Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13, ESV)
The public reading of scripture was of such importance to Paul that he told Timothy to devote himself to it. It’s clear from the context that Paul was telling Timothy to read large sections of scripture and teach and plead with the people on what was being read. Paul was not telling Timothy to decide what he wanted to give a sermon on and then choose 3 or 4 scriptures to back up what he was teaching on.
My oldest daughter is taking a comparative religions class in college and as part of her assignments has had to attend a Jewish synagogue and a Catholic church service. This morning was the day she needed to attend the Catholic service, so her and I attended a service at the Catholic church in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. We had never attended a Catholic service. I’ve spent most of my life in a couple of Pentecostal denominations and have pretty much raised my kids likewise.
As probably most people are aware, a Catholic service contains a lot of rituals, common prayers, and the like. In other words, the service is more formal than anything I’ve ever been a part of. We saw a lot of different things this morning. Much of it I was expecting, like the huge backlit Virgin Mary statue hovering over the platform…..at least 3 times the size of the Jesus below her.
The one thing we say that I wasn’t expecting, however, was the large amount of scripture being read. There were large portions from Acts, 1 Timothy, and 1 John. For lack of better words, the priest read and explained at length the entire chapter of 1 John 1.
I spent eight out of the last ten years in one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. A denomination that prides itself in the inerrancy of scripture. As well, I spent a great part of the last two years searching for a new church home. We tried all kinds of churches in our journey. The one thing that stood out in our church search was the almost complete lack of exactly what Paul instructed Timothy to do….the public reading of scripture.
Now I know if any of those pastors of the churches we’ve attended were asked, they would be certain that they were devoting themselves to the public reading of scripture and teaching. But they weren’t. Sadly, neither are very many in the U.S. churches of today. A 45 minute sermon where a few scriptures are used to explain or back up what you are teaching is not teaching through scripture.
Obviously, I’m not advocating the beliefs of the Catholic church. Their beliefs regarding salvation, the Pope’s earthly role, the forgiveness of sins, among others are just plain unbiblical. However, I listened intently to the priest’s teaching on 1 John, chapter 1, and it was pretty spot on.
It’s a pretty sad testament to the state of the American church when I heard more scripture being read and explained verse-by-verse in a Catholic church than can be heard in the overwhelming majority of Evangelical churches in America today. How can we expect anything else other than unbiblical nonsense when the shepherds of God’s flock won’t allow almost as much of God’s written word to flow from their mouths as their own words?
If Paul said not to neglect the public reading of scripture, then why is your pastor or church doing it?
Just for your entertainment pleasure, below is a typical example of a sermon outline used in churches that have been trained by Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren in Southern California. This sermon delivery method is designed to be focused on the felt needs of the congregation rather than the true biblical Gospel. Notice how little of the Word of God is used. Remember, this is basically a 45-minute sermon that is used to teach a subject of the pastor’s choosing with Bible verses used to back up his teaching.