The Word at the Center
Lord, I know You are a God who both comforts and confronts. Have Your way with me today.
Read 1 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:16
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The Bible …demands not only spiritual illumination but also a practical application of reverent and diligent study methods in order to master its diversified subjects, as well as its unified message” (Stephen Olford).
The writer of a recent newspaper article suggested that the average length of a church sermon is now a mere 12 minutes. Paul wouldn’t have been impressed! In his urgent desire to see the Church sustain its course according to true teaching and gospel priorities, he places Scripture at the center.
First, “command and teach these things” (4:11), an emphasis which occurs many times in the letter. This sums up the instructions Paul gave Timothy which he was to pass on to the church in Ephesus. He is to teach Paul’s teaching. Second, he should devote himself to “the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (13). The reading of scripture, already part of Christian worship, had been adopted from the Jewish synagogue, and it should have a central place in every Christian community. Scripture reading broadens the understanding of the congregation and prepares them for its exposition. Next, preaching and teaching are essential. (There is much overlap between these two words in the New Testament). How else can sound doctrine be presented and false teaching refuted? If the Church is to be healthy, and Christian disciples mature, Scripture reading, preaching and teaching need to take center stage.
The point of the passage is this: God’s Word must be at the center, not the periphery. It is a serious issue: Timothy was urged to “devote” himself to this (13), and to “be diligent in these matters” (15). We must look for the same commitment in our churches. And in case we should think that Bible knowledge alone is sufficient, once again the passage presses home the importance of consistent behavior: “set an example … in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (12); “watch your life and doctrine” (16).
What role does scripture reading play in your life? In the life of your church? Could/should it be greater?
Mighty God, renew my love for the Scriptures. Quicken my desire to obey Your word and to see its truth actualized in all areas of my life.