Teaching, Preaching, and Reading Scripture is Worship
From the very day the church was established, preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ has been a fundamental part of Christian worship. Some have objected to preaching as an act of worship, but Paul viewed his own preaching as a form of worship comparable to the priestly duties carried out in the tabernacle or temple under the Law of Moses. To the church in Rome, Paul stated, “But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given to me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles, might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:15, 16).
The entire passage is written in priestly language as Paul is purposefully drawing from the familiar Old Testament temple service to make a point. Paul is presenting himself as a priest, offering up the Gentiles as an acceptable offering to God. The Greek word leitourgos, rendered “minister,” is the same word used in the Greek Septuagint to describe the activity of the ancient priest serving in the tabernacle. The word hierourgeo, translated “ministering as a priest” is defined by Vine as “to minister in priestly service.” In his notes on this word, Vine comments: “The apostle uses words proper to the priestly and Levitical ritual, to explain metaphorically his own priestly service.” The “offering” (prosphera) denotes the action involved in presenting a gift to God, which in Paul’s case was the Gentiles through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul viewed his preaching to be equal with the worship activity conducted under the Mosaic Law.
The church at Troas was blessed by a visit from the apostle Paul, who, although arriving on the second day of the week, tarried for seven days that he might worship with the church when they assembled on the following first day of the week to observe the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:6, 7). Paul preached to the assembled church throughout the night, even until daybreak (v. 11). How unfortunate we are to live at a time when the entire worship of the church is often confined to a single hour of the day. May God bless those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, longing to be fed in “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
The content of sound preaching must derive from the Holy Scriptures, not Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, or Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus. The Scriptures alone, inspired by God, are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16). Available time for preaching the gospel should not be wasted on Governmental Affairs, Philosophical discussion, or any other topic not germane to the salvation of mankind. The gravity of preaching the gospel must be carefully weighed, and the devout preacher will ensure that the mind of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures comes in contact with the minds of the audience gathered to listen. The gospel – minus all else – is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The ego often needs to be seated while the word of God is allowed to perform its amazing work in the hearts of lost men and women.
As with all leadership roles in the worship of the church, the work of preaching, teaching, and reading publicly from the Scriptures is restricted to the male Christians. Paul writes, “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (I Corinthians 14:34, 35). Writing to Timothy, he expands the thought, saying, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (I Timothy 2:12-14).
The arguments made by the apostle are impossible of reconciliation with the modern feminist movement’s claim that this teaching was simply for “local cultural considerations.” The subordinate role of women is grounded in timeless concepts, revealed absolutely in the Mosaic Law, but reaching even to the creation of mankind. Paul bases his teaching (which are “the commandments of the Lord,” I Corinthians 14:37) on transcultural facts, demonstrating the restrictions placed upon women are permanently binding and authoritative.
The tremendous respect the church should have for the authority of the Scriptures is witnessed in Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (I Timothy 4:13). Some versions of the Bible simply state, “give attendance to reading” (KJV), but the Greek anagnosis is defined as “the public ‘reading’ of Scripture” (Vine, 1996). Vine specifically mentions the current text under consideration, explaining: “the context makes clear that the reference is to the care required in reading the Scriptures to a company, a duty ever requiring the exhortation ‘take heed.’” (Ibid.). Vincent also states that the verb anagnosis is used “usually of public reading” (2001).
This is the reason Paul concludes the admonition, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (I Timothy 4:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ must be heard and obeyed (Matthew 7:24-27), and the church must take serious the charge of preaching the gospel to the lost, for if the body of Christ will not preach the gospel, who else will? The church today is in error if the preaching, teaching, and public reading of the Scriptures are forsaken.
Further still, the body of Christ in worship needs to be constantly reminded of the eternal truths contained in the Holy Scriptures. Apathy sets into the heart slowly, and apostasy rarely occurs overnight. Rather, it creeps up by seconds, turns into minutes, eventually becoming hours, days, and years. When those years have ceased in eternity, it will be too late for the remedy to be heard. Have you heard the word of God lately?
Vincent, Marvin Richardson (2001), Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament (Oak Harbor, WA:
Logos Research Systems).
Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White (1996), Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old
and New Testament Words: with Topical Index (Nashville: T. Nelson).