Perhaps an article on profiting from the Assembly Bible Reading should begin with the assertion that all Scripture is profitable. Indeed one of the factors leading many to refer to those who originally gathered alone to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ as the “Chapter and Verse People” was the Bible Reading format. How can we continue to profit from such weekly meetings and conferences?
The Profit is in the Preparation
The topic of preparation for the reading has already been addressed. However, we must touch on it again briefly because your preparation may be the singularly most important factor in your profiting from the reading. You would not be surprised at our saying that one must prepare if he is going to lead the reading. Nor would you be surprised if we said that one must prepare if he is going to participate. Surely the believers who have come deserve something better than “fast food!” But does it surprise you that we are suggesting that you prepare for your role as a listener in the reading? You should read the epistle that is being studied a number of times before the assembly embarks on that particular book. In fact, G. Campbell Morgan said that he never spoke on anything that he had not read at least twenty-five times! What a foundation for feeding one’s own soul and the souls of others! In your reading you should also consult a trusted commentary so as to moderate your own thoughts on the passage. Use, but do not abuse, written ministry. The abuse is in taking someone else’s thoughts without having developed your own, alone and in dependence on God. In your preparation be sure to prepare your questions. Write them out. Charles Spurgeon said that “reading makes a full man; writing makes an exact man.” You can contribute to the teaching by preparing your questions. This preparing to listen will pay huge dividends in your soul as you feed upon the Scriptures in the days before the reading. Additionally, you will get so much more from the actual reading when you can listen intelligently to the discussion. The writer of the Hebrew treatise recognized the problem of readers who were not proficient in the precepts of Scripture. As he was beginning his dissertation on the typology in the priesthood of Melchisedec he was not able to expound all he would have desired due to their lack of spiritual growth. The time you spend in preparation for learning will indeed train your powers of discernment.
Profit is in the Pedagogy
Those leading the reading will remember that the primary purpose of the local assembly Bible reading is to teach the Scriptures. It is not story time! It is the time for the confidence that Paul felt when he said, “I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace” (Acts 20: 32). This was all they had. This was all they needed. We trust that those responsible are gifted of God and graced with diligence in their study habits. While the reading is not one-man ministry, it is not a “free-for-all.” The Risen Head, Christ, has graciously given to the Church the permanent gifts of the pastor-teachers or teaching pastors.
Secondly, we should respond to the gifts. Thirdly, we should reflect the gifts. Think of Bible teachers in the assemblies of God that you would most want to emulate. What were their study habits as young believers? What are their present patterns of meditation on the Scriptures? Are they, or were they, casual readers of the Bible or did they labor to the point of weariness in the Word? The lack of expository teaching among us is a result of a lack of expository studying. We cannot give what we do not have! May we encourage you to be like the Preacher? Solomon said, “Moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, evenwords of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd” (Eccl 12:9-11). He was prudent. It is interesting also that he persevered. He pondered; he pursued; and he presented. Do you see a void in the local church in the area of expository teaching? Will you apply yourself to the Word now so that you may, in due time, contribute to the solution and not to the problem?
Profit is in the Passion
In the assembly reading we do not all profit alike. A factor determining our degree of profiting is our passion for the Word. The disciples on the Emmaus Road profited when the Teacher began “at Moses and all the prophets, and expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).They “said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32).
Mary profited when she “also, having sat down at the feet of Jesus was listening to His word” (JND). Mary profited personally because of her passion.
Profit is in the Post-Meeting Perusal
What do you do when you go home from the meeting? A valuable exercise would be to conduct a post-meeting analysis by reading the passage again. Are there additional insights? Were there major things left out? Did you get to the essence of the chapter? Check another commentary on the passage to gather additional perspectives. You will grow in your appreciation for the inexhaustible Word. This review will reinforce the truths you have learned.
Profit is in the Participation
A sage has said, “Every student is a teacher and every teacher is a student.” We see evidence of this adage in the assembly readings. Often the question of a younger person, honestly asked, and arising out of a thoughtful heart, will provoke a line of thinking and generate an elucidation of the Scriptures that will truly edify the saints. Do you feel too young to help? Remember that the Teacher said, “Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” (Matt 21:16). Teaching should not be confused with telling! True teaching takes place when there is an interacting of minds. Remember that there will be others in the meeting with questions but who are reticent to ask. Sincere questions are indeed invaluable to a reading. And your participation need not always be by way of questions. The one leading the reading should be careful not to present himself as a fountain of wisdom only, but as a facilitator who encourages others and thus contributes to their development.
The Profit is in the Practice
There is a possibility that we may treat the reading as an academic exercise. This is a great peril. We must be intelligent in reading but we must remember that the Bible was not written to feed our intellects. The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). James, the practical preacher, said, “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas 1:22-25). Notice that he ponders and practices. The power to practice comes from the pon