Public Scripture Reading

Preaching is not enough. Preaching the Word of God in a church service is not the only way to present the Word of God to a congregation. When I read 1 Timothy 4:13, I see at least three ways to present the Word of God. Allow me to share my personal translation of this verse.

Give regular attention to public reading, earnest exhortation, and to careful teaching.

As a pastor, I am learning the importance of giving regular prominence to the Word of God in worship in each of the ways Paul mentions here. This requires deliberate attention. For one pastor, teaching the Bible carefully and methodically may suit his spiritual gifting. For another, preaching the Bible earnestly may suit his spiritual gifting. And both need to be sensitive to the Lord, allowing Him to guide them beyond their dominant gifting.

Teaching pastors also need God’s grace to preach earnestly what God places on their hearts for their people. And exhortational pastors need God’s grace to teach the Bible methodically and expositionally as the Word of God dictates. I’ve reflected more on this here.

And yet in addition to preaching and teaching, there is a third equally important way to present the Word of God in congregational worship – public reading. Scripture reading in a Baptist fundamental church service often takes a back seat. It commonly occurs just before the sermon, and rather quickly. But I am personally challenged to give public Scripture reading a more prominent place. The Word of God is full of life and very effective (Heb. 4:12) – apart from my exegetical insights and practical applications.

At Faith Baptist Church, we look forward to the public reading of Scripture. We generally pause on a Sunday morning between the opening hymns of worship to listen to a man from our congregation read an extended portion of Scripture surrounding the verses of the sermon. A different man gives the reading each week, involving men throughout our congregation. Different personalities. Different backgrounds. Different skills and speaking styles. Different spiritual gifts. But the same living and effective Word of God.

Through this exercise of public reading, the congregation is exposed to the context surrounding the verses of the sermon. And the Holy Spirit begins to arouse attention to the passage of Scripture that will be taught and preached as we sing more hymns that lead in to the sermon itself.

I thank the Lord for the men of Faith Baptist Church who are willing to stand before the congregation each week and read to us from the Word of God. And most of all, I thank Him for His Word – that speaks to our hearts all by itself when it is read in public for worship.

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