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 16, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q3

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q3
This week’s catechism question follows Questions 1 & 2, in that God’s Word directs us how to glorify and enjoy him in two primary ways: 1) by teaching us about him (who he is in his character, his actions, and his desires) and 2) by teaching us what he requires of all that he has created, and especially of man, made in his image.
The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q2-3) is The Doctrine of Holy Scripture or The Divine Authority of the Scriptures. 
May the Lord bless you through this important lesson regarding the central focus of Scripture, knowing what we are to believe and practice.
WSC Q3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Answer:  The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God[a], and what duty God requires of man[b].
[a]  Gen. 1:1; John 5:39; 20:31; Rom. 10:17; II Tim. 3:15
[b]  Deut. 10:12-13; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:105; Mic. 6:8; II Tim. 3:16-17
Question #3 asks what does the Bible primarily teach, and answers that the Bible primarily teaches what man must believe about God and what God requires of man.
Comments and considerations:
My godly stepfather once told me that if people were to fully understand the first four words of the Bible, everything else would fall correctly into place: “In the beginning, God…” A wise man, my stepfather.
The first scripture reference associated with this catechism question is Gen. 1.1, and it must be our starting point for understanding the authority of God’s inspired Word. This catechism question mentions two things—our beliefs and our actions, our faith and our practice. This is, in fact, how the entire Shorter Catechism is arranged. Questions 1-38 deal with what we are to believe, and Questions 38-107 deal with our duties, the sacraments, and prayer.
In this lesson, we must consider two words: believe and duty. These are familiar words, but they carry various definitions. To believe implies faith and the acceptance of something as true. A modern dictionary adds, “to expect or hope with confidence; to trust.” Webster’s 1828 Dictionary speaks of “a firm persuasion of any thing.” In some cases, it means “to have full persuasion, approaching certainty; in others, more doubt is implied.” This refers to the dynamic of faith that can and does vary from questioning doubt, to mere opinion, to deep conviction. The strength of belief is dependent upon the object of faith, its merit, its trustworthiness, and the degree to which that object is understood and known.  
Duty derives its meaning from the idea of “dues,” or “that which is owed.” Thus one of the tertiary definitions for duty is a “tax” or “toll.” However, we are more familiar with duty as it relates to personal responsibilities—that which a person owes to another and is bound, by moral or legal obligation, to pay or perform. The term finds further definition in words like obedience, respect, reverence, forbearance, and submission. The fathers of our faith chose their words carefully, and the implications of this definition must be pondered. Duty conveys a sense of moral commitment and results in actions, not merely in feelings and the passive recognition of authority. It involves personal sacrifice. Duty is active, a personal commitment that comes at a cost.
We must remember that these catechism questions are linked; they must be understood as a whole. Consider again our chief end as stated in Question #1, to glorify and enjoy God forever. It has been said that events belong to God, but duties belong to us. When we study God as our forefathers intended, we see his sovereign power, wonderful grace, and awesome majesty. Our response is a glad and continuous act of duty to manifest his glory as his image bearers, the recipients of a so great and wondrous salvation; in so doing, truly “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     The Bible says that “the secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). God has revealed what he wants us to know for instruction and obedience. Read I Cor. 2:7-12. What does verse 7 say was hidden? In verse 11, who is the only One who knows the thoughts of God? Look in verse 10 to see how we come to know the thoughts of God and his hidden wisdom.
2.     If God had not revealed himself in the Bible, how true or correct would our ideas about God be? See Job 11:7; Rom. 11:33.
3.     Without the teaching of the Bible, what else would we not understand? See Rom 7:7; Gal 3:22.
4.     What is the central reason God gave us his Word? See II Tim. 3:15; John 5:39; 20:31.
5.     What is meant by the words “what God requires of man”?  See Ps. 119:9, 11; II Tim 3:16-17.
Harmony of the Standards:  WSC Q#3, WLC Q#5, WCF Chapter I.IV-X
WSC Q3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A.  The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God [a], and what duty God requires of man [b].
[a]  Gen. 1:1; John 5:39; 20:31; Rom. 10:17; II Tim. 3:15
[b]  Deut. 10:12-13; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:105; Mic. 6:8; II Tim. 3:16-17

WLC Q5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A.  The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man [a].
[a]  II Tim. 1:13

Of the Holy Scripture.
IV. The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God[i].
[I]  II Pet. 1:19-20; II Tim. 3:16; I John 5:9; I Thess. 2:13; Rev. 1:1-2

V.  We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverend esteem of the holy Scripture[k]. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts[l].
[k]  I Tim. 3:15
[l]  I Cor. 2:9-10; Heb. 4:12; John 10:35; Isa. 55:11; Rom. 11:36; Ps. 19:7-11; II Tim. 3:15; I Cor. 2:4-5; I Thess. 1:5; I John 2:20, 27; Isa. 59:21

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men[m]. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:[n] and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed[o].
      [m]  II Tim. 3:16-17; Gal. 1:8-9; II Thess. 2:2
      [n]  John 6:45; I Cor. 2:12, 14-15; Eph. 1:18; II Cor. 4:6
      [o]  I Cor. 11:13-14; I Cor. 14:26, 40

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all[p]: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them[q].
      [p]  II Pet. 3:16
      [q]  Ps. 119:105, 130; Deut. 29:29; Deut. 30:10-14; Acts 17:11

VIII.    The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical[r]; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them[s]. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them[t], therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come[u], that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner[w]; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope[x].
      [r]  Matt. 5:18; Ps. 119:89
      [s]  Is. 8:20; Matt. 15:3, 6; Acts 15:15; II Tim. 3:14-15
      [t]  John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Rev. 1:3; II Tim. 3:14- 15
      [u]  Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 14:6; Mark 15:34
      [w]  Col. 3:16; Exod. 20:4-6; Matt. 15:7-9
      [x]  Rom. 15:4

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly[y].
      [y]  Acts 15:15; John 5:46; II Pet. 1:20-21

X.  The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture[z].
      [z]  Matt. 22:29, 31; Acts 28:25; I John 4:1-6

Questions for further study:
We may be moved and induced by outward testimony of the church and other devices, yet how and where is our full persuasion and assurance of infallible truth derived?
What answer may we give to those who claim that not all things in Scripture are alike plain in themselves, nor clear to our understanding?
What is the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture?

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