Of first importance, we must read the scriptures. Paul commanded Timothy, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." (1 Timothy 4:13) The early church was committed to the public reading of the scriptures, and in this case, they were almost exclusively the Old Testament Scriptures since that was all they had at the time. Later on, the writing of the Apostles would be included in their public readings. Towards the middle of the second century, Justine Martyr wrote of the typical church gathering in his day.
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things." (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 67)Later on, as the church liturgy began to take shape, the public reading of the scriptures was organized so that people would hear the key portions of scriptures read a loud over the course of one year. "The Greek church has a division according to the four Gospels, which are read entire in course; Matthew next after Pentecost, Luke beginning on the fourteenth of September, Mark at the Easter fast, and John on the first Sunday after Easter." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Chapter 76) The public reading of the scriptures was prominent for two important reasons. First, because of the high illiteracy rates at that time. Many believers, especially in the anti-Nicene era were poor, uneducated, and even slaves, Many of them were unable to read the scriptures for themselves. Secondly, the cost of such books were often prohibitive except for the wealthier believers. Even if an early believer could read, they often could not afford their own copies of the scriptures. For these reasons, the scriptures were publicly read as part of their weekly gathering together as believers.
Today, in most developed nations, literacy is high and the cost of the scriptures is low. We have no excuse for not reading the scriptures ourselves; we are no longer dependent on someone reading them to us. However, there are many things vying for our time and many books sitting on our shelves waiting to be read. With the availability of so much information, it is easy for the scriptures to be pushed aside in preference for something more entertaining or for something easier to comprehend. For some, it is easier to read what others say about the scriptures than to actually read the scriptures themselves. However, the truth is, that without opening the scriptures and reading them for ourselves, we will never come to know what they contain or to hear the message they have for us and for our lives today. We cannot know the scriptures without reading them and we cannot benefit from the scriptures without knowing them. Therefore, the first step in growing in, and benefiting from, the scriptures is to read them.