The Public Reading of Scripture
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to his “true child in the faith”, Timothy, to give him instructions on worship. We call it 1 Timothy. Paul hoped to meet Timothy face to face but in the event the Holy Spirit had other plans, Paul wanted Timothy to have these instructions in hand so that he could know and instruct others on “how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the Living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
Among the many commands and exhortations given is the one before us regarding the public reading of Scripture. It stands to reason, given the church is a pillar and buttress of the truth, that Scripture should be regularly and systematically read to the congregation of God’ people. If we are to know God’s will for our lives, the only place we can go is to the Word of God. Experience, both ours and that of other’s, carries no authority. Only the Bible is both powerful and sufficient for everything God has called us to be and do in this life.
But Paul’s command is more than a mere call to speak the words of the Bible aloud to the church on Sunday mornings. He attaches two other activities that are inseparable with the ministry of the word: exhortation and teaching. First, to exhort means to comfort or console, to come alongside a believer in the same way as the Holy Spirit and help them to apply the word of God to their lives. This is best accomplished when we point our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord to Jesus who is revealed in Scripture as the “Consolation of Israel”. It’s not enough to shower those in need of spiritual guidance with typical platitudes such as “buck up! It will all work out” or “no worries, it won’t always be this way”. Man’s wisdom is no match for the eternal unfailing Word of Life.
Secondly, the public reading of scripture involves teaching, the expository application of the prophetic word. Every human being will be taught. The question is will it be the doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1) or will it be the Word of God (1 Tim 4:6, 13). And the primary responsibility for this public teaching belongs to the elders, the called and gifted leaders of the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11).
And so here at GCC, Scripture is both read and explained to the glory of God and for the good of His people. Passages are carefully chosen for inclusion in the order of service. Sometimes when a NT passage is being preached on, an OT passage is chosen to be an ‘opposite’ or counterpart.
Sometimes we read responsively using the readings in the back of the Trinity Hymnal and sometimes we read corporately. Ours is an expository pulpit. We teach through entire books of the Bible verse by verse so that we proclaim “the whole counsel of God”.
A final exhortation is warranted. The church is a household of households. What we do publicly must emanate from what we do privately. So I ask, “Are we committed to the PRIVATE reading of God’s word?” GCC men, are you reading, exhorting and, teaching the word of God to your families? Mothers are you doing the same to your children? Older women are you doing the same to the younger women in the congregation? Single Christian, are you doing the same in the context in which you find yourself? Being single doesn’t alter God’s commands it just may require a bit of creativity in application.
We all should be devoted to God’s word so that it is the very mark of our existence in this world. After all, as Moses told the children of Israel concerning the word of God, “…it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess." Deuteronomy 32:47