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Why Read So Much Bible in the Worship Service?

The reading of Scripture is prominent in our worship service from beginning to end. Passages of Scripture are read for the call to worship, the confession of sin, the declaration of God’s forgiveness, as well as the sermon text reading and an additional Scripture reading every week (currently we are reading through 1 Timothy). Why give so much prominence to the reading of a book, most of which was written over two thousand years ago?

First, we read the Bible because it is absolutely central to our lives as Christians. We simply cannot be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be without continually growing in the knowledge and understanding of the word. If we want to know the God we worship, and if we want to know how to live a life that is pleasing to him, we must know the word. As Jesus said “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from my heavenly Father.” The word of God encourages, challenges, and equips us to mature in our faith. As Paul wrote to Timothy “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” Psalm 119 is devoted to adoring the word of God, and declares that it is a “lamp to our feet, and a light to our path.” In short, a failure to know the word will impoverish us spiritually and keep us from being the people that God has called us to be. Sadly, Biblical illiteracy is a huge problem in contemporary American Christianity. There are too many Christians who, although they have a high view of the Bible, never read it and therefore have very little idea what it teaches. One way to address this problem is to make sure that churches give attention to the reading of the word. After all, Paul instructs Timothy to “devote himself to the public reading of the word,” which implies that the reading of Scripture was to be staple of the early church worship services (1 Tim 4:13, emphasis added). And this is how it should be, of course. If you can’t hear the reading of the word of Christ in the Church of Christ, where else will you hear it?

Second, we read the word because the word is powerful. God says incredible things about the sheer power of his word. He declares through the prophet Isaiah: “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” (Isa 55:11). In like manner, God speaks through Jeremiah “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer 23:29). The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Thus, the Bible is not a dead written word, relevant only thousands of years ago, it is very much alive and powerful today. God sends out his Spirit with his word, and it becomes the primary means by which God builds us up and strengthens us in our faith.