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, July 9, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q2


As we begin afresh in this study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, here are three reminders:
First, it is important to remember that each study concludes with questions based upon the book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade, published by P&R Publishing, PO Box 817, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817. This“Family Devotional is based on the Shorter Catechism” that breaks down each catechism question into weekly studies, arranged in six concise Monday to Saturday readings, providing an excellent daily review and study. Obtaining a copy of Training Hearts, Teaching Minds to use with this study is highly recommended.
Second, a harmony of the Standards is at the end of each study. As a side note, there are several published harmony studies and guidelines available and they vary in arrangement. It is somewhat difficult to harmonize the three documents, especially coming at it from the direction of the Shorter Catechism. 
Third, a Harmony Index has been added to the home page that contains a Doctrinal Heading for each sectional of questions under study. The index is incomplete at the start and will expand progressively through this cycle of study, with the intent to be complete by the end with Q107.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q2
“When in doubt, read the instructions,” the saying goes. That may not be what “real men” do, but it ought to be what “real Christians” do. Our sinful nature looks for shortcuts and quick answers to the issues and concerns of this life. But we know better, for the Scriptures rightly testify that it is “line upon line” that we study to show ourselves approved unto God (II Tim. 2:15). Jesus said in his priestly prayer, “Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). And so it is that the catechism first instructs us as to our chief end—”to glorify God and enjoy him forever”—and next shows us how to pursue that end through the active use of “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”
The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q2-3) is The Doctrine of Holy Scripture or The Divine Authority of the Scriptures. 
This is the topic of week two of our Catechism studies. May the Lord bless you and those around you as you draw near to him, and to the word of his truth.
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WSC Q2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer:  The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,[a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.[b]
[a] Matt. 19:4-5 with Gen. 2:24; Luke 24:27, 44; I Cor. 2:13; 14:37; II Pet.1:20-21; 3:2, 15-16
[b] Deut. 4:2; Ps. 19:7-11; Isa. 18:20; John 15:11; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11; II Tim. 3:15-17; I John 1:4
Question #2 asks what authority from God directs us how to glorify and enjoy him, and answers that the only authority for glorifying and enjoying him is the Bible, which is the Word of God and is made up of the Old and New Testaments.
Comments and considerations:
Although there is much that could be studied, let us focus on the word “rule.” The catechism asks, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” 
We must admit that our initial reaction to the word “rule” is usually negative, to some degree. We don’t like restraints on our freedoms, and we seem to laud people who “color outside the lines.” The first word a young child usually learns to speak is “no." If we ever heard in those precious first words something akin to “sure, no problem, right way, mommy,” we’d probably faint—certain we’d entered the twilight zone. Rules abound in modern life, precisely because people tend to break them. For example, most major competitive sports began with rather simple list of rules, which has evolved to the size of a city phonebook. Athletes and coaches, looking for ways to win, are constantly looking for “inventive” ways to play the game—ways around the rules—so that new rules are constantly being added. 
I believe it was the old comedian W.C. Fields, known as a somewhat profane man, who was found thumbing through the Bible near the end of his days. When asked what he was looking for, he responded, “Loop holes, my child, looking for loop holes.” The Bible is right: “the heart is deceitful” (Jer. 17.9); the human heart does not like rules. But human beings need them to keep from driving off a cliff of temporal and eternal destruction. Rules are essential “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim 3:16), to keep us pointed in the right direction.
As we consider the meaning of the word “rule,” we are not surprised to find definitions like “explicit or understood regulation,” “governing principle,” or “authority.” We even find reference to a “wooden straight-edged ruler.” Referring to the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, we see several directions for additional instruction, but one I find particularly interesting is the word’s derivation; it comes from the Latin, regula, from redo - “to govern,” that is, “to stretch, strain, or make straight.” Wouldn’t you agree that “govern” and “make straight” fit our usage rather well? Notice the similarity to the meaning of “orthodox,” a term we hold in high esteem. But what about “stretch” and “strain?”  How do those words relate to our understanding of rules?
