03 March 2009

Bible reading — in church

by Dan Phillips

Among the exhortations the apostle fires off to Timothy in a staccato burst is this: "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13). If the last two facets describe preaching (and, I think, they do), the first describes the reading of Scripture to the congregation.

Mull that over for a moment. We have direct apostolic authority to read the Bible as part of our church service.

Now, we have often stressed the importance of preaching. Rightly so (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-2). Preaching is primary, and must be Biblical, passionate, truthful, and Christ-centered. It takes hard work. It takes years of preparation and hours of intensive labor that involves the whole man.

Others have made the point that communion shouldn't be a haphazard little addendum to the service. It shouldn't have the feel of an unrelated appendix. It's a gift of God, Christ is present to bless believing obedience (John 13:17) — it matters. And the same is said for corporate prayer. All of these activities have direct apostolic authority, and must be undertaken before God with reverence and thoughtful devotion.

But I think Bible reading gets relatively short shrift.

I think some churches just pick some guy who doesn't have anything else to do, and ask him to read... so that he has something to do. They give this guy — we'll call him "Guy" — his passage whenever he arrives at church. Sometimes, the first time Guy sees the passage is when he steps into the pulpit to read.

And it shows. Oh my, it shows. No impassioned prophetic plea disturbs Guy's monotone, no heart-pounding narrative disrupts Guy's stolid pace... though he may well be brought to a dead halt by Mephibosheth, Shealtiel, or Mahanaim.

My brothers, these things ought not to be! Since an apostle commands devotion to public reading, we should give no less proportional thought and deliberation to it than to those other activities. It's important, it matters; the way we do it says something. Let's be sure it says what it ought to say!

I went on about this at some meandering length at my blog. Here, let me just offer a few brief, specific pointers.
  1. Always practice reading the passage aloud. This may be the most important single pointer. What works inside your head may not get out your mouth, intact. So give it a go, at least once.
  2. Make sure you understand the passage. That's why, given the option, I always do my own reading. Ostensibly I've studied it, pored over it, marinated my soul in it. I should be ready to read the passage with thought and meaning and proper emphasis. Of course, it isn't a necessity that the preacher also be the reader. But the reader of the passage should first have been a student of the passage.
  3. Don't rush it. It is an important part of the service. God is speaking to His people. It's not a box to check on the way to the Real Deal. This is the Word of God.
  4. Read it with life. The last thing a Bible reading should feel like is lifeless and bloodless and monotonous. "Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet" (Isaiah 58:1) would be good counsel to the man who reads stirring, passionate passages in assembly. No need for histrionics; but no excuse for soporifics. These are the words of God! Our readings should never sound like Ben Stein ("Beulah? Beulah?").
  5. Know how to pronounce difficult words or names. There are plenty of dictionaries. Or, you can ask an authority. Zurishaddai, Kiriath-jearim, or Magor-missabib are just as much part of the inspired text as grace, forgiveness, or love. If they're in the portion you're to read, that's your ministry today. Say them with equal clarity.
  6. Read the psalm titles. If your assignment is to read Psalm 32 or 51 or 90, read the title. I was cheered to hear the great Bruce Waltke say (far better) what I've also said for years: the titles and ascriptions (and notations) are as much a part of the text as the rest, and there is no historical reason for rejecting them. They're part of the text we have as the word of God. In Hebrew, the title often is verse one. Skipping the title isn't reading the psalm. Don't leave off part of the Word.
What if you just can't? What if public reading just isn't something you can do? Then I'd just suggest, kindly, that not everything is for everyone. It's really okay. In fact, it's by design (cf. Romans 12:6a; 1 Corinthians 12:12). I'll never be church accountant! It's a vital ministry, but I can't do it. I may do Numbers, but I don't do numbers. Maybe you don't "do" reading. Then (unless you're the pastor) don't.

But if you do....

Is that the great King's word you have in your hands? Are you about to relay His words to His people? Are these words of life and death, of pardon and judgment? Does eternity hang in the balance? Is that what you believe?

