Reading Scripture Together

As many of you are aware not all Christians through time have been literate. And before the advent of the printing press in the fifteenth century not many were able to afford a personal hand copied Bible. So for much of the life of the Church Christians were dependent upon the public reading and hearing of Scripture.

Aside from the fact that many did not have the luxury of being able to read privately the Bible, there have been other reasons for the emphasis on the public reading of Scripture out loud and being listened to carefully. So much of the Bible has its context in public address. Take for example the prophetic pronouncements to Israel, Judea, or Jerusalem. Or take for another example letters from the Apostle Paul addressed to churches that were read aloud to the gathered community of believers.

And then it is good to keep in mind that proclamation (preaching) and teaching is associated with God’s Written Word. A good deal of the New Testament writing itself is a teaching and insistence on the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures.

As the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture, so the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” It is in and through this Church that we learn to hear the truth and meaning of Scripture reliably. Most heresies have involved a private, idiosyncratic, way of reading Scripture apart from the Church.

I would never discourage personal Bible reading on your own. But I would caution you against reading in isolation from the Body of Christ. The more familiar you become with the contents and story line of Scripture the better! But constantly look for guidance and the sense of Scripture from the Church (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15).

Since You Asked…

Do Lutherans Promote Private Confession?

“Confession has not been abolished by the preachers on our side. … The people are carefully instructed concerning the consolation of the Word of absolution (forgiveness) so that they may esteem it as a great and precious thing. It is not the voice of the man who speaks it, but it is the Word of God, who forgives sin, for it is spoken in God’s stead and by God’s command. …it is necessary for terrified consciences” (Augsburg Confession, XXV)

Confession has two parts: First that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the Pastor as from God himself.