Why Read the Bible at Church?
Why Read the Bible at Church?
By Anne Backer
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV
Have you ever attended a wedding and found yourself at the end of the evening without so much as a glance at the bride and groom? Not once witnessing the bride in her full white dress at the altar? Not once catching the groom in his svelte black tux cutting his dance moves on the polished wood floor?
No, probably not, because to attend a wedding ceremony and not once lay your eyes on the bride and groom would be to miss the integral component of that day—the union of these two people. You would, dare I say, miss the centerpiece of the event.
I use this illustration loosely to demonstrate that if we are a church that does not read Scripture aloud during our Sunday gatherings (or our weekly Citygroup gatherings), then we are a church that misses entirely the centerpiece of why we gather.
All Scripture is Profitable
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes that “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Firstly, in this passage, Paul does not stress the importance of the human writers of Scripture but the importance and the origin of the Scripture: God Himself. The divine origin of Scripture is the reason it is so powerful, everlasting (“heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” Matthew 24:35), and life-saving. We read Scripture at church because we come to church to hear from God and worship Him.
Secondly, the word ‘all’ is used in 2 Timothy to affirm that every book and every verse is from God. Even the books of the bible that sound old and antiquated, the passages that seem obscure, the chapters that we would rather skim over than dive into—all of these are profitable for us.
Thirdly, in these verses, God gives four reasons, or benefits, for reading His Word: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. To the first audience reading this (who would have known only the Old Testament), this would have been how God taught them His redemptive story, rebuked them through the prophets when His people rebelled, corrected and re-aligned their hearts to His with the Psalms and Proverbs, and trained them in righteousness by providing the answer to His redemptive plan: Jesus. To Christians today, God uses His divine, powerful Word in many ways to teach us, rebuke us, correct our ways, and train us in righteousness. God’s Holy Word tells of His rescue story, all of it leading, foreshadowing, and pointing toward Jesus, our redeemer and rescuer.
It is for our gain to know, read, and understand Scripture. When we read Scripture, God is making us complete and equipping us, as written in 2 Timothy.
Scripture Brings Life and Growth
This passage in the New Testament echoes the words God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 55, quoted above. God promises that just as water rains down and leaves the earth a tangible result, “so shall be my word that goes out from my mouth.”
Rain brings life and growth to an otherwise dry and barren land. God’s words to us do the same. We do the physical act of reading the words, and He does a subsequent physical act in us. In addition, in Isaiah 55, God tells us that His word does not return to Him empty. Through His Word, He can bless us, provide for us, and grow us, thereby accomplishing that which He planned. In this way, God is glorified through us reading Scripture.
If, then, all Scripture is from God Himself, if all Scripture is profitable, if we are to use it for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training, if it is the means to make us complete and equipped for every good work, if it is like the much-needed moisture to a drought-stricken land, then why wouldn’t we place Scripture at the center of our Sunday gathering?
Jesus’s command in 1 Timothy 4:13 is: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Likewise, Providence church believes that the church should encourage, exhort, and teach others with the use of Scripture. They create this space in the form of: weekly gatherings of citygroups, having a church member stand before the church to read aloud His word, worship through music and voice, call to worship, communion, and the closing benediction. In each of these aspects of our church, Scripture is read, sung, or spoken aloud, because God’s Holy Word is the reason, or centerpiece of, why we gather. Scripture, “breathed out by God”, is how we hear truth, how we align our hearts with His, how we recognize our sins, and how we experience the grace given us by His son, Jesus Christ.