Then leave us in no doubt of it. Show us!

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

FWIW, sometimes when I write, I have specific instances in mind. This time, I really don't. Just a firsthand and second-hand observation from 36 years of churchgoing and church-knowing.

lee n. field said...

Amen to all you have said. The more the better. Nehemiah read from morning til noon, with the people standing.

In our church, there isn't any separate scripture reading, just whatever bits and pieces come up during the sermon (which, last Sunday, was this, delivered straight: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=126522 ). < sigh>.

donsands said...

"Then I'd just suggest, kindly, that not everything is for everyone. It's really okay."

I remember when my pastor asked me to read Scripture during a Christmas Eve service. I relunctantly did. I was quite inept, but I managed to get through it. Right after I did my Ben Stein delivery, my pastor was in the pulpit speaking to the congregation, and I realized in even a greater way how gifted this man was in speaking the Word with authority and confidence. I made him shine a bit brighter for the Lord I thought.

Since then I have learned to stay out of the pulpit. And it's alright.

The other part of that is that I become very nervous standing up in front of the congrgation. I know I shouldn't be, but I am for some reason.

I'm fine in a Bible class, or Bible group, but there's something about standing in front of a church that makes my knees shake.

heath lloyd said...

While in seminary, Haddon Robinson came and lectured us about preaching. One thing he said that I've never forgotten - why not stand up one Lord'S Day and read an entire epistle? Robinson said, what Paul had to say to the Ephesians is more important than your stories.
He really hammered on what you write about here. Thanks for the exhortation.

Anonymous said...

It's like the situation where the person randomly opens Scripture:

"And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:5

And then this same person randomly turns to another verse:

"And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Luke 10:37

Now, on a more serious note, I recently had a moment where I had very little preperation, yet God specifically told me to read a verse that convicted me. Nevertheless, it was I verse I was familar with, I just hadn't considered it's implications.

In any case, you're right Dan. The more study the better. "Be prepared to preach in and out of season"
2 Timothy 4:2

God bless

Anonymous said...

This was a specifically important post for me, as I might be doing scripture reading soon.

When you state that "there are plenty of dictionaries" for pronouncing the hard words, do you have some specific examples for someone new at this like me?

FX Turk said...

Two years ago, we opened our Christmas morning service with a reading of this harmony of Scripture -- and my pastor was kind enough to ask me to read it.

In order to read that 20 minutes of Scripture, I prepared a musical bed of instrumental carols and hymns over which I read the selections.

All told, it took me 20 hours to prepare for that reading. I wish I had recorded it. I also wish we had recorded the silence which followed.

There is absolutely no substitute for the reading of God's word out loud as if it were true. Somehow this is lost on even the most ardent inerrantist.

Dan's post here is probably the most important we've made in a long time, and I credit him for it.

DJP said...

Rob, the old ISBE is online, and should be of help. Others may have better suggestions.

Paul said...

Amen and amen.

However, possibly as bad are people who've 'practised' a little bit and who suddenly sound a lot posher, and boom out words very slowly with little sense of the passage's rhythm.

You know... "And... the... Looooooord... Gaaaawd... of... (extra long pause)... Israel (said extra boomy) etc.

You may not have this problem in America but we do in England.

Back when churches first were allowed copies of the English Bible, Bible-shouters were employed to shout out God's word to the people (since they couldn't all read at once, or at all). They would shout all day long- even through the sermons, reportedly. Everyone wanted to hear God's word much more than the feeble preachers.

Anonymous said...

Good thought, Dan. Last year we changed things up a bit at our church and had one service that was in depth expository preaching thru 2 Kings, that a team of us worked on exegeting together. And then one of us would read the passage on Sunday morning to the congregation (while they stood in reverence for the Word). So we really owned the passage, and that came across in our public reading of it. And the response of the people in the pews was overwhelmingly positive.

geekforgreek said...

With regard to the Psalms -- Dr. Waltke also makes a compelling case that there are superscripts and postscripts, with our modern translations having mistakenly associated postscripts with the following Psalm as part of the superscript.

