Biblical Competency

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The men of our church have been meeting once a month for a number of years now. We don’t have a fancy name for it like “Theology on Tap” or “Men up to Their Necks in Glory” or some such names I have seen. We just call it “Men’s Group”. We have been in the habit of working through some good books, like Macleod’s “A Faith to Live By“, Murray’s “Redemption Accomplished etc“, Reeves’ “Delighting in the Trinity“, Robertson’s “The Christ of the Covenants” and some others. It has been demanding stuff but, I think, helpful in so many ways.

However, we took a change of tack earlier this month and went back to basics. The church has changed over the years and I have begun to realise that there is a need to do some ground-level work with our group. Not that everyone is at a basic level, but I have always found that going over basics has always been helpful personally, and I trust it will be for others.

So, this series of group meetings I have tentatively called, Feeding on the Word. The question is, what are the ways that we can make use of this rich deposit of revelation the Lord has given us? There are several, they are all useful, and they all compliment each other. So earlier this month I outlined where we are going to go over the next few meetings. So here is a summary.


Since the arrival of the printing press, a proportion of the evangelical church’s members have treasured the Bible in their hands. They read it, studied it, memorised it, meditated upon it, heard it preached. People were trained in the scriptures.

Today, we have never had such a plethora of inexpensive Bibles, notes, reference books, commentaries and a huge amount available to us online, free of charge. And yet modern Christians seem to know so little. We don’t use what is available to us.

Churches need good men. Not just a “Few Good Men” but lots of good men! They are good for the church and its health. They are good for their families.

Scripture: God-breathed

2 Timothy 3:16 shows us the deep connection there is between the written word and God himself. It is on his breath. It is the divinely communicated, Holy Spirit-worked truth for us. It is for a number of things:

teaching: to get technical, it has indicative statements and imperative statements. Or, in other words, it has statements of truth for us to believe and commands for us to obey. So it gives us understanding about what it true and false and what is good and bad. Proverbs 13:14 says, “The teaching of the wise is the fountain of life.” God is infinitely wise and he teaches us in his word.

reproof: this is the use the Holy Spirit makes of the word in convicting us of our sins. The Bible shows us our sins and thereby it addresses our consciences which leads us to repentance. We should see this as a mercy of God to us – something to give thanks for.

correction: that is, to put right what is broken, or make straight what is crooked in our lives, rather like an orthodontist straightens out teeth. We need our lives straightened out. God does that through his word.

training in righteousness: God takes us through a spiritual workout when we use the Bible rightly. Some of us who have a gym membership forget to go and make use of the facilities, but get a crumb of comfort that at least we have a membership. Some of us can be like that with the Bible – I may not read it much, but at least I have a Bible! Well, the Lord wants us to be regularly in the gym of scripture, growing in strength, stamina, skill.

The effect of all this in verse 17: that the man of God may become ‘competent’ (ESV). Other translations have ‘thoroughly equipped’, ‘complete’, but I like the word competent. In many walks of life, no man likes to be thought of as incompetent. So what about the word of God? We should all seek to become, competent men of God, skilled in the use of the word of God. Then we can believe all God has told us and do all the things he has commanded us.

So what ways do we have to become competent in the scriptures? I only list them here, more or less, but I tend to expand on them in later posts. Here are five:

Listening well to biblical preaching

The Reformed faith has always put preaching at the centre of church’s spiritual growth. This is reflected in the Shorter Catechism Q.89:

How is the Word made effectual to salvation? A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 89.

It is a thoroughly scriptural notion. You cannot read the New Testament without, if you are paying attention, seeing how the apostles put preaching at the very centre.

Having a daily devotional time

Scriptural examples abound of people taking time to read the scriptures and pray, but most importantly Jesus did it (Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18; 11:1; 22:39ff). Sure he did not have a Bible with him, but he knew the scriptures and so his time of prayer was also a time of meditation on the word.

Reading the Bible

This is simply the discipling of making sure that you get to know all of it. For that, you simply have to get down to it and read it. You would not pause at every verse, but read it as you would read the newspaper. Reading four chapters a day gets you through the Bible in a year.

