key to Fighting False Teaching

Editorial

Laity Key to Fighting False Teaching

Sam Margrave is not a perfect man.  He does not claim to be.  What he claims to be is someone who has been made new in Christ Jesus and as a member of the General Synod from Coventry Diocese (elected, not appointed) he sees it as his responsibility to call out the theological errors being foisted by liberal elitists upon the Church of England’s hierarchy.  You need to know that he does not see himself as the only layman called to hold the hierarchy accountable.  He does not have a messianic complex. 

What he believes is that laity have a duty to rebuff teachings that contrary the clear meaning of scripture.  He is to be commended rather than criticised.

Has he said some things in less than elegant prose?  Yes.  He is speaking plainly enough that any 9 year old could understand.  

It is always worth recalling the wise words of those Christians who have gone before.  Wise counsel is always wise like truth is always true.

The first Bishop of Liverpool, JC Ryle said this about the responsibilities of the laity. In his essay entitled, The Rights and Duties of Laymen.

“This is an inquiry which deserves special attention, and I am much mistaken if the result does not astonish some people, and make them open their eyes.

“I say then, without hesitation, that you will not find a single text in the New Testament in which the ordained ministers alone are ever called “the Church,” or ever act for the Church without the laity uniting and co-operating in their action.

“Are the deacons appointed? The apostles recommend their proposal, but “the whole multitude” choose (Act. 6:5). Is a council held to consider whether the heathen converts should be circumcised, and keep the ceremonial law? The decision arrived at is said to come from “the apostles, and elders, and brethren,” with “the whole Church” (Act. 15:22-23). 

“Are inspired Epistles written by Paul to particular Churches? In eight cases they are addressed to “the Church, the saints, the faithful brethren”—and in only one case (the Epistle to the Philippians) is there any mention of overseers and deacons” in the opening address. Does Paul send instructions to the Church about the Lord’s Supper, and about speaking with tongues? He sends them to “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus” not to the ministers. 

“Is discipline exercised against an unsound member? I find Paul giving directions to the saints at Corinth, without mentioning the ministry, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1Co. 5:13). Is a man “overtaken in a fault” to be restored to communion? Paul tells those who are “spiritual” among the Galatians to do it, and does not refer it to their ministers. (Gal. 6:1). Is an Epistle written to the Christian Hebrews? Not a word is said about “rulers” until you come to the last chapter. Does James write a General Epistle? He addresses the “twelve tribes,” and only names “teachers” in the third chapter. Does Peter write a General Epistle? He writes to the whole body of the elect, and says nothing to the “elders” until he arrives at the last chapter, and even then he is careful to remind them that they are not “lords over God’s heritage.” As for the Second Epistle of Peter, and the Epistles of John and Jude, they never touch the subject of the ministry at all.

“Now let no one mistake me. That there was to be a distinct order of men to minister to the Church is, to my eyes, most plainly taught in the New Testament. Paul, we are told, “ordained elders in every Church” (Act. 14:23). See 1Co. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; 1st and 2nd Epistles to Timothy; and Titus. But that “the Church” in any city or country meant especially the laity, and the ministers were only regarded as the “servants of the Church” (2Co. 4:5), seems to me as clear as the sun at noon-day.

“As for a Church in which the clergy acted alone, settled everything, decided everything, judged everything, and managed everything, and the laity had no voice at all, I cannot find the spirit of the shadow of such a thing in the Acts or Epistles of the New Testament. On the contrary, while Paul tells the Thessalonians to “esteem their ministers very highly,” it is to the laity, and not the clergy, that he addresses the words, “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak” (1Th. 5:13-14).”

Oh, for more Bible believing, God-fearing men like the layman from Coventry.

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