DJP said...

And so, the answer to my internal question is, "Eleven comments."


DJP said...

(We have very smart readers. It keeps me on my toes, and I'm very grateful for that!)

The Blainemonster said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Would somebody please start showing some thoughtful reverence for God's powerful Word!

I have found that there is a profound response in God's people when Scripture is read publicly in our church, and read with dignity, feeling, understanding . . .well, all those things you said. Isn't that why we assemble? To hear the Voice of the Shepherd to His collective sheep?

Great post.

Strong Tower said...

Guy! No body remembers Guy! What's his last name. No body remembers his last name, he's just brother number six. You want to know why no one remembers Guy's last name? Cuz he always dies before the first commercial.... mommy!

Solameanie said...

This is a wonderful post! Praise God!

David Rudd said...

good post dan. if you don't mind, a modified version of this will go in our worship gathering handbook, to be read by those who handle the weekly readings.

DJP said...

In principle I'm very much fine with it; it's the "modified" that concerns me. As a rule, I OK anyone using anything as long as the source is credited. If you're going to modify it, I'd just ask you please to run it past me. Sound fair?

JackW said...

Interesting you should bring this us Dan. I’ve recently had a little different perspective from listening and enjoying the way that Alistair Begg reads scripture. Aside from the fact that he has a real cool accent, he reads the word with a slow even cadence without emphasizing anything. His opening prayer is usually to ask that God’s word be revealed and presented without human contamination. I speculate that he reads the word that way for the same purpose. I think I admire that more than people who try emphasize whatever they think needs to be enhanced or not.

DJP said...

Obviously, I wouldn't agree with that philosophy.

But you do remind me of a crucial pointer I left out:

Read it in a British accent! Or Scottish, if you can!

Whew. There. I feel much better!

beachbirdie said...

In recent weeks I twice visited a church pastored by my neighbor. It is an Evangelical church, of Arminian leanings.

I was greatly impressed by my neighbor's handling of the Word. We stood for the reading of a passage, and he admonished people to put their pens, bulletins, any other distractions aside. He then (though he shouldn't have had to) admonished everyone to turn off their cell phones and be respectful and attentive to the reading. He then proceeded to read, with (as you suggested) life!

It's been a long time since I've seen that much care given to the public reading of God's word.

David Rudd said...


that seems reasonable. thanks.

Robin said...

Deadpan, monotone... and a picture of Buster Keaton eating rye bread. (You don't have to be Jewish to) Love it.

Yes, I have even heard pastors mispronounce "Shibboleth." Telling indeed.

Robert said...

In my quick search, it looks like the translations divide pretty evenly with the newer ones including the word public before reading and the older ones leaving it out.

Is "public" implied (though left out of earlier translations) by anagnōsis or is there another Greek word in different texts? My Greek was too long ago and too little used since to determine.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Amen, amen, amen.

And, donsands, ("Then I'd just suggest, kindly, that not everything is for everyone. It's really okay.")... just three weeks ago we had an elder reading the scripture faint dead away from nervousness.

After he was revived, another elder continued the reading of - no kiddin - 1 Corinthians 12, "One Body, Many Parts"... v26 "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it..."

Well, it was memorable.

Tom Austin said...

One point alluded to here in the comments but which I'd like to state more clearly:
Don't be afraid of long passages.

Even if the sermon is limited to an exposition of two or three verses, read what is before and after that passage. Heck, read the whole chapter . I think that limiting readings to thirty seconds or so contributes to the neglect of their importance, and vice versa.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...

Very good post, Dan. Scripture comes alive when it is read as it was meant to be read: aloud.

(It is always alive--the living Word of God--but especially so when read aloud, in the same way that God is omnipresent, but was especially present in particular times and places: the Tabernacle, for example.)

Regarding the delivery of Scripture, in one sense, it requires no help from man and cannot be hindered, as the Holy Spirit will make His message heard by those who need to hear it.

