For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q24

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q23-24)is The Offices of the Mediator: The Prophetic. (see Harmony Index)

Questions 24-26 explain how the offices of Christ—prophet, priest, and king—fulfill the work of redemption. The first of Christ’s three offices is that of a Prophet, one who reveals the word and will of God, particularly for our salvation. 
May the Lord grant us an eager ear for hearing, with a heart ready to receive refreshment, as we meditate upon this precious truth concerning our Savior.
WSC Q24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word[a] and Spirit[b], the will of God for our salvation[c].
[a] Luke 4:18-19, 21; Acts 1:1-2; Heb. 2:3
[b] John 15:26-27; Acts 1:8; I Pet. 1:11
[c] John 4:41-42; 20:30-31
Question 24 asks how Christ is a prophet, and answers that as a prophet Christ reveals the will of God to us for our salvation, by his Word and Spirit.
Comments and considerations:
Christ carries out—or executes—the office of a prophet. The word “executes” is significant, and we’ve looked at it before. It means to carry out unto completion; to effect, to perform, to finish a task. It can also be used in a legal sense as in executing a law, judgment, or legal commitment. The idea here is that of leaving nothing undone in a legal contract, an obligation, or a responsibility. We speak today of “crossing every t,or “dotting every i”the equivalent of what Jesus said when he spoke of fulfilling every “jot and tittle” of the law (Matt. 5:18). Our Lord came to this earth with something to do; and he left nothing undone that needed doing. When he cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” he had perfectly executed, or completed, all his Father’s will for the salvation of his people; the effects of his work continue by the living Word and Spirit.
The term “prophet” literally means one who speaks on behalf of another. God spoke to men through prophets; and those prophets came with God’s authority, representing him. Kings and other human rulers spoke to their people by way of messengers or prophets like these. Without the benefits of modern communication systems, there was no easy way for these prophets to double-check a message or get the ruler’s permission to make a change to the message. The prophets spoke with authority, and their decrees could not be changed (Esther 1:19). Although they could not proclaim a message which was at odds with that of the ruler, the prophets did have the responsibility to interpret the ruler’s will in the situations they encountered. They were empowered with the authority of their office to speak for the one they represented as if it were that ruler speaking.
The word “prophet” means not only one who speaks for another, but also to speak beforehand: “before” plus “to say.” Thus, if the king were present to observe a situation, he would make a certain decree. But in his absence, the prophet speaks on his behalf, based on his own observations and his full knowledge of the ruler’s decrees, and even of his thoughts. A prophet might foretell events based on knowledge known only to him, and in the case of a prophet of God, based on inspired knowledge of what was to come. But the greater emphasis is given in Scripture not to hidden prophecies about future events, but rather to the prophet’s wise and reasoned forth telling of events to come as an interpreter and observer of circumstances and heart attitudes. For example, Jesus once said, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’” (Mark 7:6). Knowing the mind of the authority he represents, the prophet can “read” the situation and interpret the outcome if conditions and behaviors do not change. Here he serves to instruct those under authority, to warn or encourage the king’s subjects. This is what the prophets of God did when they proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord,” either by inspiration or by reasoning from revealed written Word of God: “If you persist in doing such, the outcome will be thus.”
How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet? Our catechism answers rightly, “in revealing to us by his Word and Spirit, the will of God." The list of Scriptures provided gives witness to the written and living Word used in tandem with the ministry of the Holy Spirit to communicate the mind and will of God.
I Cor. 2:13, II Tim. 3:15-17, and Eph. 4:11-12 might be added to our study to show how Christ continues to execute the office of prophet in giving gifts to the Church, in speaking to God’s people for their edification, faith, and obedience, and in calling them out of the darkness and into the light of salvation.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    As created beings, and because of the sin-affected nature of fallen man, there are limits to what we can know. If we are to understand the things of God, we need another to speak forth the mind of God to us, a prophet ordained to the task of revealing God’s will to God’s people. Read Acts 3:18-24. In verses 18-21 & 24, who are referred to as prophets in the Old Testament? In verses 22-23, who is being referred to as the one who will be “a Prophet like me [Moses] from your brethren?” Also see Heb. 1:1-2.
2.    When Jesus spoke during his earthly ministry, it was noticeably different from the  “what” and the “way” people were used to being taught. Read Matt. 7:28-29, John 3:31-32, and John 12:49-50. How was it different?
3.    In addition to the “what” and the “way” that Jesus taught, what else was different concerning His words and earthly ministry? See John 1:14-18.
4.    Teachers tend not to teach primarily about themselves; they present information and instruction about something or someone else. OT prophets spoke for God, about the things and will of God. But again, Jesus’ approach to this office of prophet differed from the norm. How did it differ? See John 14:6 and 6:28-29.
5.    Now that Jesus is ascended to the right hand of the Father, has his office of prophet ceased, and if not, how is it now being performed? See John 14:26; 16:13-14, 16-17 cf. I Cor. 2:12.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 24 and WLC Q# 43
WSC Q24. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A.  Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us[a], by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation[b].
[a] John 1:1,4
[b] John 15:15; John 20:31; II Peter 1:21; John 14:26
WLC Q43. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A.  Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church in all ages[a], by his Spirit and Word[b], in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation[c].
[a] John 1:1, 4
[b] II Peter 1:21; II Corinthians 2:9,10
[c] Ephesians 4:11, 12, 13; John 20:31
Questions for further study:

