November 24, 2009
"Y'all" - A Southern Grammar Bible Lesson on the Church
by Alex Crain
"...like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word,
so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation..."
1 Peter 1:1, NAS
In a recent Crosswalk Devotional (nov. 17, 2009), we looked at the passage above evaluating our personal degree of hunger for God's Word. The command seemed simple and clear enough: "you crave, you long for the pure milk of the Word," but there is a dimension of the passage that is not so simple and clear.
Our English language doesn't distinguish between the singular and plural pronouns for "you," so the mistake is common and easy to make. Typical human that I am, at first glance I saw the passage as being directed toward an individual, as if to say, I cannot grow and I cannot have a healthy appetite for God's Word as long as I harbor any of the sins mentioned in the text.
I suppose such a meaning is true in the broad sense—no one can simultaneously love God's Word and cherish sin. But such an emphasis on the individual obscures a major point of the passage. Why? The "you" pronouns in 1 Peter 2:1-3 are all plural. And yes, this is important.
Why? Let's look. When Peter says "long for the pure milk of the Word so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (v. 2), he is saying "you all" may grow up, or as a Shreveport native like me sometimes says… y'all.
So, since Peter is talking about our collective experience of growth in such a way that health and maturity is to be expected as the normal course of life together, we should be shocked when we find a local assembly of believers that is anemic or riddled with trouble.
Is this the view of a naïve idealist? No. Apparently, it's Scripture's view (see 1 Peter 1:1 ff.). Wherever there is an unhealthy church there must exist some level of malice, and/or deceit, and/or hypocrisy, and/or envy, and/or slander. First Peter 2:1-3 tells us that just one of these sins kills the collective body's craving for spiritual nourishment. Thus, the normal result of growth and maturity will not be experienced.
Here again, we see Scripture affirming the importance of churches that work, thrive, grow, and reproduce.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Since this is a matter of spiritual life or death, let me ask you—how are y'all doing?
Do you tend to think of your spiritual growth as something that can either help or hinder your fellow believers, or do you see it as something that just affects you?
While completing his studies (M.Div.) at the master's seminary, Alex served on staff at grace community church in the Los Angeles area. He has subsequently served at various churches in the areas of teaching, outreach, small groups and worship ministries. In addition to writing and editing for Christianity.com, Alex serves as the pastor of worship at grace bible church in richmond, virginia and is the Upper School Bible Teacher at veritas classical christian school.