Who May Read the Scriptures in Public Worship?

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Tom Hart, Feb 23, 2018.

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  1. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    (I apologize if this has been asked. The search function does not seem to be working on either my PC or my smartphone.)

    Q. 156. Is the Word of God to be read by all?
    A. Although all are not permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation...
    (Deut. 31:9,11-13; Neh. 8:2-3, 9:2-5)

    Q. 158. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
    A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.

    The Westminster Divines were clear that only those gifted, approved and called may preach. But who may read the Scriptures aloud to the congregation during the corporate worship?
     
  2. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I think you already posted the answer.

    Q156: Is the word of God to be read by all?
    A156: Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation,[1] yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves,[2] and with their families:[3] to which end, the holy scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.[4]

    1. Deut. 31:9, 11-13; Neh. 8:2-3; 9:3-5
    2. Deut. 17:19; Rev. 1:3; John 5:39; Isa. 34:16
    3. Deut. 6:6-9; Gen. 18:17, 19; Psa. 78:5-7
    4. I Cor. 14:6, 9, 11-12, 15-16, 24, 27-28

    FORM OF PRESBYTERIAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT

    First, it belongs to his office, [i.e. pastor]

    To read the Scriptures publickly; for the proof of which,

    1. That the priests and Levites in the Jewish church were trusted with the publick reading of the word is proved.

    2. That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission to dispense the word, as well as other ordinances, as the priests and Levites had under the law, proved, Isa. lxvi. 21. Matt. xxiii. 34. where our Saviour entitleth the officers of the New Testament, whom he will send forth, by the same names of the teachers of the Old.

    Which propositions prove, that therefore (the duty being of a moral nature) it followeth by just consequence, that the publick reading of the scriptures belongeth to the pastor’s office.

    DIRECTORY OF PUBLIC WORSHIP

    "...except what the minister is then reading..."

    "READING of the word in the congregation, being part of the publick worship of God, (wherein we acknowledge our dependence upon him, and subjection to him,) and one means sanctified by him for the edifying of his people, is to be performed by the pastors and teachers.

    Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto."
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you for your answer. This is the view I take. I see no way how laymen reading the Scriptures could be made to fit with the Standards.

    My church has laypersons (men and women) do the Scripture reading and prayer every week. I am going to speak to the pastor to have my name scrubbed from the list.

    Today I expressed my view to another believer and his reply was this: "Why do you have to be a stumbling block?"

    Part of the reason I had to ask the question is that where I am I am alone in my convictions. Everyone around me would call me a legalist or a Pharisee (for this and numerous other views).

    Thank you again for your answer.
     
  4. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You are far from alone here. The blatant disregard, or ignorance, of our confessions and such documents that spell out the proper order of worship dumbfounds me to no end.
     
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I was ignorant for a long time. But when I discovered the Shorter Catechism, things started changing fast. I have been frustrated in my attempts to encourage people to consider a Reformed perspective.

    I recently spoke to my in-laws about the Lord's Day. My mother-in-law looked like she would never talk to me again.

    With most people I talk to, not even a moment's consideration is given for the possibility that this Reformed chap might just be on to something... Instead of opening their Bibles, they open their mouths to call me "legalist", "Pharisee" and such like.

    I am entirely alone in my convictions here. How sweet it would be to have a face-to-face conversation with another Reformed Christian.

    Thank you for your words of support. They really do help.
     
  6. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Be patient and kind and show what one ought to do, and not do, by example. Also remember love covers a multitude of sin, which includes our blind spots.
     
  7. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    If you have become convinced that merely being asked by your elders to read Scripture in the service is not enough of a calling to qualify you, I would think you can decline in a way that does not cause others to stumble. You can say no in a way that is still respectful of the elders' leadership and does not undermine them. No need to publicize your disagreement or explain your reasons. Correcting your elders as you chat with others in the church would be out of place much as presuming to preach would be.
     
  8. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I attend a PCA church, and their form of government is OK as far as it goes, but there is one phrase (see bold type in the last sentence below) that spoils the Public Reading of Holy Scripture in my church.

    From the PCA DIRECTORY FOR WORSHIP CHAPTER 50

    The Public Reading of the Holy Scriptures

    50-1. The public reading of the Holy Scriptures is performed by the minister as God’s servant. Through it God speaks most directly to the congregation, even more directly than through the sermon. The reading of the Scriptures by the minister is to be distinguished from the responsive reading of certain portions of Scripture by the minister and the congregation. In the former God addresses His people; in the latter God’s people give expression in the words of Scripture to their contrition, adoration, gratitude and other holy sentiments. The psalms of Scripture are especially appropriate for responsive reading.

    50-2. The reading of the Holy Scriptures in the congregation is a part of the public worship of God and should be done by the minister or some other person. (emphasis added)

    What in the world does that mean?
     
  9. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    One way to think about the issue is this: To read the Word publicly is to administer the Word of God to his people. Only the Ministers of the Word are called upon to administer the Word.

    I'm deeply sorry, @Tom Hart, to hear that you do not have any strong churches nearby. I'll keep you in prayer in that regard. Is there any way that you could move? I judge by your name that you aren't a native Korean. What keeps you there?
     
