(see parts 1 and 2 of this series for fuller context)
Then, too, consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Perhaps you’ll want to read the section in my Pastoral Epistles for Pastors on this (pp.184-193). But let me make just a few observations here …
- “the public reading of Scripture” – more lit., “the reading” … it refers to the Jewish custom of reading the Scriptures aloud in the synagogue (cf. the only other usages in the NT: Acts 13:15; 2 Cor. 3:14). Paul views the public, corporate reading of Scripture as an indispensable part of the local church’s experience of worship and discipleship together.
- “to exhortation” – Thayer indicates that in this context it denotes an official “hortatory discourse” (p.483). This was a corporate experience of the local church, as the context makes clear. It is what we would call preaching.
- “to teaching” – The corporate “hortatory discourse” was not to be merely moral exhortation, but to include instruction as well. Gospel imperatives are based on gospel indicatives; gospel commands rest on gospel grace and that grace needs to be expounded upon so that commands can be rightly embraced.
- Paul charges Timothy, “devote yourself” to this. The present tense imperative demands this become the continual and ongoing and habitual preoccupation of Timothy.
- I’ll let you read the commentary on v.14 (lest this grows longer than it is already becoming!)
- Actually, I’ll let you do the same on vv.15-16 … except to draw attention to the present tense imperatives here. Paul does not leave this as an option … it must become the continuing, habitual, regular practice as Timothy leads the church in Ephesus …
- “Practice these things” –
- “immerse yourself in them” –
- “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” –
- “Persist in this” –
So this demonstrates that Paul was assuming the replication in the Christian church of the Jewish practice of regular, corporate reading of God’s Word followed by an unfolding of what that passage means and how it ought to apply to our lives (Psalm 119:130a). Perhaps we do not have many examples of this recorded for us in the NT because Paul was assuming its presence and necessity and thus felt it unnecessary to provide examples. Rather like some people want to argue that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. But He was assuming the previous Scripture’s instruction about it and, in the immediate context, did not feel it necessary to repeat what had already become the fixed belief of God’s people.