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, September 10, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q11


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q9-11) is Creation and Providence. (see Harmony Index)
This discussion is formatted a little differently from previous ones. As a reminder, we are using Training Hearts, Teaching Mindsby Starr Meade as the source material for the study questions. With Question #11, Starr Meade uses the narrative of Esther. Rather than attempt to excise questions from her text, a major portion of what Starr Meade wrote is presented in the “Question” section below for our meditation. 
Once again, we pray that the Lord may grant his blessing on our study to his glory and our mutual growth in grace and truth.
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WSC Q11. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are his most holy[a], wise[b], and powerful preserving[c] and governing all his creatures, and all their actions[d].
 [a] Ps. 145:17
 [b] Ps. 104:24
 [c] Heb. 1:3
 [d] Ps. 103:19; Matt. 10:29; Job, chapters 38-41
Question #11 asks the question, what are the works of God’s providence, and answers with the fullness of his holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action.
Comments and considerations:
“There is no such thing as luck in the Christian life.” 
My stepfather, a very devout Christian, told me that many years ago, in response to my request as a teenager for “good luck” wishes as I was about to embark upon a particular venture. I was taken aback, but I needed to realized that my fate was in the hands of a sovereign God, not a matter of luck. Of course it wasn’t the last time I mentioned luck, or the last time he corrected me. He believed that fact and lived it, and taught me to do likewise.
I have had years to consider that statement, however, and if I had the opportunity to speak to my beloved stepfather again, I think I might humbly challenge his position. I think I might say, “No Dad, I disagree; there is no such thing as luck, period.” You see, my father wasn’t a committed Calvinist, although I think he might have become one, given a little more time on earth. So his initial statement seemed to limit the sovereignty of God to the followers of Christ, leaving the unbelieving world to their own free decisions and currents of history. The Bible doesn’t teach that; and as I said, my father was beginning to understand the Scriptural perspective that I, and a few others in my family came to believe in time - the perspective clearly defined in this catechism question and answer.
This doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture, yet difficult for the human heart to grasp. As Is. 55:8-9, states, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’” says the LORD.“‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  On this matter, the Scriptures above are worth mediating upon, especially Job 38-41.
The book of Job is considered one of the earliest narratives of Scripture; as such, it establishes an understanding of God’s sovereign rule which is thoroughly consistent with the explicit declaration of the first four words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God…”
Here’s what Webster’s 1828 Dictionary had to say regarding the matter of providence:
It is “the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence, involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.”
What a comfort it is to know that our heavenly Father works all things according to the counsel of his will; that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of his glory! (See Eph. 1:11-12.)
Questions (and more comments), taken almost verbatim from Starr Meade:
God plans everything that happens in advance. Then He causes everything to happen just as He planned. We call this providence. God is holy. Every plan He forms, as well as the way in which He carries it out, is completely holy. God is perfectly wise. He never makes a mistake in what He plans or does, but always chooses the very best. God is powerful. Since all power belongs to Him, nothing can keep Him from doing exactly as He has planned.
All of history tells of God’s providence. Every story in every history book tells of God, even when it never mentions His name. He is the One who caused every event in history to work out just the way it did. What do Proverbs 16:9, 33 and Proverbs 21:say about large and small things decided by God?
Esther is a history book in the Bible that never mentions God’s name. All through the book of Esther, we clearly see God’s providence recorded:
What was the name of the King, and what land did he rule?  Esther 1: 1
What nationality was Esther?  Esther 2:5-7
Who caused the King to care more for Esther?  Esther 2: 17-18
Below, is a short four-part summary of the story of Esther, one of many examples of God’s acts of providence - His holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of every creature and every action of creation.
1) The book of Esther gets its name from Queen Esther. It tells the story of a wicked plot to kill all the Jews. Remember that God had promised to send the Messiah to save His people from sin. God had said that the Messiah would be one of Abraham’s descendants, or a Jew. If all the Jews were killed, God’s Messiah could not come from the Jewish nation and God could not keep His promise. The book of Esther tells how God kept this wicked plot from being carried out, protected His people, and punished His enemies. Esther tells the story of God’s providence. The story begins when the king of Persia, the ruling power of that time, needed a new queen.
As the account unfolds, we meet a cousin of Esther named Mordecai. One day two men were plotting to kill the king. Read Esther 2:21-23 to find out what happened. How did it happen that Mordecai overheard the plot so he could warn the king through Esther? Pay attention to where the king recorded what Mordecai had done—it will be important later!
2) Haman was a very important man, second only to the king. Nonetheless, Mordecai would never bow when Haman walked by. This made Haman so angry that he hated Mordecai and wanted him killed. Not only that—when Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he wanted all the Jews killed as well. Haman paid the king to issue an order saying that, on a certain day throughout the whole kingdom, people were to kill all the Jews. When the Jews learned about the king’s order, they mourned and wept. Esther had not heard about the king’s order. She sent a message to Mordecai asking what was wrong. He sent a message back, telling about the king’s order and begging her to go ask the king not to allow the Jews to be killed. Read Esther 4:11 to learn how Esther answered.
3) Mordecai understood the providence of God. He knew that God would preserve the Jews so that He could accomplish His plan to send a Jewish Messiah. He also understood that nothing happens by accident. It was not an accident that Esther, a Jewish woman, was queen at just this dangerous moment in time. Read Esther in 4:13-14 and 15-16, to learn what Mordecai said to her and Esther’s decision.
Read Esther 5:1-3 to see what happened when Esther went to see the king, without having been called. Why did the king welcome Esther? Remember Prov. 21:1, that God turns a king’s heart wherever He chooses.
Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet. When they came, she invited them to another banquet. It was at that second banquet that she would ask the king to save her people.
4) Esther’s invitations thrilled Haman! Only he and the king were invited. Haman bragged about it to everyone. “There’s only one thing that ruins it all for me,” Haman complained, “and that is that Jew, Mordecai! Every time I see him standing when he should be bowing to me, I get so angry!” “Don’t wait until all the Jews are killed to be rid of Mordecai,” Haman’s wife told him. “Build a gallows right now and ask the king, first thing in the morning, if you can hang Mordecai on it.” Haman loved this idea. He had the gallows built and eagerly waited for morning. God not only saved Mordecai from hanging. He also had him honored and humbled His enemy, Haman. Read Esther 6:1-12.
Read Esther 7 to learn almost-the-end of this story. The very end of the story is this. The king could not change his order about killing the Jews, but he made a new order allowing the Jews to defend themselves. God caused people throughout Persia to fear the Jews. On the day that the Jews would have been killed, they killed their enemies instead. Mordecai was honored and given Haman’s high position.
The book of Esther gives us just one small example of God’s providence. Ever since the world began, God has been faithfully at work to cause everything that happens to bring good to His people and glory to Himself.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 11; WLC Q#’s 18 & 19, and WCF V.I-VII 
WSC Q11. What are God's works of providence?
A.  God's works of providence are, his most holy[a], wise[b], and powerful preserving[c] and governing all his creatures, and all their actions[d].
[a] Ps. 145:17
[b] Ps. 104:24
[c] Heb. 1:3
[d] Ps. 103:19; Matt. 10:29; Job, chapters 38-41
WLC Q18. What are God's works of providence?
A.  God's works of providence are his most holy[a], wise[b], and powerful preserving[c] and governing all his creatures[d]; ordering them, and all their actions[e], to his own glory[f].
[a] Ps. 145:17
[b] Ps. 104:24; Isa. 28:29
[c] Heb. 1:3
[d] Ps. 103:19; Job, chapters 38-41
[e] Matt. 10:29-31; Gen. 45:7; Ps. 135:6
[f] Rom. 11:36; Isa. 63:14
WLC Q19. What is God's providence toward the angels?
A.  God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation[a], limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory[b]; and established the rest in holiness and happiness[c]; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice[d] .
[a] Jude 6;  II Pet. 2:4
[b] Job 1:12;  Matt. 8:31; Luke 10:17
[c] I Tim. 5:21; Mark 8:38; Heb. 12:22
[d] Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:14
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER V.
Of Providence.
I.    God, the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least [a], by his most wise and holy providence[b], according to his infallible foreknowledge [c], and the free and immutable counsel of his own will[d], to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy[e].
[a] Neh. 9:6; Heb. 1:3; Ps. 135:6; Matt. 10:29-31; Acts 17:25-28; Matt. 6:26-32; Job, chapters 38-41
[b] Prov. 15:3; II Chron. 16:9; Ps. 104:24; Ps. 145:17
[c] Acts 15:18
[d] Eph. 1:11; Ps. 33:10-11
[e] Eph. 3:10; Rom. 9:17; Ps. 145
II.  Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly[f]; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily[g], freely, or contingently[h].
[f] Acts 2:23
[g] Gen. 8:22; Jer. 31:55
[h] Ex. 21:13;  Gen. 21:13; Isa. 10:6,7;  I Kings 22:28-34
III.God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means[i], yet is free to work without [j], above [k], and against them, at His pleasure[l].
[i] Acts 27:24, 31, 44; Isa. 55:10-11
[j] Hos. 1:7
[k] Rom. 4:19-21
[l] II Kings 6:6; Dan. 3:27
IV.The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall[m], and all other sins of angels and men[n]; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding[o], and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends[p]; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin[q].
[m] This statement is sustained by the doctrines of God’s decrees and providence.  See citations under Chapter III and ChapterV, Sections 1, 2, 3.
[n] Rom. 11:32, 33; II Sam. 24:1; Acts 4:27-28.  See citations under Chapter III and Chapter V, Sections 1, 2, 3.
[o] II Kings 19:28; Isa. 10:5, 6, 7, 12, 15
[p] Gen. 50:20
[q] James 1:13-14, 17; I John 2:16; Ps. 50:21

