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 23, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q4

This week’s Shorter Catechism question follows in sequence, dealing with who this God is that we are to glorify, enjoy, believe, and obey. It speaks of his essence or being—a mystery, to be sure! But the Bible is sufficient to make God known, though not fully comprehensible. Deut. 29:29 applies once again in 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.”
The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q4-6) is The Being, Attributes and Persons of the Godhead.   
May our understanding of these truths govern our thoughts and actions to his honor, as we prayerfully approach our study.
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WSC Q4. What is God?
Answer:  God is a Spirit[a], infinite[b], eternal[c], and unchangeable[d] in his being[e], wisdom[f], power[g], holiness[h], justice[i], goodness[j], and truth[k].
[a] Deut. 4:15-19; Luke 24:39; John 1:18; 4:24; Acts 17:29
[b] I Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; 145:3; 147:5; Jer. 23:24; Rom. 11:33-36
[c] Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; 102:12, 24-27; Rev. 1:4, 8
[d] Ps. 33:11; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:12; 6:17-18; 13:8; Jas. 1:17
[e] Ex. 3:14; Ps. 115:2-3; I Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16
[f] Ps. 104:24; Rom. 11:33-34; Heb. 4:13; I John 3:20
[g] Gen. 17:1; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 1:8
[h] Heb. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 3:3, 5; Rev. 15:4
[i] Gen. 18:25; Ex. 34:6-7; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 96:13; Rom. 3:5, 26
[j] Ps. 103:5; 107:8; Matt. 19:17; Rom. 2:4
[k] Ex. 34:6; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 86:15; 117:2; Heb. 6:18
Question #4 asks what is God, and answers that He is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.
Comments and considerations:
I like to focus on one or two words as we study each catechism question. This is not to say that any one word is more important than another. Each could be approached this way if time and space allowed. However, this week, the choice is particularly difficult; with so many to consider, which one should I choose?
I recall years ago when a certain leader of our great nation got tangled up in a national scandal; attempting to extricate himself from this public embarrassment, he decided to justify his actions through the re-definition of the word “is.”  “It all depends,” he said, “on what your definition of the word is, is.”  I suppose he had a point; words do have meaning. In this postmodern era, part of the problem is that words are losing their meaning, and we are losing our ability to discern right from wrong. 
The catechism assumesthat God is, and goes on to describe his attributes as revealed in his Word. How often do people get caught up in debate over the existence of God? Recently, so-called scholarly attacks have questioned God’s very existence; if he does exist, they go on to ask, should he be acknowledged, let alone honored? The debate in some circles never seems to end.
Well, back to the word “is.” In these supposedly enlightened times, isn’t it odd that we must debate something as simple as the meaning of this very useful word. Whereas dictionaries provide several alternate definitions for other words, older dictionaries provide only one definition for “is,” composed of three or four distinct roots which appear in the words “am”, “be”, and “are.” Newer dictionaries add a bit, but don’t stray far from what our reason would expect.
G. K. Chesterton has said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.” Scripture is very clear on this point: God has written eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11), yet in our sin-driven rebellion, we persist in “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). The antidote to man’s sin-cursed reasoning is the Spirit-blessed hearing, acknowledging, and honoring of the great I AM as he has revealed himself in his Word (WSC Q#3). When meeting Moses at the burning bush, God simply stated, “I AM WHO I AM… Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AMhas sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14). Centuries later, Jesus proclaimed, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). This tiny verb—is—is a powerful word, especially as we understand it as “Godis,” the great I AM, a Spirit infinite,eternal, and unchangeablein his beingwisdompower,holinessjusticegoodness, and truth: our God, “the One who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 11:17).
So if we can get past the word “is” (which appears to be somewhat difficult apart from God’s grace), and get to the study of the other words, … now there is something to consider and contemplate. 
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read John 4:24. What is God? Read I Tim. 1:17. Can God be seen? What does Ps. 102:24b-27 say about our God? 
2.     What aspects of God’s character are described in I Kings 8:27 and Mal. 3:6?
3.     God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Everything about him—his love, his holiness, his power, everything—is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable as well. Read Rom. 11:33 and Ps. 147:5. What does Ps. 147:5 say about God’s understanding? Is there a limit to what God knows, or to his wisdom? What does this say about our ability to trust him? See also Ps. 19:7-9.
4.     Read Is. 40:25-26. Why do the stars keep their courses, and the sun and moon keep their rhythm and place? See Jer. 32:17; Dan. 4:35.
5.     Read Is. 6:3. What word is used three times to describe God? See Rev. 15:4. What does that mean? See I John 1:5.
6.     How would you describe a police officer who ignores someone that breaks the law, or a judge who sets a robber free just because he feels like it? Why should we rejoice that we do not serve that kind of God? See Ps. 96:11-13.
7.     God is equally infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Why should this encourage us as sinners who deserve judgment? See Ps. 86:5; 34:8; 106:1.

Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q#4, WLC Q#’s 2,6,&7, WCF Chapter I.I & II.I-II. 
WSC Q4. What is God?
A.  God is a Spirit[a], infinite[b], eternal[c], and unchangeable[d] in his being[e], wisdom[f], power[g], holiness[h], justice[i], goodness[j], and truth[k].
[a] Deut. 4:15-19; Luke 24:39; John 1:18; 4:24; Acts 17:29
[b] I Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; 145:3; 147:5; Jer. 23:24; Rom. 11:33-36
[c] Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; 102:12, 24-27; Rev. 1:4,8
[d] Ps. 33:11; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:12; 6:17-18; 13:8; Jas. 1:17
[e] Ex. 3:14; Ps. 115:2-3; I Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16
[f] Ps. 104:24; Rom. 11:33-34; Heb. 4:13; I John 3:20
[g] Gen. 17:1; Ps. 62:11; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 1:8
[h] Heb. 1:13; I Pet. 1:15-16; I John 3:3, 5; Rev. 15:4
[i] Gen. 18:25; Ex. 34:6-7; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 96:13; Rom. 3:5, 26
[j] Ps. 103:5; 107:8; Matt. 19:17; Rom. 2:4
[k] Ex. 34:6; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 86:15; 117:2; Heb. 6:18
WLC Q2.  How doth it appear that there is a God?
A.  The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God[a]; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation[a].
      [a] Rom. 1:19-20; Ps. 19:1-3; Acts 17:28
      [b] 1Cor. 2:9-10; 2Tim. 3:15-17; Isa. 59:21
WLC Q6.  What do the Scriptures make known of God?
A.  The Scriptures make known what God is [a], the persons in the Godhead [b], his decrees [c], and the execution of his decrees [d].
      [a] Heb. 11:6
      [b] 1 John 5:17
      [c] Acts 15:14-15, 18
      [d] Acts 4:27-28
WLC Q7.  What is God?
A.  God is a Spirit[a], in and of himself infinite in being[b], glory[c], blessedness[d], and perfection[e]; all-sufficient[f], eternal[g], unchangeable [h], incomprehensible[i], everywhere present[j], almighty[k], knowing all things[l], most wise[m], most holy[n], most just[o], most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth[p].
      [a] John 4:24
      [b] Ex. 3:14; Job 11:7-9
      [c] Acts 7:2
      [d] I Tim. 6:15
      [e] Matt. 4:48
      [f] Gen. 17:1
      [g] Ps. 90:2
      [h] Mal. 3:6
      [i] I Kings 8:27
      [j] Ps. 139:1-13
      [k] Rev. 4:8
      [l] Heb. 4:13; Ps. 147:5
      [m] Rom. 16:27
      [n] Isa. 6:3; Rev. 15:4
      [o] Deut. 32:4
      [p] Ex. 34:6
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. I.
Of the Holy Scripture.
I.    Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable;[a] yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.[b]  Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manner, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church;[c]  and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing:[d] which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary;[e] those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.[f]
      [a] Rom. 2:14-15; Rom. 1:19-20; Ps. 19:1-4; see Rom. 1:32; Rom. 2:1
      [b] John 17:3; I Cor. 1:21; I Cor. 2:13-14
      [c] Heb. 1:1-2
      [d] Luke 1:3-4; Rom. 15:4; Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; Isa. 8:20
      [e] II Tim. 3:15; II Pet. 1:19
      [f] John 20:31; I Cor. 14:37; I John 5:13; I Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1-2; Heb. 2:2-4

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. II.
Of God, and of the Holy Trinity.
I.    There is but one only, living, and true God[a], who is infinite in being and perfection[b], a most pure spirit[c], invisible[d], without body, parts, or passions[e], immutable[f], immense[g], eternal[h], incomprehensible[i], almighty[j], most wise [k], most holy[l], most free[m], most absolute[n], working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will[o], for his own glory[p], most loving[q], gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin[r], the rewarder of them that diligently seek him[s], and withal, most just and terrible in his judgments[t], hating all sin[u], and who will by no means clear the guilty[v].
      [a] Deut. 6:4; I Cor. 8:4, 6; Gal. 3:20; I Thess. 1:9; Jer. 10:10
      [b] Job 11:7-9; Job 26:14; Ps. 139:6
      [c] John 4:24
      [d] I Tim. 1:17; John 1:18
      [e] Luke 24:39; Deut. 4:15-16; John 4:24; Acts 14:11, 15
      [f] James 1:17; Mal. 3:6
      [g] I Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:23-24
      [h] Ps. 90:2; I Tim. 1:17
      [i] Ps. 145:3; Rom. 11:33
      [j] Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8
      [k] Rom. 16:27
      [l] Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8
      [m] Ps. 115:3; Isa. 14:24
      [n] Isa. 45:5-6; Ex. 3:14
      [o] Eph. 1:11
      [p] Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11
      [q] I John 4:8-10,4:16; John 3:16
      [r] Ex. 34:6-7
      [s] Heb. 11:6
      [t] Neh. 9:32-33; Heb. 10:28-31
      [u] Rom. 1:18; Ps. 5:5-6; Ps. 11:5
      [v] Ex. 34:7a; Nah. 1:2-3, 6
II.  God hath all life[w], glory[x], goodness[y], blessedness[z], in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made[aa], nor deriving any glory from them[bb], but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things[cc]; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth[dd].  In his sight all things are open and manifest[ee], his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature[ff], so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain[gg].  He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands[hh]. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worhsip, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them[ii].
[w] Jer. 10:10; John 5:26
[x] Acts 7:2
[y] Ps. 119:68
[z] I Tim. 6:15; Rom. 9:5
[aa] Acts 17:24-25
[bb] Luke 17:10
[cc] Rom. 11:36
[dd] Rev. 4:11; Dan. 4:25, 35; I Tim. 6:15
[ee] Heb. 4:13
[ff] Rom. 11:33-34; Ps. 147:5
[gg] Acts 15:18; Ezek. 11:5
[hh] Ps. 145:17; Rom. 7:12
[ii] Rev. 5:12-14

Questions for further study:
WSC Q3 and WLC Q7 ask the same question.  But how do the answers differ? 
What more does the Confession tell us about the nature of God and how he is known?

From what we learn and know of Him from nature and scripture, what is the duty of every men and angel?

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