We would note how the Larger Catechism asks the same question as the Shorter, but with a more expansive answer and set of scripture references.  What is different in the lengthier answer?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q23

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q23-24)is The Offices of the Mediator: The Prophetic. (see Harmony Index)
We come to that portion of the catechism where we study how Christ meets and fulfills the work of redemption for his people. There is a parallel between the three offices of Christ and God’s instructions for his people. We are often told in the Bible of God’s claim upon all that we think, speak, and do (e.g., Ex. 13:9). Christ perfectly fulfills every part of God’s requirement for His people. As a prophet Christ brings the mindof God to his people; as a priest he makes expressionin sacrifice and intercession towards God for his people; and as a king he rulesas a servant-shepherd king, caring for and conquering all opposition, even conquering death for his own. There is much to ponder in this next section. For truly, in Christ, we posses “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (II Pet. 1:3).
Oh, what a perfect Savior is he who lived and died and ever lives for his own. He is the Alpha and Omega, Prophet, Priest, and King forever, amen!
WSC Q23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet[a], of a priest[b], and of a king[c], both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
[a] Deut. 18:18; Acts 2:33; 3:22-23; Heb. 1:1-2; Luke 4:18, 21
[b] Heb. 4:14-15; 5:5-6
[c] Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33; John 18:37; I Cor. 15:25; Rev. 19:16; Ps. 2:6
Question 23 asks what tasks Christ performs as our redeemer, and answers that as our redeemer Christ is a prophet, priest, and king in both his humiliation and his exaltation.
Comments and considerations:
This simple statement is the foundation of many aspects of our Christian faith. Consider what we have already learned, that man was created in the image of God, originally whole in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Q10). Thus one could say that Adam was in effect established as a prophet, priest, and king prior to the fall, only to become ignorant, guilty, and sinful. From that point on, the narrative of Scripture is about the work of redemption in recovering God’s elect from their lost estate of sin and misery (Q17-20).
The Old Testament prepares for the day of the Redeemer’s arrival; it is a narrative filled with prophets, priests, and kings, chosen by God to fill necessary offices and functions, but demonstrating their imperfections, and creating a burning desire for the long awaited Savior-Messiah who would succeed where others failed. Through faithful prophets God gave his true word. Through faithful priests God showed how there could be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Through faithful kings God revealed how his people were to obey him in all things; some were called to multiple offices, some did well while others were unfaithful, stumbling, and ineffective. Paul wrote to the New Testament Galatians that, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son;” men were in despair, longing for the real thing, and the time was right. John the Baptist’s disciples sought the “Coming One” (Luke 7:20), and Philip rejoiced, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Jesus came at last not only to fulfill but also to unite each of the three offices under his authority in his great work of redemption. His authority as a king was so undeniable that even watching skeptics could not keep from confessing the truth (John 19:19-22); his sacrifice was evident in life and death. He spoke like no one else. Even the most hardened Roman guard publicly acknowledged Christ as the Son of God as he hung on the cross in his estate of humiliation (Matt 27:54).