Do you ever feel stretched by the rules or authorities in your life? How about strained? Or conversely, do you feel constrained by rules and standards? Now, when it comes to glorifying and enjoying God in the context of the first and second catechism lessons, do we ever find the blessing of obedience to be a “stretch” to our Christian endeavor, and a “strain” to perform? You see, God has given us a “rule” to govern how we are to glorify and enjoy him; we are to approach him in a particular, orthodox manner, as described in his inspired word.  If the truth be known, there is a little W.C. Fields in all of us; from time to time, each of us looks for loop holes (Rom. 7:13-25). That is why we need to study these things over and over again (II Tim. 2:15), continuously hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Ps.119:11), memorizing precious truths unto salvation and sanctification (John 17:17) for his glory and enjoyment forever.  
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Read II Tim. 3:16-17. Now read it in context (3:1-15 and 4:1-4). In this text, how has God chosen to communicate information about himself and his truth? What four things has he communicated in verse 16, and to what purpose in verse 17?
2.    How were the different writers of the Bible directed in recording scripture? See II Pet. 1:20-2.
3.    It is a wonderful privilege to have God’s Word to read and keep (Deut. 4:5-8). What does Deut. 29:29 tell us about God’s greatness and our inability to discover him by ourselves?
4.    Is there any way to know God’s will and purpose without His Word? See Ps. 119:97-105.
5.    What warning does God give his people about those who teach things about God and His truth which are not found in the Bible? See Gal. 1:8; Deut. 4:2; Jer. 23: 31-32.
6.    When we hear new or different teachings, how should we check to see if they are true? See Acts 17: 10-11; I Thess. 2:13.
Harmony of the Standards:  WSC Q#2, WLC Q#3 & 4, WCF Chapter I.II-III 
WSC Q2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A.  The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,[a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.[b]
[a] Matt. 19:4-5 with Gen. 2:24; Luke 24:27, 44; I Cor. 2:13; 14:37; II Pet.1:20-21; 3:2, 15-16
[b] Deut. 4:2; Ps. 19:7-11; Isa. 18:20; John 15:11; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11; II Tim. 3:15-17; I John 1:4
WLC Q3. What is the Word of God?
A.  The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God [a], the only rule of faith and obedience [b]. 
[a] II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:19-21
[b] Eph. 2:20; Rev. 22:18-19; Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29, 31; Gal. 1:8-9; II Tim. 3:15-16
WLC Q4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are of the Word of God?
A.  The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty [a] and purity [b]; by the consent of all the parts [c], and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God [d]; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation [e]: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God [f].
[a] Hos. 8:12; 1Cor. 2:6-7, 13; Ps. 119:18, 129
[b] Ps. 12:6; 119:140
[c] Acts 10:43; 26:22
[d] Rom. 3:19, 27
[e] Acts 18:28, 20:32; Heb. 4:12; Jam. 1:18; Ps. 19:7- 9; Rom. 15:4
[f] John 16:13-14, 20:31; I John 2:20, 27
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. I.
Of the Holy Scripture.
II.  Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Genesis
II Kings
Isaiah
Exodus
I Chronicles
Jeremiah
Leviticus
II Chronicles 
Lamentations
Numbers
Ezra
Ezekiel
Deuteronomy
Nehemiah
Daniel
Joshua
Esther
Hosea
Judges
Job
Joel
Ruth
Psalms
Amos
I Samuel
Proverbs
Obadiah
II Samuel
Ecclesiastes
Jonah
I Kings 
The Song of Songs
Micah
OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Acts of the Apostles.
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, the Corinthians I, the Corinthians II, the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, the Thessalonians I, the Thessalonians II, Timothy I, Timothy II, Titus, Philemon.  
The Epistle to the Hebrews.  
The Epistle of James.  
The First and Second Epistles of Peter.  
The First, Second, and Third Epistles of John.  
The Epistle of Jude.  
The Revelation of John.
      All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life [g].
[g]  Luke 16:29, 31; Luke 24:27, 44; II Tim. 3:15-16; John 5:46-47
III.The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings [h].
[h]  Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:2; II Pet. 1:21
Questions for further study:
According to WLC Q3, how do we determine what scriptures are the Word of God?
According to WLC Q4, what are the evidences of given testimony that the scriptures are in fact God’s word?

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