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 public 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 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. A prominent feature of the old Niagara Bible Conferences, which began in 1883, were Bible readings that consisted of Scripture passages collated on various subjects, such as Christ’s Second Coming and separation from the world. A pastor friend turned his Sunday School into a “Bible Reading Hour” and read through the entire Bible from the pulpit. He said, “It transformed the spiritual life and Bible knowledge of all those that attended, and folks didn’t want to miss an hour.” The reading should be “distinctly” (Ne. 8:8). The reading should be loud and clear so that every word can be easily heard. The reading should not be rushed. It should be serious and purposeful rather than perfunctory. The reading should be dynamic, because it is 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). The Bible readers should be carefully chosen and trained. In the early centuries, Bible readers were called anagnostes, for the Greek word used in 1 Timothy 4:13. They must practice to perfect their reading. And the people must be trained to be attentive to the reading of Scripture (Ne. 8:3). An atmosphere must be created that is conducive to hearing God’s Word, meaning there are no unnecessary distractions, no 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. This is the how we honor God. We must take heed that the reading of God’s Word does not become a mere ritual.
Second, this refers to personal Bible reading, which is a fundamental element the Christian life and ministry. Before the Word is read publicly, it must be read privately. 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. Paul was a reader. Even in his old age and knowing that his martyrdom was near, he said to Timothy, “bring the books” (2 Ti. 4:13). Reading is the key to learning. It is the key to being an autodidact or self-educator. 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” (Dr. B.H. Carroll, the Colossus of Baptist History). Carroll 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 late 2020.)
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Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.
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