Meditating on scripture

Not emptying your mind but filling your mind with scripture.

  • Joshua 1:8a – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
  • Psalm 1:2 – “…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

This is about how to think about scripture at any time – not just while studying, but also while walking, in the car, before you fall asleep. Of course, this has implications for memorising the parts of the Bible.

Finally, …

Studying the Bible

This is a more structured and concerted time spent getting to know parts of the Bible. It involves finding out about the background to a book – who wrote it? why? when? etc. It also involves identifying themes and ideas, and relating it to other parts of scripture. It involves using tools, like maps, dictionaries, handbooks, commentaries. It can be done alone or with a group of people.

So those are the ways I plan to cover with our men, and I will add posts here as I go. Remember, the idea is that we become competent!

Biblical Competency

Prayer for Sunday Morning Worship

O Lord our God,

We bow our heads before our infinite, eternal and unchangeable God. We adore you who are love itself, eternally expressed between the persons of the Godhead.

We worship you, our Father, who has planned and purposed creation and the great plan of redemption for us.

We worship and adore you, Word of God, the Son who is God who humbled himself and came from heaven to be our Saviour through his life, death and resurrection.

We worship you, Holy Spirit, our helper and sanctifier, who leads us into all truth, who draws our gaze to Jesus Christ, who causes us to be able to say, “Abba, Father!”

O Lord, our Triune God, we worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit this morning. Come and meet with us. Come and speak with us. Come and bless us.

We ask it all, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for Sunday Morning Worship

Small Laws

When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.

G K Chesterton, quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox edited by A L Maycock

I came across this Chesterton quote yesterday. It is only a line in a collection of items of his pithy prose. Apparently it originally appeared in a Daily News article in 1905, but the original article has been lost, so it is hard to know what he meant without the context.

It rang a bell because I recently heard one theologian say something similar about the Ten Commandments in relation to the state of western society. When you substitute “big laws” with “ten commandments” in the quote above you can perhaps see the point: if a society ignores the 10 commandments then in order to have some order the state has to introduce a myriad of sundry small laws.

Is that true? It’s plausible from experience. It seems to me that our legislators are continually busy trying to fix evils that emerge as a result of unhitching from those God-given “Words”. The trouble is we are left with a malleable and drifting set of underlying principles that guide lawmaking which results in many, many small laws.

Small Laws


I had an interesting experience yesterday. I was wondering whether my original blog was still online somewhere, and I found it – here. Actually, all the posts have been migrated to this blog but I had forgotten about them. There was a strange pleasure in rereading some of my posts.

I started the “Doggie’s Breakfast” blog back in 2004. I was a student at what was then ETCW, now Union School of Theology. Blogging was just becoming a “thing” and some of my fellow-students were blogging and encouraged me to write as well. I planned it as a smorgasbord of things – commentary, thoughts, reflections on my studies, nonsense. Most of all it was to be fun.

It was an interesting time. The so-called emergent church movement was gathering pace, and a kind of young, restless and Reformed version of it was appearing which coalesced into organisations like Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition. There was plenty to think and talk about. There was a lot of interaction between bloggers – commenting, responding to blog posts with more blog posts.

I don’t know what happened, but blogging became professionalised and probably monetised. Platforms like Patheos and The Gospel Coalition and Reformation21, to name a few, began hosting celebrated writers. It all became very serious. Grass roots blogging seemed to fall out of fashion. It wasn’t helped by the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Now these are somewhat passé unless you are an activist. For fun go to Instagram or Tik Tok. The visual has taken over.

This blog has been on life support for years now. I think my last post was 5 months ago. The one before that was five months before that. A little over two blog posts a year.

However, in my foray into old posts I was sufficiently energised to reconsider this enterprise and perhaps return to its roots. To write about this and that, hopefully with a wiser head than 16 years ago, sometimes writing serious things. Sometimes not. Times have changed since I started. The issues in our society have changed profoundly. But let’s have a go and see what happens.