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Dec 11 Give attention to public reading

1 Tim 4:13 Until I come, give attention to~~ the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

A mature person does the right thing when no one is looking and is able to take the initiative for God on his own. Paul trusted young Timothy to do just that and establish the church in Ephesus.

Paul told the immature congregations, “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26). They needed to correct this confusion. Then, some ten or twelve years later, he told Timothy how to organize the congregational meetings: “give attention” to three primary activities, not to the exclusion of others, but as a priority. The verb for “give attention to” means literally “to hold the mind or the ear toward” a speaker. As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship on a specific course. In both cases, it is a concentrated effort.

The first focus of congregational meetings is on “the public reading of scripture.” By this time, most of Paul’s Epistles had been written, as well as the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and all the other epistles except John’s writings (his gospel, three epistles, and Revelation). These would not be written until around AD 90, or thirty years later. There were few copies of the texts, and many people were illiterate, so whatever was to be learned from God’s word had to be read to them and then explained.

This was also the practice in the Old Testament. Moses wrote, “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said,All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient’” (Ex 24:7). Joshua did the same: “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel” (Josh 8:35).

Following the reading of Scripture, the congregation was to hear the “exhortation” from the passage. The word means to “encourage, comfort, beseech or admonish.” The challenge to apply the New Testament commands and principles is the path to spiritual growth.

Finally, there must be “doctrine” (lit. “teaching”)—-that is, the explanation of the meaning of the text. The churches “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42), so with great care, the churches and small groups must be taught what to believe, why it is important, and how to apply it. Shouldn’t we do the same now?

“Lord, the delight of my life is publicly explaining Your word. Oh, that Your word would be listened to with earnest commitment!”

In order to practice this command today, I am going to . . . 

For a year’s daily devotional of these Bible studies, order a copy of the book Truths to Live By at Branches Publications for your copy.

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