Just as we talk about the various literary genres of Scripture, however, there are oral genres as well: scoffing and mocking; blessings and curses; commands; questions rhetorical and open-ended; replies repentant and unrepentant; prayers; poems; songs; sermons; groans of agony; cries of woe; shouts of joy; and so on.

These differences in modes and forms of speech reveal a latent power in Scripture, waiting to be harnessed by those who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to read the Word aloud effectively as the very oracles of God.

[Reposted with the extra line breaks removed. I'd composed it in Notepad.]

Stefan Ewing said...


I'm fine in a Bible class, or Bible group, but there's something about standing in front of a church that makes my knees shake.

That's not an unhealthy reaction....

Lisa said...

In tears, I say that I am so humbled that the Lord would provide our family with a church that is dedicated to publicly reading the Scriptures on Sunday mornings.

The men and young men of our church go on a weekly rotation as the older men of the church read a chapter from the OT and the younger, such as my 2 teen-aged boys, read a chapter from the NT. We have also just implemented the reading of a portion of Scripture every week that is a Gospel proclamation. We are hoping to read through just about the entire Bible as a congregation. Last week, before my husband read in the OT, he apologized beforehand because he knew he would pronounce the names wrong. His portion was the beginning of Numbers.

I cannot tell you enough what a comfort it is to read God's Word as a church on Sunday mornings.

I wrote about my church just this morning and why it is a seeker-centered church

Lisa said...

And one more thing, my husband practiced and practiced saying those names in Numbers. He read it knowing he was handling the very Word of God and still felt he needed to apologize ahead of time for his potential mispronunciation. There is something about trying to say those names when you have a bit of a southern draw that doesn't always come out just right... but I think if we get caught up on making sure those names are pronounced perfectly, we are going to lose the point of reading God's Word as a congregation.

Stefan Ewing said...


I don't think any of us pronounce any of those names right. We read them like they're sort of Anglo-Greek (if that makes sense)—the same way we pronounce Greek medical or literary words in English. Even the "correct" English pronunciation is so far removed from the original, that in a sense, it really doesn't matter.

donsands said...

".. faint dead away from nervousness."

Wow. That's something.

I have felt like I may faint, but that was just before I would go up to the pulpit.

Actually, I would love to be able to read the Bible in front of the church. I did have a few times where the Lord helped me be an encourgement to the church, but for the most part I was out of my designed giftedness.

And on a side note, I don't think the Bible requires that every elder has to read Scripture from the pulpit, though I think, personally, that every elder should be able to.

It's great to have a church where the elders are able to speak the truth in love from the pulpit, and with the authority of their calling, and not just the pastors.

Stefan Ewing said...

...The names coming to us not directly from the Hebrew, but via the Septuagint, and superimposed on the original Hebrew source text....

My verification word is "ephaph," which sounds vaguely biblical....

Rachael Starke said...

So true. My husband was converted at a RC Christmas Eve Mass as he heard the Christmas story read from Scripture. And there was many a time when we were church hunting and tempted to weep over everything else we'd heard and seen, that we'd at least heard Scripture read. We couldn't whine about that.

But a question which I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to -
Suppose there are a couple folks who would make excellent candidates for Bible reading? One is a voice-over professional for radio and television - beautifully toned voice, could read the phone book and move you to tears (great for Leviticus!!).

Another, is, let's just say, a person whose secular profession is as an executive commuunication and public speaking coach, well-trained in all the skills you describe.

Both love the Lord and follow Him faithfully.

And both are.... women.

What then?

Lisa said...

I do not believe that women should be the ones leading the congregation to the public reading of Scripture. I will tell you why when I have more time. 4 of my 6 kiddos are home sick ... gotta go.

Chad V. said...

The reason is found in scripture;

1 Tim 2:11-15

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Women are strictly forbidden from leading worship.

Lisa said...

And hence is opened wide the can of worms...

God, is His Word of truth, does NOT prohibit women from teaching. We are encouraged to teach young women (Titus 2:3-4). However, I do agree that, in accordance with God's Word, women are not to teach men and are not to have authority over men in the church... nor in the home for that matter.

