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 9, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q70

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
This catechism study begins our look at the seventh commandment. God places a high premium upon marriage, and keeping it honorable and holy. Marriage was the first institution established in the Bible; and in the New Testament Paul shows how the marriage relationship gives a picture of the significant relationship between Christ and the Church. Much has been said and written about the topic of marriage and adultery, for it is an important issue with far reaching implications.
As always, we need to approach our study with prayer, that the Lord would grant us understanding unto a joyful and obedient heart in the keeping of his commandments.
WSC Q 70. Which is the seventh commandment?
A.   The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery[a].
[a] Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18
Question #70 asks what the seventh commandment is, and answers that the seventh commandment is: You shall not commit adultery.
Comments and considerations
We come to the seventh commandment and the special relationship of husbands and wives in the union of marriage. The next two catechism questions follow the normal pattern, looking at what is required and forbidden in this commandment. Here it is simply stated for our consideration.
The Bible has much to say about this first institution established by God. It is important not only in his eyes, but also for a stable and prosperous society. All around us we see the heartache and misery left in the wreckage of failed marriages and adulterous relationships. The blessings of God’s commandments are not only for his glory, but also for our protection, wellbeing, and enjoyment. This valuable institution ought to be treasured; is should not be debased, weakened, and polluted to its demise, the very meaning and outcome of adultery.
We correctly understand adultery to mean the unfaithfulness of a married person, a violation of the marriage bed. We also know there are implications and applications that go beyond this basic meaning, which we will see in the next two studies. For now, let’s look more closely at the word adultery. It is a compound of two words—adult, which means mature, full grown, complete, and alter, to make different or modify. We get this understanding from the root word of adultery, which is adulterate, meaning to debase, make impure by an admixture of a foreign or a baser substance; corrupt intrusion. Looking at some of the older definitions of adultery we find an obscure but rather interesting usage: “Among ancient naturalists, the grafting of trees was called adultery, being considered as an unnatural union.” (I find this definition amusing as it might be applied today in the environmentally-conscience society that fears anything “unnatural.”) Other definitions talk about debasing—weakening or devaluing—metals, or making food or water impure. The point is that the marriage union designed and ordained by God is a holy union, “adult” in the sense that it is a mature and complete reflection of God’s purpose, a union foundational to a godly and ordered society. Through their sinful lusts and unchecked desires, individuals ultimately destroy the very fiber and substance of protection and blessing that their covenant God has provided for them. You cannot make more complete that which is already complete; you only introduce something foreign to the body that either rejects the intrusion or becomes contaminated to it’s own detriment.
Our culture is preoccupied with environmental pollution; yet, ironically, we have so little concern for the soul pollution of adulterous thinking that so thoroughly corrupts the heart and mind, the very fabric of our homes and society.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Prov. 18:22. The following are excellent comments directly from Starr Meade’s devotional book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: “God intended for husbands and wives to have a special relationship with each other, closer than any relationship they have with other people. He meant for husbands and wives to be each other’s best friends. God intended for husbands and wives to spend their whole lives together, with nothing separating them. The purpose of this commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ is to protect the special relationship that husbands and wives have with one another.”
2.        The closeness of the marriage bond is that husband and wife are to be “one” as described in Matt. 19:4-6. Read Mal. 2:13-14. How does God view it when that “oneness” is broken, and what important term does Malachi use at the end of vs. 14 to describe the marriage relationship?
3.        Because we are sinners, self-centered by nature, putting others first, especially in marriage, is very difficult. Read again Malachi 2:13-16. What are two things that God hates?
4.        Marriage is a special thing created by God for two people to enjoy and keep holy together. What picture is represented in the marriage union, as describe in Eph. 5:22-33? How are husband and wife to treat each other?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q70, WLC 137, and WCF XXIV.I
WSC Q70. Which is the seventh commandment?
A.  The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery[a].
[a]  Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18
WLC Q137. Which is the seventh commandment?
A.  The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery[a].
[a]  Exod. 20:14
Of Marriage and Divorce
I.    Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.[a]
[a] Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; Rom. 7:3; Prov. 2:17
Question(s) for further study:

It is always instructive to reflect upon the scriptures our father’s reference in their catechetical and confessional instruction.  In Prov. 2:17, what might our father’s want us to observe in how the covenant influences or regulates our marital relationships?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q69

