This past Sunday, our church began an expository study of 1 Peter. I spent two-thirds of the sermon (30 min) giving an overview of the purpose and two of the main themes of the book; suffering and hope. For the remainder of our time (15 min), I simply read through 1 Peter.
That may seem to be an odd and unusual way to spend the time allotted for a sermon. I shared with our congregation the following 4 reasons why I believe that reading through the epistle was a worthy exercise.
Our goal is to study through 1 Peter together, verse-by-verse. The best way to get to know a book is to read it. Especially after providing an overview, as you follow along and hear the words of this letter, you will be able to see the connections being made between suffering and God’s purposes, suffering and hope, doctrine and application. You will learn much by simply having it read to you.
This exercise is exactly how Peter’s letter was first received. Someone from these churches would receive Peter’s letter, the church would gather on the Lord’s Day, probably in someone’s home, and someone, probably the teaching pastor, would read Peter’s letter to the gathered believers. My point is that, as we receive the letter by hearing it read today, it is just as relevant to our lives, in our suffering, as it was to those first hearers! Let us cling to every word we hear, just as they would have done. For just like them, it is God’s Word to us through His apostle.
Paul tells Timothy in 1 Tim 4:13 to give yourself to the public reading of Scripture. We are following Paul’s admonition by the public reading of an entire NT book. The Word is going to minister to us today in the form of reading.
I wholeheartedly believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. I believe that as we read through this letter, as you follow along and read the words, as you listen to the words read, the Holy Spirit is going to illuminate the Scripture and teach you and He is going to open your heart and make good application. That is not to take away from the preaching of God’s Word. Pastors are called to teach the Word, to explain its meaning and make application. The Spirit blesses and uses the preaching of the Word. It is to be the normal pattern of exultation. Reading the Scripture, then, is not meant to undermine the preaching of Scripture but rather to elevate the importance and value of public Scripture reading.
So how did it go? Well, I don’t think I caught anyone sleeping!! Actually, the comments I received indicated that many people were refreshed by simply sitting under the reading of the Word. In fact, a couple of people shared with me some of the specific applications that the Spirit made in their lives! Very encouraging.
How do you go about reading large portions of Scripture as part of worship?
For me, the best time for this type of exercise is when you are introducing a new book study. It makes sense to read through a book before you begin to dissect it. This means that reading a large portion of Scripture as part of the sermon would only occur 1 or 2 times each year for our church.
You must read with emphasis. Monotone will not be beneficial at all! If these are the words of LIFE, they should be read as such!
Read with proper emphasis. Highlight connections, transitions, contrasts, applications, the glories of Christ, etc. with raised voice, lowered voice, pointed speech. Bring out the meaning of the text through the dramatic reading of the text. In other words, don’t just read loud and fast all the way through! Use your voice to show where the author is making his points. This is especially helpful in understanding the flow of thought. Your congregation will learn much about the book before you even teach a single verse just because of the way you read it to them.
Be Christo-centric just like Scripture! Christ is the focal point, the summit of Scripture, so when the Scripture speaks of Christ, read it as if Christ and what He has done for us is all that matters!! Because - that is true!
May the Lord richly bless the public reading of His precious, inerrant, eternal Word over His people to their growth in Christ, to the building up of the Body of Christ, to the drawing of unbelievers, to the glory of God the Father!