(children now napping)

Lisa said...

...and yes, the public reading of God's Word where there is men and women in a church setting is the purest form of teaching.

Rachael Starke said...


I happily submit to those exhortations from Paul. But is reading not a different activity than teaching? My second grader's teacher frequently has her class take turns reading aloud, and yet there's no question about who's submitted to who when it comes to teaching what's read.

But if reading and teaching are the same, what about singing and teaching? While I participate as a mamber of our worship team, this Sunday I will be singing a solo during the offering. Out loud.

Is that verboten?

And if it's not, suppose, instead of singing a Sovereign Grace Music piece, I sang a Psalm, verbatim, without instrumentation?

Please know that I'm mostly just thinking out loud, not trying to be argumentative or, ahem, unsubmissive. :)

Strong Tower said...

Read it in a British accent! Or Scottish, if you can!

Ay thaer's e'trooeth.

We read the Scripture in unison, well close. The text of preference is NKJ, though there is a mixture. The Teaching Elder or his designate to preach for the day reads and leads. Tis, nice. And since there are so many versions the true authority of Scripture is settled. Because if you stop for a second and listen to those mixed versions, it is definitely British Isles sounding.

I recently heard Begg when confronted about his accent. He answered with his native southern drawl. What a kick.

Chad V. said...

Notice I didn't say that women couldn't teach anyone, I said they were not permitted to lead worship and provided a citation of scripture where the apostle Paul says "I do not permit a woman to teach..." clearly in reference to worship in the church which is the context of this post.

Chad V. said...

I don't think that anyone should sing solos during worship. But that discussion is for another time. Singing is to be done corporately, but that's off topic.

Lisa said...

Ummm... Chad... I know. I was merely making a point about what I wrote after that. I know people can get a bit ruffled around here, but I wasn't.

Please now consider answering Rachael because I am interested in the answer because I honestly have no idea about the singing thing.

Lisa said...

Oh... we must have been writing at the same time... not sure I agree with you though. Can anyone show me in Scripture the answer to Rachael's question?

Strong Tower said...

"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

The each one here is probably not referring to the Eldership, but the layperson (how PC). And, it is each one. The constraint is not that a solo is prohibited, but that it builds others up. Now, unless singing was a temporary sign gift the has ended -no doubt some should consider it so- I would say that there is specific Scriptural warrent for solos. Let all things be done decently and in order.

Anonymous said...

Amen Dan, Great post.

What are your thoughts on the posture of the people while we read? Standing, sitting? I came from GCC where John MacArthur said every Sunday, "Stand in honor of the reading of God's Word." But now I am at a church where they see that as formalism and tradition. Thoughts?

And do you have any thoughts on the congregation reading along out loud, or responsive reading? The former I am not so comfortable with (I think people focus more on keeping up and less on what is being read), but the latter may have Scriptural warrant (cf. Psalm 136 perhaps?).

Thank you as always, Dan.

Lisa said...

Our pastor encourages us to stand. If one cannot, you are not glared at like an apostate. God does prefer compassion/mercy over sacrifice.

May we not get to this point: "...people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." -Isaiah 29:13

May we revere the reading of God's Holy Word, not in mere routine... As my pastor has prayed, "May our souls be utterly crushed for the longing of God's Word."

And thank you Strong Tower!!! That was sincerely helpful.

Rachael Starke said...


Your point about solos is well taken, and logically consistent. And who knows, if I really botch it this Sunday, perhaps our church might consider that position too. Pray for us. :)

But that's actually part of my (usually unspoken) confusion. For churches that do permit solos by women, it seems inconsistent to then not permit women to read Scripture.

And again, I'm not at all volunteering for it or going to march off to the elders' meeting and and start arguing for it. It doesn't seem to be cut and dried, and if my elders decided it was and women don't make the cut, I love and respect them and wouldn't bring it up again. It's just a preemptive question that I thought about this week as I was, yep, rehearsing to sing on Sunday. :)

David Rudd said...

ok. i can't let this one go...

and as someone who is completely comfortable with churches who determine for themselves how they will interpret and apply 1 Timothy 2...

