Contributing to Your Local Assembly Bible Reading
by Jack Coleman (Hatboro, New Jersey, USA)
Understanding the importance of the assembly Bible reading should cause us to have greater diligence in our preparation. Knowing the charge given to the elders at Ephesus to “feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28), should give us a greater sense of responsibility to prepare. While all do not have the same ability to contribute, each one in the fellowship should make some preparation for the Bible reading.
Read the Passage
Many brethren, for whatever reason, are reluctant to participate, but even a thoughtful question can initiate a very profitable discourse. Far more of what is being said will be appreciated if, before coming to the meeting, each believer, sisters included, spends some time reviewing the Scriptures that are to be considered.
Remember the Objective
Before making a few suggestions on the “how to”, of preparing to contribute to a Bible reading, there are a number of things to consider. The Bible reading is often the primary teaching meeting of the assembly. The time we spend together in our assembly Bible reading is relatively brief. If we believe that only the Word of God will build up the House of God, then those that contribute must be prepared to teach the Word of God alone. Our preparation should never be just accumulating Bible information so that we have something to say. Nor should our purpose be to find something new or novel. Neither should we prepare with the attitude of “one size fits all”. We must remember the varying degrees of understanding and need in those who come to the meeting.
Recognise the Needs
Generally, mature saints with a good grasp of truth appreciate a more in-depth exchange of thought on the Scriptures being considered. Hopefully, we have new believers who need the “sincere milk of the Word”, which is necessary for their growth and development (1 Pet 2:2). Other Christians will be there who need to be encouraged because of trials in their life. Some may have come wanting to know the will of God in a path that is before them. Many come longing just to be refreshed by the Word of God after a day in a defiled world. A Bible reading can be considered profitable only as each one in attendance is edified and encouraged.
Research the Interpretation
When it comes to learning and passing on divine truth, Paul’s words to Timothy in his second epistle are worth noting. In chapter 1:13, Timothy is told, “Hold fast the form (pattern) of sound (wholesome) words, which thou hast heard of me.” In chapter 2:15, he was to “rightly divide the word of truth.” In chapter 3:16,17, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Lastly, in chapter 4:2 he was charged, “Preach the Word.” Our preparation should be with a desire that, first, the Spirit of God will give to us an understanding of the chapter or subject to be discussed, and then the ability to communicate that truth to those gathered. “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Review the Available Helps
There is no lack of study helps for the serious Bible student. Commentaries, word study books, various Bible translations, and online resources can be a tremendous help in preparing for a Bible reading. Perhaps a word of caution would be in order as to the many books that are available. Younger believers, in particular, would be wise to seek the counsel of godly overseers as to the choice of study helps.
In recent years, many books have been written that would touch the emotions, border on sensationalism, or appeal to the intellect, but have little Scriptural support. But before consulting any study help, and perhaps being tempted to just cut and paste a few paragraphs for your notes, spend some time with just your Bible.
Request the Spirit’s Aid
Read the passage to be considered several times. Take time to pray as you study, asking that God will give understanding of the Scriptures. Find and compare any parallel passages of what is being considered. It is helpful to reference other portions of Scripture in support of what is being taught. A corresponding Scripture will be helpful in understanding the context. It is important to learn the correct interpretation of the Scripture. Sometimes the verses being considered are well-known; pray that God will give a fresh appreciation of them and the Spirit-guided ability to present them warmly and clearly.
Respect the Other Participants
Finally, a number of other brethren will attend the Bible reading for which you are preparing. Be careful to prepare concise and effective points, so all who have prepared will be able to contribute.
(Originally published in Truth and Tidings magazine)