Well by now you should be anticipating what the next topic for my “pastor’s ponderings” will be, if you have not figured it out yet, I’m going in order through our order of worship and commenting on each of the things we do in worship. For this Beacon I’m going to discuss the Scripture reading that comes immediately following the assurance of pardon.
Why do we read Scripture in the worship service other than what is going to be preached? That is an excellent question that I have been asked before and I’m going to do my best to answer it in the following few paragraphs. There are those who would argue that reading a whole chapter of Scripture that stands alone without comment or exposition is tedious and unfruitful. Yet I disagree, because the word of God says of itself in Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
This word of God is, in-and-of-itself, powerful as it is applied to our hearing by the Holy Spirit. That is summed up nicely in the Westminster Larger Catechism, question 155: How is the word made effectual to salvation? Answer: The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
Now, I realize you may be saying, “wait a minute, that is talking about the word read and especially the word preached. We are talking about the word read only.” Yes that is true, I’m speaking of the word read only, however, let me point out to you the fact that I do not have the luxury of time to preach long sections of Scripture as I would like. I only preach to the congregation one time a week and I do my best to bring you sound biblical exposition of the book that we are going through. It took us almost two years to get through Acts. It has been a year since I began preaching through John and we are just now on chapter 8. Frankly, I don’t think that is enough exposure to the Scripture in the worship service.
It may surprise you to know that in the past three years we have read through the book of 1 Samuel, all of the Pauline Epistles (13), Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. Before long we’ll have been through all the books of the New Testament with the exception of the Gospels and Revelation. That is a significant chunk of Scripture. It is good for you to be exposed to it. Why? One, it builds your ability to listen and focus. Two, to a lesser degree than preaching but still in a very powerful way, it does all the things spoken of in the catechism question above. Take some time to reread that question and answer.
In the Directory for Worship which our church has adopted as part of our Book of Church Order, the public reading of Scripture is described as follows: “through it God speaks most directly to the congregation, even more directly than through the sermon.” Wow, that is a strong statement. If that is true, then of course as a pastor, I want you to get good doses of the public reading of Scripture each week. When we finish our New Testament readings we will go back to the Old Testament and pick up our reading there. The desire is that we be well-rounded, biblically literate Christians. You cannot be that if you are not well familiar with Scripture. To that end we will continue our weekly reading and I encourage you to spend time in the Scriptures daily. You may do well to prepare for worship by reviewing the Scripture reading for the day. Bathe yourself in the word of God and you will not be disappointed, soak up all you can, it will serve you well.