"Give attention to reading ..." (1 Tim. 4:13)
We all too easily take for granted the privilege of having the very words of God given to us in the Bible. "Thus says the Lord" or its equivalents are used hundreds of times in the Old Testament to remind us that, in Holy Scripture, we are not reading the words of mere men, but the word of God. In the New Testament, the written words of the apostles are equated with Scripture (see 2 Peter 3:15–16), thus confirming their uniqueness as inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16–17). God's people are never to forget that one of their greatest benefits is to have the word of God (Deut. 4:8; Rom. 3:1–2).
That being the case, God has always made provision that his word be read publicly in the gatherings of his people (e.g. Josh. 8:33–35; 2 Kings 23:2; Neh. 9:3). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul specifically required this of young minister Timothy (and, hence, of all ministers following him) by telling him to "give attention to reading" (I Tim. 4:13). Most commentators agree that this does not refer to Timothy's personal reading of the Scriptures (although he was also to give attention to that, so that he would be "rightly dividing the word of truth" [2 Tim. 2:15]), but rather to his public reading of the Word of God in the gathered assemblies of God's people.
Throughout the history of the church, both the reading and the preaching of the Word of God have been guarded and esteemed as the main means by which Christ feeds his flock and calls them to repentance and faith. During the Middle Ages, the "Mass" replaced these elements of worship as the central focus of worship. The Protestant Reformers revived the pattern of the ancient church and once again made the reading and the preaching of the Word of God the prominent elements of Christian worship.
Throughout the week, we are bombarded with the contradictory opinions of mere human beings. We become confused. How important it is to read the Word of God for ourselves daily, and also to read it in family worship. But there is something distinctly powerful when the minister of the Word reads the Word of God in worship, reminding us that over against every word of man is a powerful and life-changing "Thus says the Lord!"
The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, October 2007. First article in series. Index.