The preacher is to give himself to reading.
This refers, first of all, to the public reading of the Scriptures. Reading, exhortation, and doctrine are public ministries. “Reading” is “anagnosis,” which refers to reading out loud. “Philip heard him read” (Ac. 8:28). It is used for the reading of Scripture in the synagogues (Lu. 4:16; Ac. 13:7; 15:21; 2 Co. 3:15) and in the churches (Col. 4:16; 1 Th. 5:27). Timothy lived before printing. Believers typically did not have a copy of the full Old Testament, since it was handwritten and expensive. And even individual portions were large and bulky. The Great Isaiah Scroll discovered in the Dead Sea caves is 24 feet long. Even today when every believer can easily have his own copy of the Bible, pubic reading is important. Our church reads a chapter of Scripture in every main service. The reading should be careful and pious. The Bible should be read “distinctly” (Ne. 8:8). It should not be rushed. The reading should be serious and purposeful rather than perfunctory. The reading should be dynamic, because it is the reading of the living and powerful Word of God. The reading should be “in color rather than black and white.” John Jowett said, “You should have heard Spurgeon read the Psalms! It is a mighty experience when a passage is so read that it becomes the sermon” (The Preacher: His Life and Work, 1912). Public Bible reading is something that should be practiced much. The readers should be carefully chosen and trained. In the early centuries, Bible readers were called anagnostes, for the Greek word used in 1 Ti. 4:13. And the people must be attentive to the reading of Scripture (Ne. 8:3). The atmosphere must be conducive to hearing God’s Word, meaning there are no unnecessary distractions, no unnecessary talking, going in and out, etc. The people must be taught to be attentive when the Word of God is read, to follow along in their Bibles, to focus their attention on God’s Words. We must take heed that the reading of God’s Word does not become a mere ritual.
Second, personal Bible reading is a fundamental element the Christian life and ministry. The first way to understand the Bible is simply to read it and read it and read it. It should be read as a whole, meaning there should be a plan to read it through once a year or even more frequently, so that the student can get hold of the “big picture” and can keep all of the Bible’s teaching fresh in his mind. It must must read prayerfully and with concentration.
Third, the habit of reading in general is essential for the effectual preacher. Reading is the key to learning. It is the key to being an autodidact or self-educator. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) had no advanced education, but he read 6 books a week. He was reading deep theological books by Puritans by age 10. B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) read history, all history, ancient, mediaeval, modern, civil, political and religious; biography and autobiography he absolutely devoured. He read all science, all romance, all poetry. For at least sixty of his seventy-one years, he averaged reading 300 pages a day. ... He always read history with a map before him.” He told one young preacher, “My boy, you are in great danger. You have no library and do not read.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “I have known men in the ministry, and men in various other walks of life who stop reading when they finish their training. they think they have acquired all they need; they have their lecture notes, and nothing further is necessary. The result is that they vegetate and become quite useless. Keep on reading” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 177). (For more about practical lessons about the preacher and his study, see the course The Preacher’s Preaching, which is scheduled for publication by Way of Life Literature in 2019.)
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