  10. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    It goes back to at least 1894:

    PCUS 1894, III-1
    The reading of the Holy Scriptures in the congregation is a part of the public worship of God, and ought to be performed by the minister or some other authorized person.
     
  11. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    It's interesting that the 1894 language says "some other authorized person." This seems to indicate that it was considered irregular for someone who isn't a minister to read the Word publicly, though it was considered permissible in extraordinary circumstances.

    By omitting the term authorized, the PCA BCO seems to be throwing the doors open.
     
  12. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    I don't understand your reading at all. "Authorized," says nothing about extraordinary circumstances. That is what the word "extraordinary" is for. Authorized means simply that the Session (who has authority over worship) has permitted someone to read. The only difference between "some other" and "authorized" in this context is that "some other" assumes the authority of the Session over worship that is explicit in BCO 12-5e (it references the DoW).
     
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  13. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    My point is that the original seems to imply that it is ordinarily the job of a minister to read the Word--if anyone else is to read it, he must be authorized. Note that it doesn't say anything about the minister being authorized. In the PCA directory, the pastor and the "other person" are treated equally.
     
  14. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    This is why I don't do the responsive reading of a Psalm.
     
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  15. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Do you maintain consistency by refraining from singing Psalms as well?
     
  16. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's a different element and thus governed differently. We've already established that our confessional standards do not permit all to read the Bible publicly. It recognizes no such limitations for the singing of Psalms.

    I refrain from participating in responsive readings for this reason as well. I do not believe that our confessional standards permit it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  17. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    The believer in question is in fact a member of my family who thinks my views too extreme. I wouldn't think that speaking a family member undermines the authority of the minister.

    I agree that there is no need to publicize my disagreement.

    However, when the leadership is in breach of God's law, shouldn't something be said? This is something I've been thinking about. When the pastor and elders routinely go out for a meal or coffee on the Lord's Day, shouldn't I say something if no one else will? Privately, of course.
     
  18. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Unless I am missing something, I see no reference to this in the corresponding Baptist documents.

    Did the Particular Baptists hold to this same view?
     
  19. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you for your concern.

    My wife is Korean, and I am an English teacher. Our church is the only English-speaking church in the area. I do not see a possibility of moving in the immediate future, but I'm hoping that in one or two years we can move to a bigger city with a more Reformed-leaning church.

    Confessionally Reformed churches do exist in Korea, although the degree to which they subscribe varies. I wouldn't have a problem with attending a Korean-speaking Reformed church.

    The pastor at the church we attend is non-confessional but Calvinistic, and Baptist-leaning but Church of England-ordained. He really is quite solid on the main things, and his preaching is sound. I thank God for him. But his views on some things, such as worship, are quite relaxed. But it's not so much him as him following the way things have always been done here.
     
  20. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    I sing Psalms; that's consistent.
     
  21. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    So the rule is you can read and recite Scripture (Psalms) if you carry a tune, but not if you can't carry a tune? That's splitting a mighty fine hair, and I want to make sure I understand where the hair is to be split.
     
  22. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    In agreement with your post as a whole (in line of being respectful to the elders), this particular quote seems to miss the point. The standards by which a Presbyterian Church holds, dictates the practice of that church. If the Westminster Standards are part of the governing constitution, then your point disregards this entirely.
     
  23. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    I can sing a Psalm. I don't read them. It's sing vs. read. I'll start a thread.

    Here you go:
    https://puritanboard.com/threads/can-we-recite-psalms-responsively.95055/
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  24. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    I posted this elsewhere but I’ll post this here as well:

    Q. 156. Is the Word of God to be read by all?
    A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into vulgar languages.

    Deut. 31:9, 11-13; Neh. 8:2-3; Neh. 9:3-5; Deut. 17:19; Rev. 1:3; John 5:39; Isa. 34:16; Deut. 6:6-9; Gen. 18:17, 19; Ps. 78:5-7; 1 Cor. 14:6, 9, 11-12, 15-16, 24, 27-28.” (Westminster Larger Catechism)

    “Read....to the congregation” implies reading corporately as a “response”. This is why I don’t think one can make a consistent argument for reading in unison and hold to the confessional standards without exception. Also, it should be noted that reading is a different element of worship than singing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
  25. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior


    This might be a separate thread, but if this quote is speaking of the intent of the BCO, then the BCO is at odds with the scriptures and confession. A session may authorize someone, but that doesn’t make it lawful or valid.
     
  26. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    That is correct. I did not choose to address the issue of what the standards require. I chose only to address the matter of how best to handle a conscientious objection, which seems to be part of the situation Tom faces.
     
  27. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Could anyone respond to this comment, which a brother of mine made:

    "I would say that you wouldn't find laypeople in the OT reading publicly because that was the job of the priest (now we enjoy the common priesthood of all believers,) and you wouldn't see it in the NT because the scriptures were kept in the synagogues. That's why Paul always went into the synagogues first."
     
  28. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    This comment is a premise without a conclusion which makes it difficult to respond. What is he arguing? That despite the lack of examples of lay readings we may engage in such because there were cultural explanations for that lack? He still has to reckon with the regulative principle of worship, if so.
     
  29. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'd say, yes, the ministry of the Word was given to the priests in the OT. The reason you don't see it in the NT is because the ministry of the Word is given to pastors.

    By the way, there was a priesthood of all believers in the OT, too. See Exodus 19:6.
     
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