Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. Previous article in this series: February 1, 2007, p. 206.
One of the most important elements of worship is the reading of the Scriptures. Because God is the object of worship, His Word must be central. The reading of that Word should therefore be given a prominent place, and the people of God must see to it that they participate in it as much as in any other part of worship.
It ought to be obvious that the reading of Scripture belongs in worship. If the Bible is not read, then the church fails to worship God. How can He be praised if His Word is ignored? How can a church honor God if it does not hear and give attention to what He has to say?
The Scriptures themselves make this point clear. We read in Luke 4:16, for example, of Christ entering the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day and reading from the prophet Isaiah, after which He expounded the passage He had read. We are also told of the “reading of the law and the prophets” in the synagogue in Antioch (Acts 13:15). In addition to this, Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, gives specific command to the churches to read the Word of God (see Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27).
The faithful church of Christ, therefore, includes the Scripture reading in worship. The Bible is read in every service. A passage is read that is the basis of the preaching, and that usually contains the text for the sermon. In this way the Word of God is kept central in worship. The faithful church understands that it would be impossible to worship, or to have preaching, without the reading of God’s Word.
It should be noted that God’s Word, and the reading of it, are at the heart of all our worship. This is true of the votum, salutation, and blessing, as well as of the benediction, all of which amount to reading the Word of God. The same can be said of the congregational singing, and of the reading of the ten commandments of God’s law. And insofar as the congregational prayer is biblical, as it ought to be, it is also true of that part of worship as well. All these elements of worship constitute or involve the reading of Scripture.
It is important that God’s Word be read in worship because of what the Bible is.
The Bible is not simply a book like other books. It is not a manmade book. Nor is it simply a book that contains the words and ideas of some very pious and godly men. Nor is it a book, as some claim, that contains the words of God and the words of men. The Bible is the infallibly inspired Word of God.
The Scriptures are literally “God-breathed”—they came forth from God’s own mouth. We do not deny that God used men in the writing of His Word. But these men were directed by the Spirit to write only the words of God. They were holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Ghost (II Pet. 1:21). God, through the Spirit, put His Word in them. God then had them write, without error or addition, what He willed that His people hear from His mouth.
This is true of all Scripture. Every word of it is given by inspiration of God (II Tim. 3:16). God did not simply inspire parts of it. God did not simply inspire the ideas or concepts that are set forth in His Word. But He inspired every single word—yes, also the conjunctions and prepositions. It is not so, as some say, that God’s Word is inthe Bible, and can be found by figuring out what God said and what men said. Rather, the Bible is word for word the Word of God.
The reading of Scripture is important in worship also because of what the central message of the Bible is. The Scriptures reveal God to us as the God of our salvation. The central message and theme, which is set forth in every book, chapter, and verse of the Bible (including even the passages in which we cannot see it so clearly, such as the genealogies or the Old Testament laws), is the gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. By means of the reading of Scripture, therefore, the child of God is directed to Christ, in whom alone he has and finds hope and joy, comfort and peace.
Yet another reason why the reading of God’s Word is important in worship is that such reading is profitable for the believer. II Timothy 3:16 points this out, stating that Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. It is profitable for doctrine, for it sets forth the truth and thus shows us what we must know and believe. It is profitable for reproof, for it points out the errors in doctrine that we must refute and reject. It is profitable for correction, being the Word that points out our sins and calls us to turn from them. And it is profitable for instruction in righteousness, teaching us positively how to live lives that are pleasing to God.
God’s Word is profitable with regard to every area of our life on earth, and with regard to every aspect of life eternal. We therefore need it to be read in worship. It would not only be disobedient, but also foolish, if this were not done.
Because of what the Bible is, and because of the important place it occupies in the worship of the church and the life of the believer, it is both crucial and necessary to have a faithful translation of the Bible.
Out of the many translations that are available today, few are accurate. The main reason is that many are not word-for-word translations. Men have taken the liberty to translate ideas, instead of words. This has allowed for the corruption of the truth, and for the Bible to be rewritten to suit the thinking and ideas of men.
Although what was just said is not true of all translations, yet the one translation in which God’s Word is most faithfully preserved is the Authorized (or King James) Version. This is the best English translation available, especially because it is a faithful, word-for-word translation from the original.
It is this that the people of God need, so that when they read the Scriptures or hear them read, they can be confident they are reading or hearing the words of God. We do well, therefore, to continue using the King James Version, not giving in to the pressure to change over to a more modern translation.
The child of God must be actively worshiping God when the Scriptures are read.
Worship is activity. The worshiper must be actively involved in every part of it. Because of our sinful nature, there is a danger that we do not do this when the Bible is read. We simply hear words, or follow along without much thought. Though God Himself is speaking to us, we do not pay close attention. We fail to meditate upon the Word (Ps. 19:14). We fail to hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11).
To aid us in this element of worship, we ought to open our Bibles and follow along when Scripture is read. Parents should see to it that their children do the same.
Anyone who understands that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which reveals Him as the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, will want to hear every word God says. He will want this as much as he desires to hear the preaching. He understands that simply following the words mechanically and thoughtlessly is not enough. He therefore carefully considers every word that is read, and thus worships God “in spirit and in truth” during the reading of God’s Word. He makes it a spiritual activity. He reads and listens to God with his heart.
May we say from our hearts what Samuel said (I Sam. 3:9): “Speak LORD, for thy servant heareth!” Then God will be properly worshiped by us when His Scriptures are read