We need to be really careful about ascribing teachings to Scripture which are not Scripture.

Chad, you said:

The reason is found in scripture;

1 Tim 2:11-15

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Women are strictly forbidden from leading worship.

Here's the deal. If you were to say, "Women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in church", I would be right with you.

If you then said, "It seems logical to connect this teaching to the leading of corporate worship", I would support your application...

But I don't think I'd say "it's forbidden". That seems to me to be equating your analysis with God's inspiration, and I think that's where a lot of well-intentioned trains get derailed.

I think we're on much safer ground (on this issue, with this passage, regarding secondary applications) if we just unpack what Paul wrote and then explain how our churches practice that teaching, without suggesting that those with other applications are outside the boundaries of Scripture (which maybe hasn't been suggested, but I get the feeling it's implied).


I'd say "sing away! Miriam did!"

DJP said...

IIRC, in Women and the Word of God Susan Foh's position was that reading Scripture was a modern analogy to prophesying, and that a woman who read in service should do so with her head covered.

NoLongerBlind said...

Aaahhh yes, the old de-rail the meta with the Head Coverings

Works every time!

DJP said...

Oh well, yesterday's meta still has Phil asking his reflection, "How did that happen?"

Don't want him to feel lonesome.

Lisa said...

I sincerely appreciate your questions and comments. You come across as genuine and kind, longing to do what is right before the Lord for His glory.

Lisa said...

About head coverings... my b-r-a-i-n is h-u-r-t-i-n-g.

Rachael Starke said...


You're very kind. Truth be told, my in-person speech has not always been that way. That's one of the reasons I love blogging - I get to practice in print what I'm asking God to help me do even more in the "real" world. All glory to God for some progress.

And what I think Dan is saying is - "Rachael can read Scripture in church, or sing, as long as she wears a hat."

I am so down with that. I grew up in Australia, the land that takes a day off for a horse race that is for most women waaay more about the millinery than the ponies.

Have to go tell my husband I need a new hat to go along with the new dress for Easter. He'll be so happy.

Must find Aretha Franklin's cell number - the one she wore at the inauguration rocked.

Lisa said...

I was sooo gonna tell you to wear a hat when you sing... but I ended up deleting that part. Glad to see you have a sense of humor as well as a longing to do what is right before our Lord. :-D

The Squirrel said...

Dan -- We're supposed to read it? I thought it was for carrying around to look holy (small "h" intentional) :-)

Strong Tower -- Maybe Guy is the plucky comic relief?

The Squirrel

Chad V. said...

Strong Tower

Supposing that your citation is a scriptural warrant for singing solos, and I don't think it is but we will not argue that now, it doesn't supersede the scriptural command for women to be silent in the church. After all, 1 Tim instructs that the men should pray and the women should learn in all quietness and submissiveness.

So my original point was, women should not be doing the public reading of scripture when the church gathers for worship. Men are to lead the worship, period. Public reading of the word of God is a duty for men. Not for women.

Also, if we follow the consistent example of scripture men are always the one who perform public readings of scripture throughout the entire biblical narrative.

Lisa said...

Now I'm really lost... I thought we were discussing head coverings.

Chad V. said...

The solo singing thing is a side issue, not really pertinent to the discussion at hand.

Miraim didn't sing a solo during corporate worship on the Sabbath.

And women are forbidden to lead worship. That's why Paul uses the phrase "I do not permit".

DJP said...

I think Rachael should wear a hat while commenting.

Rachael Starke said...


You're so right. Just to be safe, I was thinking a burkha....

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the head covering a very specific problem, not necessarily a command?

Just wondering.

Strong Tower said...

Chad V:

Well, that would be true except the parallel that is being made is proper attitude, or the adorning and not who is allowed to pray. Paul is giving general instructions applicable to all at this point and gives the exceptional case in the "but" clause, at which point he launches into the qualification and duties of the parties introduced in the general admonition, men and women.