V.  The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled[r]; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends[s].
[r] II Chron. 32:25, 26, 31; Deut. 8:2-3, 5
[s] II Cor. 12:7-9; Ps. 73; Ps. 77:1-12; Mark 14:66-72; John 21:15-17
VI.As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden[t]; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts[u]; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had[v]; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruptions make occasions of sin[w]; and withal, giveth them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan[x]; whereby it cometh to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others[y].
[t] Rom. 1:24, 26, 28; Rom. 11:7-8; II Thes. 2:11,12
[u] Deut. 29:4; Mark 4:11, 12
[v] Matt. 13:12; Matt. 25:29
[w] II Kings 8:12-13
[x] Ps. 81:11,12;  II Thess. 2:10-12
[y] Ex. 8:15, 32; II Cor. 2:15, 16; Isa. 8:14; I Pet. 2:7-8; Ex. 7:3; Isa. 6:9, 10; Acts 28:26, 27
VII.      As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof[z].
[z] Amos 9:8, 9; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:22
Questions for further study:
Again, we see how the instruction moves forward through the Shorter Catechism, progressing to deeper understandings in the Larger Catechism and Confession of Faith. In the Confession V.II we see that in the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.  In other words, in all things that occur, God is the primary cause directing the actions of his creatures as a secondary cause.  What is the doctrine by which this is generally defined?  (1)  
In V.V why does God often leave his own to their struggles for a season?  Likewise in V.VI, why does He withhold grace from the ungodly, withdraw gifts or give them up to their corruptions? Conversely, according to V.II, how does God care for his own? 
(1) Doctrine of Concurrence 

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