Why Do We Do That? – Reading of Scripture
Taken with permission from Christ Church Presbyterian, Evans, GA.
Of all the elements of worship taught in the Bible, none is more frequently encouraged, demonstrated, or commanded than the public reading of Scripture. As early as the book of Exodus we find Moses taking the book of the Covenant and reading it to the people (Exodus 24). The books of Deuteronomy and Joshua also record that the spiritual life of God’s people revolved around the public reading of God’s law. It’s important to note that when the children of Israel departed from God’s ways, and they did so with alarming regularity, they always departed from God’s Word. When they returned to the Lord, they always returned to His Word. This is a connection that we ignore at our own peril.
One of the most poignant stories of the Old Testament is found in II Kings 22 (and again in II Chronicles 34), where the young king Josiah led the people back to the Lord by publicly reading to them the dust covered, long misplaced book of the law. He read it aloud with a repentant heart before all the people, great and small, and wonder of wonders – a revival broke out! “And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers” (II Chronicles 34:32).
In the early church the reading of Scripture, which included the Old Testament and the letters sent by the Apostles, was of the utmost importance. So much so that Paul’s directions to his young pastor friend, Timothy, included, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (I Timothy 4:13). To the Thessalonians he wrote, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (I Thessalonians 5:27).
But why is it so important that God’s Word be read in worship?
Hebrews 4:12 sums it up: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Even if all the other elements of worship are missing, if there is none to preach or sing, still God’s Word can be read and the Spirit will work through the living and powerful Word.
At Christ Community Church we give earnest attention to the reading and preaching of both the Old and New Testaments. Why both? “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). This is the basis of the Reformed view that the Old and New Testaments form a unified and complementary whole, not two independent revelations.
In the fifth century, Augustine wrote that “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” How true! And how fruitful our reading of God’s Word is, both in public and in private, when we embrace this reality.