"...give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." - 1 Timothy 4:13
The reading of scripture goes all the way back to the time of Moses. After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses then received the rest of the laws and ordinances of God which the people were to follow. The way these instructions were communicated was through public reading. At specific yearly events, the congregation of Israel was to stand and hear the word of the Lord being read again. In the time of Jesus, synagogues had become places where the scriptures would be read and then discussed by the local Rabbis (teachers). Jesus himself participated in this practice (Luke 4:16-19). It is clear that the early church carried on this tradition as well.
When the earliest believers read scripture (as mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:13), they read from the Old Testament. The Old Testament consists of the first 39 books of the Bible which were all written before Jesus was born. It was the "Bible" of the Jewish people and included the books of Law and Prophecy as well as other Writings. Before the books of the New Testament were written, and circulated, it was all the early church had. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, the stories about him circulated among the Apostles and other Disciples. Jesus had told them they would receive the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit within them would teach them and cause them to remember all the words Jesus had spoken to them (John 14:26). This is why we consider the Apostle's words to be inspired.
Before long, the apostles started writing letters to the churches. The Apostle Paul wrote thirteen of them himself which are now included in our New Testament. In these letters, the Apostles encouraged the churches to stay true to the teachings of Jesus and they also addressed some of the pressing issues they were facing. The churches made copies of these letters and passed them around to each other (Colossians 4:16). As the letters were being written, the Gospel accounts - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - started to be recorded as well. Two of these book were written by Apostles (Matthew and John) and the other two (Mark and Luke) were penned by close associates of the Apostles who gave them guidance as they wrote. Slowly, the New Testament took shape and eventually, the 27 books about Jesus and the early church were added to the 39 Old Testament books about Israel to make up what we now have as the Bible. We consider all of it to be directly inspired by God through the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is our guide for life and worship as we seek to faithfully follow our king.
The Bible gives us access to the message God desires all humankind to hear. While is it a large book made up of many different styles of writing in many different circumstances, it all points us to the nature of God. This is most clearly seen when we read of him revealed through Jesus the Christ, our savior and lord. At the Winnsboro Church of Christ, we want to get closer to Jesus. Opening up the words of scripture is one of the best avenues we have to do this. We therefore spend time together in the Bible. Twice a week we have age appropriate Bible Classes where we teach each other the truths of God by digging into various Biblical passages. We also read from scripture during our worship times and the sermon is centered around a biblical passage or a biblical theme.
We encourage individual Bible study, but there is something important about doing it collectively. There are some strange parts in the Bible. It is not always an easy book to read or understand. We need each other's help and guidance to appropriately apply it to our lives. Also, the Holy Spirit is not just a one way street, conveying information directly from the text to the reader. The Holy Spirit also works and moves between the hearts of of people, so when we read and discuss scripture together, we are getting the trifecta: scripture is communicating to our hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit is opening us up to receiving even what the mind cannot grasp, and the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ keeps us centered around the things of vital importance. As we study together, we spur each other on (Hebrews 10:24), build each other up (Ephesians 4:12), and remind each other to keep our eyes focused on what is most important (Matthew 23:23).
The Word of God changes us. It is an ongoing process. If you want to be changed, too, come and join us and see what happens as God speaks his truth into your life.
"Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," - 2 Timothy 3:16 NET
For some great video lessons on the nature of scripture and how it is to be read, check out the Bible Project.