People today don’t consider their need for a redeemer, prophet, priest, or king. Like the Jews of our Lord’s day, many today view themselves as slaves to no man, not needing a Redeemer. Yet they need to hear the convicting words of a true prophetspeaking from the God on high. They need a priestto effectively and permanently remove the heart blinding sin that keeps them from communion with God on high. And they need a holy and righteous kingto subdue their rebellious hearts in justice and love, to redeem them from the slave market of sin, and to renew in them the image lost from ages past. This is Christ our Redeemer, who executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation, in perfect unity and harmony, fulfilling and providing for his own a great salvation— “allthings that pertain to life and godliness” forever (II Pet. 1:3).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.       In what ways or through what forms of authority did God communicate to his people in the OT before the earthly coming of our Lord? (WSC Q23 suggests the answer).
2.       Read Hebrews 2:9. How was Christ humiliated, and how is he exalted now, especially in the role of prophet, priest, and king?
3.       A prophet is one who takes the Word of God to the people. He speaks for God to the people. What promise did Christ fulfill, found in Deut. 18:15-18? (Also see Heb. 1:1-3.)
4.       A priest represented the people before God, offering sacrifices and making intercession (prayers and offerings) to God for the people. How does Christ fulfill this office as our priest? See Heb. 7:24-27.
5.       A king rules and has authority to command and be obeyed. How does Mark 1:23-27 and 4:35-41 demonstrate Christ’s authority? How far does his authority extend? See Eph. 1: 20-23.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 23 and WLC Q# 41&42, WCF VIII.I
WSC Q23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A.  Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet[a], of a priest[b], and of a king[c], both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
[a] Deut. 18:18; Acts 2:33; 3:22-23; Heb. 1:1-2; Luke 4:18, 21
[b] Heb. 4:14-15; 5:5-6
[c] Isa9:6-7; Luke 1:32-33; John 18:37; I Cor. 15:25; Rev. 19:16; Psa. 2:6
WLC Q41. Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
A.  Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins[a].
[a]  Mat. 1:21
WLC Q42. Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A.  Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure[a], and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability[b], to execute the offices of prophet[c], priest[d], and king of his church[e], in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.
[a] Luke 4:18-21; John 3:34; Ps. 45:7
[b] Luke 4:14; Heb. 9:14; John 6:27; Matt. 28:18-20
[c] Acts 3:21-22; Luke 4:18, 21
[d] Heb. 5:5-7; 4:14-15
[e] Rev. 19:6; Ps. 2:6; Matt. 21:5; Isa. 9:6, 7; Phil. 2:8-11
Of Christ the Mediator.
I.    It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man[a], the Prophet[b], Priest[c], and King[d] the Head and Saviour of his church[e] the Heir of all things[f], and Judge of the world[g]: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed[h], and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified[i].
[a]  Isa. 42:1; I Pet. 1:19-20, John 3:16; I Tim. 2:5
[b]  Acts 3:20, 22; see Deut. 18:15
[c]  Heb. 5:5-6
[d]  Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33; see Isa. 9:5-6; Acts 2:29-36; Col. 1:13
[e]  Eph. 5:23
[f]  Heb. 1:2
[g]  Acts 17:31
[h]John 17:6; Ps. 22:30; Isa. 53:10; Eph. 1:4
[i]  I Tim. 2:6; Isa. 55:4-5; I Cor. 1:30; Rom. 8:30
Questions for further study:

The Scriptures often refer to our Lord as our Kinsman-Redeemer.  How does this series for confessional statement bear this out?