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Pastor, Read Scripture Publicly

Posted by Matt Postiff April 23, 2015 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Church 

The public reading of Scripture is an essential part of Biblical worship.

Part of the Christian worship service must include the reading aloud of the Bible from the pulpit so that all can hear and understand. I am not talking about a few verses here or there. I am talking about a substantial portion of Scripture each and every week, if not more often.


1. The Bible says to do so in 1 Timothy 4:13. I understand the verse to be expressing what should happen in a public worship service of the church. The entire book is about that subject (1 Tim. 3:15). The accompanying activities of exhortation and doctrine are public activities. Therefore, I take the 'reading' command to refer to a public activity.

2. Your people are not reading like they should. I speak on average or "in the main" or "generally." Many times I've heard people say, "The problems you describe in your church are the same as every church experiences." Fair enough, and probably true for the most part. So, I figure if my church has a problem reading Scripture, and if I personally have found in my life that it is difficult to maintain the discipline of private reading, then probably some other churches have experienced the same problem! I know, you've preached on how the members of the church should regularly read Scripture. You protest: "They are being disobedient by not reading!" Yes, I know. But I figured out that I cannot moan and groan about their lack of discipline. I have to do something about it. If the sheep aren't feeding themselves God's word, you have to do it. Read to them!

3. In Nehemiah 8, the Bible models the public reading of Scripture, and the great blessing that comes from it. The leaders in Israel spent a better part of the day reading the Law to the people. The people went home with joy "because they understood the words that were declared to them" (Neh. 8:12).

4. Your reading, if prepared and done properly, can aid your people to understand the Bible. Sometimes all it takes is a different emphasis on the words or a new inflection, or a key pause, to trigger a thought in the mind of the hearer. These artifacts of reading are not adding to Scripture; rather they are helping the listener to think carefully about what they are hearing. That is when the light bulb moment just may occur.

5. Many people are auditory learners. Some are not good readers. Some have taken your language as a second language and find it difficult to read and understand the Bible on their own. Some cannot read at all. In many places in the globe, the people are in the same situation as were those in most past ages who did not have a copy of Scripture at all.

The NET Bible comment at 1 Timothy 4:3 is helpful: "The public reading of scripture refers to reading the scripture out loud in the church services. In a context where many were illiterate and few could afford private copies of scripture, such public reading was especially important."

Since 2008 in our church on Sunday evenings we have read 37 entire books of the Bible. Most evenings we read two chapters of a book. The next week we read the next two chapters, until the book is completed. Sometimes we read three chapters if they are short; sometimes one if they are very long. We alternate between New and Old Testament books. We are presently reading Daniel. We started with Romans.

I do not insist on the practice in every evening service, for when we set aside the one Sunday night per month for the Lord's Table, we do not generally read the chapters on that night.

There are 1189 chapters in the Bible. If you read 2 chapters per week for say 40 weeks every year, then it will take over 14 years to read the entire Bible. That's a long time. But if you don't start now, one thing is guaranteed: you will never finish. And another thing is also guaranteed: some of your people will never get through the Bible either. What an impoverished Christian existence that would be!

The Word of God is the power of God to salvation. You were born again through the imperishable living Word. You are made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus by the Holy Scriptures. These things were written that you may have eternal life.!

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