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Essential Elements of Public Worship: Scripture Reading

Among Ryle’s essential parts of public worship is the public reading of the Holy Scriptures.


This was evidently a part of the service of the Jewish synagogue, as we may learn from what happened at Nazareth, and at Antioch in Pisidia (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15). We cannot doubt that the Christian church was intended to honour the Bible as much as the Jewish. To my eye St Paul points to this when he says to Timothy, ‘Till I come give attention to reading’ (1 Tim. 4:13). I do not believe that ‘reading’ in that text means ‘private study’. Reason and common sense alike teach the usefulness of the practice of publicly reading the Scriptures. A visible church will always contain many professing members who either cannot read, or have no will or time to read at home. What safer plan can be devised for the instruction of such people than the regular reading of God’s Word? A congregation which hears but little of the Bible is always in danger of becoming entirely dependent on its minister. God should always speak in the assembly of his people as well as man.

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 322–323.

In a footnote to this paragraph, Ryle (an Anglican) says,

There is nothing in the public worship of the Church of England which I admire so much as the large quantity of Scripture which it orders to be read aloud to its members. Every Churchman who goes to church twice on Sunday hears two chapters of the Old Testament and two of the New, beside the Psalms, the Epistle, and the Gospel. I doubt if the members of any other Church in Christendom hear anything like the same proportion of God’s word.

Well, I don’t know about churches of the mid-nineteenth century, but I know I’ve never been in a church that read much Scripture beyond the sermon text. I wouldn’t become an Anglican (especially these days) to have that, but I would like to see how a little liturgical Scripture reading would enhance the worship service. It surely could not hurt.

Posted 2017·06·23 by David Kjos
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