A feature of many assemblies of God’s people around the world for over a century has been the weekly consecutive verse by verse discussion of the Bible, chapter by chapter, book by book. A Bible teacher in the congregation will introduce a passage, setting out its context, structure, flow and main point, before others will contribute to a discussion of the passage through comments and questions. Such meetings are often referred to as “conversational Bible Readings”. Are such meetings scriptural? Can a positive pattern for such a format be found in the New Testament? Yes it can, and Sinclair Banks from Peterhead in Scotland explains how in the article below:
Assemblies of God’s people are not simply gatherings of men and women with a common interest. We gather as a church of God to the name of the Son of God, and are also taught from the Word of God. It is no surprise therefore that the holy Scriptures are given a central place in these gatherings. Paul exhorted Timothy, “give attendance to reading” (1 Tim 4:13). The Colossians were instructed, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col 4:16).
In Acts 15:30, the Antioch assembly “gathered together” for the purpose of Bible Reading. The council at Jerusalem had resulted in the writing of a letter (v23). It was then sent from Jerusalem by the hand of “chief men among the brethren” (v22), and they “delivered the epistle” to the assembly (v30). It is uncertain as to what format the gathering took. It is unlikely that they only spent a few minutes together, hearing the letter read, and then left. It is not unreasonable to assume that at least some of the brethren exhorted the believers based on the contents of the letter, as the assembly “rejoiced for the consolation [exhortation]” (v31).
Thus we have a reasonable basis for our ‘Bible Reading meetings’. The Scriptures are read, and the brethren comment or ask questions on that passage. There are, however, certain practices which we must adhere to if such gatherings are to be profitable. They must be for teaching and exhortation, based on the context of the passage read. While it is therefore not inappropriate for any brother to make a comment or ask questions, it is vital that men equipped to teach undertake the responsibility for leading and guiding, although not dominating the meeting.
One of the major advantages of a weekly Bible Reading is the consecutive consideration of whole books. This has undoubtedly been an area of tremendous value among assemblies, where the understanding of a book in its context is invaluable. It is almost certain that some Bible Readings in a series will be perhaps a little dry, but when assessed over a long period, personal experience bears witness to the enormous value obtained from a detailed consideration of a whole book.
While there is therefore scriptural authority for this meeting, there are few details about the format it takes. However, there is no doubting the necessity for reading Scripture publicly and, as the promotion of consecutive, contextual and helpful study of God’s Word is encouraged throgh our ‘Bible Reading meetings’, we should maintain the format we know and be exercised to attend.
From Scripture Sevens, Vol 2, p. 185 (9781904064367). Permission to post on webtruth.org kindly granted by the publisher John Ritchie Ltd.