“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The public reading of Scripture should be a cornerstone in every church service. In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul tells Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and teaching.” The word ‘public’ is not mentioned in the original Greek text of this verse. However, its inclusion for the sake of the context is quite evident. The text includes the definite article before the word ‘reading’, and, therefore, must mean that this is to be a reading in public, along with the public exhortation and teaching of that Scriptural reading. Jewish synagogue services gave a significant portion of the service to the reading of the Scripture. This was, of course, before the invention of the printing press, so most homes then did not have access to the Scripture.
This is best seen in Luke 4:16-20 -
"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. "
With each of the steps outlined in 1 Timothy 4:13, Jesus publicly read the Scripture. He went on and used the Scripture to exhort the people and teach them. This is also descriptive of expository preaching. It is obvious that the public reading of Scripture and expository preaching go hand in hand.
The Bible regularly alludes to the early church reading the Scripture publicly. Acts 15:21 says, “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” The early church added the reading and teaching of the words of Jesus as can be seen in Acts 20:35, and the reading and teaching of the epistles of the apostles as can be seen in 2 Peter 3:15-16 (also cf. Acts 2:42; Col 4:16; 1 Thess 4:1-2; 5:27; 2 Thess 2:15).
The Carrying out of Scripture Reading in Our Church Services
Our services always include reading from the Scripture. The readings are typically consecutive, picking up the next week where the reading had previously left off; although there are times when we choose non-consecutive readings. Since we only have one prolonged time of Scripture reading during the service, we want to maintain a balance between Old and New Testament readings, so once we finish a book or section, we switch Testaments. We feel that this gives adequate weight to both Testaments as both are inspired by God and sufficient for the Christian life. We also want to emphasize that the public reading of Scripture is an important part of worship, not an interruption of worship. It is another way that we honor God in our services (obeying His commandments and giving a place of honor to His Word). Finally, it is another way during the service that we are instructed in the faith.