IOW, this is consistent with what he teaches in Corinthians where everyone is allowed certain participation without exception, and then there are the prohibitions.

In both cases there is a recognized authority, men, but under that is an allowed expression of worship.

Paul then is saying, women can read psalms, bring a word, prophesy, sing a song...

The pattern is played out in Ephesians and Colossians. From the latter: Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Who are God's chosen ones and who then can do what is listed? Teaching encompasses both sexes, within their proper station, as we have many times discussed. So this is a general admonition to all members of the congregation. That authority and teaching are inextricably linked in 1 Tim can be shown as that which is likened to prophecy being judged by the prophets. The proper authority is not without its proper venue and in the assembly, the prohibition is required for the necessary reasons stated, proper discipline and order.

The preface to this is proper worship that cannot be judged, a reference to the assembly. This is a pattern that Paul has instituted before holds true: that he addresses the church first, then its sub-divisions, the family, and individuals.

So what shall we say? Under the proper administration of the church, women can sing, read Scripture and be involved in other aspects of worship within permitted roles.


Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

As a function of that proper teaching authority, our church has the Elders lead the reading. We do not neglect it. We are a conservative PCA, but even in my former haunt, an SBC, the congregation joined the Pastor in unison in reading the Scripture aloud before commencing the teaching. Where women are allowed to read, I don't think it would be proper for a woman to take the lead at this juncture, but reading the word as another part of the worship service, I personally have no problem with except where such an action brings offense and division. Then I think it may be wise to not do so until further instruction of the congregation could be done.

The cache of this thread is that the Word should be read before the congregation. That is a good thing and should not be neglected.

IMFO and I have got lots more.

Chad V. said...

Strong Tower
Not true, the rest of the passage you cited says;

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 1Cor14:33-35

So no, women were not allowed to bring prophecies etc. They were commanded to remain silent.

Strong Tower said...

"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."

"But all things should be done decently and in order."

What is the key here? Let's work back to front: It is shamful for a woman to speak, let them ask their husbands at home, anything they desire to learn...

So who was saying anything about women asking questions in the congregation during worship? Not me.

See Chad, I do get things wrong, and I thank you for pointing me back to this. And I am glad to give you a resonable answer and I hope you see how you bumped the context for your tradition. We were not speaking of asking questions, and this is all about disruption versus decently and in order.

And by the way, it wouldn't be proper for men to be questioning, disrupting the worship service, either, as Paul instructed. It is not a free-for-all, I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, et cetera, but under submission is the general teaching of Paul's many Epistles. Young men, married men, are to show the same restraint as old men even if not Elders, keeping their conduct in the righteous decorum dictated by the setting. So not only would this prohibition befit women, but men also.

AEOMOAPIPAR. (Another extension of my opinion and personal interpretive preference and right).

Sam said...

("Beulah? Beulah?")

Not to distract from the great discussion in the meta, but this line...wow, just wow. I've had my hearty gaffaw for the day! I thank you, DJP.

GrammaMack said...

A gentleman in our church sometimes recites Paul's writings from memory as if he himself is Paul speaking to the original audience with all of Paul's passion. No matter how familiar the passage is, it's like hearing it for the first time. And yes, he does have a British accent.

DJP said...

Thanks, Sam. I was beginning to wonder if anyone got that....

Chad V. said...


I got it, sorry, I didn't mean to side track the meta. I didn't think my response to Rachel would have gone this way and on for this long.

CR said...

DJP:6. Read the psalm titles. If your assignment is to read Psalm 32 or 51 or 90, read the title. I was cheered to hear the great Bruce Waltke say (far better) what I've also said for years: the titles and ascriptions (and notations) are as much a part of the text as the rest, and there is no historical reason for rejecting them. They're part of the text we have as the word of God. In Hebrew, the title often is verse one. Skipping the title isn't reading the psalm. Don't leave off part of the Word.

"Selah" often appears in the Psalms. When you read the Psalms, do you recite it and what does it actually mean?

CR said...