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
This catechism study takes another look at the sixth commandment, and what is forbidden. People often bring up the sixth commandment when raising opposition to capital punishment or war in general. Yet we know that the proper translation of the verb in the sixth commandment is murder, not kill, and that there is a difference between these two terms. The Bible does teach the warrant for taking life in self- and national- defense, and under the circumstance of “due process” by constituted legal authorities.  Notice that this catechism answer forbids taking life “unjustly.” We also learn from this catechism study that there is more than one way to “murder” an individual; murder does not always lead to physical death.
We need to be able to think these things through biblically, and this catechism review provides an opportunity to develop our understanding of significant topics that we encounter daily. Let us remember to approach our study in prayer, seeking humble discernment that is expressed in faith which honors our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.
WSC Q69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto[a].
[a] Gen. 9:6; Matt. 5:22; I John 3:15
Question #69 asks what the sixth commandment forbids, and answers that the sixth commandment forbids taking one’s own life or the lives of others unjustly or doing anything that leads to suicide or murder.
Comments and considerations:
In keeping the sixth commandment we are to endeavor to preserve our own life, and the life of others (the positive); we are not to take our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto (the negative). The Scripture verses are nothing surprising; they deal with both the sanctity of and right to life, and the heart issue regarding the protection and safeguard of life. So what more can be said? Well, the rivers of the Word run deep, and throughout Scripture there are lessons on how this law should be applied; we find everything from building codes to restitution laws to how we speak to one another.
Notice those last three words strung together in the catechism answer. Whatsoever means, well... anything and everything. It is an obsolete word that means whatever: “all that; the whole that; all particulars that”—whatever! Tendeth or tending means “taking care of, having a certain direction;” it is an old English word from “seaman’s language, a swinging round or movement of a ship upon her anchor.” Here we get an image of something tethered or secured so as to not stray into harm’s way; the idea of “seriously taking care of” a thing. And finally, look at the compound thereunto, which means simply “there and to; to that and this; thereto; besides.” So this phrase is speaking of everything and anything that secures and safeguards the life, health, and wellbeing being of your own life or the life of your neighbor. This is very practical and sobering. We are responsible and accountable to “handle with care” the lives entrusted to us; we cannot opt out with silly and sinful questions like, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or “Who is my neighbor?”
I recall doing a property and safety inspection through our church and school facility with the local fire marshal. How many of these have I done in my years as an operations manager working for different companies, and especially while working in the power supply industry? I haven’t a clue—countless. I also remember my own reaction when I was a young person, when firemen showed up at my elementary school for these surprise inspections. It was the same wide-eyed look I saw on my students’ faces when this remembered church and school inspection occurred. As the marshal left, leaving me with a to-do list, I recalled my last safety meeting at the company where I recently worked. I was responsible for the company’s safety program, and I was introducing a new safety strategy and list of initiatives. I also introduced a new phrase that had just come into the safety industry as a training tool and indicator of a cultural shift in the philosophy of safety: “Safety is a Value not a Priority” – “Priorities Change, Values Don’t.” Over the years I’ve watched as “other priorities” push the supposed high priority of personal safety to the side for expedient business reasons. Saying, “Safety is a Value not a Priority,” represented a big change in the cultural thinking of business—at least if it is truly meant and enforced.
The commandments of our God are his covenant values; they represent the true value system that governs the earth and all that it contains (Ps. 19). We need to take the “whatsoever tendeth thereunto” just as seriously as the “the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor, unjustly;” and we must perform “all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.” There are no exceptions to this rule: “handle with care” everything and every person in every area of life.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Lev. 19:16-18. When the sixth commandment forbids murder, it does not forbid the act only. What are some of the actions and attitudes forbidden in this passage?
2.        God is absolutely holy. He hates sin in any form. The sin of hating another in your heart and holding a grudge against that person rather than forgiving is, in God’s eyes, another way of breaking the sixth commandment. Summarize what Jesus is saying in Matt. 5:21-22.
3.        Ps. 37 tells us much about abusive people and the ungodly who plot and sometimes prosper. What should our attitude be according to vss. 7-9?
4.        Sometimes we think that a careless word cannot hurt us or another person. But what does the truth of Prov. 12:18 say about this and the use of speech?
5.        God is very serious about how we treat others, especially if we “look the other way” when we see someone in true need. How do Job 31:16-23 and Matt. 25:31-46 express this?
6.        Is our careful treatment of others to be reserved only to fellow believers in Christ? See Matt. 5: 43-48.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q69, WLC 136, and WCF XXXI
WSC Q.69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A.  The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour, unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto[a].
[a]  Gen. 9:6; Matt. 5:22; IJohn 3:15
WLC Q136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves[a], or of others[b], except in case of public justice[c], lawful war[d], or necessary defence[e]; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life[f]; sinful anger[g], hatred[h], envy[i], desire of revenge[j]; all excessive passions[k], distracting cares[l]; immoderate use of meat, drink[m], labor[n], and recreations[o]; provoking words[p], oppression[q], quarreling[r], striking, wounding[s], and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any[t].
[a]   Acts 16:28
[b]   Gen. 9:6
[c]   Num. 35:31, 33
[d]   Jer. 48:10; Deut. 20:1
[e]   Exod. 22:2-3
[f]    Mat. 25:42-43; Jam. 2:15-16; Ecc. 6:1-2
[g]   Mat. 5:22
[h]   1John 3:15; Lev. 19:17
[i]    Prov. 14:30
[j]    Rom. 12:19
[k]   Eph. 4:31
[l]    Mat. 6:31, 34
[m] Luke 21:34; Rom. 13:13
[n]   Ecc. 12:12; 2:22-23
[o]   Isa. 5:12
[p]   Prov. 15:1; 12:18
[q]   Ezek. 18:18; 1:14
[r]    Gal. 5:15; Prov. 23:29
[s]   Num. 35:16-18, 21
[t]    Exod. 21:18 to the end
Of Synods and Councils.
I.    For the better government, and further edification of the church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils;[a] and it belongeth to the overseers and other rulers of the particular churches, by virtue of their office, and the power which Christ hath given them for edification and not for destruction, to appoint such assemblies;[b] and to convene together in them, as often as they shall judge it expedient for the good of the church.[c]
[a]  Acts 15:2, 4, 6
[b]  Acts 15:1-35
[c]  Acts 15:1-35; 20:17
II.  It belongeth to synods and councils, magisterially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word.[d]
[d]. Acts 15:15, 19, 24, 27-31; Acts 16:4; Matt. 18:17-20
III. All synods or councils, since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred.  Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.[e]
[e]  Eph. 2:20; Acts 17:11; I Cor. 2:5; II Cor. 1:24; cf. Isa. 8:19-20; Matt. 15:9
IV. Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.[f]
[f]  Luke 12:13-14; John 18:36; Matt. 22:21
Question(s) for further study:
In the question of what is forbidden in the sixth commandment, this shorter catechism question provides a general overview.  What does the parallel Larger Question provide?  (1) What does the Confessional statement aligned here teach and demonstrate? (2)
1.     Specifics and/or specific categories of sins forbidden?

2.     Among many things, it presents the forum for “just” law examination, study and applications.