DJP: I think Rachael should wear a hat while commenting.


Stefan Ewing said...

Even when the threads on this blog go sideways, they still build us up as a "virtual" body of believers. (As long as they don't puff us up, and speaking of "body," as long as no one is using this as a substitute for church!)

This is the only blog I know with long comment threads that are actually edifying.* I don't know how you guys do it, except by the grace of God.

*Some folks will no doubt dispute this, but even when there are arguments, the ensuing discourse** often helps to flesh things out that weren't fully fleshed out beforehand.

**I can't use "conversation" or "dialogue," since they're such loaded terms in the wider Christian world....

Stefan Ewing said...


Nobody really knows what "selah" means, except that it appears to be a musical notation.

Selah is סֶּלָה, which according to Srong's is "suspension (of music), that is, pause"; and according to Brown-Driver-Briggs is "to lift up, exalt...a technical musical term probably showing accentuation, pause, interruption."

According to both sources, its root is sâlâh (סלה): "A primitive root; to hang up, that is, weigh, or (figuratively) contemn: - tread down (under foot), value" (Strong's).

(I didn't type the Hebrew: just copied and pasted from Biola's Unbound Bible website. The dictionaries are courtesy of e-Sword.)

Stefan Ewing said...

The Strong's numbers (in case anyone's curious) are H5542 for selah and H5541 for the root salah.

Strong Tower said...

to hang up-

That figures. It's what I do whenever a solicitor calls on the phone. A common reaction whenever anyone reads from an Old Testament text is to grab your wallet and tilt your head forward, close your eyes and pretend to listen intently while you catch some zzz's. If you drool while you sleep don't, have adenoids, its a no no. Alternative: Fake a coughing attack and head to the head and if no one's looking head to the parking lot, remember the time and plan ahead, set an alarm and lay low in the back seat of your car (conversion van's are cherry for this), wake five minutes before the end of the Pastor's sermon (that ought to give you a good ten minute nap), rub eyes intensely, mess hair slightly and carry hanky in plain sight while re-entering the sanctuary, pause at the door for the next selah, take seat, mission accomplished.

Selah is also the last name of some Guy, otherwise known as Methu

word verification: comode

CR said...

Thanks Stefan.

DJP said...

Carlo: it's part of the text, so yes, I read it.

And it means, "Guitar solo."

(Actually, no one knows for certain; one popular view is that it means to pause and reflect.)

Lisa said...

I woke up still laughing about Rachael wearing a hat while commenting... and possibly a burkha.

candy said...

Dan. You seriously need to come visit our church. You would enjoy the service, the reverential reading of God's word, and the view of the Sierra range outside the windows. We have a corporate lunch after the service and then go into second service.

The Squirrel said...

Selah = "Guitar Solo" LOL-ROFL *snort*, piggy-noise! Everybody in the coffee shop just looked over at me! WOOT!

The Squirrel

ps- Wouldn't it be a harp solo?

"Welcome to Heaven, here's your harp/Welcome to Hell, here's your accordian."

Strong Tower said...

They have lectrik harps in heaven, kewl...

I thought you meant like,

duhdaduhda dadadah

Selah, you've got me on my knees...

duhdaduhda dadadah

What do you do when you get lonely...

It's just your foolish pride...

won't you ease my worried mind...

duhdaduhda, dadadah, waw waw waw waw


Now that's worship musak...

Unknown said...

... but, but, but... we DO like Ben Stein, right?

The Squirrel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Squirrel said...

"Selah, you've got me on my knees..."

Guy says, "Oh, that's not riiiiiight..."

The Squirrel

Stefan Ewing said...

Man, I just read right over the "Beulah? Beulah?" thing without it even registering. My brain just read it as "Bueller? Bueller?"

Anonymous said...

Most excellent exhortation! In my church, in addition to most wonderful, God-centered music and preaching, we have public reading of one chapter from the Old and the New Testaments - each by a layman (so to speak).

The ones who excel are those who have apparently obeyed some of your instructions, though they may not have seen your blog :-)